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The Great Web 2.0 Opportunity for PR

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.


  1. Lex
    Lex November 13, 2007

    Thanks for pointing out the social media press release. I think it’s a great starting point to enabling bloggers (and those other journalists).

  2. G. Moody
    G. Moody November 13, 2007

    I’m reposting:
    I don’t feel that this writer is really gearing this article towards PR pros.
    1. Spamming? Who would do this? It’s not professional and doesn’t work.
    2. SMPR: if someone’s news releases aren’t garnering them attention, what? Did they forget everything they learned in PR/communications school about how best to handle this?
    3. Bloggers: if you’re not doing prior research on this and not integrating yourself based on that research, you are unprofessional.
    4. Integrated marketing… this goes without saying.
    5. Resident expert… this goes without saying.
    6. Grab a seat at the GROWNUP table?? I can’t believe I’m reading this!
    7. This is the “best” part of the article:
    “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.”
    Oh my gawwwwdd…. This.Is.Horrid. Now, I get it: she’s an older person who doesn’t know how to address young graduates, let alone, give them the benefit of the doubt.
    I’m still not sure that she’s even addressing public relations and communications professionals. She could be using this as a guise for people who use the terms to describe themselves–like some event planners, marketers/advertisrs who deal more with publicity–but don’t really know what public relations and communications is. And who, in turn, make life more difficult for the rest of us.
    Either that, or (1) she doesn’t realize how condescending she sounds, (2) makes negative assumptions about young graduates’s abilities, and (3) doesn’t know how to address them with respect.

  3. Kate Trgovac
    Kate Trgovac November 13, 2007

    I would like to make 2 points of clarification.
    First, on the posting of comments. They are moderated and so first time commenters or commenters who do not have a Typekey identity will not go up immediately. And since One Degree isn’t anyone’s day job yet – there might be a delay.
    Second, specifically regarding this article and point #6 in G. Moody’s comment, the language “seat at the grownup table” was an editorial decision we made as we were doing a proof of Carrie’s piece. The sentence originally had a bit of a mixed metaphor and our editor made the change. We did not clear this with Carrie and apologize to her if this did not accurately reflect her thoughts. We felt the edit was appropriate given the congenial, friendly, helpful tone of Carrie’s piece – but we realise that some people take themselves very seriously and might not appreciate the reference.

  4. Eden Spodek
    Eden Spodek November 14, 2007

    I was waiting for someone like G. Moody to respond. In a time when people from different disciplines (and in particular marketing and PR) are coming together to embrace and better understand social media, I was quite taken aback by the incendiary tone of Carrie’s post.
    I think a lot of her comments could be directed at marketing practitioners just as easily.
    The real point is now is a great web 2.0 opportunity for all marketing, communications and PR people to get a better handle on the way technology is changing the dissemination of information.

  5. Monica Hamburg
    Monica Hamburg November 15, 2007

    Just a quick note to G. Moody:
    I think your comment, “1. Spamming? Who would do this? (It’s not professional and doesn’t work)”, was meant rhetorically. If not, do take a peek at the blog to which Carrie was referring. I was surprised how many (theoretically “professional”) organizations send out spam.

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