March 09, 2011
Defining Public Relations: From Your Heart or From Your Head?
A week ago, I was asked for my definition of public relations by Heidi Cohen who was working on a blog post about what it is, as is how people define it. Here's her blog post in its entirety here which includes 31 definitions including her own.
What's interesting is how I 'felt' when I got the email....meaning I had a physical reaction to being asked for a definition as if there couldn't be a definition to something that was all about human emotions, connections and relationships. Somehow it was like being asked to define love as ridiculous as that sounds. I thought about the last time I had to write or give a definition of public relations and it was when I was in college in London many (many) moons ago.
She writes: "traditionally, public relations referred to the art of getting mentions of a person, company or other organization placed in the media, namely print, radio and television."
Here's an observation I had in reading that statement: where I studied public relations in the UK, it was primarily not about the media, but about a number of very broad constituencies and the media was just one of them. This could be because the UK was a tad more old school about the way they viewed public relations. It could also be that one of my mentors was a professor who was a master at in-person relationships where coffee, tea, scotch, wine, a meal, golf or croquet were part of nearly every conversation. Lobbying was often part of the process too depending on what the end-goal was, but the media was always just one integral part of the strategy, not everything.
When I moved back to the states, the media was a much larger part of the 'game,' although given that I worked at one of the top crisis communications firms at the time (Cone), we managed everything from roundtables, speaker series, thought leadership boards, crisis communications plans, events and guerilla marketing. And, media, of course, was a part of each plan.
It wasn't until I moved into the world of technology (much more niche back then than it is today), that our teams were primarily focused on media relations and not a whole lot else. This isn't to say that we didn't have a strategy in place, but the focus was much more tactical than it had been in the UK and at Cone. The same applied later on in my life when I did a stint in South Africa where it was 80% strategic and 20% tactical for obvious reasons. (South Africa in the early nineties: you can only imagine)
So, early on, I was 'conditioned' to think about a large number of audiences outside traditional media and perhaps that's why when I was 'forced' into an all media relations role, it became easier to execute. It wasn't long before it became increasingly crowded and the PR industry started losing credibility because so many junior folks were thrown on the phones before they really understood the product or service they were pitching, or more importantly, 'cared about it.'
When I hired agencies, the first thing I would do, was throw the team into the product. If I didn't sense they could live and breathe what they were repping, I asked for another exec to replace them. Seriously, why work on something if you don't love it and really believe in it?
When you're coming from a place of passion, it really isn't pitching at all is it? It becomes 'having a conversation' about something you care about and in the process, you get to magically build a relationship with that person. Imagine that? Isn't that exactly what social media (et hem, I mean public relations) is? Engaging with people?
I sent poor Heidi a rather long definition so she obviously had to edit it down, but here's my original submission. BTW, its long because I had such a hard time 'definining it.'
"Public Relations in its true sense is about human connections and the art of mastering human connections at a deep level. In the early days of the PR "playbook", it was about relationships with not just the press but communities in various forms - the difference was that these audiences were not online. While some argue that the value of public relations has diminished in the world of social media where everyone can be an author and content creator, I would argue that someone who not only knows how to master human connections and relationships, but thrives on it, is more vital than ever. True mastery of anything comes from a passion to serve in some way shape or form. The publicists who will matter in the 'new' world of exploding content will be the ones who thrive on communicating via countless channels not because they have to, but because more than anything else in life, they love engaging with people. From this place, authenticity is guaranteed to come through which can only help the products and services within their social sphere shine.
When public relations thrives, its because those who are 'gifted' with this skill are at the helm. When played from a place of passion and purpose, public relations in the new world will not only take social media, branding and marketing to the next level, but will elevate the people and products that are changing the world." - Renee Blodgett, Magic Sauce Media
As for the other 30, they're all pretty interesting and because each of us were asked for a definition because that was the exercise (I had to admit, it was cool exercise btw), nearly every submission reads like a definition. There was of course this very amusing one below that reminds me of Mad Man and how in many ways, a lot really hasn't changed; its just that the packaging and perception has.
