Archive for the ‘blogger relations’ Category
Even a little PR / social media blog like this one gets pitched. A lot. The vast majority of the pitches I get are absolutely awful. So I’m going to profile one that made me WANT to write about it and explain why.
This is the email I got:
So why am I writing about this, and not the roughly 20 other pitches I got this week?
First, it’s an unusual concept. A legal insurance firm like DAS Canada doing a contest is unexpected (at least to me.)
Second, it points out a serious, real problem — being able to afford legal representation.
Third, it’s in the range of things that I might write about anyway — social media related, has a business application. You’d be surprised how many pitches I get for stuff that I would never in a million years write about on this blog (would you believe beach umbrella anchors?!). And you’d also be surprised by the people who pitch to me even after I’ve explicitly written to them and asked to be removed from their lists. (I’m looking at you, Imal Wagner, who pitches books to me that I would never cover, and has been told so).
Fourth, the release is reasonably well written. I could get the concept. And they quote the president of the Canadian Bar Association, which gives it some relevant credibility.
What didn’t I like about the pitch? The subject line’s kinda clunky. And I would love to have seen some personalization. A multimedia component would also have been nice — links to imagery or audio or video.
For all I know, the people at Pointman PR did absolutely no research, and me getting this was just a lucky chance for them. Or perhaps they thought about it a little. Either way, it worked. So what can you learn if you’re doing pitching to blogs or to mainstream media?
- Just look at the blog a little. I’m a PR blog. It’s not that I don’t care about children getting impaled by rogue beach umbrellas. It’s just that it doesn’t fit my slant. So don’t WASTE MY TIME PLEASE!
- Think rich content. If there had been a picture, I probably would have used it.
- Personalize. Yes, it’s a pain. But do it anyway.
- And if you’re told to stop pitching to someone, FLIPPING WELL STOP PITCHING!
One of the things that social media offers EVERYONE is the chance to present important work to the world in engaging ways. Proof? Just look at a map from the James McGregor Stewart society in Nova Scotia. I think if you read this post, you’ll see that even the most underresourced organization can use online tools to do good work and spread it.
The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence.
It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators.
So, the back story:
The James McGregor Stewart Society’s prime mover, a guy named Gus Reed, got a question from his intern. She wanted to find out how easy is it for people with disabilities to meet with their elected representatives? So, simplicity itself. She phoned each of the 52 MLAs’ constitutency offices and asked them some very simple questions about accessibility. Here’s what they asked:
- Does your office have parking? If so, is it paved? Does it have designated accessible spots?
- Is there a power door button?
- Is your entrance accessible (level, ramped, and / or elevator?)? Does it have a portable or other questionable ramp? Does it have a step or stairs?
- Is the washroom large enough for a wheelchair? Are there grab bars and/or a wheel-under sink?
- Is your office on an accessible transit route?
With this, they assigned points so that MLAs could score between -1 and 6.
Here are the results:
The mean score was 3. Keep in mind, you could get a 3 by having a disabled parking space at your office and having a door at street level. If you had an accessible washroom you’d get a 5. So a mean score of 3 is not exactly inspiring.
I spent a little time trying to get a handle on the Nova Scotia government’s accessibility policy. As best as I can understand it, buildings constructed since the 1990s, or buildings that have changed their purpose (from a house to a retail store, for example) are required to conform to the provincial building code, which mandates a number of measures to ensure disabled people can get access. (The building code regulations are here, and the province’s 1986 Building Access act is here.) Unfortunately, calls and emails to the province’s Human Rights Commission and Disabled Persons Commission resulted in little useful information. However, a cheerful fellow at the provincial department of Labour and Advanced Education (which is responsible for the building code) walked me through the regulations so that I got a cursory understanding of them.
The shameful level of accessibility is one thing. But I’m not an accessibility blogger – I’m a PR and social media blogger. So I’m gonna take on that aspect of this.
What really caught my eye in Parker Donham’s post was that nobody else had done this sort of survey before. Certainly, it’s not a technical challenge; simply pick up the phone 52 times and you’re done.
But what social media now offers is the opportunity to disseminate these findings in a graphically-rich way quickly, easily, and widely. No wire service needed, no fancy-dan graphic designers. Just Google Maps, Blogger, and email.
