Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Train or Perish

Training seems not to be taking place in agency life, or for that matter, in corporations. Or, well, PR and communications cannot just move past pushing the message and learning to work. It goes back to when are we ever going to learn?

This past week, Johnson & Johnson pinged a few of the momosphere bloggers to invite them to a camp, and then sent out one of their PR firms, RF Binder, to make more of a mess (although, I am not sure of the order of the mess and who was responsible for what). I thank Erin Kotecki Vest for pointing me to the first post, and for letting me see the whole thing blow up from the start.

You used to be able to see the pitch letter here: one word of advice, if you cannot get a blogger's email address, move on or do it less obviously. Or, just be a good sleuth because you usually can find a working email address (she has since taken down the PR pitches).

I killed Jeremy Pepper
Originally uploaded by tmd.

I am not going to break it down and write what I think of the situation. Susan Getgood did a great job breaking it down, and you can get the full story from Stefania of CityMama / Kimchi Mamas (one point - no one ever reaches out to her as an Asian mom, but only via CityMama).

But, this just goes back to my old post - this is about community relations, not pitching media. That means getting to actually know the community, getting to be a part of it, reading blog posts - and meeting the people. It doesn't mean using the community, and I still laugh at some of the people I have run into at BlogHer over the past years that did not participate, but just walked around. Or when they did participate, did it in such a heavy-handed way, it was embarrassing for PR people that were there to learn, talk and participate.

So, instead, I'm going to bullet out my thoughts and backchannel chatter I hear about PR and marketing firms, and how they think they are working in social media and why they just don't get it. And, I am only naming names on personal experiences, not hearsay.
  • The office will not send us to events like BlogHer because they do not want to spend the money on building relationships, they just want us to pitch
  • The firm tells its junior staff to create Wikipedia profiles and change their clients entries to more complimentary entries, and delete bad information
  • The office's social media expert tells junior staff that it is okay to comment anonymously / fake names on blogs to steer the conversation - and encourages it
  • The firm's social media expert is respected by no one in the office, but seen as an empty suit
  • The firm will not send people to events because they are not billable to clients, and not worth the investment
  • Junior staffer in office decides he/she is a social media expert because they are on MySpace or Facebook
  • Join Twitter and just start adding people! Oh, don't participate in the conversation
  • Just spam people (thanks ContosDunne - I've only called you three times to be taken off your blog list, as well as email and you "verify" that I am off ... just to get pitched again a few months later)
  • Mass email bloggers, because it's no different than press outreach and you just have to cast a wide net
  • Social media is a waste, and all that matters are interactive ads
I am sure there are more examples out there, but this is what I could think of sitting down and not getting overly-frustrated

A while back, I used to write about the Clueless Train. It was great, because I would find some great photos ... but it looks like the train has left the station, and PR people don't care. This is sad, and will leave us in the dust because we won't just look at the landscape and realize that it's back to public relations.

As a note, this is why the Edelman Digital Bootcamp at UGA was so important - it was training the next generation of PR people to think differently and to embrace more than just the usual suspects. This is why SMU, Auburn and UGA seem to be a step ahead, and I cannot speak more highly of the students I have worked with there (and help them when I can): they care about PR, they get it is changing, and they try to embrace the new with the old.

And, while they may be a PITA, they should be listened to by senior staff, because they will have some good ideas.

As an aside, I am going to be speaking at BlogPotomac, and hope to hit on some of these details. It is events like these, though, that are good for both learning and meeting people. If you are in DC, please come by.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

And say, children - what does it all mean?

It's always interesting to read about SXSW , go to mixers/events in San Francisco, and listen to the people talk.

And, then go outside and walk around the City, and look at the graffiti that's creeping into my neighborhood, and see the homeless people on the streets.

This came to me last week, when I was walking to Supernova Mixer, and listening to Jeremiah Owyang speak on social networks. As usual, Jeremiah had a great presentation and interesting points.

And, he engaged the audience and had them interact on what people think the future is going to bring, and had good discourse and disagreement: is the Valley too male and old to think of what the kids are doing? How big is mobile going to be? What are the future aspects of social networks going to be? Is it air, as his colleague, Charlene Li says?

And, for us in technology and social media ... this is relatively important stuff. But, it also shows that the digital divide is probably worse in the Valley/Bay Area than other parts of the country when someone in the session says "No one shops at Walmart".


No, just no one you know ... and you should expand your social universe to find out what real people are doing, or what they are like. An elitist position like that is the big difference between success and failure, IMO.

As we are entering a slow-down in the economy (or correction, or whatever you want to call it), it's a good idea to take a step back and see what the real world is doing, and how it is doing, and how will what we are talking about have a real impact on the real world. And, by the real world, I mean every day people that DO shop at Walmart. Or, the people that are worried about money to the point that they are sharing a meal when they go out to dinner, as I saw last week (and this was a middle-class looking older couple). Yes, I like to go to the mall and watch people - it's my own way to focus group, and see what people are doing / thinking / reacting. Plus, the fact that the mall isn't that busy says a lot also.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing the Sarah Lacy / Mark Zuckerberg interview at SXSW ... but it just doesn't matter.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing what is going on on Twitter, or what the latest app you gotta have is on TechCrunch, and what is launching and why it might be better than X or Y ... but it just doesn't matter.

What does matter? Well, to the general public, the fact that the Young and the Restless just celebrated its 1000th week win ... that is big news. And, well, as a PR person, I'd love to get a win like that and get a client's product on the show (product placement rocks).

What does matter? The work that people and groups like Beth Kanter, Britt Bravo, TechSoup / Netsquared, Geeks Doing Good, BlogHer (among a lot others) are doing - this is work that might have a larger affect on our world, and is admirable. Heck, even Facebook is pushing people to give blood because of the crisis in the US right now.

What does matter? Well, opening our eyes and seeing what is going on in the world, and not so much in our own bubble. And, no, I'm not talking about the presidential race (because, well, that sure is spun and not real), but the neighborhood or the city you live in.

And why should this matter? If we continue to live in our social media worlds, we might be leading in some technology way, but we are also in danger of missing what is happening in the rest of the world - the real world - that might have more of an affect on our products, our clients, our jobs than we want to admit.

Go outside and watch how real people interact with one another, not just how geeks/techies interact. Learn about how what we do in social media can and should have an impact on the digital divide, and if we are making the world a better place.

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