Social media’s newsworthiness: trend or paradigm?

Adam Singer from TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog makes a case for social media in PR strategy.An interesting idea he presents:

PR has changed – pull is now more effective
Pull PR is superior to push, there is no escaping this. A (not so) secret part of media is this: media report on media. It’s so simple, yet so overlooked. By becoming media you embrace a pull strategy naturally and will attract attention from all other types of media – both professional and amateur.

And I believe it.  Just as Zara gets burn from its just-in-time business model, organizations are currently seeing earned media results from social media innovations. But, the contrarian in me how to wonder: is this stractical or  simply novelty? That is to say, if social media is a trendy topic in mass or otherwise credible media right now, what happens when it becomes old news? Is this argument for social media right or right now?

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Ad Age: Social media marketing supplanting traditional media relations

And the earth’s temperature is heating up.

While the dismantling of traditional media both financially and by audience/credibility has been gaining steam for years, this past year’s economic meltdown has only exacerbated the derailment. Clients are pursuing more direct lines to consumers through micro-targeted ads, Youtube channels, Twitter accounts and tactics of the like while PRtists continue to race the rest of the marketing world to plant their flag on social media mastery.

But, Michael Bush at Ad Age misses the point when he jumps from the sorry state of earned media pitching to the blossoming social media marketing scene: earning credible media is still a vital and often omnipotent strategy to achieve one’s communications goals. The slow strangulation of traditional mass media outlets is most definitely bruising to experts in negotiating earned media but that doesn’t necessarily mean former media relations mavens have thrown their eggs into a basket of Tweets.

Online media is evolving in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.  Both niche and mass audience vehicles are establishing themselves as credible, editorial-based outlets that audiences are galvanizing around leading to trust. Skilled PRtists are recognizing these new media places, developing relationships with their writers and editors and negotiating access, products, and news stories to them in a meaningful way for their clients or organizations.

Maybe Team PR will win the race to thought leadership and supremacy over social media marketing. Maybe they’ll realize its not the only game in town.

But be on notice: Public relations in a wired (wireless?) world doesn’t mean giving up one ghost for another. Earning media is not a thing of the past. What’s that they say about evolution not revolution?

Lesson #1 for Social Media Marketing: Don’t be the dupe

I just read Ryan McNutt’s blog (New Media Officer for Dalhousie University) with a post about misleading Facebook groups; ones set up by marketing companies to capitalize on the “Class of 20XX” propensity for students to connect and discuss their upcoming university adventure.

Read it.

Lessons to be learned? First of all, protect your brand. That means sometimes you have to call in the lawyers — and when other parties are pretending to be you, it’s most likely lawyer time. And for the more insidious of marketing companies, always remember that brand authenticity toes a razor-thin line.  Social media vehicles offer unprecedented access, but also wing-melting proximity to screw it up. As Stractical has said before and will say again, the hallows of public relations lie in locating credibility. When you play the dupe, you desecrate your audience’s trust.

Conference Blog

I think I’ve written about the ultra-savvy GM of the 76ers, Ed Stefanski before. He’s smart, articulate and understands solid medlia relations practices.

Stefanski held a conference call with 25 bloggers which is garnering heaps of praise especially in the same calendar year that Mark Cuban banned bloggers from the dressing room.

Respecting, valuing and engaging with your blogging beat is no longer a media relations luxury — it’s a necessity. You know you’re doing it right when they write this about you:

And they handled the whole thing with a smile. I didn’t feel for one second that in the minds of PR man Michael Preston, or Stefanski himself, they were talking to the JV.

iPhones and iBasketball

Rogers and the iPhone. iPhone and Rogers. A match made in… well… Canada. Here’s the story: Rogers announces iPhone price plans for the Canadian roll-out of the Apple phenom. Customers/consumers kick up a storm as the prices are seismically higher than in the US or anywhere else for that matter. Then Rogers announces a dramatic price drop.

Veritas’ Touchdown & Fumbles weighed in calling the original price roll-out a “fumble” but giving points for Rogers’ recovery.

Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. still dropped the ball in the run-up to today’s Canadian debut of the much-vaunted iPhone, with respect to rates for the kind of wireless package needed to support the device. Rogers was deluged with angry e-mails and phone calls, and more than 50,000 people signed an online petition protesting the announced package price of $100 per month for six gigabytes of data. The company was smart – and I think recovered the Fumble – by rushing out a $30 per month special price for the plan, provided you sign up by the end of August and commit to a three-year contract. It showed them to be responsive and listening to their customers. However, I say the original Fumble call stands, because Rogers failed to see the backlash coming despite the incredible amount of online chatter on blogs, social marketing sites, you name it – in other words, all over the geekosphere where the iPhone’s bulls-eye target market lives. Responding prior to launch is good, but not letting the wave of discontent get as huge as it did – when all they had to do was watch what was brewing right in front of them online – would have been much, much better.

