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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2009 at 9:24 am

Long overdue, but I finally finished Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakendridge.  Here’s my blurb for the back cover of the paperback edition:

“If dinosaurs had the equivalent of this book millions of years ago, they’d still be roaming the Earth today.”


Solis and Breakenridge have really done the industry a service with this book, a must-read for the PR community.  Several elements particularly stuck out for me:

1. The book is written in a no-nonsense manner, devoid of gimmicks. They got some valuable information to impart and they do so in a straight-forward manner that is easy to understand for the novice, but detailed enough for the seasoned practitioner to get some meaningful insights.

2. It’s also very comprehensive. The book provides real “how-to”-style information on a variety of topics, from blogger relations or VNRs (Video News Release); Social Networks to breaking news in a disintermediated media landscape.

3. They tackled the always difficult area of metrics. PR as an industry needs to get a better handle on this and Solis and Breakenridge don’t shy away from tackling the subject head on.

4. This isn’t a “PR good, advertising bad” book. The authors are willing to call the PR industry out for poor practices that have hurt the industry and call for better efforts and accountability.

5. This book is worth reading even if you dont’ agree with them. Let’s say you think all this new media stuff is just a fad, and PR was, is and forever will be about blasting press releases to lists. Fine, that’s your prerogative. But at least by reading this book you’ll understand what PR 2.0 really is, so when you dismiss it, you’ll at least know what you’re railing against. You can then go join your friends, the dimetrodon and the brontosaurus at the watering hole, commenting on how chilly it’s gotten recently.

Whether you’re new to the PR industry – this would be a great read for all the graduating PR students out there – or you’ve been around 10+ years like me, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations  is a good book, and one you should read sooner rather than later.

If you can’t be the best, be memorable.

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 9:22 am

You’ll probably never hear the name Dan Gronkowski. He was the 255th player taken in the NFL draft. Second to last. But Ryan Succop? They’ll hold parades for him, or he’ll be on Letterman or interviewed on ESPN. He was the 256th and last player taken in the NFL draft. A person affectionately known as Mr. Irrelevant. Check out the video:

The title of Mr. Irrelevant has been around for more than 20 years. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: 

Mr. Irrelevant” is the tongue-in-cheek title bestowed each year upon the last pick of the annual National Football League draft.

The name arose in 1976, when former Southern California and NFL receiver Paul Salata founded “Irrelevant Week” in Newport Beach, California. During the summer after the NFL draft, the current Mr. Irrelevant and his family are invited to spend a weekend in Newport, where they are treated to, among other things, a roast giving advice to the new draftee and a ceremony awarding him the aptly named Lowsman Trophy (the best college football player each year is awarded the Heisman Trophy). Salata makes an appearance at the final day of the NFL Draft to announce the final draft pick, which he has done for several years.

So, what’s the lesson here? Should we strive to be last? No, but you don’t have to be the best to be memorable, and sometimes being memorable is better than just being pretty good.

Now, this is different than a William Hung who was memorable for being awful on American Idol. That a circus side show. Nor am I speaking about Susan Boyle, a real top level talent (first round draft pick) in an unconventional package.

There’s no doubt that Ryan Succop has talent, he played college football and was one of 250 something players drafted in the NFL. His is a case of someone in the middle of the bell curve having an opportunity to distinguish himself. Now of course, you don’t get to decide you’re going to be Mr. Irrelevant, the title is given to you. But Succop has people rooting for him now, people who had never heard of him before this weekend. That’s a great opportunity – to be the underdog (“he was the last pick, he’ll never make the team”), no expectations and nothing to lose. If you’re out there looking for a job or trying to distinguish yourself at work, being memroable (and backing it up with real talent) can make the difference.

Why I don’t follow Oprah on Twitter

In Insight, Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm
See Oprah, listening is easy.

See Oprah, listening is easy.

The only thing trendier for celebrities than adopting foreign babies right now is jumping on Twitter. Oprah, Ashton, Shaq, Hammer, President Obama, everyone’s on the Twitter Twain.

Twitter is still in its earliest stages as a communications vehicle and different people use it in different ways. Some people, like Guy Kawasaki, use it promote their businesses. Because of perceived over-zealousness in that regard, Guy has come under attack recently for his methods. Others use it as a virtual Caroline’s comedy club.

Personally, I think of Twitter as the network breakfast at the world’s most amazing marketing conference. I pick up bits of conversations and information from some of the smartest people out there.  Where I can I add to that conversation. That’s why people like Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher don’t really interest me from a Twitter perspective. Let’s take a quick look at their stats, as of April 20, 2009*:

Oprah: Followers – 380,494; Following – 10

Ashton Kutcher: Followers – 1,246, 841; Following – 84


Again, this is only based on my interpretation of how I use Twitter, but what they are doing would be the equivalent of going to a marketing convention or cocktail party and doing plenty of talking, but very little listening. Sure, if I yell long enough and loud enough directly at Oprah, there’s a chance she’ll respond. But she’s not actively listening.

