Archive for August, 2008

Harnessing Consumer Creativity

Since politics is all anyone is talking about, anyway…

As an avid political junky, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the antics of the mainstream news media.  The TV anchors, in particular, would rather debate the respective campaign’s talking-points and polls and personality clashes than help Americans to understand and digest the issues.  The issues which, by the way, polls keep telling us that voters want to hear more about.

What are the real differences between Obama and McCain on the Economy, on Healthcare, on Foreign Policy?  Too many Americans are too damned busy to dig for this info, but rather than investigate and report on those policies (their job, yes?), the TV guys take the easy way out, and report on how “we need to hear more details” from the candidates.

Dear CNN, FOX, MSNBC, et al.:  the details exist, gang.  Ever hear of Google?  Aren’t ya’ll specialists in turning complex issues into soundbites and whizzy graphics?

The good news is that the voters are mad as hell and aren’t gonna take it anymore.  And they own Macs, iMovie software and Flipcams. Some of the best political content of the year, so far, has been created without input or sanction by the campaigns.

For example, here’s my favorite Obama campaign commercial of the year.

And, because it’s his birthday, let’s remind Mr. McCain of how he’s celebrated this special day in the not-so-distant past?

He’s busy picking a VP today, but surely the GOP candidate will want to celebrate his b-day at some point soon.  I wonder where in the world he’d celebrate?  Let’s check this Google Earth tour of his 8 homes?

And it’s not just Obama fans who are willing to step-up to the plate.  Here’s a powerful ad meant to support McCain:

All of these videos are powerful – and they did not come from pundits, focus groups, advertising gurus or media professionals.  They came from the People.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that most of these efforts are buried, lost, hard to find.

I wonder if either campaign will do more to harness their followers’ enthusiasm?  Perhaps create “professional” versions of these brilliant, “amateur” efforts?

Last night Obama said that “change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington.”  At some level, Social Media has been its deliveryman.

The Bruising, Bloody, Bloggy Battle

As it nears its final stages, I guess I ought to talk about the Blog-competition_rev2_23365PRWeek Blog Competition.  It’s been an honor to be included amongst some of the giants in the PR Blogosphere.  

But many have noted throughout the contest, rightfully so, that its premise and methodology are flawed.

From a premise standpoint, it presumably measures “popularity” vs. “quality of content” – though we should hope that this popularity was merited by the blood, sweat and tears of each of the contestant bloggers.

The “methodology” is clearly kinda mangled.  Too many times we’ve seen an outsized number of votes for “Big Agency” blogs, even while the other contests running simultaneously have a third the number of total votes.  Who shows up at the contest site and only votes in 1 of 4 contests???  Drones who mash a button ‘cuz The Boss told them to, is the obvious and sad suggestion.

(I should note at this point that Edelman’s top 2 bloggers, Steve Rubel and Richard Edelman himself, were clearly not guilty of such shenanigans.  With one email to “all staff” from Edelman, or with a single “vote for me!” blog post from Rubel, they could have ended the contest.  Good on ya, fellas.)

With all that said – and even though it would be a Pyrrhic victory to beat my good friend Kami – “winning” beats “losing,” even in a flawed match-up.

If you think PR-Squared deserves to win, please go vote for it with my sincere thanks.  If you aren’t quite sure, I guess my case is best made by pointing you to the “Jedi Training” section (a.k.a. “best of” posts).  Lotsa “Social Media & PR Goodness” ™ there! 

And if you couldn’t care less – forget about the contest! But, do yourself the favor of adding all of the original combatants to your RSS feeds:

Pit bulls and Labradors
Digital Influence Mapping Project
Livingston Buzz
PR Squared
Neville Hobson
The Daily Lark
Communication Overtones
6 a.m.
Drew Kerr’s PR Rock and Roll
Micro Persuasion
What Do You Stand For?
A view on PR from Silicon Valley
Murphy’s LawIntakeA shel of my former self
Pop PR jots
Beyond the Hype
Influential Marketing Blog
The Flack
Phil’s Blogservations
PR Measurement Blog
Measuring Up
Sage Circle
PR Blog News
Glass House
Bitemarks Down the Avenue
Voce Nation
Bad Pitch Blog
Your PR Guy

Thanks for your vote.  I won’t let ya down.

UPDATE: PR-Squared lost to Kami Huyse’s Communications Overtones by TWO VOTES.  I knew I shoulda’ called my mom & dad!  Please vote for Kami in the Final Four; she is, imho, the best blogger of the bunch.  Go Kami!

Bloggers: Be Proactive in Educating PR Pros (UPDATED)

Not even the most rascally of bloggers or journalists expect or even want the PR industry to die; really they just want better PR.  But while they writhe in pain at the volume of misdirected pitches, few bloggers take action beyond whining.  If anything, the PR and marketing pros themselves seem to be the only ones engaged in the slow-drip of Blogger Relations education.

