Why PR Needs to Wake-Up

4 03 2010

The bulk of the PR profession needs a wake up call and fast.   We have seen what is happening to print media at a regional level in the UK and US and the UK national newspaper heartland will be the next sector to feel the squeeze.  Never mind the quality of the Sunday papers, feel the width.  Not as bulky as they used to be are they?

Broadcast media is changing too, with event TV dominating schedules and more traditional content being driven by on-demand services.  The cosy relationships where PR people sit between journalists and clients trafficking ‘news’ just isn’t enough any more.

So here are five things every PR person should be thinking about.

1. Earned Media 

Media coverage achieved for clients in the digital world falls into three categories; bought, earned and owned.  ‘Bought media’ was always and is still the province of the advertising business.  ‘Earned media’ is the heartland of PR.  At one level this is just the online version of editorial but it is richer and deeper than that.  We should be collaborating to create content that will earn coverage.  Audio interviews, creative videos posted on YouTube and disseminated across the web as well as words and pictures are the collateral we must use.

 2. Owned Media 

We can create our own spaces on-line that have the capacity to become channels in their own right.  I firmly believe that PR people should blog but the concept of ‘owned media’ can extend much further.  Relevant content brings people to you.  The PR and corporate communications team at ASDA know this.  They have 18 million shoppers, mostly mums and they have used that weight to engage with the major parties during the coming general election and will be using their ‘owned’ channels to host political debate.

3. Reputation Online

“Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system. And that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”  These words were written by Clive Thompson in Wired almost three years ago. PR has always been about reputation management  and arguably a key determinant of reputation is the content on page one of a Google Search. Search therefore is very important to PR.

4. PR & SEO 

If you’re not sure what SEO is you may be in the wrong job.  The most important tool that search engine optimisation specialists have at their disposal is now the ‘press release’. They may in many cases be badly written, off message and even inaccurate but the SEO companies are all using them, with embedded links.   This is a serious threat to the PR industry as it stands.  If we don’t educate ourselves about the value of good editorial and link strategies as part of PR, we’ll be left behind.  Whatever you think about the idea of ‘social media releases’ when you send out content to the media you should embed links. 

5. Evaluation     

We’ve always claimed we don’t like rate card equivalent and then used it any way.  Well now is our chance.  So much of what is online can be measured, sorted and analysed and we need to know how to do this.  Every PR person should have a least a working knowledge of web analytics and should be able to manage tools for analysing conversations on-line.

All of these areas are natural extensions of traditional PR but that doesn’t mean we own them.  We need to stake our claim …or others will.

All the Buzz of a Google Press Launch

9 02 2010

The press conference has changing.  It has become a form of ‘event marketing’ and it is no longer restricted to selected journalists (and bloggers).  They have to be invited of course otherwise it wouldn’t be a press conference but they are no longer the exclusive channel for the launch message.  We can all attend the launch.

This change has already taken place in the technology sector with two major examples in the past week.  Apple, who have mastered the craft of the press conference event, launched the iPad, and today Google launched its new killer social networking application Google Buzz.

For me what was extraordinary about the launch of Buzz was that this morning I didn’t know it was about to happen.  I picked up the buzz around ‘Buzz’ on twitter.  I saw that the press conference was going to be channelled live on YouTube so I joined Jeremiah Owyang and the select few who were actually there and tuned in.  I realised immediately that Buzz would be big so I ‘live blogged’ over at PR Media Blog whilst the conference was still on, screen grabbed an image from the YouTube feed and posted my take a couple of minutes before the conference ended.

I subsequently discovered via @scobliezer that meant I had broken the embargo that the journalists attending had signed up to.  Surely, they broke their own embargo?

Google Debuts Super Bowl Ad on YouTube

8 02 2010

Companies and brands spend millions on creativity and airtime to secure the audience and all round PR value of a TV advertising spot during the Super Bowl.  In fact it was a tech company that created the craze for high concept ads in the breaks during transmission. In 1984 Apple introduced the Macintosh to the world during the Super Bowl with an ad directed by Ridley Scott.

No surprise then that Google chose this sporting event to launch its first ever TV ad, called Parisian Love.  Well, sort of.  In fact Google first launched the TV ad on YouTube, a service which it incidentally owns.   

