So, we’ve all heard it before… the press release is dead.
It’s really not – we use it all the time. While how it’s used has changed, it’s certainly still used – often.
It seems that for the past few years, experts have been very quick to deem things dead when in fact they’re used all the time.
On top of the press release being dead, I’ve heard through some reputable sources (wink, wink) that email is dead too! Who knew?? I understand where these people are coming from when new or more efficient means of communication come about, but declaring the number one means of communication as dead just seems a little unreasonable.
The kicker for me, though, happened earlier this month. I was on the phone monitoring a media interview for a client, and this popped up in my inbox: “Is The Phone Interview Dead?”
I just had to click on it.
Ok, so the article talks about how increasingly interviews are being done over email – I agree. But it also says that they are regularly conducted over Facebook, Twitter and Skype… I’ve never seen that happen!
Other items on the deceased list…in case you didn’t know:
In person media tours, Facebook, Twitter, Pheniece’s computer, public relations, MySpace, social media (thanks for the heads up James Franco), SEO, blogging, landlines, advertising, books, newspapers and more.
Ok, so maybe I’m taking this a little bit too literally in some cases. I just think we should all stop and think before we declare something that is still in use to be dead.
Image source: Leo Reynolds
Don't let this guy steal your summer PR thunder
We interrupt your regularly scheduled reading of The Sounding Board (a.k.a., “Jonathan’s Blog”) to address something that’s on the minds of just about everyone these days.
I’m writing, of course, about TV season finales.
As many of you know, May is the month when television wraps up its regular season with an inordinate number of weddings, deaths, and cliffhangers galore. Some of the biggest TV episodes of the year happen during the month of May (it’s a “sweeps month,” you know), leading into the doldrums of lame reality shows featuring things like dog walkers and Joe Jonas.
In that sense TV is kind of like public relations. Things, as a rule, slow down a bit in the summer and pick up again in the fall when the next batch of new episodes arrives (or, in our case, vacations end and the fall trade shows kick in). News releases seem to appear a little less frequently, for example. And the news cycle, as a rule, seems to turn just a bit more slowly.
But much like cable TV networks enjoy a summer renaissance by filling the void left by the major networks’ hot weather dreck, I would argue that the summer is, in some respects, the perfect time to get news out. Consider, for example, that there tends to be less noise – less competition – for news during the dog days. In that sense, it can, in many instances, be easier for news to be recognized and acknowledged in times that are slow. Reporters and bloggers are seeking stuff to write about, maybe more so than other, more information-intense times.
Of course, we all need to take vacations now and then, and summer is obviously a preferred time for many. Just don’t assume your news needs to go on vacation, though, simply because the days are muggy and there’s nothing on TV except Duets. Start looking at the summer time like USA Network does – a chance to launch new things, and get them noticed.
Image courtesy CBS and Raquel Productions
I wrote a post a few weeks back about big data's pernicious effect on marketing intelligence. My thesis was: the more data we collect, the more opportunities we have to make false correlations.
I stand by that position. But I've come to realize it's not just big data that cripples intelligence; it's all data.
I submit to you: Communicators were smarter before the Internet.
But let me back-up a little. The impetus for my post today is a blog entry from Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman, who wrote last week about how page view measurement affects journalism (and journalists).
It seems these days, editors mainly look at page view numbers and unique visitors to make decisions about which stories to "print" and which to promote.
But before editors had those page view numbers at the ready, they were forced to make their decisions based on quaint notions like... journalistic quality.
Now I'm not suggesting that editors have entirely abandoned the pursuit of quality. (If so, they'd have been replaced by computer programs that could measure page views and automatically promote the highest performing writers and stories.)
But let's not kid ourselves. Most editors today are a lot more interested in page views and unique visitors (which can be easily monetized) than in subjective determinations of journalistic quality (which can't).
Alas, the two values have very little in common.
Ackerman argues that sites like BuzzFeed are the unholy offspring of these developments. (One of his commenters is quick to recall the old adage: You'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator.)
But here's where it gets complicated: Measurement didn't start with the Internet.
Before the Web, editors measured newspaper circulation (which meant that high-performing stories and low-performing stories were lumped together) and customer focus groups (which... well... don't get me started on the ineffectiveness of focus groups).
The point is, we've always tried to measure data, and it's typically burned us.
And where measurement was difficult and expensive in the past, the Internet has made it cheap and instantaneous. So we're using it more and more, and allowing it to become more and more destructive.