I spoke with Gus Reed on Skype on June 6, and he told me they weren’t sure what would happen with this survey. With no staff, the James McGregor Stewart Society has no “machine” to churn out a mass of followup documents. And this story may not make a dent in the media or in Nova Scotia government policy.
I want to draw out some public relations and social media lessons for both activist groups and for those who are their likely targets — large corporations, organizations, or government.
- Do solid work — like calling all 52 constituency offices, and tell your story well. Don’t focus only on media attention. A well-told story, like “people in wheelchairs can’t participate in basic democracy” is going to make people stop and read. If your work is shoddy or bloggers or media get burned, though, good luck getting someone to listen a second time.
- Use the resources you have at your disposal. In this case, the society has a blog on Blogger. Sure, they could get more fancy. But they haven’t. They used Google Maps to visualize and annotate their data. Gus Reed used Skype to give me more information.
- Have a plan. Even if you’re not going to push hard on the media front, doing the work requires followup. What will your next steps be? Once you do them, what’s next? Even for voluntary organizations with no staff, this stuff isn’t a closed circle, it’s lather, rinse, repeat. (Hint: there are lots of municipalities in Nova Scotia to look at, Mr Reed. Hint 2: There are 12 other legislatures that groups could survey in exactly the same way.)
- Do not look at this as a threat. Look at it as an opportunity. Even if it’s critical. And especially if, deep down, you know the criticism is well-founded.
- Do not ignore small organizations as powerless. The “amplification effect” may leave you chasing down a forest fire.
- Respond. Promptly and substantively.
Seeing lots of chatter online today about the pending shutdown of World Nutella Day. World what-what? Yeah, World Nutella Day.
Now, I’m not a user of the world’s favorite hazelnut spread. But plenty of people are. But many people are. Enough that back in 2007, an American woman named Sara Rosso who lives in Nutella’s homeland of Italy created (of her own volition) World Nutella Day.
Since then, their site has become a go-to destination for people who like the product (created by the same people who make Ferrero Rocher, Kinder candies, and Tic Tacs) for recipes and stories. Rosso and her Nutella-loving pal Michelle Fabio also have written the e-book The Unofficial Guide to Nutella (affiliate link).
But apparently, no more. Rosso’s website says (I’ll paste the text here in case the site disappears):
“On May 25, 2013, I’ll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella).
Seven years after the first World Nutella Day in 2007, I never thought the idea of dedicating a day to come together for the love of a certain hazelnut spread would be embraced by so many people! I’ve seen the event grow from a few hundred food bloggers posting recipes to thousands of people Tweeting about it, pinning recipes on Pinterest, and posting their own contributions on Facebook! There have been songs sung about it, short films created for it, poems written for it, recipes tested for it, and photos taken for it.
The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment, as over the years I’ve had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I’ve always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.
I have hope that this is not a goodbye to World Nutella Day forever, for the fans’ sake, and hopefully it will live on in one form or another in the future.”
So. From all appearances, this is a big corporation knuckling down on a humble blogger. Certainly, that’s the theme on the Nutella Facebook page, where several hundred comments are roundly criticizing the brand for its actions. Some are even posting video responses:
Doesn’t get much more emphatic than that.
But… what if there’s more to this? As a teacher, one of the case studies I have used for a long time in social media classes has been what’s become known as “The Ranger Station Fire.” This 2008 incident began when Ford sent out a cease and desist letter to someone operating a web site dedicated to the Ford Ranger.
Here’s Ron Ploof’s summary, an eminently useful document.
So at this point, all we have is the World Nutella Day website. We don’t know the contents of the C&D letter (which is more than likely in Italian). We haven’t seen any response from Ferrero. On page 8 of “The Ranger Station Fire”, Ploof describes the fact that the Ford fan site was selling unauthorized products with Ford’s logo on them. They then (VERY quickly) separated out the demands for the URL and compensation from the IP issue.
What needs to happen now? Two things:
- Sara Rosso needs to make very clear exactly why Ferrero has asked her to cease & desist.
- Ferrero needs to do the same thing.
Right now, it’s impossible to know if Ferrero has done something really stupid, or has done something right & executed badly, or whether this is the best of their alternatives and they’re just communicating poorly.
