Sunday, April 27, 2008

The I’m Here To Spin You And You’re Here To Screw Me Mentality Won’t Get You Anywhere says, Charlie Rose

During the PR Summit in San Francisco Charlie Rose let his good friend and PR legend Howard Rubenstein turn the tables and interview him about his 17 years of interview experience. 

When asked about why Charlie's interviews are so revealing Charlie answered by saying that an interview is like a tennis match. It's not a QA QA, its about reading the person's response and responding appropriately. "You hit a line drive, they respond with a back hand", said Charlie. It's about engaging with them, making then feel comfortable enough to want to open up and share their story. You've got to convince them that you care and are interested. 
While Charlie Rose is known for interviewing everyone from Bill Gates to Sophia Loren, he also interviews unknowns. He is looking to interview people who can tell a story and who can bring a different experience to the table. What Charlie Rose does best is capturing the moment and that experience. 
While it can be challenging at times, I think helping our clients reveal what's unique about them and their products and helping them get their story told is one of the most satisfying parts of the job.
Howard Rubenstein asked Charlie to list two or three of his most interesting interviews and Charlie went on to list 8-10 including:
Sophia Loren (his favorite)
Iraqi Journalists
Here is some excellent advice that Charlie left us with for placing personalities on his show, The Charlie Rose Show. I believe that this advice can and should be applied to all pitching for all clients:
- Show them that you understand what they do and what they need
- Give them whatever it is they think will be useful
- Don't try to sell a product - try to sell authenticity
- Help them know going in why this is a good story
- Remember what the person on the other end needs and wants
Charlie Rose's last piece of advice, "Don't insult our intelligence". Just like you do with your clients, be an advisor and a consultant and offer strategic advice.
I wish there would have been more time at the end of this session for Charlie Rose to interview Howard Rubenstein. He spent the last 50 years building an amazing PR business and I could tell that Charlie, among many other top dogs in the industry, have a huge amount of respect for him. I'd love to hear his story.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Crap, they're on to us...

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." - The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.

Message boards are to gamers what the wretched teaming shore is to the huddled masses. Yearning to breathe free, gamers flood comment sections, forums and messageboards eager to spout their opinion, extrapolate on what they think is newsworthy and generally look for the opportunity to make the next poster feel like absolute s#$! about themselves.

It's a fascinating ecosystem to watch, and one in which I participated in as a voyeur for many years before coming to my job which made it a requirement. Silently watching, scrolling we’ve been tracking what gamers are saying, what industry announcements are significant, and what new ways to say pwned have emerged for years now. Well apparently, they’re on to us.

1UP has an extensive article examining the effects of messageboards on the gaming industry, featuring interviews with developers, journalists and people just like me (except they have more impressive sounding job titles and significantly bigger pay checks). The stories of these individuals range from those who have tried too hard to fit in to the crowd, those who ignore the crowd, and those who love messageboards for exactly what they are. A ridiculous, over-the-top, mind numbing source of fiber and news.

The article asks “Do marketers keep their ear to the ground at NeoGAF and other message boards? Do they track public reaction to their promotional efforts?”

Some PR types admitted to doing exactly that and commented on how it affects their plans.
“At every level, we have people who follow the trends closely and pay attention to what the community takes to and what the community skewers.”
Elizabeth Tobey (community manager, 2K Games)

Others tend to be more cautious:
“We live in an online world where anything we say and do is disseminated on a global scale in an instant. This has revolutionized the way we do marketing and PR. While we are always thinking about our campaigns through a digital, global lens, we do not micromanage our campaigns in reaction to any one online moment.”
Tammy Schachter (senior director of PR, EA Games)

A NeoGAF moderator, one of the prime examples of a vitriolic and fantastic gaming messageboards, noted that his community does not respond well to such efforts, saying “I'd like to think GAFers could smell a rat, but it seems like a good percentage of them can't even smell the ones right under their noses.”

So with such a huge potential of backfiring, questionable analysis of content, and enough bad grammar and hate mongering to make a Klan member feel bashful, what’s the value of a messageboard and how do PR types go about using it? How involved with the conversations should we get, considering how easy it is for a forum moderator to look up your IP address and tell everyone exactly who you work for and the latitude/longitude of where you posted from?

I’ve seen success to a certain extent with “MVP” programs where companies designate particularly level-headed forum posters, and encourage them to actively remain a voice of reason. By providing these individuals with slightly increased access to the company, community members tend to congregate around every post these individuals make. It doesn’t stop more high-strung posters from calling these MVPs corporate shills and digitally spitting in their face, but it at least insures that a larger crowd is seeing some more levelheaded messaging. Other than that, these forums are excellent sources of news and trends. With 1000s of people posting leaked info, screenshots, developer interviews and much more daily, messageboards are like google alerts on steroids.