A greater example of the blurring of boundaries between conventional and digital channels it would be hard to find.   This was one of a series of short videos that Google launched on YouTube a few months ago.  It was the positive reaction in that channel that prompted Google chiefs to air at during the big game. “It’s had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience” blogged Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  So in effect the decision to air this ad was at least in part, crowd sourced.

Whilst the concept is imaginative, a love story told with search terms, the execution is far from big budget, in fact it is a series of screen shots from the world’s favourite search engine.

Moreover this is a text book example of how offline media fuels online. Take a look at the YouTube stats. (to see the latest click here and then on the video page click on the Statistics & Data drop down menu below the clip.)  The video took  three months to gain a million views and then added another half a million overnight when the ad aired. 

Not many compared with the 100 million that view the Super Bowl on TV, but it is still early days for social media.

Top 10 Web Wonders of the Decade #1

18 01 2010

This blog’s number one web wonder of the decade isn’t Facebook or Twitter, it isn’t even a web site in its own right but it is changing the way we communicate, shop, find our way around and engage on-line. 

The next decade will be all about mobile and the iPhone will no longer corner the market. In fact users of the Nexus One ‘Google phone’ are already hailing it as a better device within days of the launch but for now the future is already here and it is being powered by iPhone apps.

Number 1: Apps for iPhone

The iPhone app store (as it is better known) is the place to go to turn your iPhone or iPod touch into anything from a classic drum machine to a fully featured GPS system.  You can manage your money, decide what to eat (in or out) communicate through social networks and even calculate your gas bill.  As the marketing says, there are “apps for everything”.  In a sense you could say that the app store is number one in the poll because it gives you access to all the top ten via your phone.     

You can drink a virtual pint of beer, plan and monitor a diet programme, have your tweets read out by your phone or even update your blog straight from the mobile.  Many of the apps are entirely free with most of the others priced in pence rather than pounds (or cents/dollars if you prefer).  These micro payments are the most likely way forward for web media to monetize its content.   Get set for the top ten apps of the teenies.

Apple Approves Spotify for iPhone?

25 08 2009

Rumours are circulating that Apple is about to announce that the Spotify app for the iPhone is approved and will be available for download within days.  If true, this will fundamentally change the way that we listen to and pay for music.

Spotify has already had a huge impact on music listening.  It is now poised to revolutionise the financial model with its ‘fremium’ offer of an ad-funded free service and a premium subscription offer (which will be required if you want to listen on the iPhone).   In its native Sweden it appears it has already overtaken Apple’s iTunes store.  The head of Universal Music in Sweden, Per Sundin has said that  “in 5 months from the launch Spotify became our largest digital source of income and so passed by iTunes.”

Spotify mobile is a key development because it reaches an important demographic group that listens to music mainly on the move.  The eighteen plus generation who live at home or in shared accommodation want their music on a portable player – be it an iPhone, dedicated MP3 player or another smart device.  With an Android version of Spotify waiting in the wings rejecting the iPhone app could harm iPhone sales.

There is no official word yet and almost a month has passed since the app was submitted, but if the rumours are premature then could this be another salvo in Spotify’s sophisticated social media PR campaign?  By posting videos on Youtube showing the interface, blogging about the mobile versions for iPhone and Android, the Spotify supremos Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon have ensured the buzz is constant. 


Observer Closure Just The Start

4 08 2009

We should have seen the writing on the wall when the fish and chip shops started to close and more still when they abandoned yesterday’s paper in favour of plain wrapping.   Yesterday the Guardian Media Group (GMG) admitted that it might close The Observer in an attempt to reduce debts, which are approaching £90 million.

The review of the Guardian’s products is being by led by editor in chief Alan Rusbridger with a decison planned to be taken by the autumn.  It is difficult to see how the paper can continue when much of the editorial team has already been integrated with the Guardian and management have already intimated that it may go.

The existence of Trusts (GMG is owned by the Scott Trust) and proprietors that are prepared to shore up losses mean that a rationalisation of the UKs national newspapers is well overdue.  We have seen the process start with pressure on regional titles and with the big circulation city titles in the States.   I always believed that the Sunday People would be the first to go and that no-one would really notice.  Whilst we have seen short lived nationals like Today and The European close The Observer has been around since 1791 and its demise would be unprecedented.  It looks now like it may be the first major national newspaper to close.  It won’t be the last.