If Ferrero has no compelling reason to have taken this action, they are likely going to be a case study for teachers like me to use in the future — in how to alienate the people who love you.
I have asked Ferrero for comment, and I’ve also sent questions to Sara Rosso. I’ll update this post whenever I have new information to share.
UPDATE: around 4:00 pm EDT, I saw a statement from Ferrero on their Italian site. Get the update in this post.
I disagree with the Government of Canada on many things. So many I couldn’t begin to list them here.
So it’s with some surprise that I find myself… defending at least one of their actions.
A flurry of attention got given in my FB and other circles to this story recently:
“OTTAWA (NEWS1130) – The Harper government has been monitoring political messages online, and even correcting what it considers misinformation. One local expert says the government is taking things too far.
Under the pilot program the Harper government paid a media company $75,000 to monitor and respond to online postings about the east coast seal hunt.
UBC Computer Science professor and President of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Richard Rosenberg, says it seems unnecessary for the government to be going this far. “The government has a lot of power, that it feels the need to monitor public bulletin boards, or places where people express views and then to respond to that, seems to me going beyond a reasonable action the government should be taking.”
Rosenberg says knowing that the government is monitoring certain topics online could result in people being more careful with their identities when they’re posting about political issues on the internet.
He says it’s the first time he’s heard of this happening in Canada.”
There are 20 pages of comments on the story. Most are along the lines of this:
|Democracy dying a quicker death in Canada!
I guess the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to strike, belong to a union, belong to a professional group, a society, freedom to associate and every other right or freedom we have under our Constitution or the Charter of rights and freedoms will slowly be eroded by this government! Two generations of mine fought in two world wars to defeat tyrants and dictators, their legacy for us does not leave room for the same politics happening here. I work with people from all around the world and many have asked how Canadians can allow this to happen in our country. Some left their homelands to escape dictatorships and tyrrany but see it happening here. Something is dreadfully wrong here. This is no longer the Canada I grew up in, these are not the politicians my parents and grandparents would have supported.
It would be REALLY easy for me to write a post critical of the federal government’s actions. I’m not much of a fan of our current government. Except… isn’t this exactly what we tell organizations to DO?
One quick example: Radian6 has a book out called Nine Rules of Social Media. Chapter two is the rules of listening:
- Refine, refine, refine.
- Process what you hear.
- Don’t ever stop listening.
Later, they talk about “the rules of engagement”:
- You don’t have to talk directly to people to be engaged.
- Social media engagement policies and guidelines are a must.
- Be kind, be social, and be consistent.
I don’t think anyone involved with social media would find much to argue with with those rules, in principle.
Another example is the now ubiquitous US Air Force Blog Assessment Chart, made popular by Jeremiah Owyang.
And if I was being asked for advice from a client on a controversial file, I would think the fairly standard fare would include:
“Listen where people are talking about you. If you see plainly wrong information, consider whether and how to correct it. And engage in the conversation if you feel it will further your case.”
So if we social media folk tell our clients to listen all the time and engage when appropriate, why would we not want our government to do the same?
And if we want a responsive, attentive government, are they not supposed to know what people are saying in public forums and on public websites?
Whether or not we are in support of a government or a political party, surely we must be able to agree that it’s in our — and their — best interest to listen to and understand what discussions are being had in the online public square, and to understand what this means to the government’s policies and programs.
Where the government seems to me to be falling down is in explaining what it did and why. After a week (admittedly a week including a long weekend and a very difficult period of preparing to lay off thousands of employees) I received an e-mailed response from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s media office.
Here’s what I asked:
I’m a communications blogger interested in learning more about the program of monitoring and engagement DFAIT coordinated concerning the seal hunt. (see this story:
national/article/58287–or http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/ harper-government-monitoring- online-chats-about-politics Canada/20091222/seal_) monitoring_091222/
I would appreciate the opportunity to learn what tools were used, what criteria were used to gauge success or failure of the initiative, and whether it was judged successful or not. I would also appreciate seeing some examples of how and when the government engaged in discussions to correct misinformation.
Here’s what they told me:
This pilot provided a tremendous opportunity for the Government of Canada to test new media monitoring and communication tools as a way to be better informed about what Canadians are saying about important public policy issues.