What do you think?
Oh yeah, and really, go read the 1UP article.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

American Journalism

Today I take a break from reposting reporter inquiries and making snarky remarks about them to talk about something of much greater importance. Blogs. Some people in our office say that they'll be big in 2008.
First lets talk about hawt blog-on-blog action. Blogs have a long and valued history of backscratching for each other. But what happens when those relationships turn sour? Kotaku and Time magazine recently traded blows after Lev Grossman declared that the Kotaku writers spend too much time writing about game-related food, pornstars, tattoos and art projects. Personal objections aside (I see nothing wrong with mixing games, food, pornstars, tattoos, art and projects; in fact I'd consider that an excellent weekend), I was really hoping that this would turn into something bigger, on the scale of a Pulitzer v. Hearst, a Yellow Blogging incident that would escalate until it eventually starts a war in a remote location after a random Gawker site mysteriously explodes. Unfortunately, both sites’ writers just maturely agreed to disagree. Blegh, lame.
To make my dreams come true, I’m going to go on a hunt and find another site similar to Fizzle-Pop and call them out. I will make sure to out-sensationalize everything they do until they feel the need to fight back. I will use only my best “yo mama” jokes to cut them to the bone. And when all is said and done, only one blog will be left standing atop the corpsey bits of html code. Fizzle-Pop.

So if anyone has any suggestions on which blog should become my next target, leave a comment and it will be done.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is Earth Day the new Valentine’s Day?

The Wall Street Journal featured an article about the rising popularity of Earth Day and companies that are jumping on the green bandwagon. (Did you know that “green” is big in 2008?)

The article, Firms Use Earth Day To Show Their Green Side, makes note of companies that have launched campaigns touting the green efforts. The most important parts of these campaigns comes down to two key components: facts and behavior change. By providing as much information as possible, companies must educate consumers and empower them to make decisions for the betterment of the planet. Also, in order to bolster their credibility, companies must make some fundamental changes to their business practices. This not only strengthens their “go green” message, but it generates the actual change they hope consumers will embrace. It’s a win-win.

Another interesting component to this article, are the stats about the number of green/eco trademarks that have been filed. More than 2,400 applications were filed for logos or phrases that used the word "green” in 2007. So, it is pretty clear that “going green” will be a major commercial focus within the next few years. It becomes infinitely more important for consumers and corporations to educate themselves about their behavior and the behavior of others.

If you find it difficult to navigate the hundreds of “green” messages, check out The Greenwashing Index. This user-driven site may not be 100% objective, but it provides some entertaining and educational reading for those looking to find out more about Greenwashing and separate the good from the bad.

Feeling inspired? Here are 10 things you can do today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Continuing the Conversation

Seattle was recently blessed by the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama among others who spoke at great length on the subject of compassion. Even for a cynical jerk like me, it was a pretty profound experience all and all. 
We attended the five day event and gathered the thoughts, reactions and ponderings of the people at the event and "compassionized" it into a series of podcasts, the first of which you can download here. If you like changing the world, adorable kids and NOT kicking puppies, then I encourage you to listen. More to come.

(Editor's Note: Extremely rough cut, overeager to share, updated version coming soon).

Befriending Top Bloggers

If you were on my team, you would already know of my obsession of reading the WSJ in the morning and then clipping and distributing relevant articles to my team. Not only has this given me various insight to what’s being reported on in the business community, but it has also inspired several of my blog postings. Lucky you!

In today’s WJS, Raymund Flandez breaches the topic of getting your company or thoughts on the radar of your specific industry’s top bloggers. Why bloggers and not top print/broadcast reporters, because peeps are turning to bloggers more and more as the Internet is become even more accessible and easier to navigate. And getting play on a top industry blog could put a small business on the map. Why, just because it can. Live with it.

Back to Raymund’s article, there are a number of ways to attract today’s top bloggers. Outreaching to bloggers is a very risky thing to do, as you instantly become fully exposed to potentially millions of current or potential customers. One must be ready for both positive and negative reviews and/or feedback.

Basic steps to blog outreach:
Research – determine who the influencers are in your industry
Resource to determine top industry bloggers –
Read - read what they are saying and what’s being said
Search tools to search your company or industry –, Google, and
Relationship – create a relationship with the blogger
Ways to create a relationship – comment on various postings, add useful insight and/or information to the discussion, pitch a blog story that you would find interesting youself
Research – read what bloggers are reading (including looking at their blog roll)
Tools to help you keep updated with online chatter and buzz – Twitter, AideRSS, Google Reader

There are also some things not to do: disrespect the legitimacy of bloggers, bribe with free product (while it works for some – I launched a new beer by sending cases, glasses and lemons to various bloggers with a note on how to pour the beer), sending a pitch without reading their blog. More on what not to do in a later blog.

Enjoy! And remember, take your time, don’t rush - everything you send can be easily cut and pasted into a blog. Mistakes and harsh e-mails make for great posts.

