So I received an interesting pitch today (my first, yeah!) from Erick of Advanta. After responding to a comment he left on the About page, Erick forwarded me a quite lengthy email about Ideablob.com.
His goal was to hear my impressions of the company’s efforts to promote Ideablob.com virally and without an ad spend. PS – I wouldn’t equate PR/media coverage as an ad spend – each achieves a different purpose and are approached differently. The second purpose was to get feedback about the site.
After receiving Erick’s approval that I can provide my impressions via my blog, here is my overall impression from the process of contacting me and “viral” PR efforts. I’ll then provide my thoughts about the site itself in a follow up post.
PR Pitch and Overall Program
Erick left me a comment as he was seeking to respect my time by not spamming me. This was good as I love reading all my comments and this peaked my interest. However, I was a bit suspicious as he didn’t leave a company association and I wasn’t sure if this was a clever ploy to get my email address for spam purposes. If Erick had checked out my company site, he could have found my work contact information, but leaving a comment was a good alternative sans email.
His pitch was a bit lengthy – highlighting the success that Ideablob had at the Demo conference earlier this year. For about a $40K investment ($15-20K to participate + travel & lodging for 2-3 representatives) and considering the uniqueness of their offering, this was probably a good choice to be in front of a lot of reporters and secure good media coverage.
Only after reading the pitch a few times, I finally realized that Ideablob.com is a social network for entrepreneurs and small business owners and extension of Advanta’s main business. I would have tried to bring this connection up a little sooner before. I’m unsure what efforts Advanta is undertaking to 1) publicize Ideablob and 2) highlight Advanta’s connection to the social network.
In doing a quick Google search, there were
17 50 blog mentions over the past month with 310 total, with some coverage in “mainstream” media. Not bad for launching in September. (Update Note: When I did the search last night, I got 93 mentions overall with 17 in last month. I’ve updated this to reflect more accurate numbers).
As Ideablob awards $10,000 each month to a winning idea and entrepreneur, I envision Advanta highlighting the location, idea and personal background of each winner for coverage. What would be powerful is having personal video diaries of the winners’ reaction to winning and how they are leveraging the awards to progress their ideas.
I could see a YouTube like channel or video blog to highlight the progress of winners to further engage visitors to the Ideablob website. The videos also have the possibility of being picked up by other blogs as well.
Once some time has passed, it will be interesting to see if these $10,000 awards have had any impact on the success of these ideas. Again, the human factor will be key, similar to micro lending site Kiva.org, for securing profiles – both successes and lessons learned.
I know reporters are busy. We all are. Chris Andersen wrote an article about being inundated with PR spam, and I even commented about how our industry sometimes contributes to this issue.
But I also know the frustration of following up with a reporter, who asks you to resend the email or to call back later at another time. When you do what they ask, you expect the journalist to follow his/her promise as well. Except, all I get is the cold shoulder.
All I ask is simple respect in turn.
If you don’t want to review or read my email, tell me.
If you don’t have the time to chat with me, tell me.
But don’t tell me to resend an email that you promise to read and call me back after your meetings. And don’t use the same excuse twice to blow me off… because well, I know you’re blowing me off. The outlet and reporter will remain nameless.
OK – back to pitching reporters.
Here is this week’s of interesting articles. Have a great Thanksgiving. Yum Yum, I can taste them giblets now! =) You can click on the Weekly Articles tag for previous issues or subscribe to the Weekly Articles Feed:
The Power of 150… or Not? – Mack Collier of Viral Garden brings up a good point of how AdAge is leveraging the Power of 150 list. Maybe it’s a case of another company not understanding the full power of social media?
<What do Tulip History and Web 2.0 Have in Common? – Check out this humorous history lesson from mrontemp blog. Thankfully, I don’t like flowers – my lucky husband!
Going Deep into the Blogosphere – David Meerman Scott highlights an interesting site – DeepBlog.com – for finding popular blogs in certain niches.
Astroturf Can Burn Baby – John Blossom of Shore Communications writes about PR agencies still working their way around social media. He highlights the issue of “astroturfing” – pretending to be a satisfied customer when posting online. My perspective – learning about social media is no longer an excuse for doing one’s homework and understanding the rules of the road.
Lessons on Customer Service – Jeremiah of Web Strategy put up an amusing post about his experience with Real, Delta Airlines and PeopleSoft. Sometimes, it’s good to pay attention to what is being said about your brand online. Kudos to Real for responding so quickly. Now only if Jeremiah can help me with Citibank’s stupid emails – read my rants here, here and here. Jeremiah also retells a story about his Uncle Ted’s experience working with prospects. You never know who will become your best customers.
