Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lessons from the foreign press

Every year, the Press Club of California has an event touting the best and the worst PR departments to work with in the Valley. The Press Club is a group of foreign press / reporters that are based in the Bay Area, and it is always interesting that there are PR people that just don't like to work with reporters.

Seems counterintuitive, ya know?

This year's best PR departments were: Intel, Ingres and Pandora. The worst were: Apple, Nintendo and Electronic Arts.

The program also had a series of three interviews - below are my notes from those interviews to get a good take on the workings in the Valley. And, well, I was lucky enough to be invited and be the only PR blogger there. Because I'm like Mims.

First up was Karsten Lemm, a correspondent for Stern Magazine - who briefly worked for a host of magazines and newspapers in Germany. Lemm also works with the German GQ and Facts. He was interviewing Anil Dash, the Six Apart evangelist.

Anil Dash: It's still very early for corporations to blog. Being judicious and honesty from PR people will help build a relationship with bloggers; for a corporation, blogging is a good venue for content and communications.

It's not a zero-sum game of New Media versus Mainstream Media.

Do bloggers have the ability / finance of doing the investigative reporting? It's not a zero-sum game, but look at the mainstream media blogs themselves. They are getting the live stories, and covering in-depth stories from within the publications, and going deeper with stories.

Traditional media will do the deep story. The deeply researched, investigated stories will be mainstream media, but bloggers can do group blogging and investigating. With bloggers, though, there is going to be stuff that is wrong, and even the best institutions will make mistakes and correct them.

As for blogs as a business tool - it is still the early days of blogging, but the benefits are huge. People do not talk like a press release - there is still the need to do the press release, but tell the story in the natural, conversational voice. On the practical level, PDFs are not going to be found and linked by bloggers, or as easily found. Make it more personable, make it readable.

The next interview was with Jean Baptiste Su from The French News Agency who interviewed Chris Shipley from Guidewire Group and DEMO (here's my interview with Chris from a couple years ago).

Chris Shipley: To find the right companies for DEMO, I look for new products, those coming to the market for the first time, or something that the the market is unaware of, or products and services that are new ideas. It is about pushing the market, changing the market.

There should be events and platforms for young companies to get a leg up in the industry, hope that they are successful. There is a fee to participate, and it may be limiting. The efforts that go into making it affordable for young companies, the connections to investors - there is a lot that goes on in the background. DEMO is about the companies and launching on the market.

The profile of DEMO is a value-add of itself. The process is informative and, it is a launch date that is in cement for companies. It coalesces the team around the launch. Plus, 80+ reporters come down to the event.

From the last DEMO, there were 200 million media impressions - you are not going to get that from every event.

As for how do the credentials at DEMO work? We look for active journalists, and do not do press passes for non-copy producing editors. It is not part of the credentialed press, and we poll the companies and see who they are trying to reach and reach out to those publications. It is not broad, but targeted outreach to bring in reporters.

We recently started Innovate: Europe. It's not just about US companies or European companies, but about both. It is about creating dialogue on what start-ups go through in Europe, help innovate Europe and bring together the VC and European start-up communities.

Guidewire Group is a market intelligence firm on early start-up companies in emerging markets. We cast the net globally and talk to start-ups, and help them connect and be more effective, and help the whole process. But we also map the market, provide context on how markets are being developed. The average issue of our publication has ten to twelve profiles and briefs.

The start-up market is changing with the efficiency of capital - low overhead, start quickly - and it's a good thing with the ability to experiment with new businesses. The VCs have not been able to adjust yet, and the low-level of funding is changing the field.

The European start-ups are more enterprise level applications, and value the business model of pay. There's less ego over there (generally). It is less consumer focused, and more enterprise.

We are receptive to the changing landscape of journalism, and if you are influencing an audience that is important to our companies, we welcome you to our events.

The last interview was Tom Sanders of Silicon Valley Sleuth / VNU.net with Tom Waldrop, Director of Global Communications Group, Intel.

Tom Waldrop: How does Intel look at blogging? It has to feel right for your purpose and personality - blogging is not for everyone.

Intel has people that are pushing for social media, and there have been people out there in social media. The IT@Intel blog - it is quite varied on what they address on the blog, ranging from the technical to the philosophical.

For blogging, the next step is that the Intel Fellows are going out next; but social media is a one step at a time thing for Intel.

There are companies that are doing social media right and that I respect, but it is different for each company.

Remembering back in the day when C/Net launched, no one was really sure if it was journalism because it was online. They had a lot of bad information, and in retrospect that was stupid, but one day when talking to top-tier media, they found out the reporter was reading C/Net to find out what was breaking news from Intel.

With bloggers, there are two kinds of bloggers: journalists extending beyond print and normal editing stuff; the other type of blogger is one that is reporting news. It's just like the traditional model of journalism that has evolved over the years. There is the winnowing out to find out who is the real journalists, but I would not discount anyone right now.

The lesson now is from Web 2.0 - the rapid proliferation of information, and heating up things.

We had an issue that started in newsgroups and Compuserve, broke in a trade publication, went quiet but stayed alive on the Internet, and then was broken by CNN and it became a huge issue. Two lessons: the Internet is powerful, and if traditional media had not grabbed onto it, it would not have blown sky-high. Not sure if it's like that today, as there are more news aggregators.

Intel is in the baby steps - yes, we do look for the good and bad stories on blogs, continually. We are beginning to podcast (the Web 2.0 version of VNRs via Podtech and our own Website), post on YouTube (sometimes guerilla, sometimes straight up), but baby steps - we are not promoting stories on Digg. We have the RSS feeds on the corporate site.

[Tom Sanders brought up an example of how Yahoo! broke the news over its blog on unlimited storage for email.] There will be blogs from PR that will be sniffed out, and there will be the natural speak that journalists will pick up on. Communicators find the design - find the message, find the audience, what effect you want to have on the audience. It's all about baby-steps, though, for large corporations.

Post updated for clarification.

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