Tag Archives: cluetrain

31 ‘New Clues’ for PR Practitioners

February 23, 2015

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This post originally appeared on PR Daily

book-midFifteen years ago, “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” one of the most important business books of the Internet generation, took the world by storm.

Last month, two of that book’s authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, created the “New Clues,” an updated perspective on how the Internet affects marketing, PR and technology.

As I read over the “New Clues,” I thought about the original “Cluetrain” and reflected on how uneducated so many marketers remain to this day. I was wrong to look at the original “Cluetrain” as predictions of what was to come. They were, as the “New Clues” are today, a rallying cry for how things could and should be. These clues challenge readers to stop and consider the world-changing potential the Internet continues to have rather than defaulting to what we’ve always done.

Today’s public relations pros require their own rallying cry. Since the original “Cluetrain” came out, we’ve watched the journalism industry crumble, allowed social media to be taken over by marketers, and seen the rise of native advertising.

It’s do or die time for PR. We have to stop pining for how things used to be and instead take advantage of the opportunities right in front of us.

Maybe these 31 clues will help kickstart your brain and get you thinking bigger. Maybe they’ll be something you share with your teams as I did with the original Cluetrain. At a minimum, I hope they help replace some cynicism with a bit of optimism.

  1. Let’s say it together: PR does not equal media relations.
  2. Impressions, Advertising Value Equivalencies (AVE), hits, clips, reach, and engagement statistics can be manipulated (or even made up) to say anything we want. Clients are starting to understand this, too.
  3. We become what we measure. And what we’re measuring is garbage.
  4. That segment you secured on “The Rachael Ray Show” is great, but how exactly does that reach the target demographic of 45-year-old, single, male truck drivers?
  5. Bragging about the number of media placements and impressions you got is like bragging about the number of hours you worked. Neither number necessarily means you accomplished anything for the organization.
  6. Just because we can measure and optimize something doesn’t always mean we should.
  7. If you’re tired of your client continually asking you for more hits, impressions, or “likes,” show him the metrics that he should be paying attention to, maybe even metrics that are tied to his business goals.
  8. If we aren’t going to educate our clients on how they should measure PR success, who will?
  9. When trust in the media is at its lowest point in history, talking up “third-party credibility” doesn’t exactly conjure up images of Cronkite or Woodward and Bernstein.
  10. If we showed half as much interest in our client’s sales figures as we did to our last media placement, we’d be more likely to get that seat at the table we’re always asking about.
  11. Thanks for running through your comprehensive PR plan. Since you included every last detail, I can tell you put in a lot of work, but by slide 79, I needed a second cup of coffee just to make it through the presentation.
  12. If you’re going to talk about the value of one-on-one relationships in your proposal, try to wait at least a few days before you send the same press release to a thousand people on behalf of that client you just won.
  13. If relationships are so important, why do I only hear from PR people when they’re trying to sell me on something?
  14. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and require our teams to cultivate and maintain those relationships, even if it’s not during billable time.
  15. Given the choice between native advertising content, where impressions, message, and calls to action are guaranteed, what’s the incentive to allocating dollars to PR where not only do these guarantees not exist, the brand is opening itself up to substantial risk?
  16. Media placements in The New York Times or Time magazine don’t mean nearly as much to cost-focused clients when they can cut a check and get the same coverage with more control.
  17. Integrated marketing involves a lot more than simply bringing the SEO guy to the meeting.
  18. You do know that “writing” means more than just copying and pasting lines from a variety of previously approved materials, right?
  19. Writing in AP style and using the inverted pyramid is great, but you know what’s even better? Writing something that someone will want to read and maybe even share.
  20. Stop taking yourself so seriously. You’re managing Facebook and Instagram, not performing brain surgery. Stop thinking your customers are waiting with bated breath for your content. They’re not.
  21. Act as though you actually care about what your customers need and want rather than what will get the most “likes.”
  22. If you’re afraid of what customers might say about your brand if you ask them, you’ve got bigger problems than what to put on your content calendar.
  23. The most powerful phrase for a PR pro, in any medium, to anyone, is simply, “How can I help you?”
  24. Unfortunately, that won’t help our metrics so instead we’ll upload an image of a cat holding a sign that says “I haz help for you” with a search-optimized caption for our brand.
  25. Before you talk about your organization needing to be more “authentic” and “transparent,”you might want to take a peek behind the curtain. What’s authentic about your organization might be greed, scandal and obliviousness.
  26. On your next list of target audiences, include “employees.” Things will go much easier if you consider them before they learn what’s happening to their jobs from the local news anchor.
  27. PR had the opportunity to take the lead with social media and fundamentally change the way organizations communicate with people. Instead, we let marketers take control and turn it into an arms race for “likes,” fans, and followers.
  28. You’ve probably already told the guys writing the checks that if they took half the money they’re spending on banner ads and put it toward providing better customer service, they’d make their money back ten-fold. Keep telling them.
  29. And no, the customer doesn’t care that customer service is handled by another department with a separate budget. They’ll happily take their business elsewhere, and drop you a #fail tweet before they go.
  30. Is this why you really got into PR? Haggling with mommy bloggers over sponsored posts and creating Facebook meme photos?
  31. Even when “big data” becomes “huge data” and “mega data,” and our cars are driving themselves, PR will still be more art than science. It will still be about human-to-human interaction.
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A Partial Reading List for PR Students

