Another example of the importance of instant message in PR and journalism
This week I was reminded again of the commitment a great writer needs to get a good story and the importance that instant message (IM) has within online public relations and social media activities. Writers are under an enormous amount of pressure from their editors to deliver online, breaking stories as fast as they can without the luxury of excessive time for consideration. But, once in awhile, you see the inherent passion for the story overcome the daily burdens of the immediate deadline. I witnessed this last week when 20 minutes before a call I had arranged with Metis client Kampyle, and Blogger and Entrepreneur Aliza Sherman. Aliza contacted me to say that she had laryngitis (no voice at all), but still wanted to carry on with the briefing. “Hmmm…,”I thought. Had Aliza lost it? Maybe.
However, this was the exact instance I also learned that IM is, again, a crucial aspect of this industry beyond a pitching method. The fact is, I’ve worked with Aliza on many stories through the years (SympathyTree.com, WatchDox, Clarizen, etc.), and her passion for writing and finding that good story has, until now, never been sacrificed for good health, deadline pressure, or any other reason.
So what did Aliza do? She took the call on a GoToMeeting demonstration and typed in her questions via the IM chat function. The call felt awkward at times without hearing Aliza, but it served its purpose and she was able to discuss the concept of Kampyle’s feedback analytics quite impressively. Her questions, as my client read them aloud, were intelligent and quite witty, I might add. It was encouraging that someone like Aliza; who is a mother of small children, writer and entrepreneur of a social media marketing company; took the little time she has out of the day with no voice but a squeak to speak with a company to which she had never before been introduced.
As this example strengthens my last post on online media relations and IM about David Greenfield’s IM preference with pitching, I continue to hold my torch high to IM, and the writers who also love it. The importance of IM and other communication channels provides an easier way for reporting and finding that one story that might further impact an outlet’s credibility.
So…hats off to you, Aliza Sherman. Thank you. Your passion for writing is inspiring.
In rolling out its 2011 plan to begin charging online users, The New York Times makes a grand call-to-action to other industry leaders. While the need for increased revenue is clear, the success of this plan requires a major undertaking: shifting the way readers view media content. This is not an easy paradigm to break. Readers want their Web-based news to be high-caliber, bountiful and, above all, free. Until this point, they’ve gotten it. The Web is synonymous with free content. If you charge, they will go somewhere else. The New York Times can’t go this one alone. They need buy-in from other major newspapers. Even if The Times rallies wide support for its new pay-per-play model, is it enough to shift consumer mindset?
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the New York Times, frames this intent perfectly: “This is more about where we think the Web is going.” In his predictive statement, Sulzberger lays out the future of Web-based content. In its position of power, it is perhaps The Times that can make this prediction a reality. Yet, the paper is working against a stubborn readership base steeped in a Web culture of “free and now.” A 2009 Forrester study states 80 percent of Americans would go somewhere else if charged for content. Furthermore, a recent Nielsen survey of individuals in 52 countries finds nearly eight out of 10 would no longer use a Web site which charges for content. The aggregates’ unwillingness to pay for content – in the context of a blogosphere brimming with rich, nuanced information -- raises the question: is this just an outmoded model?
On one level, we can’t continue to expect and demand high-quality content at no cost. It’s just not sustainable. Over the past year, the Times alone has been forced to take out a $250 million private loan, sell off major real estate assets and cut numerous jobs. Also, let’s not overlook the countless reporters who, in many cases, risk their lives in remote areas of the world to bring us coverage. While these financial realities and personal risks by reporters should compel individual readers to pick up the tab, it’s evident that the majority will not. Even if major publications unite in a joint plan to charge for content, will this be enough to shift the power of the blogosphere?
Blogs are able to offer extraordinary content on limited budgets, oftentimes pulling information directly from citizen journalists living the story in real time before hitting major outlets, all at no cost to the reader. The increasing validity of such non-traditional forms of news delivery was highlighted last week when a prestigious Polk Award in Journalism was bestowed upon the “anonymous individuals responsible for recording the shooting death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan at a June protest in Tehran, Iran.” The video, widely distributed via Twitter, YouTube and other internet sources, was later covered by established news outlets. The recognition of these unknown videographers as award-winning citizen journalists raises plenty of thorny questions about the future of the media beyond the pay-per-view model proposed by The New York Times.