"Advertising: I walk into a bar and tell the first hot girl I see how amazing I am in bed. The hot girl doesn’t go home with me. PR: I walk into a bar and a friend of the hot girl sees me and tells her friend how great I am in bed. The hot girl goes home with me. Peter Shankman"
It also reminded me of my days at Saatchi & Saatchi in London during a year that will inevitably tell my age, so I'll leave that part out. :-)
Definitions aside, how about this one which came to my head only a few seconds ago as I thought about a close to this post:
"Public Relations is the art of truly connecting with people. When the public relations master truly connects, they are sharing a 'gift.' Being a master of public relations means that you love people and building relationships so much that every exchange is seamless, authentic, honest, gracious and empathetic. And, over the course of a thousand seamless conversations, the journey becomes a joyous one of learning and deeper understanding, not just of the people you're pitching to and for, but the products and services in your web. Then, my friends, the public relations 'artist' is nothing other than a storyteller who conveys a series of beautiful and compelling stories over a lifetime, ones that inevitably have a tremendous impact on people and help change the world." - Renee Blodgett, Magic Sauce Media
Ah yes, the story. I prefer my new definition, one that came to me within seconds. I prefer it because it came from the heart and when asked for a definition, it came from the head. Living through the heart is the only way to live our lives regardless of industry.
This is how I think about my life anyway and I've been doing this for uhhh, 20 years.
Photo Credit: contentfactory.
October 12, 2010
Pivot Focuses On Marketers Who Target 18-34 Demographic: #pivotcon
The Pivot Conference, a new conference dedicated to branding, marketing and social media is coming up from October 17-19, 2010 in New York.
The event singularly focused on marketers who target the 18-34 demographic — their attitudes, technologies and preferences – and the media and marketing that addresses them.
Today, the brand marketers' job is made even more difficult by the rapidly changing media and the flood of new technologies and tools. Pivot is designed to help marketers sort through these issues, to better understand their customers and the environment, and to come away empowered to create a successful brand strategy and market more effectively to young consumers.
Speakers from Arianna Huffington to Evan Cohen and Doug Rushkoff (who says "Pivot looks to become the TED of marketing conferences"), will share their ideas and experiences and provoke 'Aha!' insights among attendees who are targeting the largest, most unique and influential demographic we've seen in 50 years.
Highlights of the agenda include:
• Who Are You? Profile of the Always-On Consumer
• Mind the Gap: Measuring the Divide Between "Us" and "Them"
• Motives and Motivations: What Drives the Always-On Consumer
• Media and Advertising at a Crossroads
• The New Marketing Organization
• New Rules of Engagement: Listen, Engage, Measure
• Social Marketing: The Grand Experiment
October 12, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Blogging, On Branding, On Journalism, On Technology, PR & Marketing, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 27, 2010
Oh PR2, Shall We Dance?Last night, I had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) of dancing with a PR2 robot at Willow Garage, the same PR2 that will go off to UPENN next week with the UPENN recipient winners of the PR2 beta program. Until we meet again.
May 27, 2010 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Magic Sauce Media, On Dance, On Innovation, On Robotics, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
May 09, 2010
Down the Avenue Gets an Urban FaceliftWelcome to the new Down the Avenue design which went live this morning. Depending on who you ask, the new design either has a more urban and hip feel (brick + warehouse + artist lofts + a stroll down the street of some undefined American city) OR the main drag of a small American town (the majority said it reminded them of the East Coast). Perhaps it doesn't feel like any of the above to you.
The street is in fact based on the town where I grew up in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. The design is modified from real photographs I took along Main Street within the past decade.
Down the Avenue is about where old meets new. Culture meets technology. Feminine energy meets masculinity. Social media & new voices meet traditional journalism, marketing & branding. It is also an intersection between mobile, productivity, Web 2.0 and travel, and, where a passion for style & design meets a world who has no desire to honor it. Continue on the journey with me.
February 18, 2010
Magic Sauce Media: Time to Mash the IngredientsPR Week does a Q&A with me about the launch of Magic Sauce Media in January: the rebranding and position shift from the traditional to the integrated.
Sometimes I really have to pinch myself to be able to say the word PR: is that really what it is I do? Have been doing? Nay. It has never felt like the right word. No grave surprise given how and where I was 'trained.'
Strategic and integrated is the way it should be.....needs to be, must be. When language and positioning however is not formalized and people don't really understand what a truly integrated communications, branding and social media campaign is or how powerful it can be, it's necessary to re-educate. Now is the time. The PR industry is breaking. It's time to mash the ingredients.