By contrast, look at the Twitter feed of President Obama:

Followers – 901, 519

Following – 762, 490

The Obama campaign earned many plaudits for their understanding of Social Media throughout the campaign last year. This is a strong example. He’s working on two way dialogue and at least putting out the perception that he’s actively listening.

You don’t have to follow everyone who is following you, but having some level of balance demonstrates you respect not only other people, but the channel as well.

UPDATE: Check out this article on Mashable about the different ways people use Twitter.

*Even while typing this the numbers change amazingly fast for these people.

Rob Walker’s Unconsumption Project

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm
Excuse me, while I recycle this guy.

Excuse me, while I recycle this guy.

You know Rob Walker from such journalistic outlets as his Murketing blog, the terrific book, Buying In, his NY Times Magazine column, Consumed, and, of course such films as Earwigs: Eww! and Man vs. Nature: The Road to Victory. Oops, sorry that’s Troy McClure.

Rob’s got a new thing cooking that you should definitely check out. It’s a new blog called Unconsumption. Here’s Rob to describe the project a little bit:

Consumption is a word used to describe acts of acquisition – generally, the acquisition of things, in exchange for money. Unconsumption is a word used to describe everything that happens after an act of acquisition.

Unconsumption is an invisible badge. Unconsumption means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer.

Unconsumption means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away. Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist or Goodwill) to find a new home for the functioning VCR you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage.

Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition. Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style.

Unconsumption means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room. Unconsumption is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.

Unconsumption is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective. Unconsumption is free.”

Here’s some more details on how you can contribute/participate. Image above is from iri5’s Ghost in the Machine series on Flickr. A must see.

March Marketing/Social Media Madness Sat. Round 2 results

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Who will be in the Sweet Sixteen? We find out now. I had to look at each match individually to determine what the chance of each ‘team’ winning would be (I’ve included those odds within each result).

#9 Mike Arauz (60%) defeats #16 Jesse Newhart (40%)

#5 Noah Brier (48%) defeats #4 Scott Monty (52%)

#15 Steve Woodruff (38%) defeats #7 Josh Spear (62%)

#3 Aloha Arleen (55%) defeats #6 Peter Kim (45%)

#10 Mitch Joel (38%) defeats #2 Ann Handley (62%)

#1 Malcolm Gladwell (62%) defeats #9 David Armano (38%)

#5 Guy Kawasaki (48%) defeats #4 Brian Clark (52%)

#7 Amanda Chapel (43%) defets #2 Brian Solis (57%)

Lots of upsets this Saturday, with the clear Cinderella of this tournament being Steve Woodruff. Can this #15 seed make it all the way to the Final Four?

March Marketing/SocMed Madness Thursday First Rd. Results

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 at 4:16 pm

The first eigth games have been played and we have some major upsets. Because the field, all 64 ‘teams,’ was filled with quality talent, a #1 v #16 match-up wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. As a reminder, here is the statistical breakdown I devised:

  • 1 (73%) v 16 (27%)
  • 2 (70%) v 15 (30%)
  • 3 (67%) v 14 (33%)
  • 4 (64%) v 13 (36%)
  • 5 (61%) v 12 (39%)
  • 6 (58%) v 11 (42%)
  • 7 (55%) v 10 (45%)
  • 8 (52%) v 9 (48%)
  • As you can see, it’s pretty tight. So, without further ado, here are your Round One, Thursday winners:

    #16 Jesse Newhart defeats #1 Chris Brogan(!)

    #1 Malcolm Gladwell defeats #16 David Mullen

    #15 Steve Woodruff defeats #2 Jeremiah Owyang (!)

    #2 Brian Solis defeats #15 Jeff Pulver

    #2 Ann Handley defeats #15 Doug Haslam

    #3 Aloha Arleen defeats #14 Julia Roy

    #4 Brian Clark defeats #13 CC Chapman

    #4 Scott Monty defeats #13 Chip & Dan Heath

    #5 Guy Kawasaki defeats #12 Shannon Paul

    #5 Noah Brier defeats #12 Jane Quigley

    #6 Peter Kim defeats #11 Rohit Bhargava

    #7 Josh Spear defeats #10 Rob Walker

    #7 Amanda Chapel defeats #10 Faris Yakob

    #10 Mitch Joel defeats #7 Grant McCracken

    #9 Mike Arauz defeats #8 Connie Reece

    #9 David Armano defeats #8 Pete Cashmore

    Two huge upsets with a #1 and a #2 going down on the first day. Overall there were five upsets, which feels about right. Just so you know, all results were witnessed by my colleague and fellow blogger, Rich Gallagher.  Come back tomorrow around this time for Friday’s results.

