Archive for September, 2009

Mainstream Media Relations: More Important Than Ever

IStock_000000644251XSmallI’ve been called to the mat in the past for overemphasizing the importance of Social Media to marketing programs.  With this post, I’ll surely be accused of skewing too far in the other direction.  (If I’m not making somebody upset, I’m not doing my job, eh?)

Tim Dyson, the mastermind behind the NextFifteen group, recently blogged about the influence of traditional media.  Here’s a quick excerpt:

“Only 20 years ago the idea of seeing a news article and forwarding it to 100 people was at best a time consuming and expensive exercise.  Today, anyone with Internet access can do it … Today an article is as good as the number of people that read it and then forward it, PLUS the number of people who then find it later when doing a search on Google, PLUS the number of people who find it because someone blogged about it, PLUS the number of people that found it because it was tweeted about (etc.)”

And before you bemoan “the death of newspapers,” consider this: while print circulation last year has cratered, the number of unique visitors to newspaper websites grew by 15.8% to 65 million in the past year. Though the news media still struggles to figure out how to make $$$ from journalism, the audience is present and accounted for.

Meanwhile, anecdotally, more and more top-tier journalists are getting their story ideas and follow-up concepts directly from users themselves.  For good or ill, they are become far more synchronized to the zeitgeist via their participation in Social Media, which only makes their stories in “traditional” media more relevant to the masses.

Lastly, the wild & woolly nature of the Web has placed a premium on quality, unbiased editorial.  While it’s true that the public’s faith in journalism is at an all-time low, it is also true that our culture rightfully continues to place more faith in storied institutions like the NY TIMES, BusinessWeek, FORTUNE, etc., than in the blogosphere’s pundits.

So: frictionless sharing across myriad consumers + increasing participation + increasing “share of eyeballs” + increasing need for quality editorial = don’t place all your bets on Twitter just yet, folks. Burnishing your credentials with the top reporters in the field will still immeasurably shape the success of your clients’ programs, not to mention your own career.

PR Week Interview: Todd Defren on Social Media & PR

A quick interview with PR WEEK’s SF Bureau Chief, Aarti Shah, on Social Media and its impact on PR agencies.

For what it’s worth, in real life my voice is deeper, my hair is thicker, and my hands don’t waggle all over the place.  I blame Aarti’s flipcam for any confusion.

Starting All Over Again

From point A to BI’ve been traveling a lot, spending a lot of time on the road, alone, in hotel rooms and airplanes, etc.  The mind wanders.  After the people watching gets boring, after the emails and RSS feeds are read and gone, you can enter a fanciful zone.  You can ask yourself questions like, “Knowing what I now know, what would I do differently?”

Thankfully there’s not a thing I’d really change on the personal front.  At work, the question is more complex to answer.  The marketing arena has undergone fundamental changes since we founded SHIFT in 2003.  And while certainly we did plenty of things “right,” as judged by our client roster and talent pool, there are many things worth re-considering when trying to answer the “What would I do differently” question.

I asked my Twitter friends this question last night: “Knowing what you now know of SM/mktg/PR, if you could start over, would you even start an agency? How would you staff it?”  The answers were pretty varied.

Many seemed to think that an agency started from scratch today ought to be staffed by multi-disciplinary experts (everything from PR to SEO to website and UI design were mentioned); more than one talked about creating a collective of freelancers, i.e., the virtual agency model.

I dunno, though.  As I look out at my colleagues and think about their roles and responsibilities, I’m not sure what I would change.

The junior staff is critical to our research, monitoring and reporting. Clients demand those services.

The mid-level managers are critical to our mainstream and social media relationship efforts, to our day-to-day team management, and to upleveling issues to clients and in-house executives.  They have a bead on trends that will impact marketing programs.  Clients demand those services.

The senior executives are critical to setting messaging and strategy; they are sought-after counselors for both internal folks and of course to our client contacts.  They assume ultimate responsibility for a program’s success or failure.  Clients demand those services.

Do clients ALSO want SEO?  Website design?  Content Creation?  Widget development?  Social Media Brand Management (e.g., running YouTube and Facebook accounts)?  Yes, but it is on a client-by-client basis versus an every-single-client basis.  It’s not financially feasible nor responsible to hire SEO experts, website designers, etc., as full-time employees who could wind up sitting on their hands between assignments.

