Archive for February, 2007

PRSA Boston – February 26, 2007 – Meeting Notes

The recent PRSA Boston dinner event discussing social media and the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) was definitely one of the better PRSA events I have attended. The conversations to be had were quite wonderful and the chicken was actually quite good as well. 



The focus of this evening’s event was how social media may be utilized or addressed by the PR field.  It certainly became clear right away that this group of attendees was highly interested in the entire subject because social media is already seen not as becoming a legitimate practice but is already an established requirement for public relations.  The issue is then not one of acceptance, but is instead an issue of PR training and practices.  PR training and experience have been focused on communications with a limited pool of contacts.  The mainstay of these communications has been the press release and its distribution to journalists and the secondary access to the release by the public.  Now, the public relations field is being faced with the fact that they must take the lead in two-way communications with a much larger set of participants.  Social media is really putting “public relations” back into PR.  Customer service, marketing, product design is all being packaged into social media and PR is at the forefront of this change.  It is now a matter of how quickly the PR industry can adapt. As Paul Gillin pointed out, the mechanics of influence of personal publishing have existed since we have had BBS’s and the start of the Web.  The difference now with social media and blogging is that it is so simple.  As Paul is sure to delve into greater depth in his soon to released book, PR once had 50 journalists that mattered, and then with the first onset of the Web maybe another 100.  This was still a manageable number of one-on-one conversations.  Now in the Web 2.0 world it is nearly impossible to maintain as close relationships with the hundreds if not thousands of influencers who matter.  Since we cannot talk one-on-one with each these “New Influencers” (Paul’s title) it is important that we enable their conversations with easy access to clear and transparent information straight from the source. An interesting point in breaking out of the traditional PR mindset was raised by Todd Van Hoosear.  Todd point out it is not about “audiences” anymore. He defined audiences are a Web 1.0 term to enable us to classify people into buckets.  Instead we should be talking about engaging people and stop the PR command and control model where we do everything we can along the chain to manage the message.  Instead the new PR emphasis should be to start the message and then participate in the conversations.  It is this involvement, rather than control, to lead to influence.  

Make Your Site More Effective for Social Media and Bloggers 

Beginning to get your readers involved can be straightforward but begins with the hardest step of all – your acceptance of a view that encourages reuse of your message and materials. Rather, than trying to control every person who uses your imagery, releases, audio and video, make it easy for them to spread the word on your behalf.  No doubt, some of the uses of this material may disturb you.  Think instead of these as opportunities to participate in a conversation and to integrate feedback throughout your organization. Get started with:  

  1. Optimize for search engines (Google and Yahoo)
  2. Move from a strictly informational model to one where you provide useful content/materialsa.      And the traditional press release does not fit the mold for the new model. Instead choose a vehicle where all the assets you want to provide are available immediately to all parties. 


There has been a lot of online discussion on the social media press release. It was interesting that this evening’s audience was very acceptant almost as fact that the traditional press release is inadequate to the task for media relations in the Web 2.0 world.   

Even without the format of the SMPR the suggestion was made to “spice up” and improve the releases by simply reading the releases and turning them into podcasts. Such simple audio file provides materials for podcasters and other uses.  Why do this now? Because according to a recent PEW Internet study 12% of internet users state they listen to podcasts.  This means that podcasts are being adopted quickly.  This is especially true for the consumer electronics, entertainment and other high tech fields. The social media press release was presented to fulfill the following points to compliment traditional media efforts with the ability to provide the content and materials to those thousands of new journalists who you could never directly contact yet who are going to talk about you no matter what you do.   This format aims to:

  • Ensure accuracy
  • Democratize access
  • Embrace context
  • Build community
  • Be findable

For more information on the SMPR just go to Technorati and search on “social media press release” and I will post related links shortly. 

Conversation Progression 

As the event moved to questions, the topic of control was reopened. Todd van Hooser reinforced that you can never control a conversation, but you can enable people to be more likely to use your information if it is readily available.  If not, then they will create their own messages.  Todd outlined a nice progression for these conversations:

  1. Listen (monitor) – read what is being said but do not respond.
  2. Join conversations – Simply state you are here as a resource should someone desire to have your opinion.  Do not hide who you are and NEVER lie. (Nothing new here – this is what PR folks have always done).
  3. Start or create conversations and communities – This can be on another site or your own and do not have to be formal.  Often the informal conversations are the best.
  4. Optimize visibility – Now that you have a willing group of participants ask them to spread the word for you while you continue to make it easy for others to participate. 