February 03, 2010
Geo-Loco Event: Social Media Week San FranciscoKevin Marks from BT Group hosts a panel of Foursquare mayors, geeks, thought leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to discuss the future of geo-location services and technologies in San Francisco this Wednesday night, February 3, 2010 as part of Social Media Week.
Magic Sauce Media, my newly branded gig, and Traveling Geeks are proud sponsors of the event, which will be held at 930 Montgomery Street, #301 in San Francisco. The event is part of a global Social Media Week conference, held simultaneously in six cities around the country.
The panel includes:
MG Siegler, Techcrunch Robert Scoble, Rackspace Jeremy Toeman, Stage Two Consulting Matt Galigan, SimpleGeo Tom Coates, Yahoo Fire Eagel
Robert Scoble, Rackspace
Jeremy Toeman, Stage Two Consulting
Matt Galigan, SimpleGeo
Tom Coates, Yahoo Fire Eagel
January 19, 2010
Welcome to the World of Magic Sauce MediaMagic Sauce Media, newly rebranded and all, is now live and kicking.
The Reason? The model for PR, marketing and the niche every agency on the block says they do well - social media, has too many cracks. The old model is broken and there's too many so called social media 'experts and gurus' going after budgets that used to be allocated to advertising, direct marketing and well, traditional PR.
Call it a hybrid of sorts, Magic Sauce Media is a new media services consultancy that takes an integrated approach to social media, viral marketing, branding and PR.
The goal is to align companies with their vision first, and then produce a well-crafted strategy and compelling story that reflects that alignment consistently. The result is a personalized, targeted and bold communications campaign that brings in the right ingredients to each stage of a company’s growth.
Offering the breadth and depth of a big firm and the intimacy and wealth of a boutique firm, Magic Sauce Media provides overarching executive-level guidance at its base and introductions at the highest levels.
We'll continue to work with start-ups and emerging technology companies, however we also welcome working with larger companies in other industry sectors we have a passion for: travel, food/wine, green technology, digital music, video, and consumer electronics, as well as products and services for youth and seniors.
January 18, 2010
Constant Builds Brands, Passion Builds the Long Tail
Someone unsubscribed to my feed recently and the reason was as I expected it would be: the content was no longer relevant. My assumption of course was that they subscribed many years ago when I wrote about RSS and aggregation more than anything else.
That hasn’t been my focus for years of course. That said, I really haven't had a specific focus for awhile now so it's no surprise someone who wanted a regular flow of content on a specific topic, would not only find my content irrelevant, but inconsistent – it is.
It's because one day I might write about theatre, dark chocolate and intense walks through the streets of Rome, the next about an initiative in southern Africa and the next about some cool new app for Facebook or the iPhone.
Not being focused typically won't result in a lot of traffic. It won't garner the kind of repeat readers Mashable and TechCrunch get consistently because their readers know what content they’re going to get every day. It’s predictable and constant……..on purpose.
Constant builds brands. Constant means consistency to readers, consistency builds trust and trust ignites brands. How many times have you heard a Yank say that they sought out a McDonalds or Starbucks overseas because it was consistent, they knew what they were going to get? Bottom line, it’s familiar and they didn't have to think about the result.
Recently in Paris, I ran into an American who was there for 28 hours and learned that he spent 8 of those hours in a Starbucks. While not a surprise, it crushed me to hear this because constant deflates my spirit, not ignites it. My spirit isn't a brand nor is it constant.
Without garnered trust, you may not be taken seriously, at least not by the group of people who crave constants.....and the latter as we know, are the mainstream who build numbers, create a massive following and over time, build your online brand.
The alternative to being taken seriously is just to be taken. Ahhhh yes, passion. Let’s look at the long tail for a moment. It’s filled with thousands of obscure niche interests of people from around the world in categories you never knew existed. Green knit suits from Thailand, tasty blue love potions, Dragon dolls, and talking dustbusters, bring ‘em on.
Let’s think about the word “taken.” Such a visual, vibrant word isn’t it? You could be taken by a fragrance, a taste, the sound of a deep cello mixed with a harp, a flower garden, the texture on a Picasso painting or a man’s voice. Very few of these luscious incredible feelings, emotions, and senses are constant. Thankfully no………for the result makes life interesting.