There were two objectives to this pilot: to correct misinformation about Canada’s seal harvest, and to train Government of Canada employees to detect and correct misinformation about this industry. Both objectives were met.
Topics for monitoring and correction covered the two main myths regarding the seal harvest: the myth that the harvest is inhumane, and that it is unsustainable.
Not much detail there. So I guess if there’s a lesson to be had, it’s that doing good work (at least one can assume it was good work) deserves a good story to be told.
Food giant ConAgra and its PR firm Ketchum found itself in a reheated soup recently, when an event for bloggers in which food bloggers were fed frozen dinners as a “secret surprise” went wrong. At least some of the bloggers took offense, and a retreat was hastily beaten.
The story is an interesting one, as written by Andrew Adam Newman in the New York Times. But I was most interested in the quotes by PRSA ethics expert Deborah A. Silverman.
Here’s what Newman’s story closed with:
The promotion was “unfortunate” and “struck me as being not quite where they should be in terms of honesty,” said Deborah A. Silverman, who heads the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards at the Public Relations Society of America.
In an e-mail message, Ms. Silverman added, “Ketchum has an excellent reputation for high ethical standards,” but “the social media realm (including bloggers) is new territory for public relations practitioners, and I view this as a valuable learning opportunity.”
I have some issues with this. First, Ketchum’s “excellent reputation” has at least one gigantic hole in it in the shape of Armstrong Williams. I wrote about the Armstrong Williams scandal when it happened in 2005. It stank then and it stinks now.
They’ve also been sharply criticized for their use of Video News Releases (VNRs) — criticism serious enough to cause PRSA to issue a bulletin about their ethical usage.
Second, the idea that social media and blogger relations are “new territory for public relations practitioners” is hokum and hooey.
A quick Google on blogger relations found articles from Lee Odden in 2006 and John Cass in 2007 on doing blogger relations right. Neville Hobson wrote an article for IABC’s Communication World magazine in May 2006 about blogger relations (I’m not a PRSA member, so don’t have access to their resources as I do IABC’s). I pointed to some guidelines from Cory Doctorow in 2008 on this blog.
I asked Deborah Silverman, who is a PR prof at Buffalo State in New York, if she wanted to expand on her view, and she did. Here’s her response:
“The social media realm, including bloggers, is relatively new territory for public relations practitioners, as evidenced by the large crowds who attend social media workshops. Social media have been around for only about five years. Although many practitioners may be familiar with social media, there are numerous new ethical issues that are arising; one of those is where bloggers fall within the consumer-advocate-journalist continuum. So I do believe that this situation was a learning experience for all of us. Above all, it reiterates the ethical tenet in PR that disclosure of motivations, intentions and/or sponsorship is paramount.”
First, it’s unfortunate that Silverman chose not to respond to the concerns over Ketchum. Second, I disagree with her on a number of points. First, the fact that social media training attracts crowds doesn’t necessarily mean it’s new. People still go to speechwriting workshops and speeches aren’t new; people learn to write news releases and the news release is more than a century old. And while this may be a “learning experience” for Silverman, ConAgra, and Ketchum, I think a lot of social media practitioners only learned a new way to screw up blogger outreach.
One could be charitable and say that it’s too soon to REALLY know how to do this. But it’s not true. There’s no reason to not know how to do this well, and to do it.
May have more about these issues soon.
UPPERDATE: Tonia Ries at the RealTime Report has more thoughts and references related to this story, as does the always readable Jen Zingsheim at Media Bullseye.
A Toronto company named EasyDNS has become a potent case study of two things: crisis communications and the limitations of journalism in the Internet age.
EasyDNS provides domain name servers for clients all over the place and is also a domain registrar. Until early December, there wasn’t much reason for an average person to know much about them.
But that was before a misunderstanding catapulted them into the middle of the largest news story of 2010. Someone, somewhere, confused EasyDNS in Toronto with EveryDNS in New Hampshire. EveryDNS had terminated its servicing of Wikileaks. This ticked off the supporters of Wikileaks, and when someone mistakenly identified EasyDNS as the villain, things went wrong.