I take issue with Veritas here. With a product roll-out, Rogers has only one chance to get it right. While supposedly listening to their customers and finally acquiescing, Rogers comes off less responsive and more foolish. As a potential iPhone purchaser, a dramatic price drop reminds me how arbitrary prices are set for this market. If prices can be lowered from $100 to $30 a month, why shouldn’t I kick up a storm and hope they go down to $10 in a few months? Rogers should have set a more reasonable price, yes, but if they had set $60 prices and kept relatively quiet, they’d be in better reputation shape right now.

The wireless industry is a hard nut to crack in terms of determining a fair price. Like airline tickets, it’s almost impossible to discern what goes into the pricing of a cell phone plan. Economics says Rogers should charge as much for the iPhone as consumers will pay. Maybe consumers will consider it a “rip-off” or “overpriced” but it is not in Rogers’ best interest to point out the seemingly arbitrariness of their pricing by slashing as soon as the blogs start to roll.

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From sloppy accommodation to responsive heroism, The Score, Canada’s perennial third sports TV network, showed how to listen to potential customers’ needs by picking up Team Canada’s qualifying tournament in Athens next week. Sports blogs and newspaper columns bulged with confusion as to why the last ditch effort for Canada to make the Olympics was not going to show up on anyone’s dial. Granted, the chances of centre  Samuel Dalembert and crew of making it out of this tournament were slim like Leo Rautins’ knees, but there was no denying the appetite for all things basketball, especially in sports-poor July.

The Score is establishing itself as the basketball station in Canada and with responsive moves like this, it’s not hard to see why.

The difference in responses: The Score saw a public demand and stepped in whereas Rogers took a chance, got slammed, and scrambled to recover. I can’t wait to watch YouTube highlights of Team Canada on my (imaginary) iPhone.

Pitch, Feverishly

I recently received a pitch from a PR agency through e-mail. At first, I was a little annoyed. There was no possible way I could have been interested in the watery social media company the practitioner was acting on behalf of. I thought of simply deleting the e-mail. I thought I might publish the pitch and critique it in a “how to write e-mail pitches” post. I thought of sending a “STOP SPAMMING” reply. But after my initial displeasure subsided, empathy sunk in as I realized that I have been that practitioner. I have shot a thousand pitches from the hip and I have received angry, threatening responses from bloggers. So I decided I would send back some constructive advice to the coordinator. Here is my response:

Hi Elliot,

Unfortunately, Stractical doesn’t solicit pitches from PR agencies. Also, there are some glaring spelling and grammatical errors in your pitch. You really should take additional care before sending out mass e-mails, especially to bloggers as many will publish your contact information and vilify your client if they feel they have been spammed.

I’ve been in the position of intern/account coordinator and I understand the pressure to get media hits without having my own media contacts. Perhaps a more focused approach with fewer journalists/bloggers would be an effective strategy — something to consider and discuss with your supervisors. Often senior level practitioners preach relationship-based media relations yet bill on the backs of coordinators who are building media lists from software services and pitching for quantity.

Best of luck with your pitching.

Cheers,

Adam

Stractical: Very Public Relations

I run this blog, more or less, for my own interest and amusement and therefore do not use unsolicited pitches from public relations agencies. But I never explicitly state that on this blog — and I should. Blogger relations, as a subset of media relations, is an unfriendly, impossible to navigate terrain right now. There are billions of blogs about millions of topics and 99.99% of them are not interested in pitches. But if 0.01% do then it is in PR agencies’ best interests to explore that space. What we need is to start the conversation: between media/bloggers and PR, between PR and their clients and between senior and junior PRtists. Focused pitches, developed relationships take time and investment. Agencies need to provide the time and clients need to make the investment. Until then, media pitches will remain a numbers game, an obfuscated practice we’re not proud of, yet refuse to abandon. Good luck, Elliot.

A typical pitch environment?

Scrabulous talk keeps scoring

CBC Radio’s excellent Spark takes up the Scrabulous issue and comes to many of the same conclusions as Stractical: Hasbro/Mattel/other license holders saw a phenomenon rising and jumped on board, legally and communicatively.