Then again, "destructive" is a subjective viewpoint. If the end goal of journalism is maximizing advertising dollars, then maybe BuzzFeed is a triumph.
We get what we deserve, I suppose.
Also looking forward to "Tic Tac Toe: The Motion Picture"
A few things have happened recently that make me question the sanity of mankind. Let's chronicle it, shall we?
May 17th: Pinterest valued at 1.5 Billion
May 18th: Battleship opens in theaters
Also May 18th: Facebook IPO -- total market value at 104 Billion.
As a reference point, the current market capitalization of McDonalds (an actual company that sells actual products, mind you) is a lowly 91.7 Billion.
It seems that real value these days is no longer a function of providing products and services like delicious french fries; it's a function of funneling people into empty, customizable spaces where they can be accosted by advertising.
Which brings me to my brilliant new business concept: I call it "wepayyoutobehere.com."
It's your basic social networking site with one major exception: Every week, we pick a member at random and send her 50 bucks.
(As far as I know, Facebook's weekly payouts are much smaller or possibly nonexistent.)
What's my business model? Advertising. The more people I get to join the site, the higher my total market value, and the more frequent and generous my payouts can become.
Why will this work? Because we're no longer evaluating companies based on the utility they provide, but based on the number of (nonpaying!) visitors they can attract. It's as if Wal-Mart took down the sign that said "No Loitering" and replaced it with a sign that said "Loiterers Will Be Treated Like Pizza-Flavored Kardashian Puppies."
Of course, using this same logic in the physical world, our most lucrative businesses would be public parks. (You could plaster advertising all over those suckers.)
I guess things are different in the online universe. Valuations are different. 1.5 Billion dollars for a virtual pinboard of recipes and craft projects?
And they don't even pay out!
Congratulations – you’ve landed your client a coveted interview with The Wall Street Journal. It took months of prep work, writing, editing, research and phone calls, but it’s happened…so now what?
This marathon of mind numbing grunt work is for naught if your client or executive cannot nail the interview. So make sure that it doesn’t happen – have a pre-interview plan, stick to it, and finish the job.
This handy checklist will walk you through the logistics, pre-planning and even what internal expert to use. Check it out and make sure that your perfectly-executed campaign isn’t ruined by a bad interview.
"Did I really sign up for two movies with Terrence Malick?"
Well, the vindication keeps on pouring in. Today, it's Forbes' Eric Jackson writing that in four years, we'll have our Facebook killer.
Jackson's article isn't mind-blowingly controversial (and some of it's surely tongue-in-cheek), but it contains a few interesting nuggets of provocation. To summarize:
1. Facebook's killer will be a mobile-only platform. (That's right: no website. Just a mobile app for tablets and smartphones.)
2. Facebook's killer will begin life as purely an iOS app. (Take that Google, you AR glasses-wearing weirdos.)
3. Until Facebook bought it, Instagram was the likeliest candidate. (Really? The app that makes your pictures look like olde-timey photographs? I guess i don't really understand Instagram.)
4. It might also be Pinterest or OMGPOP. (Doubt it.)
I do like the idea of an all-mobile social hub (which I gather presupposes the death of non-mobile computing).
I'm definitely ready for a BYOD office -- where workstations are completely empty except for an iPad holster/power dock with some kind of holographic or edible keyboard.
Then again, if we're designing the perfect office -- maybe we should nix the social networking altogether...
But since I have your attention, I'm going to make my craziest prediction yet about the future of social:
Tomorrow's Facebook killer will be none other than... Uncle Sam. A social platform that's government-authorized -- tied to your social security number. Acting not only as a social hub, but as an official mailing address (No room for the USPS in this vision).
Defrauding the social platform will become a federal offense. Restrictions will be air-tight. And every now and then, Christian Bale will have to shoot a truckload of puppies at point blank range.
Wait, that's the movie Equillibrium...
From the Rolling Stones Museum in Germany... seriously
For those keeping score at home, I made a few "crazy" technology predictions to kick-off 2012 -- all of which were met with scorn and derision from Russian debutante and first-time homebuyer Kate Nesbitovich.
So let’s see how I’m doing some 5 months later:
1. Facebook will die. No. Not yet. But I’m still optimistic.
2. Voice recognition will fail. Well, not exactly. There has been a bit of a SIRI backlash. Polarizing technology, to be sure. But I wouldn’t say failing.