Friday, April 11, 2008

When Blogging Takes Over …

We all read blogs. And we all click refresh throughout the day hoping for another post. We want more information. We crave more information. We want a constant stream of information targeting our specific interests. We want this because we’re tired of getting spam or wasting our time filtering out useless information. And we go to specific blogs because we’ve done our homework to find the gems of knowledge or commentary that gives us our fix on topics that pique our interest. And we do this without ever thinking what toll blogging does on the blogger.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Heather Armstrong, author/blogger of, a mother/parenting blog, breaks down the pressures and emotional stress writing for the 59th most popular blog on the Internet brings her. From hate mail, family feuds, strange looks from readers and pure exhaustion, Armstrong tells all. And it is not like you have to read the WSJ article to see this, Armstrong is pretty much an open book online. She regularly talks about everyday things – her husband, 4-year-old, dog, work, parenting, family and friends – things you’d find yourself talking about with friends at a coffee shop or something like that. And as a result of her frank conversations and honest approach, she has created a loyal following.

Blogging is a strange phenomenon that has taken over the Internet. Journalists go to school and train to become great writers. Journalists train to work under the pressures of deadlines. Journalists build up a wall of defense overtime to block personal attacks. Bloggers are everyday individuals who like to share interests of their own, and while doing this, happen to make some cash on the side, if they are lucky.

That brings me to another interesting article from the New York Times published in the Seattle Times on Sunday, April 6. This article too breaks down blogging from the inside, only the Seattle Times goes behind the scenes and details the money making aspects of blogging and the pressures that inflicts on bloggers.

Imagine getting paid $10 for every blog you post. $10 is not a lot of money. I know what you’re thinking, if I post 1,000 times, that’s $10,000. Now you’re talking … I’m all ears. However, there are only a few things in life I’d do 1,000 for only $10 without getting completely bored. Now imagine that in order to get paid that $10 your posting needed to obtain a predetermined number of views. That makes it a little more difficult. I don’t care if you’re George Malley in the movie Phenomenon, you’re going to run out of things to blog about. Not only that, if you are passionate about something, and have a wealth of knowledge that goes deep, how do you plan to keep your audience interested? All things one has to consider.

Back to the Seattle Times article – there are people who walk away and can separate work/life balance, and there are those who can’t. There have been reported deaths by people who have come so consumed with blogging that they have ignored their health – gaining weight, losing weight, ate unhealthy and forgot to take medication. Yeah, that can happen in any field, like WOW players, I’m only talking about blogging right now.

So what does all of this mean? I’m not really sure. I just wanted to post something.

However, below you will find the top motherhood blogs reported by technorati. Enjoy!

Duncan Wardle Makes Disney Dreams Come True

I attended Bulldog Reporters’ PR Summit 2008 earlier this week and had the opportunity to listen to some PR visionaries, like Duncan Wardle, VP of Global PR for Disney Parks. I’ll be sharing what I learned in the other sessions over the next few days so stay tuned!

Duncan is a phenomenal speaker, with a great accent I might add, and spoke about the Future of PR, the communication revolution if you will. He started out by showing the EPIC 2014 video (Evolving Personalized Information Construct by GoogleZone) which predicts that the press as we know it will cease to exist. Check out the clip below if you haven't seen it before - it's kind of creepy to see the early predictions come true. I think the video was made in 2004.

Duncan’s message was about being authentic and using real people to start that two way dialog with your customers. We’ve all heard Duncan’s message before, it’s by no means a new concept, but how many of us our tapping into our brand evangelists and leveraging their enthusiasm for the brand? According to Duncan, the only way to reach consumers in 3-5 years will be through our evangelists. We’ll have so many tools at our disposal to filter all the content out there in order to get what we really care about that it’s going to take our brand evangelists to help us reach the people we can’t.

It's about letting go and not trying to control the message at all times. As a result of this Disney created some really great social media programs like Disney Dream Job Experience and created a panel for Moms called Moms Panel where Mom's can share their experience and give their $.02 on what they want to see at Disney Parks.

The Disney Dream Job Experience turned out to be a huge viral success, generating thousands of consumer generated videos where brand evangelists had the chance to tell Disney what their dream Disney job would be. The ‘real people’ they used to kick off their campaign were their own employees! They found that their employees were just as passionate about Disney as their fans were and this was a chance for them to show it. By the way, this was one of Duncan's favorite videos that was submitted for the program.

One of the biggest challenges that Duncan admitted to was one that we can all relate interference. Again, it's about letting go of the message - that's what social media campaigns are all about!

According to Duncan, one of the biggest contributing factors for making this campaign a success was working together with all teams, including PR, Brand, Marketing and Advertising. By working together you accomplish great things for your campaign, like working with bigger sites (yahoo) and striking bigger deals. Creating programs like these is something that our team is focused on this year with clients like Coinstar and Wizards of the Coast, and we've already seen great things come from working together with everyone at the table.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yellow + Blue

Check out our latest podcast with Joe Harrison of Herban Feast.

What a nice guy!