I'd rather be taken to everywhere and everything but the constant. The ever-changing landscape of rolling hills for two miles only to be hit by large boulders and sharp cliffs around the next corner. The ever-changing hot and cold personalities of a redhead as she samples vegan pizza one moment and ostrich and foie gras the next.
The ever-changing dialogue between an elderly man and his granddaughter which increases as the weeks and months pass by. The ever-changing energy of a scooter on a busy Berlin street and the local baker's four-table cafe in a small Malaysian town.
Mix up the colors. Mix up the notes. Mix up the ingredients. Mix up the tempo. Mix up the tones. The hours. The sunshine and the rain. The puddles and the snowflakes. The glass and the wood. The flute and the drums. The A's with the M's. The Mac and the PC. The musicians and the lawyers. The artists and the engineers. The scientists and the bohemians. A German Shepherd and a Costa Rican butterfly.
Send me. Take me. Show me. Teach Me. Energize me. Push my boundaries. Ignite my fire. And with it, make sure that in any given day, that I'm never motivated and inspired by any one thing, whether it be technology or art alone.
Isn’t it great that one day we can choose a consistent and constant brand and the next a long tail passion that sets us on fire? Isn’t it great that we now have more choices and places to find that uniqueness on the web even if you have to do a little digging to get there?
Given that we have those choices, make them. Opt out of the large constant brand that you trust from time to time and you may find that you want to change your 80/20 rule and have the 20 be your constant, not the 80. America would be a very different place if we all chose the 20%; if we demanded that the 20% show up more; if we treasured it, praised it, voted for it and not the constant…….if we all increased our standards and did a little more creation and a little less observing.
It's an opportunity for the biggest mashup of all times and we haven’t even touched the tip of what’s possible yet. The online world is but a babe...still in its infancy. The digital gold rush is most definitely not over.
Enter more passion, diversity, and uncertainty. Enter waves, thunder, ponds, gardens, birds and buffalos all at the same time. Yes, all at the same time.
December 29, 2009
Consultants Can't Be Media Influencers Can They?
If you generate high quality content or a substantial amount of it, but consult, then you're clearly not a media influencer. If you have an audience and a voice that people listen to, but consult, then you're clearly not a media influencer.
That's how some view the world. After re-reading David Spark's recent post about an incident that prohibits him from generating content, I thought about how many times this has been an issue over the past several years -- for me and for others who wear both hats.
This isn't just about this one CES event; it's about old and new editorial voices and more importantly, it's about how to deal with influencers and manage content creators in a converging world. The landscape has changed so much that conference and event organizers need to throw a policy, any policy that has a black and white rulebook about whether you're an influencer who matters or not, out the window.
He was apparently sent an 11 year old 'rule book.' Rule books are designed for followers and structured entities, not visionaries. Egads, even if it's an 11 month old policy, it likely needs re-visiting. If anyone hasn't noticed, things have changed DRAMATICALLY in 11 years AND in 11 months.
11 years ago, media influencers included smaller vertical market niche publications that had a readership a quarter the size of my blog but oh yeah, I'm a consultant.
11 months ago, the third wave of full time journalists were laid off, more newspapers closed their doors and glossy magazines with once large entertainment budgets and hefty publisher salaries no longer have revenue or a brand. Crikey, Steve Wildstrom was even let go - and it's not because he isn't an amazing writer or thought leader. Know how many other award-winning editorial superstars are out of work?
Of the laundry list of do's and don'ts, I particularly resonated with this one: "don’t negate journalists that wear other hats - your sponsors are looking for quality people that represent media outlets they want to appear in. That should be your deciding factor. Not whether that person makes all their money from journalism and nothing else."
I'd extend this statement even further. Isn't it more interesting if journalists and bloggers ARE doing something else? It means they have another platform in which to tell a story. Who knows, maybe within those walls, a new deal may happen? A new voice unveiled?
Industry analysts have always been 'treated' as press in the context of which he writes, some of which were NOT part of a renown brand that wore Gartner Group or IDC on its door. They consult. They have clients and want to recruit new ones. And, while we're at it, don't publishers and editor-in-chiefs who attend a media event also want to nurture existing advertisers and recruit new ones? I would if I were in their shoes.