3. Print media will become cool. All right, here we are. According to Tuesday’s article from Slate.com’s Michael Agresta, that’s precisely what’s happening.
But in order to compete with eBooks (Agresta argues), physical publications will have to enhance their physical aristic value (via cover art, typesetting, illustration, etc.) -- or what French theorist Gerard Genette (evidently) calls “paratext.”
Books, in this way, can become physical works of art as well as great works of literature -- which is something eBooks can’t. (Although to be fair, eBooks can use video, Web links, and other features that paper books could never duplicate.)
But the problem I have with Agresta’s article is the core of his argument: that paper books will have to become essentially artistic novelties in order to survive.
I don’t think so.
In my predictions article, I talked about physical books surviving (and thriving) because of human vanity -- our desire for others to appreciate what we’re reading and what we’ve read. (How else do you explain Thomas Pynchon's muscular sales numbers?)
But I'm wrong. Well, I’m right, but for the wrong reasons.
It’s not vanity that keeps us wedded to our paper books -- it’s self-expression.
We crave physical books not because we need them to consume, but because we need them to claim as our own.
Not everyone can create their own self-expressive works of art. So when we discover art that inspires us, we try to connect ourselves to it, to become a part of it. Not just for show. This is how we define ourselves to ourselves -- through art.
And that's why we feel the need to hold onto our favorite books, both literally and figuratively. (You can “own” an electronic file, but it isn't the same. It isn't visceral.)
Maybe that’s why people will casually steal music over the Internet, but not from a music store: We’ll always overvalue the physical manifestations of art that shapes us.
“Real” Rolling Stones fans don’t just have an MP3 of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. They’ve got the box set, the Mick Jagger figurine, the home pregnancy test, the open-mouth urinal, and the commemorative dinner plates.
Not that any of it makes the music better. But because it’s something to hold onto when the lights go out.
"Yes, yes, I've seen the movie Catfish."
In case you missed it, the Twitter machine went berserk last week in the wake of a Deadspin exposé on sports betting columnist and probable Internet scam artist "Sarah Phillips."
Deadspin's investigation covers a series of cons, most of which involve Sarah's falsified association with ESPN.com.
But then the story takes an odd turn, when Sarah becomes... actually employed by ESPN.com.
In other words, ESPN hasn't been this thoroughly grifted since they picked up Keith Olbermann's last limousine tab.
But here's what I find truly amazing: Ignoring all of Sarah's extortion attempts, her ascendency as a journalist was actually fairly legitimate -- albeit absurd.
She begins as a frequent commenter (as in, the comments section of a website) at a sports betting page called Covers.com.
Plucked from the comment threads, she's given a weekly column at Covers.com, and from there she's offered a weekly column at ESPN's Page 2.
So the line between gambling website commenter and David Halberstam has now been officially demolished. Journalism is -- for the record, even at prestigious outlets like ESPN -- now entirely a game of page views.
What a precedent! But maybe fitting for a world in which actual reporting is marginalized, and a few snappy headlines can garner Pulitzer consideration. Or, as Barack Obama recently said to the Huffington Post:
"There’s no one else out there linking to the kinds of hard-hitting journalism that [you're] linking to every single day."
Two of the most respected news organizations in the Washington, DC-metropolitan area, The Capital Communicator and Potomac Tech Wire, collaborated a couple of weeks ago to create the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAMS) which brought together over 350 marketing professionals from the region to for an all-day session. The conference was held in the beautiful Gannett facility in McLean, VA, and headlining sponsors included Gannett, Citybizlist, Comcast Spotlight, 522 Productions, Rocket Fuel and many more who helped pull the conference together.
Video as it appears in FastCompany, courtesy of Lisa Nirell, CEO, EnergizeGrowth
It became obvious that this was a conference the region needed; typically marketing-centric conferences are held outside of this region, and marketers have to travel to be able to meet, greet, and hear from the caliber of folks that are located right here in the DC-metropolitan area. As an inaugural program, it validated the need for this kind of conference and set the stage for next year. The speakers, most located here, represented some of the most respected minds in the ever-changing marketing landscape.
The day began with two strong keynotes from David Payne, SVP and Chief Digital Officer from Gannett, and Sean Murphy, EVP, eCommerce from CustomInk, who passed out his trademark Inky-branded stickers as a testament to the power of branding. Marcia Moran recaps Murphy’s remarks in her column in Modern DC Business, InTheCapital recaps in its blog post.
