September 25, 2008
PR & Bloggers: Remembering the Basics
The Bloggers & PR session at BlogWorldExpo talked about "unlearning" everything we ever knew about PR. I don't think the industry needs to unlearn everything if they learned PR the right way the first time around. In other words, the R in PR is about relations........relationships.
This has always been what PR has been about. It's never been about press releases and blasting press and bloggers. The problem is that over the years, we are dealing with more and more audiences and its hard to keep up.
The underlying theme was "take a step back." Think about what you need to achieve over the long haul. Lee Odden who joined the panel at the last minute, asks the audience, why increase SEO just to increase SEO? Bring clients back to something concrete - what do they need to accomplish? When you figure that out, use other mediums that are available to you today you didn't have ten years ago, i.e,. audio, video, etc."
And as for blog traffic and who to reach, try to get your clients not just to think about blog traffic. Sure, maybe your client doesn't advertise on a blog with low traffic but if you don't think of them as a media outlet, but more of an influencer 'channel,' then the pieces fall into place and start to make sense -- over time. There's also social media optimization. What about how you'll show up in social search?
Liz Strauss stands up and makes the funniest comment of the day. "I want a relationship not a one-link stand." People were tweeting it in real-time; they had the Twitter screen behind the panel so we could simultaneously tweet, email, take notes, look at everyone else's comments and listen. And we wonder why we have attention overload.
We also talked about how blogs are moving to media platforms, Technorati being the easiest to point to. Chris Brogan says, "if a blog is trying to become a platform," and used Om's acquisitions as an example, "you can't treat them as just a blogger anymore."
Then there's Second Life. I didn't think this would continue to get into the conversation but it still does. I had lunch with a former client's partner a few weeks ago and now, she's becoming a Second Life marketing tiger large companies can hire out. At the end of the day, at least with my existing customers, I can't see how they'll get more customers from Second Life, but there are certain industries where it may pay off.
As I've always said to clients, pay attention to the industry and how it operates. Experiment. Understand your customer. Be focused and targeted.
What about how bloggers are part of the problem during this transition? Says Brogan, "a lot of bloggers don't understand the business problems." Journalists often didn't either, but over time, they learned that PR folks, the ones who understand the R in PR, actually added value to their job.
Creative and smart PR pros never just pitched a story, they offered advice, tips for other stories they might be working on, relevant and useful stats even if they didn't relate to their client and generally kept a dialogue going. The smart ones realized that they might just be working with them for a decade, or longer, and the smart journalists realized the same thing.
Not that many bloggers make their sole livelihood on churning out stories on tight deadlines the way journalists of old did. No wonder they complain about PR pitches. It's just not the way its done in the new world and most just see a new blog as yet another news outlet that needs ideas, including things pertaining to their client's product or service.
It's no different than the lessons from PR 101 - understand what the blogger cares about, make sure its relevant and keep it short baby. Brogan says, "give me a three liner." Jason Falls agrees and adds, "brevity is paramount." It's the twitt pitch in 140 characters or less, one of the reasons Twitter is growing in popularity. We're simply on information overload.
Other key takeaways from the panelists:
--treat pitches as pre-pitches, i.e., a few lines only
--don't send releases and offer a CEO interview around a news announcement
--it should be about the relationship not the pitch
--if you use the bcc field, you're an idiot
--think micro-PR (use brevity and clarity)
--think about the takeaway before you open your mouth and create your pitch
--use comments as a way to pitch elsewhere on the web
--look at the content, even if its topically in the right category, it still may not be relevant (news vs product reviews vs issues oriented only)
--use social media tools but only when relevant, i.e., in other words, don't use facebook or twitter just because you think you should use a new social media tool
--observe what bloggers are talking about in categories you and your clients care about
--blog or comment about the blogger and a post you have an interest in (many bloggers have egos and google their names often, so they'll likely hear what you have to say if you include them in your own online conversations)
--be an expert in the market where you're playing
Chris Brogan talks about the human factor. "Be human and think global," he says. Think collectively as an industry - we're all working together. As my grandfather used to constantly remind me, "what goes around comes around." It applies to pretty much everything.