August 23, 2013

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Students in class

Image courtesy of Flickr user vasta

College students across the country are in the midst of moving back to college for the fall semester. In between partying, traveling, club activities, sports, Greek commitments, and jobs, some will also be attending classes. Those lucky enough to be taking a PR class should be looking forward to discussions about an industry that’s being turned upside down by technology. You’ll learn from brands who have made mistakes. You’ll learn from brands who have succeeded. You’ll learn about laws governing social media. You’ll learn how to use social media for yourself. You’ll learn how social media is being integrated into areas beyond just marketing and PR. And you’ll also probably learn plenty of tips, tricks, hacks, and shortcuts, all in the name of efficiency, scalability, or optimization.

Do me a favor this semester. If your PR professor starts sounding like a Buzzfeed article sharing all kinds of tips and tricks advocating how to get the most fans, followers, retweets, likes, or views, tell them that you want to stop taking the easy way out.

If the books and blogs you’re reading for your PR or marketing class start to sound too much like late night infomercials extolling get-rich quick schemes, here’s are some resources I’d recommend sharing with your professor and classmates this semester.

  • The Cluetrain Manifesto  – I’ve talked about this book a lot for a reason. It’s one of the first books I read when I first started in social media back in 2006. It’s as relevant now and it was then, and is a great foundation for any PR or marketing professional.
  • Humanize – Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter provide a fantastic how-to on making organizations not just seem more human, but actually function in a more human way. It tackles the hard people side of change that most organizations seem to think is taken care of with a memo or a training class.
  • Marketing in the Round – Marketing and PR are no longer the only organizational touchpoints with the public. Customer service, marketing, PR, operations, executive leadership – the public doesn’t care about your org chart. Successful marketing is integrated marketing.
  • Social Media Strategist – There’s a difference between being the millenial who is handed the keys to an organization’s social media accounts and being a business leader who uses social media to change an organization. FYI – the latter is who you want to be. Read this book and learn how to do that.
  • Spin Sucks – One of my favorite blogs for years – Gini and her team are whip-smart PR practitioners who understand there’s no technology replacement for good PR.
  • The BrandBuilder Blog – You’ll hear people whine and complain about the difficulty in measuring the ROI of social media ROI. Don’t be one of those people. Read Olivier’s blog and book.
  • Shel Holtz – I’ve been a fan for more than five years. Shel’s one of the smartest PR practitioners you’ll ever meet.
  • Shelly Kramer – I’ve just started reading Shelly’s blog over the last year or so, but I love her matter-of-fact approach to marketing and conversational tone.
  • Doug Haslam – I love Doug’s sense of humor and willingness to call BS on marketing “best practices” that have pervaded this industry.
  • Rick Rice – Rick and I share very similar views and frustrations with the PR industry – the PR practitioner as consultant and adviser, not as publicity hound.
  • Geoff Livingston – I’ve known for a long time too and have always admired his commitment to his beliefs and his broad knowledge of everything from marketing to branding to PR to social media.
  • Jeremiah Owyang – one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in this industry. His blog, presentations, and dozens of research studies have been immensely helpful to my career.