And When Negative is a Positive – Marketing Pilgrim provides an interesting perspective on the power of negative reviews. They demonstrate that your customers care enough to write a negative review and can even provide good competitive intelligence on competitors.
PR’s New Tools – This article comes courtesy of the Marketing Profs Daily Fix. Looks at how multimedia can enhance your PR program. All good advice – so who’s going to do all of this work! =)
SMRs for New PR? – Lena West of InfoWorld highlights the pros and cons of the social media release. And in her wise words, “And remember, no amount of ‘social media-ization’ can make a news release exciting. A crappy news release is still a crappy news release.”
Technorati Tags: Astroturfing Blogging Customer Service Marketing Pilgrim MarketingProfs New PR PR Public Relations Social Media Social Media Press Release Web Strategy The Viral Garden Weekly Articles
The Center for Media Research recently ran an article about how B2B journalists use Web 2.0 technology. More accurately, it looks at where these journalists get their information and use the Internet. The basis of the article was from a recent survey conducted by the Arketi Group.
I think this survey is interesting for understanding the trends that impact how reporters get their information and develop story ideas. However, I was disappointed in how little information there was about the methodology when I downloaded the two-page (yes – 2 pages)report.
After submitting my contact information (and I’m waiting for the sales call), I expected at least some insight as to what this meant and how many reporters were contacted. A title breakdown would have been helpful, as well as separating by the different industries represented in the survey. I would suspect that technology reporters would use some tools more than say automotive reporters. Though I have tons of questions, here is a summary of results.
- The top five places that B2B journalists tend to get their story ideas from industry sources (90%), news releases (90%), PR contacts (89%), newswires (79%) and websites (74%). I was surprised that “traditional” PR distribution channels ranked higher than new PR methods. However, I anticipate blogs (54%) and RSS feeds (51%) to increase.
- In terms of how they use the Internet, 98% read the news, 97% read publications online, 97% emailing, 93% finding news sources. From my day job perspective, it was interesting that 67% watched webinars and webcasts, while blogs (72%), RSS feeds (59%) and wikis (52%) also ranked well.
- I found this point interesting – 92% of reporters write for both print and online. To date myself, I remember a time when a Chinese wall existed between print and online reporters.
- There are differing degrees of how reporters will use stories started in blogs. Some have reported from blogs directly (20%) or from “reliable professional news organization’s blog” (16%). Interestingly, reporters are still wary about blogs – 18% would cite it as a rumor and 18% only if the information is confirmed by an independent source.
- And for pitching stories to B2B reporters, the primary method is email, while the phone is the second preferred method.
Here is this week’s of interesting articles. You can click on the Weekly Articles tag for previous issues:
Dell Pulling Out All the Stops – According to Now Is Gone, Dell is taking social media/conversation a step further with the launch of Dell Shares – an investment relations related blog. Maybe transparency and conversation is currency for this economy. Hmmm, consider buying some Dell stock.
Digging It – Pro Net Advertising provides some simple tips for creating an interesting digg title. I haven’t tried venturing onto Digg yet, so if you have other helpful hints, let me know. When New Best Practices are Old - CK brings up a good point about a recent B2B marketing best practices report that was just published. From her perspective, these reports merely add to the echo chamber of what is believed to improve a product launch, versus truly unveiling best practices on what is happening around us. She plans to unveil her top ten best practices shortly.
Ninja Tracking Skills – I just started reading Distilled and they’re providing me with some interesting tricks for tracking web traffic. Very nifty indeed. So where’s my num chucks and stars…
What Does Language Say About You? – Lois Kelly posted an interesting article on the IAOC Blog. Lois points out how our writing reflects who we are. She analyzed writing from three different CEO blogs and brought up some interesting points.
Socializing Within the Enterprise - Read/Write Web has an interesting article about the use of social networking within the enterprise. This article raises what tools can/should be used in the enterprise and when. Personally, just more ways to have information overload =)
Brand Consumer for the Fan-sumer - Jeremiah Owyang does a great breakdown on MySpace and Facebook. This raises interesting questions for the brand marketer in each of us.
Search and Ye Will Find – First, congrats to Tom Pick for being named one of the top marketing blogs to watch. His article about how to truly leverage SEM is just an example of his approach to B2B marketing. Congrats again Tom!
Last week, Chris Anderson started the PR industry talking with his post about blocking over 300 PR folks. Chris subsequently posted a follow up regarding the aftermath, where I posted a response in the comments. I debated whether it was worth expanding on those initial comments and I think it is.