    In Defense of the Periodic Table of Social Media Elements

    In Uncategorized on February 24, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I’m amazed by and appreciative of the overwhelming interest in the Periodic Table of Social Media Elements. While the majority of comments were positive, there were also some comments that were critical of the concept. I use the word critical in a positive way – they forced me to think deeper about the concept and hopefully this will lead to improvements and a more elegant version 2. 

    The main criticisms seem to fall into three catergories:

    1. This has no direct correlation to the scientific Periodic Table of the Elements.

    Guilty as charged. I took algebra 2 in summer school… pass/fail. I broke out in hives if I got near the science buildings in college.  I can’t tell you the difference between inert and noble gases (I don’t even know if that is a fair comparison). I used the periodic table because it’s something we all have at least passing familiarity with and I thought it would make for a compelling and eye-catching visual.

    I think I succeeded on that count, but realize now that the more scientific-minded of you out there would have liked to have seen a stronger correlation to real science if I was going to use that visual. Fair enough, and I’ll see if that is possible for a version 2.  But ultimately this was meant to be a little more light-hearted than that.

    2. Isn’t this just link bait?

    I won’t deny that there is an “element” (see what I did there?) of that here. But here’s where I draw a distinction: A lot of the people who follow me on Twitter, and who read this blog, are not Social Media experts. I felt the table would expose them to people and applications they may not be familiar with, so I wanted to include links, allowing them to jump right to that person or tool.

    To me, linkbaiting is when you make an outrageous or overtly provocative statement and link to someone in order to get a reaction out of them. Like saying, “Chris Brogan is clueless about subject x.”

    I don’t expect the people I linked to to come here and comment or post a link to the Table – it would be great if they did, but that wasn’t my intention – I posted the links so people who did come here could easily discover new things.

    3. Why did you include so-and so?; Why didn’t you include so-and-so?

    The AdAge Power150, Viral Garden and Junta 42 all provide fairly scientific, analytical methodologies for determining the important and relevant people in Social Media. I was merely providing my perspective and while I completely agree that you could have added another 116 people and things, I don’t think anything/anyone that did make my Table was wildly off the mark.

    The one thing I think that is unique and interesting about the Table is that it isn’t just a list of people or a popularity contest. It includes behaviours and practices and tools along with people. Some of the comments note that it is a snapshot of Social Media in early 2009. I think that is a nice way of looking at it.

    This wasn’t meant to be some sort of Bible of Social Media, to be used as a substitute for getting involved or learning on your own.  I hope people will use it as a tool for discovery and ideally make their own Tables.

    As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Brains uses their brains

    In Uncategorized on February 16, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Paul Groves over at Groves Media (part of the WordPress Marketing Bloggers Network) tipped me off to some really clever marketing by the Welsh beer brand, Brains. Read Paul’s story here.

    When Brains don't work, use Brawn

    When Brains don't work, use Brawn

    Brains was being handcuffed by regulations and laws in France regarding beer advertising on sports uniforms. Rather than give up, they got clever, switching the ‘Brains’ logo on the Welsh Rugby Union team jerseys to read ‘Brawn’.  See what they did there?

    The result was not a compromise, nor did they settle for a ‘good enough’ answer to the challenge. They did what all good marketers do when faced with an obstacle: they employed some savvy marketing Jujitsu. The answer to a marketing challenge isn’t to water your efforts down, it’s to embrace the challenges or limitations and flip them.  Your consumers don’t want to see you wave the white flag, they want to see you pull a Captain Kirk on the Kobayashi Maru test: Don’t admit defeat, just change the rules of engagment.

    NY Times Magazine Thinks There Might Be Something To This Whole Social Media Thing

    In Uncategorized on February 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Here’s a sneak peak at the Sunday, Feb. 15 New York Times Sunday Magazine:

    Illustration by Peter Arkle for NY Times

    Illustration by Peter Arkle for NY Times

    Page 14: William Safire takes a look at the etymology of the words mash-up and remix in his On Language feature.

    Page 15: In The Medium, Virginia Heffernan muses on writing a Facebook Status Update.

    Page 17: Rob Walker’s Consumed column uncovers the artist behind Twitter’s Fail Whale. 

    Next week: A fashion spread with pre-eminent bloggers/supermodels Greg Verdino, Adam Broitman and Geoff Livingston.