Valleywag was the first major site to make the mistake, posting “Wikileaks loses its domain” on December 3rd. Within two hours of finding the Valleywag post, EasyDNS has gotten the post corrected and put up a blog post of their own explaining the situation. After that, the Financial Times(registration required) the New York Times “The Lede” blog, the Associated Press, and The Guardian all — independently — ran stories perpetuating the idea that a company who until now had no dealings with Wikileaks had struck the organization a blow.
And in the meantime, EasyDNS’s team, led by CEO Mark Jeftovic (left), who seems a savvy and smart guy, were eliciting corrections and trying to keep their site and blog up to provide correct information. Aaaaannd… they were approached by Wikileaks to be one of several companies providing DNS services. By December 6, EasyDNS was providing service to Wikileaks.
You can read the full timeline in quite some detail in Timeline of an Epic Fail, the company’s blog post trying to compile all of this information. I’m more interested in teasing out some of the implications.
First: you are always at risk. I’m sure that if Mark Jeftovic at EasyDNS had someone tell him in November that his company would be misidentified as a “villain” in the biggest story of 2010, he’d have chuckled (or “chunkled”, as he writes in his timeline). But he was. One of my rules for crisis communication and response is that even things that are HIGHLY unlikely sometimes happen.
Second: as an organization, you need to be flexible enough to devote ALL your resources to resolving organizational crisis. At one workplace a few years ago, my team and I were running flat-out on a crisis that threatened customer service standards, financial damage, and public embarrassment. A few office doors away, I don’t think the response would have been “Crisis? Is this a crisis?” You need to have your whole organization be aware that a crisis state exists (not necessarily an EMERGENCY) and that action has to be quick, decisive and significant.
Second-and-a-half: Just because you’re totally focused on the crisis, don’t forget you have other business. EasyDNS was sending out e-mails to its customers as well as updating its own blog, as well as keeping feedback channels open on e-mail, twitter, and phone. They seem to have done a good job of keeping their existing customers informed and addressing their concerns.
Third: Be politely persistent with media who get something wrong. It’s shocking and disappointing that EasyDNS were badly served five separate times by media both blog-based and mainstream. It’s certainly made them more cynical about the quality of journalism. Who can blame them? But they did things right. What’s also interesting is that some media noted the error, while others simply corrected it in their online versions.
Fourth: Don’t be shy. EasyDNS was tireless in chasing down rumours and being proactive. Particularly if you’re “in the right” as they were, don’t just hope for things to “blow over”, be quiet, and wait for eyes to pass you over. You’re already part of the story. You might as well be a FULL part of it. I don’t know how “human” the company’s voice was before this, but their tweets, blog posts, and e-mails had a great voice, correcting errors and portraying emotion without coming off like ranters or bullies.
Fifth: recognize that in crisis lies opportunity. Jeftovic was already thinking this way when he wrote his blog post OK, so would we take on Wikileaks at this point? Now is there business benefit to EasyDNS actually doing this? Probably not directly. But my impression of EasyDNS has gone from zero — until yesterday when Jeftovic appeared on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” (you can listen to an interview with Jeftovic there) I’d never heard of ‘em — to “this is a company that has its act together and has some principles.” That can’t be bad.
Are there other lessons to be learned from this incident? You tell me. And attention Craig Silverman! There’s likely a whole chapter of “Regret the Error Volume 2″ in this story.
Last night (Tuesday, May 25), Ian Capstick, Erik Hagborg and I were the panelists for a hugely fun (at least for me) panel discussion on social media and its effects on more “traditional” communications. The discussion was part of the Cafe Scientifique program. This discussion was organized by The Canada Museum of Science and Technology and the Canadian Museum of Nature. Particular thanks should to to Isabelle Kingsley, who organized the event.
Here’s roughly the entire evening in audio format. It’s about 100 minutes long, and it ranges from the future of cursive script, to the “art should / shouldn’t be free” debate, to the fundamental disadvantage of the e-book (hint: “Hey! Read this!”) to how we preserve the important things in a digital age that doesn’t preserve things in tangible format.
Apologies for any rough audio — it was a big room and I was recording only with my Edirol. Mostly pretty good, I think. The audio begins with Erik Hagborg’s opening remarks. Download it here, or use the player below.
