Do me a favor. The next time you go to a PR networking event where you don’t know anybody, walk in and yell “I’m here!” Then immediately start telling everyone what you do for a living and what you can sell them while holding out business cards for everyone to come up and grab. If someone tries to talk to you, don’t engage in a conversation. Just tell him or her something else you bring to the table. And make sure to stay on message. Then when you leave, and this part is very important, go back to your office and say the following to your colleagues: “Why isn’t anybody from the event calling me so I can tell them more about myself and sell them something?”
Think I’m crazy yet? That whole situation sounds preposterous, right? I mean, no one would really do that. It would be reputation suicide, not to mention, embarrassing. Ok, maybe Michael Scott would do it. Actually, he definitely would. But no one in “real life” would…would they?
No, you probably can’t find anyone who would do me that favor in person. But people and organizations do this all the time when it comes to social media. I call it the “Field of Dreams mentality.” If you build it, they will come. In other words, if I build a Facebook fan page, the fans will come. If I build a Twitter account, people will be sitting at their computers just waiting to search for my new handle so they can follow me.
When you actually put some of these scenarios down on paper, they kind of sound silly. Or more appropriately, like something you might see in a movie. I imagine if Field of Dreams was made today, Kevin Costner would have created a fan page or Twitter account, posted that Shoeless Joe Jackson and several other dead baseball greats were playing every day on this baseball field he built on his farm because a voice told him to build it, and the line of cars would have started pouring into Iowa to watch.
That story might work great for Hollywood, but I wouldn’t recommend giving it a try in “real life” unless you just love to play baseball and don’t mind giving up half your farm, assuming you live on a farm. But that goes without saying
This “If you build it, they will come” mentality with social media has been one of the most frustrating I’ve dealt with in both my corporate and agency PR consulting experience. And part of the reason it’s frustrating is I’ve yet to find the best way to help people and organizations understand that social media is a commitment, not a campaign. And that just because it’s so easy to set up a fan page on Facebook doesn’t mean that how you use that page to engage with your audience will be a piece of cake.
So I don’t use sarcasm in this post to be disrespectful, but to try to make the point that when using social media we all need to step away from the technology for a minute and think about how we would act in real life.
If you were launching a new product, part of your offline strategy might be to set up events showcasing the product or advertise it to create buzz. Unless there is a pre-existing demand for your product – iPhone comes to mind – you have to let people know something about your new offering and why it might be important to them based on their passion and what they do.
Same thing goes for your organization’s new social media presence. It’s not enough to just create something cool and hope people find you, especially when that something can have such a significant impact on your brand reputation. Don’t just build the baseball field, talk to people about why you built it and why they might want to come see it. Share the story behind why you love baseball and ask why baseball is important in their lives.
To put it another way, you wouldn’t build and launch other company initiatives without a strategy would you? Of course there are exceptions. I’ve worked in corporate America too. But just because you can create a Twitter account and start tweeting in five minutes doesn’t mean you don’t need a strategy for what you’re going to tweet.
And back to that favor I asked in the beginning. I think for most of us, those networking events would play out a lot more like this – go to the event, meet new people, talk about life, sports, shopping, other personal interests you share and then eventually, you’d probably start talking business in much less of a “hey, look at me” way and much more of a “here’s how what I’m passionate about matches up with your passion and goals” type of conversation.
That’s the difference between those two scenarios. A one-way broadcast versus a two-way conversation. You’ve probably heard someone say before that social media is “all about conversation.” Well, let me take a slightly different angle. Your engagement with others via social media online is similar if not identical to your engagement offline, face to face. Think of it as an online networking event and go back to how you would talk to people if you were walking in to an industry happy hour in your community.
When it comes to your social media presence, “if you build it, they will come” isn’t a total misnomer. It all depends on how you build it. Like with baseball, there’s no doubt a community that shares a passion for what you’re building. And if you engage those people in the right way, they will come in the form of fans, followers and brand advocates. Because you’ll have built something “they” want to be a part of.
How are you building your social media presence? What’s worked and what’s got you frustrated? And how have you been able to get people and organizations to understand the investment it takes to make social media work for them?
Before buying any game, you’ll likely look for a free alternative such as a demo version to get a good feel of the game. In most cases, you can download a one and play it online for a short while, or with limited features. One great example of this is Minecraft, since its popularity can be attributed to its free early releases. There are a lot of websites that host Minecraft via a Java applet, which are available to you whenever you want, wherever you may be.