The third keynote joined us in the afternoon: Mike Volpe, CMO from Hubspot, the company that is helping to make inbound marketing a household term. Mike’s remarks centered on how to ensure marketers are strategic in their development of content to drive leads…leveraging the power of search and social media.
Lisa Nirell, CEO of EnergizeGrowth, wrote an article, "Six Questions All CMOs Need to Ask Themselves" and included a video interview on Volpe, appearing in FastCompany.
Also in the morning was a panel of CMOs—the conversation became lively—three panelists who talked about best practices and where they see the future of the CMO. Brave for folks to talk about the future of where the CMO job is headed! InTheCapital recaps the panel discussion.
To hear a recap on several of the panels, take a look:
B2B Marketing: The New Trends
The New Realities of PR
Inbound Marketing: Pulling With Content
The Changing Media Landscape
What’s New in B2G Marketing
Mobile Marketing: Beyond the Hype
During the panel on the new realities of PR, the conversation heated up around the topic of whether the press release was dead. Hear Marcia Moran’s take on the conversation.
The networking was phenomenal, the programming was top-notch, the venue perfectly suited for the group. Already waiting for dates for next year’s program. Hope to see you there!
- Elizabeth Shea
Headlines get clicks. This I know.
So congrats to Business Insider for today's "Kindle Fire is the Fruitcake of Tablets." Obviously I had to click on that.
Turns out, it's a brilliant metaphor. (Kindle Fire market share collapsed after the holidays, suggesting that people will buy the economical tablets as gifts, but not for themselves.)
So what makes a great headline? Wit? Pith? Snark? Other noises that Batman makes when he's punching a guy?
To shed some light on the topic, here are my top 10 headlines of the last 101 years
10. “Ford to City: Drop Dead”
This 1975 headline from The Daily News may have cost Gerald Ford the election. Too bad he never actually said it.
9. “Britney Loses Kids”
2007’s headline from The Sun sounds entirely plausible. But the subhead -- “K-Fed wins custody” (written in two-point font) -- dampens the impact a bit.
8. “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”
The Crimson’s headline from 1968, now a "major" motion picture.
7. "Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaulted her ex-girlfriend in gay pub after she waved at man dressed as a Snickers bar"
From Ireland’s Evening Herald in 2010. What could I possibly add to this?
6. “This Sport Is Stupid Anyway”
Headline from 2010’s New York Post after the U.S. got ousted from the World Cup. Ha.
5. “Dewey Defeats Truman”
Yawn. I guess I have to include this because it’s on every newspaper headline top 10 list. Thanks a lot, 1948’s Chicago Tribune. Now we have to wait until 3AM before CNN will call a freakin' election.
4. “Small Step for Man, Giant Gaffe for NASA”
In reference to NASA erasing the original moon landing tapes. Who knew the 2009 Associated Press had a sense of humor? Also, am I the only one who thinks this has enormous government cover-up written all over it?
3. “This Is Your Captain Freaking”
Nice wordplay by the New York Post in March -- after JetBlue’s Captain Osborn went nuts mid-flight and started ranting about al Qaeda and stuff.
2. “Proud Peacock Vies with Mrs. Astor for Ballroom Sensation”
May 26, 1911. It was a simpler time
1. “County to pay $250,000 to advertise lack of funds”
Well... you gotta spend money to make money. Thanks for the laughs, 2006‘s The Register Guard.
Okay, loyal readers, your turn: What did I miss?
Oh, come on, man - how can you NOT like me?
I’ve had a few clients ask my opinion on Facebook’s advertising program. Mainly, these folks want to know if Facebook ads are worth investing in and how they work.
The answers, of course, vary. Whether or not it’s worth investing in any ad campaign really depends on a number of variables that are unique to each business, and several questions need to be asked. Who are you targeting? What is your budget? What are your goals?
The question of how Facebook ads work is also not quite cut-and-dry. Facebook actually does offer some very targeted advertising options that are based on location, demographics, interests, and more.
The problem is that Facebook ad campaigns are not as readily understandable as, for example, a Google AdWords campaign. Those are easy to create and track, and are proven to work if you manage them correctly. They’re also very targeted because they’re catering to keyword searches. You kind of know what you’re getting into with regards to AdWords.