And the reality remains; there are operating models to which readers are responding. Regardless of the success or failure of The Times’ content-charging plan, such an announcement is sure to stir up discussion on how to further create quality-content on a shoestring.
STAnalytics’ David Greenfield comments on pitching methods
The pitch. It has evolved from a two-to-three-paragraph document sent via fax 15 years ago to a short, “to-the-point” message sent through e-mail, IM, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – I could go on for days. So which method is the right one when time is of the essence? That’s for the contacts you’re targeting to decide and for you to find out. Through the years, I have personally evolved from an e-mail pitcher to an “everything under the sun” pitcher to discuss anything from story ideas, briefing changes, materials delivery and breaking-news updates. The reason for this is that people get their information from different places, so it is important to adjust to whatever works best for the person with whom you are communicating.
So how do you choose your pitching method? Ask your contacts what they want. Research their communication techniques. Be that PR person your client is paying you to be.
For instance, our friendly contact David Greenfield, principal at STAnalytics and blogger at ZDNET’s ThinkTank, has been an IM man from the second AOL IM became popular. He prefers to be pitched using e-mail or IM, and doesn’t care if the PR person has a relationship with him or not - he just wants a good story.
As Mr. Greenfield says, “IM is easy, fast and direct. It forces all parties to get to the point – quickly. Let’s be honest; you’re busy and I’m busy, so neither of us wants to waste each other’s time. IM lets us transact on a good story in the most efficient manner.”
And, that’s really what we’re all looking for…always. We want a story that has legs - one that doesn’t scream “fluff” when it’s written or pitched verbally. It’s always been up to the PR person to figure out how their client sticks out from the hundreds of e-mails their contacts get every day. But, one thing comes to mind in this day and age after my conversation with Mr. Greenfield. What if the story alone is not the key to success? What if it’s the persistence of the PR person through all these different communication channels? There could be an incredible number of good stories lost in the hundreds of e-mails with no follow-up or persistence from the PR person. Think of how different our job has become over the last few years. Instead of hordes of PR people sending e-mails for that one editorial calendar opportunity, there are now thousands of more outlets to pitch and get noticed.
Instead of evaluating the “relationships” PR people claim to have, vendors need to evaluate the PR firm’s background and knowledge in communicating through different channels. It’s a new age.
Succcesful PR professionals are those who have adapted to this age and are using the growing number of communications channels to get that good story out there.
Let’s get real. It’s not always about the relationship. It’s about persistence and, most importantly, the story. Too many PR “experts” are forgetting that these days.
Do you hear that pounding? It’s social media banging down advertising’s door. Old school metrics are getting knocked down and new methods for measuring the value of media campaigns are rising.
Bang. Good-bye to the practice of counting eyeballs as the number one indicator of successful PR. Bang, bang. Farewell to valuing number of hits above all other metrics. Bang, bang, bang. See ya later, advertising value equivalents (AVEs). Of course, this is targeted at media relations, as we know that PR runs much deeper than what most folks think when they think of "PR."
At a seminar led by Katie Paine of KDPaine & Partners, last week, we heard some hard numbers to back up the guidance we’ve been giving our clients, namely, that there is significant return-on-investment to be gained from in-depth social media campaigns.
Paine convincingly illustrated the power of social media:
- 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, only 14 percent trust advertisements.
- 48 percent of respondents to a PRWeek study said they were moving money out of advertising budgets into social media.
- Procter & Gamble is now paying for engagement, not eyeballs.
- IBM receives more leads, sales and exposure from a $500 podcast than it does from an ad.
In searching for ROI from social media activity, Paine advocates clearly defining the “R” and understanding that successful campaigns require real time and money for the “I.” While the door may be closing on the dominance of “old media,” it is opening wide for those ready to harness the influence, engagement and advocacy opportunities presented by social media networks.