If you are a successful blogger, part of the reward for your hard work is that you’re gonna get pitched. 

(That’s not a bad thing.  Not all pitches are bad.  A good pitch could help a blogger write their best-post-ever.  A good pitch could result in some cool toys to play with; a free trip; an interesting meeting; a job offer.)

But you have some control over this.  Why not take the time to inform marketers about HOW you’d like to be approached?

An attempt was made back in 2005 to standardize this mechanism.  I think it’s worth re-visiting.  I asked our in-house graphics whiz to bang-out “boring” and “fun” versions of the original badges. 

If you’re a blogger who wants NO PITCHES, the badge alone should suffice… 

Boring pr no              Pr no creature-small copy

If you’re a friendly type who wants to hear what everyone has to say, similarly the “PR OK!” icon says it all (though you might want to link the icon to your contact info)…

Boring PR ok              Pr ok creature-small copy

But if you are like MOST bloggers, you don’t mind a GOOD PITCH and tend to despise & discard crappy pitches.  This is where you need to Act Responsibly.  Educate!  Tell the PR pro “what makes a good pitch.” 

Link the “PR?” badge below to a separate section of your site in which you describe your personal preferences and gripes…

Boring PR question              PR question-small copy

Sometime this week, I’m going to add the funny li’l “PR?” avatar to my sidebar nav.  It will link to a new page on PR-Squared on which I’ll inform would-be PR pitchmen that they are welcome to send me a note, but that I’ll be looking for:

“A brief pitch that demonstrates an understanding of my blog’s typical topics.”

I was planning to gin up a list of 5–or-so benchmarks but, on reflection, this is all I’m looking for from anyone.  I don’t necessarily care that the PR pro is a regular PR-Squared reader or participant (though that’d be nice).  I just don’t want them to waste my time with stuff I would never write about.  (That’s all any blogger wants, at a high level.) 

But it never hurts to be completely unambiguous.  If bloggers make the effort to be clear about their expectations, they have more justification to be enraged at bad pitches.  The blogger can take some responsibility for their in-box; if they don’t do something to educate would-be pitchmen, they’ll continue to be abused. 

These badges might help cut down on the bad stuff.  Know a cranky blogger?  Maybe you could share this idea with them?

UPDATE:  Embed code now available.  And my new, official “PR PITCH POLICY,” which will be linked from here on out to the cutesy avatar in the right-side nav.

"Actionable Listening" vs. "Active Listening"

IStock_000004060935XSmallDuring this week’s 3rd and final Radian 6 Twebinar, the theme was “Listening.”

As I prepared for my own role on the call with Chris Brogan, poring over some industry and agency examples of “good listening,” it occured to me that there are two types of listening.

There’s “Active Listening.”  That’s what most savvy brands are doing.  It’s mostly about Social Media Monitoring.  “Quick!  Somebody said something about us!  Say something back!”  I liken it to the excitement one might feel when toying around with an old ham radio.  This is a good thing to be doing, for all brands, regardless of size.

But you can take it further, into the realm of “Actionable Listening.”  The difference here is that the folks doing the listening/responding are empowered to effect change within their organization, on customers’ behalf. 

Best examples to date?  Dell (I’m looking at you, @RichardatDELL) and Comcast Cares.  In both cases, customers who tweet or blog about these brands receive a timely response that includes an offer of assistance.  And that offer is no B.S.  These listeners have the juice in their organizations to ACT.  They are getting RESULTS for these customers. 

When I bitched on Twitter about my Comcast phone service, Comcast’s famous Frank Eliason contacted me immediately and had someone call my (befuddled) wife to check the line.  When I moaned about receiving a “blue screen of death” during the Twebinar, one of Richard Binhammer’s compatriots DM’d me to see if I was using a Dell, and if so, could he help?

To successfully engage in Actionable Listening, the corporation must make an investment not only in Monitoring tools but in providing infrastructure changes that back-up the lip-service with speedy and effective results. 

Reg’lar folks who willingly engage in a conversation with an official brand representative need to feel that the interchange is going to add real value, not apply a band-aid.

Are you listening?  Great.  But are you also empowered to act effectively on your customers’ behalf?

Online Videos re: Social Media Releases

I’ve got some more interesting posts percolating but for now thought these might be worth sharing with ya’ll.  Two videos on Social Media Releases.  Interestingly, both of these (terrific) videos were produced outside the U.S.  Not sure what that means.

Here’s one from CNW Group in Canada (and here’s the announcement of their SMR in which the video was embedded):

And here’s an older one from webitpr in the U.K.:

Maybe PitchEngine or PRX Builder will do something similar at some point?  Which do you like better?

UPDATE:  Looks like PRX Builder does have its own video – sorry Shannon.

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