- 00:00 — Opening statements. Erik takes us back to the beginning of communications with the run at Marathon, then moves on to the four questions of the evening: Are we conducting too many of our relationships via tech? Why do we choose to use technology to communicate? Does tech facilitate or impede face-to-face communications? Are technology and f2f interactions complementary or exclusive? (Bonus from Erik: The difference between a “friend” and a “good friend”?)
- 05:45 — Ian Capstick talks about his earliest experience with technology and F2F communication, when he was a teenager and met online friends in Ottawa at a choral conference.
- 09:20 – Ian’s train of thought is briefly interrupted as his dinner arrives.
- 11:40 — Ian recalls the phone phreakers as one of several examples of how humans hack technology for good and ill.
- 15:25 -- Bob acknowledges that concern about social media is fair, but fear is unreasonable. People will use technologies in the ways that best suit them, and that one of the tension points with social media is that they are changing and growing so rapidly that our collective, unconscious agreements on what’s proper — the norms of using the medicum — are being left behind. Social media killed geography as the defining limit of friendship.
- 23:00 — I inform the audience that Mel Blanc was allergic to carrots (as is Ian Capstick)
- 24:00 – Discussion kicks off with an anecdote from moderator Isabelle Kingsley about texting as distraction
- 26:00 — How to sift through “all the crap” on the Internet, and whether there’s more crap on the Internet than there was before, with a slight detour into Internet dating
- 34:00 — Ian recommends Andrew Potter’s “The Authenticity Hoax“
- 37:00 — Discussion about the idea of digital legacy, in which I deftly pimp out PAB 2010. Adele McAlear and Derek K. Miller, come on down to pick up your name-checks! Ian argues that the problem won’t be a lack of information left behind but TOO MUCH.
- 40:00 — Erik talks about the craft behind communication — the calligraphy and the content of handwritten letters, for example. We won’t lose the CONTENT; we’re going to lose the style and soul. Ian counters by saying “the pen stole oral history,” polls the audience on the use of cursive handwriting, and nominates Isabelle Kingsley as the leader of the future handwriting guild.
- 46:00 — Where will obsolete media be preserved? Punch cards, 8-inch floppies, 5.25s, 3.5s… Erik suggests most technologies will be backwards-compatible and that this is not a huge worry. He also admits to, as a child, ruining his father’s punch-card programs on their home mainframe (parenthetical note: Erik had a mainframe in his HOUSE?!)
- 49:00 — Bob shouts out to Project Gutenberg and Librivox as examples of how people are preserving ‘outdated’ content
- 51:00 — Do people have opinions on e-books? Ian is conflicted and thinks there’s a generational shift involved with the shift from paper to pixels. Bob hates the DRM, the lack of pass-on-ability and marginalia and mourns the loss of craft in e-books as well as the LP-CD-MP3 transition.
- 55:00 — Erik jumps on a DRM soapbox and ventures the “art wants to be free” argument, to be countered strongly by Ian and audience members, and weakly by house-concert presenter Bob (yes, I’m shamelessly whoring myself; it’s my blog.) Erik maintains that examples of commercial success exist.
- 59:00 — Ian begs to differ and betrays his proud socialist heritage by arguing creating content has to be valued and compensated (shoutout, Cory Doctorow)… “we must find alternative funding models!”, and takes a run at Robert Bateman (f-bomb warning)
- 1:06 — Discussion of the power of social media tools to connect people and to foster awareness and action internationally, with references to Iran, to Burma, Michael Jackson, balloon boy, and to the local experience of Ian and my blogging about Cornerstone.
- 1:16 – Does reliance on specific ways of communicating leave you excluded from some people because they don’t use the same channels? Discussion of how to get out of your “comfort zone”, how Bob’s next-door neighbour reached out using Facebook to make the introduction (thank God), and how Ian met his condo-mate at a ChangeCamp.
- 1:27 – Does the desire for texting / tweeting / constant “communicating” mean people miss out on genuine interactions?
- 1:30 — The difficulty of sloppy communication, and how interpretation of communication tells as much about the interpreter as about what is being interpreted.
- 1:34 — after an awkward jump-cut where I muffed the recorder, Ian gives his online parenting advice, which incorporates a story about his own adolescent online adventures in the land of shirtless men. Bob talks about tailoring communication media to the audience, whether family or not.