On releases in general: while we all still do them, even those of us who know the format needs to change, we can't always humanize them in the way we want to. Sometimes, clients simply won't let us. Releases need to be more conversational and informal and yet sometimes we're simply stuck between a rock and a hard place when corporate gets involved, or worse, the lawyers.
Message to bloggers: Jason says, "tell PR people what they're doing wrong. I realize it takes time, but it will help the whole industry." Hear hear Jason.
Sure, its frustrating. I've had to train people at agencies and some don't pick it up, even after years of working with, let's call them content influencers. It doesn't mean they're idiots, it means that its likely not their strength and they're better off at events, strategy or writing. Some of the best journalists I've worked with over the years took the time in the early days to give me feedback and tell me what worked and what didn't. Feedback serves them in the long run too - the same applies to bloggers.
On the future of PR: I'd say its a re-emphasis on the R in PR (as it was always meant to be - the role of a great PR pro isn't going to go away anytime soon). Additionally, PR will wear the hat of marketing more and more, including viral social media programs, events, CRM/customer relations, web marketing, branding and SEO.
Always remember that you're in it for the long-term even if you're not. Think and behave that way. It helps the industry as a whole and serves the entire communications process between PR and marketing pros, executives, journalists, bloggers and vendors.
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What an excellent post! I work for Porter Novelli as part of the digital team, So understandable I'm a bit fed up of the recent PR is dead meme, or being told that PR has to change to being about personal relationships. Good PR has always been about that and its quite refreshing to hear someone else say it too.
Posted by: Kerry Gaffney | Sep 24, 2008 1:28:45 PM
Thanks for this.
It's obvious the time that went into this recapturing of the conversation. The result shows in how well you brought back the key elements of the time we spent talking about what's becoming a key topic of how we relate on the social web.
Seems to me that we've all sort of lost track of what's sitting on the other guy's "desk." If we'd just stop a moment and think of the person we're talking to . . . things might make more sense all around this idea. :)
Thanks again for this and for the nice mention. It was great to meet you there.
Posted by: Liz Strauss | Sep 25, 2008 7:35:40 PM
I second Liz's opinion: I'm grateful that you took the time to write this all up, because I had no recollection of all the details of the conversation. Great post, milady.
Posted by: Chris Brogan... | Sep 26, 2008 6:18:13 AM
You had me at the first paragraph-- this isn;t new PR, but a new opportunity to do "good" PR some us may have neglected in the "Mass email merge list" era. This may be the best effect of blogging on pr.
Thanks for the wrapup!
Posted by: Doug Haslam | Sep 26, 2008 6:32:02 AM
I always say that you can't compare a blog's traffic in the same way you chart print circulation. Why? Just as you stated, you have to think of the blogger as an influencer and chances are, they are not only projecting their voice on their blog, but in other aspects of social media where they may have influence as well. The blog may just be the hub that connects all of those other platforms and your message branches outward to them all. So for those of us in PR, look at more than just that blog, find out what other aspects of social media they relay their message to as well.
Posted by: Shannon Nelson | Sep 26, 2008 6:34:14 AM
I'm new to the PR world and this article really helped give me great ideas about establishing relationships and what bloggers are looking for in a pitch-thanks!
Posted by: Megan O'Haus | Sep 26, 2008 6:42:53 AM
Fantastic piece, thank you.
Posted by: Michael | Sep 26, 2008 6:46:06 AM
Excellent insight. Authoritative, informed, intelligent.
Posted by: Rachel Petersen | Sep 26, 2008 8:17:35 AM
Very helpful. Thanks for sharing!
Posted by: Kelsey Boyd | Sep 26, 2008 12:36:54 PM
It's frustrating to hear that NOW PR is supposed to now be about conversations and relationships - what do you think it has always been about? Before blogs, before Twitter?
In large organizations, PR can often become an automatic machine, i.e., tech support for press, churning out product samples to test out, throwing parties and doing press releases.
The smart ones are starting to get it, i.e, P&G & other major consumer brands who are starting to look at things differently. Not all of those programs are originating from their PR departments though.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Sep 26, 2008 3:52:31 PM