I believe that Chris’ email will be a catalyst in our industry to sit up and recognize what needs to be addressed. The comments seem to fall into two camps: Why would Chris post all the emails, which may harm people’s careers OR Thank you Chris for finally unveiling the evils of the PR spinmeisters/flacks.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Chris isn’t talking about the few folks who do their due diligence and provide a good name for the profession. He’s referring to some of the tactics that are used in order to achieve the results that we’re hired to do. And please don’t tell me you weren’t guilty of doing this when you first entered PR. Heck, I sometimes make these mistakes when I feel pressured to show momentum on my weekly updates.
So what are the underlying aspects of our industry that contributes to the “spam”? Here are PR Spam’s 10 Points for Thought:
peoplestaff put the media lists together and senior people don’t review it.
- Clients like to have big name editors/magazines on their media list, even when it’s not appropriate. Makes them feel better, that’s all.
- Hoping that if you send out enough emails, one may actually get read and “resonate” with the reporter.
- Agency doesn’t have enough seasoned professionals on staff to do the work, so newbies pitch without supervision.
- Too many accounts + not enough people to staff them = shoddy work
- Relying too much on media databases. They’re fallible – wrong beats, wrong emails, wrong phone numbers. Heck I’ve found info on people who left 6 months ago. Augment the research by going to the website and reading the print pub (if there is one). Even consider calling the switchboard to see if the reporter is still there.
- Expectations weren’t set based on the news/company being pitched, so someone has to pitch the reporter as a result.
- Need to show momentum on your weekly updates. Pitch someone, anyone. Just put it on the update.
- PR 101 – train on the fundamentals and document it. Raise of hands, how many agencies actually have documented the process for media pitching, blog relations, speaking opportunities, etc…Bueller?
- Budgets don’t represent the amount of work it takes to research and write intelligent pitches. Is this a reflection of budgets being too low or that the way we are doing the work needs to be reconsidered?
In the end, there is a lot about our industry that has contributed to us being called “flacks.” Until we, as an industry, honestly acknowledge the bad practices and start putting together our own code of best practices, this will continue to happen at small and large agencies and in-house.
This underscores the need to slow down, breathe and take a step back. High-tech PR is fast-paced. Providing good counsel and developing long-term relationships doesn’t.
I would love to hear from an agency or other professionals who have addressed this.
Our goal as PR professionals is to determine how our efforts impact the company’s objectives. There are lots of ways that PR is measured with regard to brand building and thought leadership. Since working in-house, I’m getting a glimpse of how PR directly impacts my organization’s sales lead generation initiative and overall sales cycle.
The crude PowerPoint representation (to left)provides a rudimentary look at the sales cycle and how PR fits into this process. This is based partially on my personal PR experience, and some insights drawn from reading MarketingSherpa’s recent report and other sources.
Simply put, there are four steps from identifying sales prospects to closing a sale with this prospect:
- Prospect: This is your target audience. These are the pool of people that you’re trying to reach and educate about your product, service or solutions.
- Lead: This is when you are able to get the contact information from your target audience. This includes completing a contact me form on your website, buying a list of names, dropping a business card at a tradeshow, and other ways.
- Qualified Lead: Even if that person proactively came to your website and requested more information, you want to confirm that the person is truly interested in considering your company. You “qualify” the lead based on what the lead wants to do and if your company can provide what she is looking for.
- Sales: Through all this effort, the ultimate goal is to finalize the sale and secure a signed contract.
There are several ways that PR fits into this process, from building awareness to influencing the sales process. Here is how some PR tactics can be leveraged throughout each phase of the sales cycle:
- Prospects – build and maintain awareness: When preparing to consider a technology solution, prospects research information on the available companies and technologies. Being able to “touch” this prospect through multiple channels is key. Media coverage, research papers, trade show presence, speaking opportunities and blogs are a good way to reach this audience.
- Leads – educate: Once a prospect becomes a lead, education is important to move the prospect to the next stage. Webinars, podcasts, and videos (not the viral type) are ways to educate your leads, while creating a personal connection with your company.
- Qualified Sales Leads – influence peer and industry: A qualified lead is someone who is in the midst of weighing different options. In addition to education, this person will look to peers and industry experts to validate her decision to move forward with you or a competitor. At this stage, social media provides a level of community validation, with customers and analysts providing third party validation for your solutions.
Close Sales – build community: I remember hearing that it’s easier to build business with a happy customer then trying to find new business to replace an unhappy one. Building a community helps you to hear about issues and respond to your customers, while building evangelists for your business.
In the end, each stage builds upon one another. One PR tactic, such as a feature article, may have more influence than another for a sale. However, developing a PR strategy that captures a prospect/lead at multiple points throughout the sales cycle, will have a stronger impact on that company’s business in the long run.
The more I understand PR’s role to drive this process, the better I can identify the channels by which to focus my attention on. And hopefully, identify the metrics that truly matter for underscoring PR’s impact.
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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