With Facebook, not so much. Which may explain recent reports that, while Facebook ad rates in Q1 2012 were good, their growth appears to be softening. This growth makes sense; there’s an attraction to being able to reach the millions (it might be billions by now, I’m not sure) of people on the world’s biggest social media platform. But what does the tailing off of growth indicate? Could it be that advertisers are not seeing as much of a return on investment as they would have hoped? Incremental evidence seems to point toward advertisers not being able to tell if their ads are working. And with metrics and measurement such a crucial part of any communications program, well, you can tell why some might be a bit gun shy about investing in the Facebook ad platform.
Of course, none of this may matter much to Facebook in a few weeks when the company likely files its much-anticipated IPO. But it’ll be interesting for the rest of us to see whether or not the Facebook ad model can really takeoff.
- Pete Larmey
American City Business Journals is holding a nationwide contest between regional Business Journals to determine the most social media-savvy companies in a given region.
Does an intern run your social media strategy, or is it a part of your company's culture and everyone participates? This is a competition, and the Washington Business Journal (WBJ) is leading the efforts in DC to show we can win on a national scale.
WBJ's Roger Hughlett thinks we should all get into the game. So let's go everyone, get social...Register your company or your client at www.socialmadness.com. DEADLINE MAY 15th to be nominated!
Oh, those clever mobile technology providers! First, there was the Smoked By Windows Phone promo/contest/parlor trick. Now, reeling mobile device company Research in Motion is attempting to get people to “Wake Up” again to the BlackBerry brand -- to the dismay of Apple fans around the world.
In case you didn’t hear, the folks at RIM claimed responsibility for a “BlackBerry Wake Up event” that took place last week at an Apple store in Sydney, Australia. Beleaguered store patrons and employees watched in dismay as a small army of people, dressed in black and carrying signs emblazoned with the words “Wake Up,” pulled up to the store in a couple of buses. The “protestors” then proceeded to stand outside the store screaming nothing but “wake up” for the next fifteen minutes. Then, they left, just as mysteriously as they came.
An intrepid blogger “happened” to film the event; his video was subsequently viewed several hundreds of thousands of times. It turned into a Web sensation that received a great deal of media coverage. But no one knew why it happened or who was behind it. Until RIM came clean.
Turns out it was an organized event orchestrated by RIM Australia. The company even went so far as to tip off the blogger who filmed the event of the time and place where it would take place (although, supposedly, he was not paid).
Now, the question is: was it successful?
I would argue that it was…and it wasn’t. If you read some of the comments on The Verge, for example, you’ll see that many were unimpressed, stating that RIM “needs a reality check” and that the marketing tactic was “lame” (then again, RIM probably lost a lot of those folks a looooong time ago). On the other hand, this has gotten RIM some coverage in mainstream press and notice across the Web. Some has been negative, some has been nonplussed, and most has been “huh?” But, this left field, strange guerilla marketing “protest” has at least gotten people talking a bit about a company that is generally considered, well, pretty boring these days. At the very least, it’s out of the box thinking. The fact that it came from a company not necessarily known for that perhaps makes it all the more effective.
Still, it should be pointed out that this type of tactic may not work for everyone. RIM is a company with the size and budget to effectively pull something like this off. Your average start-up, on the other hand, may be better off sticking to more traditional means of attracting attention – social media channels, media relations, etc. These tried-and-true tactics effectively work in making audiences “wake up” to what smaller companies have to offer – and can be far easier to implement than a faux flash mob.
- Pete Larmey
Photo taken from YouTube video
Ok, so it might come across like a guilt trip to some, but looking at the bigger picture, Facebook’s installment of an organ donor option to its timeline is full of well intentions. As I alluded to in my post yesterday when the world was tipped off that Facebook was up to something big, Mark Zuckerberg indeed announced today that his social media platform now allows you to identify yourself as an organ donor. The idea is simple, and yet so important to the thousands of people around the country, let alone the world, whose lives depend on organ donation.
To identify yourself as a donor on Facebook, the process is pretty simple. There’s a great how-to video that not only shows you how to update your timeline and About section, but also how to sign up for the appropriate donor registry directly from your page. If you have an inspiring story to share with your Facebook friends (of even if you don’t, but just want to encourage others to join the movement), you’ll have the ability to do that as well.
By choosing to add this aspect to your time, Zuckerberg hopes that awareness will spread and people will find the encouragement they need to become donors themselves. I’ve already seen some of my Facebook friends post their organ donation story to their timeline and About sections, and anticipate seeing many more in the months to come. It’ll be interesting to compare these numbers to that of the national registries to see just how powerful this movement is. My guess is, it’ll be successful. After all, word of mouth is Facebook’s bread and butter.