Market researchers are often in a great position to provide good PR for their clients. However often the resulting press release gets watered down to cover uninteresting detail about the company product or agenda. Do today’s corporate PR/Communications people think they are Advertisers? Perhaps that’s the problem.
Today I speak with popular author, speaker and PR Guru David Meerman Scott, ask him why Corporate PR is so bad, and how we can leverage Web 2.0 better as marketers.
Tom: David, you’re well known among marketers as a PR and marketing Guru. Though I haven’t had the chance to read your books yet, I do think I understand a little of what you mean by the title of one of your recent books “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”, and agree with you that many of the old marketing rules don’t count on the web. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you are so passionate about this subject?
David: I worked in the online information business for more than ten years, (much of that time prior to the Web). I was Marketing Director for Knight-Ridder in Asia and also VP marketing at NewsEdge. I learned how people consume information and what content people will buy. In my marketing role at NewsEdge I was amazed at how well a Web site could tell a story. I was thrilled when we issued press releases, not to the press but to buyers, and generated significant sales inquiries. When NewsEdge was acquired by Thomson in 2001, they decided that my “out there” ideas were not for them so they fired me.
I’ve been writing and speaking about those ideas ever since. What resonates with people is this: We’re living in a time when we can reach the world directly, without having to spend enormous amounts of money on advertising and without investing in huge public relations efforts to convince the media to write (or broadcast) about our products and services. There is a tremendous opportunity right now to reach buyers in a better way: by publishing great content online, content people want to consume and that they are eager to share with their friends, family, and colleagues.
Tom: As I’ve understood it PR is getting other people to write about you for free. Almost any PR is good PR and the audience knows that the message is not being controlled by the company and thus treats it differently, often with more open minds. Advertising on the other hand is a carefully crafted message directed at a target audience at an often large cost. In most ways PR is probably more powerful than Advertising. What is your definition of PR and how does it differ, if at all, from mainstream PR?
David: According to The Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations helps our complex, pluralistic society to reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions.” To paraphrase, PR is how an organization deals with its public.
The problem is that most organizations confuse PR with media relations. That’s what you did with your question “As I’ve understood it PR is getting other people to write about you for free.” That is not PR, it is media relations.
In my world, Public Relations is best accomplished by an organization PUBLISHING great information themselves. It could be a content-rich Web site, blogs, videos, photos, charts, graphs, and more.
Tom: On occasion in Marketing Research a client wants to publicize the results of a study. On some rare occasions this is even the primary purpose for a study. I’ve frequently disagreed with PR professionals I have worked with in the past. Often they are so busy trying to control the message that all newsworthiness and general interest gets lost. In my opinion they also seem to put too much importance on creating the “perfect” press release and usually strongly push for only issuing one single release even when both our companies are issuing them. In my experience I’ve found that multiple releases are useful in leveraging the blogosphere. One press release title may grab one reporters/bloggers interest and another slightly different version may grab another’s attention. I often find that Anderson Analytics, a market research company, can get much better PR than PR professionals at our client companies. They seem so obsessed with getting a specific controlled angle out that in the end there is nothing there of interest, even though it is clear to a non-PR professional like myself that there is lots of news worthiness in our reports. Typically when we do two releases Anderson Analytics’ gets much more attention. Am I crazy, or do PR folks seem to think they are in the Advertising business these days?
David: You are correct and the PR people you describe are dead wrong. You don’t have control anyway! You must lose control of your marketing and PR and let people say what they want.
What PR people need to realize is that nobody cares about your products (except you). What people do care about are themselves and ways to solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. And you must resist the urge to “control the message.” Create something interesting that will be talked about online.
Tom: It seems all marketers are looking for the best way to leverage web 2.0 yet we are still a bit confused on how to best do so, especially in regard to Social Networking (SNS). What is your recommendation in this area?
David: Unfortunately, many continue to think of the Web as a sprawling online newspaper, which is why they talk about “influencing bloggers” and use the model of “pitching.” This mistake also justifies their need to (negatively) compare blogging to mainstream journalism. The metaphor of the Web as a newspaper is inaccurate on many levels, particularly when trying to understand Web 2.0. It is better to think of the Web as a huge city teaming with individuals and blogs as the sounds of independent voices just like the street corner soapbox preacher or that friend of yours who always recommends the best books.
Seeing the Web as a city also helps make sense of other aspects of online life. Craigslist is like the bulletin board at the entrance of the corner store; EBay, a garage sale; Amazon, a bookstore replete with patrons anxious to give you their two cents. You’ve even got the proverbial wrong-side-of-the-tracks spots via the Web’s adult-entertainment underbelly.
If you’re a hermit in the city and never come out, nobody knows you. It’s the same on the Web. If you only rely on others to tell your story in the city, rumors start and the facts are not correct. It’s the same on the Web.
You’ve got to be a citizen.
Tom: How/where should marketers prioritize their online marketing resources. What mix do you feel is most effective?
David: Executives at companies large and small as well as marketing people tend to resist creating online content that encourages people to share because they want to apply old rules of measurement to the new world of spreading ideas online.
The old rules of measurement used a metrics that just doesn’t matter for spreading ideas, especially online. We measured “leads”-how many business cards we collected; how many people called the toll free number; how many people stopped at the tradeshow booth; and how many people filled out a form on our Web site, providing their email address and other personal information.
While applying this forms of measurement might be appropriate offline, using them to track your success on the Web just isn’t relevant; it doesn’t capture the way ideas travel. Worse, the very act of tracking leads hampers the spread of ideas. People know from experience that if they supply their personal information to an organization, they’re likely to receive unwanted contact.
Tom: I’m not going to ask you why you’re not on LinkedIn as you have a page on your blog dedicated to this question. What I’m curious about is why are you on Facebook and Twitter?
David: No, I’m not on LinkedIn. There are thousands of other social media and social networking sites that I am not on such as Nexopia, Bebo, Hi5, Tagged, Xing, Skyrock, Orkut, Friendster, Xiaonei and Cyworld.
We can’t possibly be a part of every conversation. I’ve found that I like the format of Twitter, with small updates, and that works for me, so I’m active in it. I tweet when my thoughts are not right for a blog but I still want to say what’s on my mind. To be honest, my Facebook is rather passive. I react a lot, but don’t initiate much at all.
Tom: Thanks David. I’ll be look forward to reading your new book “World Wide Rave”.