I got the following pitch today. I’m redacting it to remove identifying information, but man, does the last line of that covering note grate on my nerves. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never expressed interest in this company.
Greetings! COMPANY X, LLC just posted — COMPANY X empowers passionate online publishers with addition to its PROGRAM Y. Please contact us if you need any additional information. Thank you for your interest in COMPANY X, LLC.
Original Collateral Text:
COMPANY X empowers passionate online publishers with addition to its PROGRAM Y Program
CITY–STATE/ October 27, 2009 – COMPANY X, LLC announced the launch of the new entry level tier of its PROGRAM Y: PROGRAM Y: Standard. The ‘Standard’ package is for small content owners and web media companies. The new program rounds out COMPANY(TM) revolutionary program.
MISTER X, GRAND POOHBAH, commented: “Online publishers who want to do more than, well, one thing at a time, are frustrated. I know, I’ve been in their shoes. They’ve posted blogs, videos, photos and audios on sharing sites and tried to tie it all together along with social networking and other widgets. The tools are all different, they don’t talk to each other and every time a version changes — things break. They have no way to really grow audience and their users cannot contribute “any media” rich content. They’ve tried ad programs and ad networks and they only seem to “cheapen” content. Worse still – they seem to spend more time wrestling with the technology than on their content. I only wish that COMPANY(TM) had been available for my previous companies! ”
I’ve asked the company when I had expressed interest in them, but haven’t heard back from them.
I know that we’ve all moaned about bad pitches, but this one just got under my skin.
Hope this doesn’t get under yours in the same way.
Spent a pleasant few minutes (so few, but they go so fast) talking with Kathleen Petty and Andrea Tomkins on CBC Radio this morning talking about giveaways and bloggers. UPDATE: Here’s the audio, in the hated RealAudio format. Sorry.
As I drove home, I thought about the frustration of having what, to radio, seems like a fairly significant discussion about a subject, but in reality, missing out on the thousands of posts, let alone thousands of words, written about blogger relations and ethics around giveaways to bloggers.
A couple of thoughts that I wasn’t able to get into the discussion:
- According to Technorati’s last State of the Blogosphere, the median income for bloggers is $200 (US). There are a few who make scads of money from their blogs — Dooce, for example, is rumoured to take in $40,000 per month. But the vast majority of bloggers make little to no money. So does this make us MORE or LESS susceptible to blogola? On one side, you could see it as a slight reward for a lot of effort. On the other, you could see it as being proportionately greater in terms of impact on the blogger — if someone sent me a $1000 camera, that would be a huge equivalent of income for my blog (given that I don’t think I’ve ever made ANY money from it).
- The attention given to blogger giveaways and the HUGE criticism of some bloggers and corporations (Chris Brogan, come on down; Microsoft, here’s your prize) for perceived ethical failings ignores the fact that bloggers rely on the credibility that their audiences vest in them. If I lose the respect of my readers I lose whatever rationale there was to send me stuff in the first place.
Anyone else out there with thoughts? Would love to hear them.
First panel round was more or less standard stuff; journos (esp. Swisher) don’t like embargos, target your bloggers, know what they write about.
- DEAN: even though bloggers may not have the biggest audience, they are worth pitching because they shape coverage
- KARA: Separating “mainstream” from “bloggers” is silly at this point in terms of pitching or other issues (such as ethical standards). Doesn’t make sense any more.
- TOM: Mainstream media is being forced to finally give credit to bloggers, something they’ve been reluctant to do.
- JOHN: his weekly Times column comes directly from consultation with the Times editor over what he’s covered on his blog.
- Tom: HP, recently pitched on EDS merger with VERY rapid response and access to C-suite
- Neville: a phone call. Contact by phone and asked “good time to talk? then pitched.” Sez e-mail wouldn’t have worked.
1:34: the blacklist question, viz Trapani and Anderson (who’s in town tonight and I can’t see him, dammit).
- Neville: simple answer: understand the person you’re approaching. GT was tired of pitches at her personal e-mail.
- JOHN: Trapani’s experience happens a lot; makes pitcher look like an idiot. Use google; follow the rules the blogger sets out.
- KARA: most good PR people know this. Don’t get as much as I used to, but she gets far less useless stuff than she used to. Improved immeasurably.
1:43: What do you read?