There are a lot of other great resources out there (please share them in the comments), but sadly, even more that will lead you down a path full of shortcuts and hacks.

This semester, avoid taking the easy way out and remember that establishing and maintaining relationships are supposed to be hard. As any college student will tell you, creating and maintaining any relationship isn’t easy. It’s not easy in our personal lives, and it’s certainly not easy in our professional lives. It takes time and commitment. There’s small talk, awkward silences, disagreements, reconciliations, and long conversations. This is the case whether it’s girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates, customers, reporters, or employees.

Through all the tips, tricks, hacks, and shortcuts, remember that at the end of the day, successful PR really comes down to basic interpersonal communications. Listen more than you talk. Empathize with the other person. Add more value than you take. Say please and thank you. Be honest. Apologize when you’re wrong. Keep the basics as your foundation and you’ll do just fine this year and into the future.

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The Future of Branding is About Making Friends, Not Ads

May 12, 2012

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Make friends, not ads.™

That's the message that greeted me when I first opened the Cramer-Krasselt homepage and again when I walked into the lobby for my first interview five months ago. Seemed especially fitting for me as I've railed against traditional advertising ("look at me!! come buy my stuff!! Now! Now! Now!") and traditional PR ("we're the world's leading provider of innovative solutions…") for what seems like forever. Five months after that first interview and six weeks after my first day, I realize that this is much more than a tagline – it's the future of branding. 

For years now, I've been telling my teams, my clients, and anyone else who will listen that they need to read the Cluetrain Manifesto, internalize it, and put it into action. In fact, stop reading this post and do yourself a favor and read the 95 theses included in that book. It has really changed the way I think about business, branding, public relations, and advertising. Now, maybe I'm just naive or I haven't been in the private sector long enough, but I'm seeing signs that this industry is finally starting to get it. Success isn't about creating that one really cool ad, but about creating lasting relationships with your employees, your customers, and the public. 

Here are a few of the recent articles that I've come across that seem to back this up – 

Consumers Are Most Likely to Forgive USAA, Hyatt, Chick-fil-A and Costco Because Of Their Customer-Service Records, According to New Research — But Much Less Likely To Forgive Chrysler, US Airways, Comcast and BofA

"Forgiveness is a valuable asset that you earn by consistently meeting customers' needs, but many companies don't have enough forgiveness stored up to recover from their miscues"

It's Time for Advertising to Take a Lesson (Gasp!) from Public Relations

"They're not your customers; they're your constituents. It's been said often, but it bears repeating: People don't buy brands. They join them. So modern brands must function like political parties, identifying issues, expressing a coherent world view, staging debates and structuring dialogues."

Social Media Is About Cultivating Community, Not Corralling Cattle

"The harder you try to sell, the more you scare — or simply bore — people away. This central truth is not difficult for brands to understand, but for some reason it is hard for them to internalize and act upon. What is first required is to embrace social relationship-building not as the latest marketing fad, or even as a new reality that has been forced upon you, but as a means to revaluate who you are, what you stand for and why you are in business in the first place."
"As agencies, we have to be honest with clients and help them figure out how big or small their footprint should be in an ever-expanding social universe. Are we crafting community strategies with the brands' objectives truly in mind? Marketers should take the time to step back, look at how many things their consumers have in common and build social presences around what their customers care about and why they are connecting."
To a PR guy like me, I'm reading these articles nodding my head saying "ummmm…no shit. I've been saying all of this for years, and Cluetain said it more than a decade ago." Unfortunately, to many, this is still revolutionary thinking in the advertising, marketing, and even PR industries. THIS is the future of branding – it's not about social or mobile or location aware apps or retargeting – it's about fundamentally rethinking what we learned about PR, advertising, creative, and digital in college. It's about making friends, and not Facebook friends or Twitter friends – it's about making real, honest-to-god friends. Friends who will forgive you when you mess up, who will accept a higher price because they understand and empathize with you, who will step up and defend you when you're being attacked, who will pay more because they share similar beliefs, and who will talk about you with their friends and family because they believe in you. 
 