Blog Entries

As the evening ended, some of the last questions focused on blog content.  It was interesting that all the panelists agreed that a company staff member should author all of its own blog posts.  This was stressed so that transparency is maintained while providing details and authenticity available only from a staff member.  I and others found this extremely interesting for a PR audience.  PR is founded on partnerships to assist in the authoring of message and conversations.  I have found myself and my colleagues to at times be more transparent, knowledgeable and tied to a client’s mission than those who hire me. I think that indeed when properly integrated PR professionals can in fact represent the company and provide blogging services.  Yes, transparency must be maintained.  Then not only can we adapt to the needs of social media and blogging, but we must as PR professionals grow into this model to support our clients who will otherwise never participate in conversations – let alone start them. 

Further links:

  • Check out another attendee’s take on this event on Over the River.


Is a Corporate News Blog a Blog?

Many companies setup up a corporate blog to release news, announcements, press releases and other information in a fairly straight forward and factual manner.  This is indeed a fabulous use of blogging technology to take advantage of RSS, subscriptions, tags, comments and other features to distribute the content and encourage conversations.  However, I have found the companies whose blogs contain such content are usually disappointed as to the reaction, acceptance and conversations sparked by their efforts.   Such companies should not be surprised at the sometimes lackluster performance of such efforts.  While they are using a new vehicle, they have not changed the content that is being delivered to appeal to the expectations of most blog readers.   No doubt, this format will attract those who have always been interested in the company’s news.  However, such efforts rarely attract new vibrant discussions with a community of new contacts.  To prompt the two-way dialogs with new people companies have to step beyond their comfort zones and not just present information in a new and attractive manner, but more to deliver new insights in a personal and engaging manner.  Sometimes the substance of the information may be exactly the same.  It is the relaying of the information in a manner more like a discussion prompted by an individual that promotes interest and participation.   Yes, companies may need to start with a more traditional model.  Then if they truly desire a two-way conversation they will have to rapidly move towards a less formal blog model.

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Lack of Use of RSS by Broadcast Journalists

The latest email from the Ragan Global Report had a link to an excellent posting from Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion on why broadcast journalists do not use or even know the benefits of RSS. Steve points out that the broadcast media outlets are tied to airing stories covered earlier in the day by traditional print outlets.

It appears that given the pressure of the immediacies of TV and radio journalism that they just do not have the bandwidth to monitor the newer non-traditional media sources

We should expect this attention to RSS will grow as the NYT and other outlets send news earlier to their subscribers via RSS. This will enable these journalists and their producers to become comfortable with the technology and increase their awareness of the importance of the non-traditional journalist. Broadcast will then understand very quickly how bloggers and other non-traditional outlets are increasing leading the news wave as the source for traditional journalists.

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Newer is not always better

For years I used the Gillette Trac II and was happy with the shave. Of course, when the three blade systems came out I blindly upgraded to the Sensor / Sensor Excel. Sensor ExcelWell, recently I figured why am I paying close to $1.25 per cartridge just for an extra little blade that might not do anything.

So, a few months back I picked up some no name brand Trac II cartridges. At less than $0.25 per cartidge this works out to be a deal. Of course, when I looked I found I had thrown out those three or four Trac II handles I had been holding onto. Then no matter what store I went to I could not find a handle. They are not even for sale on the P&G store. They are clearly off the market to prevent what I am attempting to do.

Finally, I found a handle now marketed under specialty packaging for “African-amercan sensitive skin.” The blades are some strange design, but the handle matches that for the Trac II blade.

Trac IIEnd result — the Trac II actually provdes a closer and smooter shave than the three balde Sensor Excel. Not only am I getting a better shave, but I am saving some $50 a year. Not much you say, but it is enough to pay for my Web hosting.

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Work on Your Writing Skills

One of the many reason i have started this blog is to work on my writing skills. Besides being a horrible speller, my grammar could certainly use a lot of assistance. A few months back Dumb Little Man had a great post about the Poynter Institutes writing series. I have just started using this series and it is a great help. Over time I am sure that anyone who reads my blog will appreciate that I am working on my writing.

This does bring up another interesting point. I have been looking for some time for such a resource and stumbled upon this in the blog posting. I spend at least a couple of hours a day reading many blogs, news sites and newsletters. Even then I feel I am far behind the curve on knowing what is out there in my own field. The fact that the Internet is bigger than the Library at Alexandria could ever have hope to become means that it is truly daunting these days to experiment. It is no wonder that people return to their same comfortable bookmarks each day. Yes, the whole point of the Internet is that it is the container for all of mankind’s possibilities. But you know, there was something nice back in the day about wandering through the stacks and discovering a cool book.

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