So ultimately we offer a hybridized mix of in-house and trusted partner-based services to meet client demands.

And yet … and yet … I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing something vital in my thinking.  We’re trying to build something pretty special over here.  Status quo won’t do, not ever.  Can you help?

Help by making me even more paranoid than I already am:  given the chance to give me some advice in 2003 about how to staff and run and market this agency, what would you have suggested?  And what do you suggest today?

Social Media Police On-Patrol

Woman Police officer showing handcuffsAs someone who’s been heavily engaged in Social Media since the early days, I am both intrigued, encouraged and baffled by its evolution.  It definitely seems as if the Social Media Kool-Aid has been digested: the Twitterati, at least, are big believers in engagement for its own sake, and many uphold the highest ideals of this movement… with a vengeance.

For example, yesterday on Twitter I asked for “examples of brands using Twitter to broadcast their news vs. engaging the community.”  To be fair, my original question was much more cavalier: “What brands are doing a LAME job on Twitter, Facebook?” — Although a few people provided examples, I got just as many responses suggesting that I was “being too negative;” that we need to “focus on more positive examples,” etc.

Basically I got bitch-slapped by the community!

That’s fair, that’s fine. It’s true I came across as pretty flip with my original question.  Still, I’ll admit there was a part of me that thought, “Really?  Have I not built up enough goodwill that folks know my intentions are generally good?  Can’t I get the benefit of the doubt, yet?”

I am delighted that the Social Media community is becoming legitimately self-policing — and that it arcs toward “thinking positive.”  That’s actually great to see, given how snarky some folks can get online.  But I also urge everyone involved to pick their battles.  To paraphrase one of my responses to the critics yesterday, “the world isn’t going to change, for better or worse, based on one tweet.”

What do you think?  Was I too thin-skinned yesterday?  Have you also seen increasing examples of “politically correct” policing in Social Media circles?

The Problem with Facebook (for Marketers)

facebook-logoMaybe “300,000,000” — the recently-announced number of Facebook users — represents some kind of tipping-point, because in recent weeks I’ve had more frequent conversations with marketers about “what to do about” the popular social network.

These conversations have evolved from, “Oh, Facebook is for college kids,” to “People 35–and-over are the fastest demographic on Facebook,” to “Whatever else you wanna say about it … 300 million is a big number.”  So that’s how the question now becomes “what to do about” Facebook.

First off, as always, if your customers and prospects are not on Facebook, there’s no need to blow-out some expensive approach.  Beware of Shiny Object Syndrome.  But with 300 million users, the odds that your stakeholders don’t hang out on Facebook at all are dwindling.

But here’s the trouble with Facebook: it’s a proprietary network.  Yes, the Gods of Facebook have made it easier to find your branded page via Google.  Yes, they’ve made it easier to find your content from within the network.  But notice how these initiatives have aided Facebook, more than you? The SEO effect for your www.company.com domain is nominal.  By participating on Facebook you are potentially directing traffic from your www domain to Facebook’s domain instead.  That’s Problem #1.

Problem #2 with this very popular, proprietary network is that the rules change pretty frequently, and are too-often not well-thought-out.  And there’s little the average Corporate Marketer can do about it.

One of the reasons the Web flourished from Day One?  There were no capricious overlords mucking about: for as much as we sometimes bemoaned its Wild West nature in the early days, the Web’s unilateral anarchy allowed best practices to emerge organically.  The million dollars you spent on a Facebook Page could be thrown out the window.  Sorry, it’s in the Terms of Service.

I am not trying to warn marketers off of Facebook.  Not at all.  I am suggesting that this network represents an “alternate reality” on the Web, with a separate rule-set and risks.

Our general advice to clients is to NOT spend a fortune on designing Facebook pages that could change at any time, at Facebook’s whim.  Instead, when marketing on Facebook we tend to advocate for a lightweight, low-cost approach to community-building plus a nuanced blend of outreach campaigns, widgets, advertising, contests, etc. that would appeal to and empower the Facebook community, and ideally drive traffic from Facebook to the client’s official web domains.

Got a different point of view?  Lemme know!




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