Ads alone aren't going to win you many friends. The most successful brands have already realized this and are using all of the tools at their disposal – advertising, public relations, community relations, creative, CRM – to build real friendships based on mutual trust, integrity, and respect. So, take the advice I see every day when I walk into work and start focusing on making friends, not ads.  
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Public Relations Isn’t the Cherry on Top

April 23, 2012

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user SeRVe Photography

"Let's bring PR in so they'll get us some media coverage for the new launch!"

"Let's make sure we have PR look this over to make us sound better."

"Can you have PR develop a plan to make sure the public thinks we're awesome?"

"Our customers keep complaining about our product – can we get PR in here to help drown that out with good stuff instead?" 

"No one is following our Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Foursquare account – can PR go get us more fans/followers/likes/subscribers/friends?"

We've all heard these things at one point or another in our career because people continue to misunderstand what public relations is. Despite coming up with new definitions, there continues to be a lack of awareness on the part of our clients, colleagues, and friends about what we actually do and the value that we bring to a business. PR isn't:

  • Some transactional activity that's thought about only after the advertising campaign is created.
  • Something that's brought in after the product is completed and you're gearing up for launch.
  • About getting media coverage.
  • About making the public think your product is the best or that your company is awesome
  • About generating "buzz"
  • Something that's going to cover up bigger issues like customer service or product quality

Public Relations is much deeper than all of this. Public Relations is about – you guessed it – building and maintaining relationships with the public, the very public buying your products, walking into your stores, writing about your company, and telling their friends about their experiences. Those users, demographics, markets, and audiences that you and your analysts always talk about? They're actual human beings. Human beings with very loud voices who can, at moment's notice, make or break your business. Your brand isn't determined by what you say you are, but by what you actually do. It's determined by what your customers see and hear from you every day.

The general public has never had more power than they do right now. Yet, businesses continue to try to take the easy way out clumsily advertising, optimizing, and marketing to these people like they're switches that can be turned on and off if we hit the right levers. What most companies don't realize is that not only is the public more powerful than ever, they are also smarter than ever too. Your customers, employees, and partners want require more than a company talking at them – they want a company that talks with them. They want to talk to actual people. They want companies who care about more than selling more widgets. They want companies who think about something other than their own bottom line. 

Paradoxically, organizations continue to look at public relations practitioners – the very people trained in developing and maintaining these relationships that are more important than ever – as little more than an afterthought. "Oh yeah – we're going to need PR to drum up some media coverage too!" Smart organizations are realizing that marketing and advertising can only take them so far. As my favorite book, the Cluetrain Manifesto says –

"We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with."

Successful organizations are integrating public relations earlier and deeper than ever before. Instead of being a key component of their marketing campaigns, PR is now becoming an integral part of their business plans. This integration, while more time-consuming, has many benefits:

  • Online communities of advocates who promote your brand not because they're being paid or because they have to, but because they truly love your brand
  • Consumers who are more likely to forgive when you inevitably make a mistake
  • Employees who truly love your brand and who act as an extension of your marketing department through their everyday work
  • People who will pay a little more for your product because they trust you
  • Reporters who call you asking for story ideas instead of the other way around
  • Organizations who voluntarily cross-promote your products/services because they trust and respect you
  • People who will leap to your defense in the face of attacks and criticism
  • A corporate voice that sounds authentically human instead of stiff, hollow, and fake
  • Content that is entertaining, informative, and/or useful instead of screaming BUY OUR STUFF NOW!!!!
  • Issues that never become full-blown crises because of the relationships that have been built with employees, customers, media, and partners
  • Corporate counsel that represents the public, not just the bottom line or the shareholder

The public is more powerful now than ever before and good public relations has never been important for your brand. Shouldn't PR become more than a bullet point at the end of the agenda, more than last department to get budget allocations, more than the cherry on top of the sundae? Shouldn't your relationships with the public be a key component of everything you do?

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