The Semantic Web

2 06 2009

Unknown PleasuresSemantics is the science of meaning. For communicators meaning is important at every level and semantics have always been significant (the Greek word semantikos means significant) in how we craft the language of our written communication.

As a term semantics has taken on additional meaning when it comes to the web. The semantic web, usually encompassed in the idea of a third generation web or Web 3.0, is the vision of Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the worldwide web and is an evolution of the web in which the semantics or meaning of information is defined to a common standard.  This vision would make the the information on the web infinitely more searchable and discoverable.  The redesign of the web to semantic standards would make the discovery of information more intuitive.

In May 2006, Tim Berners-Lee, said “People keep asking what Web 3.0 is. I think maybe when you’ve got an overlay of scalable vector graphics, everything rippling and folding and looking misty, on Web 2.0 and access to a semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data, you’ll have access to an unbelievable data resource.”

Not All Content is King

18 05 2009

As PR communicators we need to be very careful about content.  PR people have a tendency to feel that if something is published then our goals have been achieved.   The ease with which things can now be published undermines that presumption.  The sheer volume of web content means that a lot of the stuff that appears on the net is of little interest to anyone other than the publisher.  That which has no interest will have no impact.

There is simply too much out there and many sites and pages will quite literally never be viewed by anyone other than their originators.  For print media cost is a barrier to entry for organisations wishing to act as publishers;  there needs to be a sufficient audience in order to generate revenue to keep a publication afloat.   What that has meant for PR people is that coverage, even in a niche publication would have some relevance and in almost every case we could quantify the circulation and readership and understand certain things about people who were reading the title.

We must not allow ourselves to be fooled that just because something appear on the web it has an audience.  It is similar to the old argument that it is not sufficient simply to measure column inches.  Fortunately there are a lot of tools at our disposal to measure what is going on on the web and the impact and authority of individual web spaces.  Many are freely available.  It is vital that we use them.

It’s the Content Not the Channel

14 05 2009

We are moving away from a world where content and products were pushed to a world in which content and products are pulled.   There are many reasons for this and they are all interlinked.  The decline of deference means that the consumer is less willing to accept what is being pushed.   In the digital landscape it is easy and quick to tailor content to consumer demand.  Even in manufacturing and production we are seeing an increasing number of bespoke processes and offers.

Media channels are all about push marketing.  You decide which channel suits you, be that a TV broadcast channel or a daily newspaper, and once you’ve chosen you accept the content thereafter that is pushed to you.  The ability to pick and choose content from lots of different sources means that we don’t have to accept what is being pushed.  As we schedule our own content, from TV viewing to the consumption of news our choices and interests override those of schedulers and editors.

This elevation of consumer choice will separate the wheat from the chaff. The phrase ‘content is king’ will become increasingly relevant. People seek out content that is relevant to them, that contain something of genuine interest, that engages than some other way for example through humour or that provides genuine and powerful insight

London Standard is Sorry, Whilst Boston Globe is on the Brink

6 05 2009

The London Evening Standard is saying sorry to Londoners for being negative, losing touch and taking them for granted.

The apology is part of an advertising campaign launched in response to market research, commissioned by the newspaper’s new editor, Geordie Greig. The research found that the paper was seen as negative and didn’t fit with the needs of Londoners.  With a new editor and a new owner it is unsurprising that the newspaper wants to grab some media limelight.  It may even be sincere but it is missing the point.  We consumers don’t mind a bit of negativity – Charlie Brooker’s huge fan base is a testament to that. 

The part of the research that is important is the fact that the paper no longer meets the need of the people and the city.  More particularly many of these needs are being met elsewhere.  Why look up the restaurant pages when Urbanspoon on your iPod will provide location based prices and reviews for restaurants close to where you are standing.

Boston is a city of 4.5 million people.  Its biggest paper the Boston Globe has been teetering on the brink of collapse this week.  In the early hours of this morning the New York Times company which owns the Globe reached tentative a deal with the Globe’s largest union, the Guild.  The company had demanded savings of  $10 million a year, and the end of employment guarantees for Guild members.

Whether the Globe will live to fight another day is uncertain.  What is for sure is that regional and city newspapers around the world are in decline.  Saying sorry might not be enough.

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