- KARA: Paid standard, NY Times, reads “everything”, all the majors, etc.
- TOM : doesn’t read too much, scans headlines, but doesn’t wanna be influenced. wants to go ‘hack the rock out of the rock face,’ then come up with something ORIGINAL
- NEVILLE: the usuals, + Marc Andreesen’s blog, FT tech content, Techmeme, UK mainstream media, Economist on tech and business, TechCrunch UK, next web, big on aggregators
- JOHN: build google alerts — useful for blogs too, esp if website has google juice
- NEVILLE: Find out what the people you respect are reading, steal their blogroll or OPML file.
- KARA: doesn’t use it
- John: nice ego boost for most popular blogs, but doesn’t find it useful for finding blogs in your interest area
- TOM: Google reader allows you to construct your “own personal Techmeme”
- DEAN: Twitter — sub to Google news on Twitter, he promotes his breaking news.
1:55: Live Q&A
- Q1: businesswire, etc useful?
- A1: No.
- Q2: Is commenting a good strategy to hit the radar for bloggers?
- A2: TOM – yes; NEVILLE: essential engagement startegy, but has to be done with relevance. Can’t be a “parachute” commenter.
2:00: Tom overviews SilVal Watcher
- Web 2.0 companies are Web 2.YAWN companies for him; just not much there.
- Tech by itself has no meaning. Gotta be providing meaning, usefulness for people, culture of innovation or rather disruption.
2:07: had to break off for a moment and missed summarizing Neville H; but you all should already know him. He’s a GOD, I tell you.
2:07: John Biggs:
- Crunchgear: more irreverant than TechCrunch. Loves handson reviews on the gadget beat, use IM to contact him and his minions; very simple, to the point, please.
2:08: Live question from someone about what bloggers might do with an expert contributor offer from an agency as guest columnist, or etc.
- KARA: she runs ‘experts’ (but doesn’t like the term) as guest columnists, often industry types, but it can’t be cheerleadery. (No siss-boom-bah, flacks)
- John: (I think) BE QUICK — can’t be tomorrow, must be now, available for Skype call to record etc.
Email question: How about group meet-and-greets with bloggers and c-suites?
- NEVILLE: Okay with it depending on circumstances. Good to have a discussion with likeminded others. Did one yesterday with multiple mainstream and bloggers, differnet angles resulted, etc.
- TOM: Group is fine, but wants to be able to have one-on-one to get something nobody else has.
Email from Kate: what’s biggest difference bwt pitching blogs and mainstream?
- Neville: None
- Kara: None
- John: treat bloggers like newswire providers. He’s “never off”, Arrington is up at 4 am writing, speed, accuracy, precision, not often time for leisurely lunches, etc.
2:17: multimedia / rich pitches
- TOM: more, more. Embed codes are great
- JOHN: embed is ideal, easiest, just YouTube it.
- TOM: RSS is the central enabling technology of this version of the web.
2:18: how do you respond to online rumours?
- TOM: Respond IMMEDIATELY. Don’t have committee meets for two weeks.
- NEVILLE (surprise): it depends. Treat it as if it were any other media outlet. Be careful that you don’t let the ‘genie’ out of the bottle — once the conversation starts, you can’t withdraw.
- JOHN: seen cease & desists; treated in blogosphere as an acknowledgement of fact. (BOB note: tehe)
2:22: what about social media news releases?
- TOM: don’t like “social”; prefers “new media”, but yes
- KARA: it’s ridiculous; you don’t have to name everything with this web 2.0 stuff.
- NEVILLE: name doesn’t matter.
2:27: How to use Facebook to reach bloggers?
- KARA: Don’t. It’s useless for that. Twitter, e-mail, phone. FB widgets are useless
- TOM: experimented, and found e-mail tools very subpar.
- NEVILLE: finds it useless from messaging; he finds connection comes from twitter more than FB; twitter doesn’t have FB’s ‘baggage’ silly quiz apps and the like
2:38: what tools are the coming thing?
- NEVILLE, JOHN: MOBILE MOBILE MOBILE
- NEVILLE: RSS
- TOM: gotta immerse yourself; things are changing all the time, you have to be paying attention all the time. PR used to be media; now it’s PUBLICs. There are big changes coming down the pipe.
And … we’re out!