My son plays Minecraft free online all the time, and at $27 a game, it was a good money saver. In addition to saving money, you will have a good chance to look at the game’s strengths and weakness, evaluate the cost-effectiveness of buying the game and it will also help you solve real life problems!
- If you try Minecraft through online websites, then you can have a good chance to know if the game is actually any fun at all. You need to know if the game has what it takes for you to retain your attention to the game. This is helpful for you especially when you plan to buy the game.
- Playing for free online is also very cost effective, as you will be able to assess if you are making the right choice before purchasing that game. If you immediately purchase this game without actually experiencing what the game will offer, then you will in most cases regret the purchase that you’ve made.
- You will acquire the necessary skills that you need not just in completing the game but also for real situations that require creativity and problem solving skills. Since resourcefulness is also a requirement for playing this game, then you will definitely help you utilize the resources present in your environment.
If you try Minecraft you will have a good chance to re-evaluate your decisions in purchasing the game so that you will achieve a cost-effective game. Lastly, you will also achieve the skills needed not just to complete the game but also to apply to real life problems and obstacles. In fact, the game is widely used around the world for educational purposes.
OK, so you’ve signed up with a PR agency. You’ve had discussions about the plan and you’ve worked on press kit details.
So, you’re wondering, “How can I screw this up?”
Well, you’d be surprised. Hiring a PR agency is a big step. Don’t ruin it by being your own banana peel.
Amazingly, many people who hire a PR agency end up doing themselves a disservice by not actually letting the PR people do their job. Or worse, they put caveats and restrictions that prevent the person from doing the best job.
Here are some common mistakes that people make when working with a PR agency.
1. Keeping the PR agency out of the loop.
OK, so you run a manufacturing plant that has just created a machine that creates perpetual motion AND brings Elvis Presley back to life, BUT you forget to tell your PR agency about the product.
As a result, you get no press and you have no clue why.
This sounds silly, right? Believe me, it’s more common than you think. Folks are so busy working on a new project that they forget to tell the PR people about it. As a result, this press-worthy product gets no press. Or worse, it gets bad press because the PR folks have no chance to prepare a complete plan that deals with possible negative responses.
It is important to keep your PR person in the loop about important projects so they can do the job you hired them for.
2. Insisting the agency devote as much resources to irrelevant projects as those that actually will get press.
So you have the perpetual motion machine that also brings Elvis Presley to life and your PR person is chomping at the bit to pitch it to Oprah, but you are more interested in getting the word out your new sub-level assistant to the assistant vice president who you just hired.
Yes, that stunning announcement will surely please the ego of the parties involved (and even the Web site that prints any announcement no matter how pointless), it needs to take a back seat to the big picture.
However, that doesn’t always happen. Many people are too close to the subject and don’t understand that just because YOU are interested in something doesn’t mean media people will be.
Another problem that sometimes happens: People have something personal in their lives, such as a big PTA event and insist the PR person write a press release or pitch the event to their valued media contacts. This may make you a big star at the PTA meeting, but it takes away the time that could be used to increase brand awareness of your product – the reason you hired the agency in the first place.
3. Being cheap and parsimonious when it comes to the media
So you’ve manufactured a million pocket-sized versions of your perpetual motion, Elvis-reviving machine and your PR guy is ready to send them to the media. How can you screw things up?
Many different ways, but most of all being excessively cheap. For instance, insisting the media people send them to the next PR person on your list or give the product back is a sure way to irritate them.
There is sort of a pay it forward quality to press materials. The cost may be high now, but, done right, it will pay back big dividends. Since many promotional things can be considered write-offs, being cheap with the media doesn’t work.
4. Not being available to the media.
Capturing media attention is like trying to trap a butterfly. When they want to do a story, they want it now. Yes, you’re busy. Yes, it’s ALWAYS inconvenient, but when there’s media interest, you have to run with it.
Yet, there are some people who hire a PR agency and then don’t bother to return phone calls or, worse, show up for appointments.
Maybe you can reschedule things in real life, but not with the media. Your first chance is your best chance. Don’t screw it up.
With our PR industry under the microscope this week surrounding Burson-Marsteller’s handling of PR for Facebook, (Read more: “Facebook acknowledges anti-Google campaign” by Hayley Tsukayama, the Washington Post) we believe this contributed article from an esteemed colleague on the east coast may be of interest for our fellow PR friends in the west.
Isn’t it ironic that social media often is antisocial? In our ever-evolving and fast-moving social-media world, perhaps it’s good to pause and look back at history. In the 1920s, Edward L. Bernays, the first public relations counselor, called for a code of ethics to govern the emerging profession similar to codes in law and medicine. Bernays believed public relations practitioners, like lawyers, have a right to represent clients. He also felt, however, that PR practitioners should refuse dishonest, fraudulent or antisocial clients.
Given the current social media Burson-Marsteller/Facebook flap, isn’t it ironic—or prescient—that he used “antisocial” back then? How far has the profession “emerged”? In fact, it’s emerged a great deal through PRSA’s and IABC’s codes of ethics and the Arthur W. Page Society’s Page Principles, among others—all voluntary standards for evaluating an individual’s, group’s or company’s behavior that, alas, don’t carry substantive penalties.
The current Burson-Marsteller and Facebook issue clearly violated normative standards. To me, normative standards in public relations amount to self-regulation in U.S. financial markets. We know what happened there. The recent successful prosecution of the Wall Street insider-trading case (pending appeal) will perhaps encourage Wall Street’s return to normative behavior. Likewise, we can hope and expect that the Burson-Marsteller and Facebook flare-up will make public relations codes of ethics enforceable through real penalties as other professions have: disbarment or practicing prohibitions. In other recent social media gaffs, those involved have been fired. Those are choices societies and professions must make to control antisocial behavior in a social-media world.
Okay so let me start out by saying that I am by no means an expert on pitching! I’ve landed a few awesome hits in my day (ahem, The New York Times, The View, Good Morning America, etc., etc.) but it definitely takes more than a few good hits to call yourself an expert. However, since I have now crossed over to the other side of the e-mail chain and am the one actually receiving the pitches, I thought it would be in my best interest and yours to pass on a few tips. In some cases, they might just be friendly reminders but believe me when I say that I have received some HORRENDUS pitches.
I could be “that person” that calls out your name via Twitter or on my blog…but I won’t…just take my few words of advice next time you send out a pitch and I’m sure you and your client will be rewarded with some nice coverage in the end!
1) It’s okay to follow-up but don’t harass me – this may seem like a no-brainer to some but I assure you, I’ve definitely been harassed for either not answering an e-mail (it was probably a bad pitch to start!) or for saying I was going to use something on a certain date and then pushing it back a few days. A friendly follow-up is great, it’s actually welcome in my book as I know you’re just doing your due diligence but don’t scream at me over e-mail. I get tons of inquiries a day asking me to use this product or interview this person and I read every single one of those e-mails. In fact, I file away the ones I like and plan on using. BUT it’s nearly impossible to respond to each e-mail at that very moment. Just know that I will and when I do, be nice and pretend you remember who I am!
2) Be respectful of the media outlet – okay, I know I’m not with USA Today or People but remember YOU pitched ME! If I do take the time to respond to you and say I would like to use your client and I request photos or a sample, please follow through on your end. My little Web site is something that I take pride in and I too want to offer the best to my readers. Just because the readership isn’t over a million, doesn’t mean it deserves any less respect from you. At least take the time to send me one little picture… otherwise, you shouldn’t have offered and pitched me in the first place!
3) Pitch with links and ONE or TWO photos MAX – I love receiving a photo with my pitches so I don’t have to go back and request one and also so I can see what it is without having to search for it. It makes my job a whole lot easier and I’m much more likely to choose your client versus one that doesn’t include a photo. If you don’t include a photo, at least include a link that I can click and see the product. I’ve received pitches with 32 photos included and that just makes me hit the delete button!! On the other hand, I’ve gotten pitches with no photos and not even a Web site mention – how does that help me?!
4) At least pretend you read my Web site – you don’t have to become a loyal follower but take a look once and awhile and see what I’m writing about. Any journalist likes to know that you read their articles and if you reference something they wrote recently, it scores you major points! If you have to ask me what media outlet I’m with or what I write about, I’m definitely not interested in working with you.
Just a few words of pitching wisdom from me to you… I hope to get some great pitches from you soon!