As Web 2.0 matures and there are sparks of discussion about Web 3.0, the PR industry has an opportunity not only to join the party, but to establish itself as a major player.
Last week, Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail, declared a ban on PR people who had sent him unwanted press releases or other spam. In the spirit of “full disclosure”, I’m sure that I have sent unwanted or even irrelevant emails of the sort to journalists during my career. But this post is about reinvention, not paying for sins of the past! So, PR pros – let’s ask ourselves the following questions and take a step towards making PR the key to our client or company’s success in the Web 2.0 world.
1. Are you a PR spammer? If you send out each and every press release to your entire media list, you may well be. Chris Anderson certainly thinks so. A great PR agency I used to work with, Ricochet Public Relations, would not send out a press release to a mass press list. If it was a story they could pitch, they would target a select group of journalists they felt would be interested in the story and include the press release as additional information supporting the pitch. They got better results, because journalists were more likely to take a look at what they were sending them, because they developed a reputation for not sending spam.
2. Have you tried the Social Media Press Release? The Social Media Press Release (SMPR) is a template developed by SHIFT PR in response to a call for the death of the press release. At their core, press releases should be a teaser for journalists to write something more about the subject. The SMPR includes the key points of the release and includes a variety of media (images, video, etc.) to give journalists and bloggers a variety of information to put together their own unique stories on the topic. The concept is evolving, but the key is to just try it. I recently tried it out myself after debating it for ages. I’ll do some things differently the next time, but it was a good time to just do it.
3. Do you treat bloggers like old-school journalists? The most common faux pas is an email to a blogger that reads something like “I read your blog and thought you might be interested in this product/services/press release/company”. The reality is usually that bloggers have different rules of engagement and are interested in conversations, not pitches. Start by reading the blog and making comments where appropriate. You will want to establish who is getting a lot of attention through links and other coverage, but keep in mind it may be also worth building a relationship with an emerging voice in the blogosphere. They may not be big now, but a few months from now, they may be a leading authority.
4. Do you integrate your marketing programs? PR is not an island, but part of the bigger marketing bucket. The term “integrated marketing” has been thrown around for a while now, but if your client isn’t embracing it or your company isn’t doing it, here’s an opportunity to take the lead. Bottom line – include your SEO keywords in your press releases, link to your company blog and reference the landing page designed by your product marketing team.
5. Are you the resident expert on buzz? There is tremendous value in getting a positive mention of your company, but to those who don’t really get PR, that doesn’t provide long term value to your organization or client. However, PR has a front row seat to the outside world and finding out what people are talking about and care about. Analyze what trends the community (bloggers, analysts, industry experts) is talking about, what is important to them and figure out how you can funnel that into market research, your next product or service or marketing campaign. For those target who consumers (B2C as opposed to B2B), there is an interesting company, Umbria, that analyzes the discussion in blogs, forums and the like to provide actionable insight to its customers. For example, it provides data weekly to CNN on what the blogosphere is saying about current issues.
Some of you may be questioning whether PR can really grab a seat at the grown-up table. Let’s be honest – most people still don’t really understand what PR is and how it can impact a business. By demonstrating the power PR and communications can have and defining its role, there is a real opportunity for PR to take a leadership position.
Remember when you were in school and you went away for the summer and came back totally different? Well this could be PR’s first day of the new school year.