Over in my little corner of the world, the city of Newton, Mass., is putting up a rather expensive high school. With a $186 million price tag it is the most expensive school in the state both in terms of actual dollars and cost per student. I bring this up because the Boston Globe recently ran a front-page story on our little construction project. It happens that Newton has a very active blogging community, not only because of TheGardenCity.net (started by yours truly) but also because of the local newspaper has an active blog, as well as a series of other local participants.
But when this story came out one local blogger bemoaned the fact Globe reporters "don’t read blogs," and then cited several problems in the reporting. This brought up an interesting question about bloggers: is it now required for reporters to read bloggers' thoughts as a general part of their reporting?
One of my early journalism lessons was to not trust the phone. Yes, you can do an interview over the phone and it's very convenient, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction, since you can see a subject shift in their seat and watch their face. Conversations are different in person.
One reason for this is described very well by New York Times Sports Reporter Jack Curry in a conversation with Mets' Pitching Coach Rick Peterson.
During my interview with Peterson, the discussion drifted into the subtle ways that a pitcher could tip off his pitches. Peterson used my behavior to help explain his point.
"When you take notes, your head tilts to the right," Peterson said. "But, when you listen to what I'm saying, your head tilts to the left. Wouldn't that be a shame if that tipped someone off to what you were doing?"
Peterson made me think: Do I carry my notebook differently when I have a scoop? Do I keep my pen in a different pocket if I think I have some exclusive information? I was impressed with Peterson's attention to detail. But over the past several years I've seen a shift, with more people conducting email or IM interviews in place of phone or in-person meetings. What's to stop reporters from just quoting from blogs? Many already do, but could that supplement an interview?
The other part of the question is when listening to bloggers, who are you listening to? Is it just the loudest part of the population or are the thoughts espoused truly indicative of those of he broader population? Turning back to Newton, during a recent meeting of the Board of Aldermen (Newton's version of the city council), an elected official called the commenters on the local blogs "crazy." So I guess he doesn't believe that he's hearing from his constituents.
A few years ago I worked with a professor who had an interesting theory about online forums. In his paper “Strategic Manipulation of Internet Opinion Forums: Implications for Consumers and Firms,” Chrysanthos Dellarocas made the broad point that corporate manipulation of online forums is a good thing because people automatically assume that some is going on anyway, so they discount the information they're reading. Companies that are not engaging in this kind of manipulation are doing a disservice to themselves, but also to the readers, since intentional manipulation serves to create a greater separation between the positives and negatives of any given discussion. Stephen Baker at BusinessWeek.com wrote about this as well.
It's an interesting theory. But the end result is this: reporters do use blogs as part of their reporting and, in some way, it's going to influence them. The goal is to be part of the conversation not only to reach customers, partners, employees, competitors and the general public, but also to reach the reporters' audience as well.
, boston globe
, media relations
Posted by Chuck Tanowitz on February 27, 2008 at 9:07 AM
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One of the latest waves of new Facebook applications is the ability to create a "cause" Facebook page and encourage fundraising from that page. The CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess hospital in Boston launched a cause page to raise funds for a harp player who visits the hospital.
Using the web to fundraise is not new, but the sheer viral power of Facebook is new, especially since Facebook cause "pages" can enhance the giving experience for donors. Facebook makes giving more personal than the simple chain email asking for a check. Moreover, if you deliver an invitation to the cause page with a nice personalized invitation, it might replace the need for a hand written note.
Of greatest interest to me were the comments after the post by the hospital's CEO, Paul Levy. A consultant notes that the efficacy of a Facebook fundraising campaign might eliminate the need for the classic charity golf tournament. Levy, in a later post, agrees.
But before you put those clubs away, or revel at the thought of no longer having to duck to avoid an errant tee shot, bear in mind that there has to be a saturation point with all of the various applications and causes popping up on Facebook. I wonder if the best Facebook campaigns, ultimately, will be those that combine Facebook-based applications with real human interaction. It could be the new definition of an "integrated" campaign... or at least, an expanded definition.
Posted by Ross Levanto on February 20, 2008 at 5:21 PM
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At Schwartz we have a number of clients for whom Valentine’s Day is a big deal, from OKCupid, a free online dating site, to an alternative payments company, Bill Me Later, whose survey found that men really don’t know what women want for Valentine’s Day.
This caused me to think about Valentine’s Day and public relations. Since one of my clients sells a lot of puppies, I thought of Puppy Love and how does that relate to PR in general.
The launch of a new company or a new technology is a lot like puppy love. Some users find an immediate flush of attraction. They embrace the service, become infatuated and fall hard. Malcolm Gladwell addresses this to an extent in Blink and Geoffrey Moore calls them the early adopters in Crossing the Chasm.
But puppy love does not last forever. For companies, many early enthusiasts may move on to a new fling, leaving the technology forgotten and abandoned like many people’s junior prom dates.
So what can companies and PR people do when the first rush of puppy love fades and the blush comes off the rose?
You need to commit to building a long term, deeper relationship. This isn’t the Bachelor.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, following are some PR love relationship tips:
- Know what you stand for and don’t compromise—core values are essential. If you change too much for your users or your sweetheart, eventually you will either become something you don’t want, or you will become bitter and unhappy and lose that special something anyway. Highlight your values and attract the right customers and partners.
- Know what you are looking for—the best relationships don’t happen by accident and the same goes for PR. What type of user are you trying to engage? Are you looking to attract buyers for the short term, or do you need a deeper commitment (enterprise software)
- Be prepared for the unexpected—no relationship escapes twists and turns, ups and downs. What you thought would happen to your life when you were sixteen or when you were going on your first date is rarely how things end up. Your plans are going to go awry (if they didn’t we wouldn’t laugh so much at romantic comedies). Don’t let the setbacks get you down. Learn from them, re-evaluate and change as necessary. Don’t get locked into one pitch, be ready to adapt.
- Make a commitment—positive, productive relationships aren’t easy. They require a lot of work. That goes for both real life; a company’s relationships with its prospects and customers; and a PR pros relationships with reporters, analysts and clients. Inattention is noticed. Commit to doing the best job you can. Don’t ignore the little things. They will build up.
- What you want will change over time—that’s OK. What we want in our teenage years is different that our 20s, 30s and 40s. The same goes for an angel funded company, a pre-IPO company and a public company. It goes for a PR pro who is first introducing a company to a reporter to one that has been telling the same story to the same reporter for years. Just make sure you are aware of what is changing and re-evaluate your plans and strategies on a regular basis.
- Listen and communicate openly—this is relationship 101, but too often its gets forgotten. Spin doesn’t work with the ones you are closest with. Be honest. Listen. Communicate. Engage in conversations. Act on the feedback you receive. If you don’t, expect reporters to stop listening, customers to stop buying and your competitors who are communicating openly to gain marketshare.
I hope you have a good Valentine’s Day. And beware of PR Puppy Love. It doesn’t last.
Tags: common sense
Posted by Mark McClennan on February 12, 2008 at 11:05 AM
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