A separate agenda? Sure. I hope so - visionaries and leaders -- editorial or advisor, often have multiple agendas. They're thinking about and working on a number of different issues, topics and gigs. If you're a specific beat reporter with a list of who and what you can cover or not, your range is a lot more limited than an independent, freelancer, blogger or columnist who can write whatever they want, whenever they want.
And, a few more things from a consultant who generates a helluva lot of content... I have sometimes spent 90% of my time reporting and covering an event I've attended and paid for and told by some that it was the more interesting content they read of the event. Some of the traditional full time journalists at the same event didn't write a thing.
I'm not suggesting they should or are required to write. My point is that there are lots of important voices out there who are not full time journalists with traditional credentials. Whether they consult or not is irrelevant as long as there's full disclosure.
I've seen hybrid folks on media lists and not others. Who decides who is 'worthy' and has a more valuable audience than another?
Isn't it time we looked at the consultant/content creator/journalist relationship in a different way?
Isn't it time we rewrote the rules?
And she said....."understanding is a two-way street." --Eleanor Roosevelt
August 30, 2009
Advertising, Marketing and PR Suck: Now What?
This past week, I was on a panel I didn't wildly promote, and when you hear the name of it, you'll understand why. I thought: better not to provoke the sharks although in hindsight, the sharks could have added some teeth to the discussion and so feel free to start a dialogue that will start a feeding frenzy.
One of Guy's questions was: what would you do if you only had $10K for a launch? Steve held the viewpoint that advertising is still effective and let's not nuke it just yet and replace with grassroots efforts using social media tools alone to drive word-of-mouth (he was aghast at a $10K budget to launch a product - "What can you really do for that?"). Interestingly enough, the majority of the room supported his view.
You can't really answer that question effectively without additional data, such as what product or service is it? There are very different solutions to how you launch a $300,000 enterprise solution into the market vis a vis an online tool like Seesmic that is enjoying success through viral buzz and community efforts alone.
Let's be clear about one thing: word-of-mouth and viral has always been effective. It's not new. The difference today is that instead of 20 or 200 influential outlets and voices who can make or break your product, we have 6,000. And, how much time do you spend at the very end of that long tail?
Despite how active he is online, Louis put on a 'real world hat' and reminded us that there is a world beyond Twitter and social networks when you think about your reach.
Creating buzz online through so called authenticity everywhere your customers are, commenting, responding, engaging with an existing community or creating one is great and critical - I couldn't agree more, but let's be honest here: it's incredibly time consuming and doesn't scale.
Not only doesn't it scale, but not everyone in your organization is going to present themselves with perfect etiquette all the time, particularly as you scale. In other words, I'd argue that as the number of people who can influence our product or service grows, the need for smart, strategic PR grows too.
Loic argues that traditional PR and marketing does not work to build a community. No, it doesn't when done poorly nor does it help to build a community when you don't do what PR should do well - be an honest communicator with all of your audiences, not just press.
In the training I had in London in the late eighties and early nineties, PR was never about just press - ever. Nor was it ever one directional. The problem is that there are far too many cases where that has either been the case OR perceived to be the case.
So, over time, flacks got a bad rap. As everything becomes more and more transparent, they're the first to get buried next to those equally dishonest marketers, lawyers and advertisers.
What PR can do effectively moving forward is jump into that thought leadership role, jump into that strategic role and jump into that master communicator role. In other words, now we need 'community managers" engaging with customers and everyone else hanging out in the Long Tail more than we ever had in the past.
If you really "get" PR's role and what it can do powerfully well, then you'll see where messaging, etiquette and creating a vision for the company will play a vital role in the new media economy. Not everyone in the organization necessarily has the skillset, know how or frankly, personality to execute on that vision effectively and cohesively.
Messaging will always be important. Great messaging wrapped around authenticity, directness and proactive engagement is key and PR is smack in the center of all of that.
Combine the above with the Tribes mentality that Seth Godin writes about in his latest book and you've got a magical formula.
If you're not honest and admit that we're all in this together, testing out new approaches as things evolve where every 'hat' can play a valuable role in building community and creating a loyal customer fan base, including PR, then you're not thinking long-term.
The video is up as well. Due to the typical time constraints, it's in 8 parts:
Part I below: