Showing posts with label Edelman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edelman. Show all posts

Thursday, June 11

Reinventing Public Relations: Edelman PR

You don't have to agree with Richard Edelman of Edleman PR, an independent global PR firm, to appreciate some of the finer points of the presentation delivered at Georgetown University. Social media has changed public relations and mass communication in ways that few people ever expected.

From Edelman's perspective, public relations is faced with the challenge to evolve from pitching to informing, control to credibility, from one-off stories to continuing conversations, from influencing elites to engaging a new cadre of influencers.

Yet, for some, in looking at these four points for the evolution of public relations, they might wonder where public relations took the red pill. Was it ever about the pitch? Were they ever in control of communication? Was the focus on one-off stories? And was public relations really a game of expanding influence? Was the public relations world so bleak or is that the tone to make a brave new world seem twice as bright and shiny?

There is probably too much content for the confines of a single post to address those questions. So it might be best to stick with just three.

What Was Public Relations?

Bill Sledzik, an associate professor at Kent State University (and one of the few people I know who has an aversion to online typos like I do, even our own), still reigns with one of the best sum-ups on what public relations might be, assuming it never became what Edelman suggests it is today.

The point is that Sledzik's post has become required reading for my students, specifically because none of the definitions presented include words like "pitch," "control," "influence," or "one-off stories."

Who Owns Social Media?

If there was ever a misnomer in communication, it's the constant question of who owns social media. Does public relations own it? Marketing? Advertising? Social media experts?

While I often share the idea of integrated communication because social media skill sets tend to pull from all communication-related disciplines, the less obvious answer is no one owns it beyond the people who participate.

Why Are Influencers Nouns?

While there is enough good in Edelman's presentation to encourage people to read it, there is plenty wrong too.

The best of it mirrors some recent research we completed. It demonstrated to one of our clients that engaged citizens are much more likely to promote the organization's message than are members of the media, despite the fact that the organization devotes more than 90 percent of its time to media relations.

The worst of it keeps reinforcing this notion that there are new influencers. I used to think so, and might use the term for simplicity on occasion. However, Edelman keeps missing that while anyone can have influence about a subject or within a network for a varied period of time, the bigger picture suggests there aren't any influencers. And even if there were influencers, that noun is seldom permanent.

Thursday, October 30

Avoiding Echoes: Beware The Bubble

"My idea is fabulous!"

"Your idea is fabulous!"

"He said her idea is fabulous!"

"She said he said her idea is fabulous!"

"See ... they all said my idea is fabulous!"

Yes, yes, but what if it's not? What if the idea isn't so fabulous as is often the case in politics, public relations, public perception, and social media?

After all, echo chambers sometimes promote the silliest of notions, especially when it starts from its central most people, without much thought to what is said or where those messages might go or how they might be interpreted. It's not just social media. It's everywhere.

The messages, both good and bad, bounce around from one "influencer" to another with no real consideration for the customer, client, intended audience, or outcome. However, some of them are heavily promoted with that sometimes unspoken/spoken rule to "always elevate our peers," as if the world really works according to Warren Buffett.

While sometimes it is easy to miss in the world of social media, we all know it exists. Anyone who has served on a professional or non-profit board can tell you that the world works differently when echo chambers take hold. It goes something like this:

The lead influencer proposes that the organization's luncheon (or whatever) be changed to breakfast, based on a successful case study conducted by another organization about 400 miles away. Once proposed, two or three enablers will quickly support the idea simply because of who proposed it.

Sometimes, there might be one lone dissenter; someone who suggests there is no evidence to support a breakfast will be better attended. The criticism is then quickly slapped down by another influencer, who suddenly and casually proclaims they will be the first to reserve a seat after the meeting, which prompts the remaining six board members to look up from their phones and hypnotically nod in agreement. Meeting adjourned.

Two weeks later, just days before the actual event, the organization learns the horrible truth. Only three people reserved seats: the speaker, the initial influencer, and the dissenter.

Sometimes it happens just like that. In fact, for all we know, echoes might have led Edelman to select 25 bloggers to debut Pepsi’s new can design. It makes sense because Edleman, like many social media experts, tends to overstate the role of influencers (probably because they are one). Yet, for all the limited buzz about the Pepsi identity change, it just doesn't strike me like the real thing.

Conversations have outcomes, but outcomes are not conversations.

Greg Ippolito recently wrote an article for Adweek about something similar. He called it "the psychology of sameness" among creative professionals who start to convince themselves to be part of the herd. The end result is a whole lot of non-thinking that he illustrated with this quick two quote story:

"OK," I started, "explain to me why our customers should go to their dealerships for service. Why would that be good for them?"

The AE stared at me with a deer-in-headlights look. "Bee-cause ... " she searched her brain for an answer, "our clients are looking to increase their parts and service revenue?"

Ho hum.

Look, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with peer participation (assuming you save time for client industry-specific associations), but it never pays to operate exclusively in any industry bubble or you might get stuck in the rut.

And then, before you even know it, your desire to become a "thought leader" leads you to become a "cheer leader" for someone else who is only guessing at echoes too. That would be too bad. The best innovations occur outside the bubbles.


Friday, March 21

Making Connections & Divides: Social Media Relations

Yesterday, Steve Rubel, author of Micro Persuasion, pointed to a pair of surveys that may be significant to public relations professionals. While both surveys include too few respondents to be considered an accurate measure on their own, they do mirror conversations I've read about the subjects.

Does their public relations firm do a good job identifying the specific interest of individual bloggers and sending them relevant information?

• Only 52 percent of the public relations professionals asked said yes.
• Contrary, 65 percent of the bloggers asked the same question disagreed.

If there is any hint of accuracy to the survey, it suggests that public relations practitioners may be creating the same divide between themselves and bloggers as some have between themselves and journalists. Maybe the division is occurring because public relations practitioners tend to spend more time talking up each other than developing relationships with bloggers. (That, by the way, is what bloggers tell me.)

The second survey, with the same participants, seems to mirror another discussion point that I’ve seen it come up from time to time: Paying for posts.

It is okay to compensate bloggers for writing about my clients, but it is not up to me to tell them to disclose the payment.

• Not one public relations professional thought it was okay to pay for posts.
• Contrary, 48 percent of bloggers thought it was okay; 16 percent were neutral.

What strikes me as odd about these survey results is that public relations practitioners who blog often take a stand against pay per posts, even with disclosure. Yet, some who maintain blogs write reviews about their clients.

The first survey was published in PR Week as part of APCO Worldwide’s new “The State of Blog Relations” blog, which defines itself as a “pioneering Web initiative aimed at capturing and analyzing thought leadership in the blogosphere.”

I don’t know; these questions have been asked for years. However, what I do know is that social media is being applied in some odd places and convincing some to draw odd conclusions.

Also from Rubel, recently, was the addition of advertising social media feedback mechanisms on advertisements. Although many praised the post in the comments, I think it’s one of the most ridiculous ideas ever.

Why? For two simple reasons. The CNET and AOL Network ad platforms allow non-customers to offer feedback on ads. Depending on the advertiser, this non-customer feedback may influence advertising that resonates with customers. That could lead to some dangerous conclusions.

Have we so soon forgotten the lessons learned from Miller when it attempted to target microbrewery beer drinkers with ads aimed at them? Not only did non-customers NOT buy Miller, but the ads alienated Miller’s core blue collar consumer. The net outcome was a lot of awards for the advertising agency, and one of the best ad campaigns, not for Miller, which footed the bill, but for its rival Budweiser, which quickly captured the alienated Miller drinker.

The measure of advertising seems much more simple to me. Did people click on the ad, visit the store, perhaps buy the product? And, if you are really curious how customers feel about your advertising, wouldn’t it be smarter to ask them as opposed to asking everyone, including people who are so outside of your demographic that it just doesn’t matter?

You know, “because we can” doesn’t always measure up as the right answer. Misapplied research can cause more damage than it's worth.


Friday, August 3

Balancing Acts: Social Media Measures

A few days ago, Lee Odden had a similar idea. Although I have a different conclusion, Odden’s piece is a must read for anyone hoping to understand a little more about combined ranking systems.

My decision to take a look at them began the day after I posted about Ad Age’s acquisition of Todd And’s Power 150. Jane S. (Jericho Saved) left a comment, asking “Is Todd’s considered to be more reliable than BlogPulse? Is BP even reliable?”

Other than BlogPulse being a better topic measure and Todd's being a better niche industry blog ranker, maybe the best answer is that most social media measures provide insight, but these insights are often misleading. Here is the oversimplified truth behind some of them:

Google PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the Web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value (the more links, the higher the page relevance). Importance: it provides an indication of how many other pages are sourcing "searched" information from that page to determine its search rank. Triviality: sometimes you don’t have to be first to be relevant (and not everyone searches on Google). (Bonus: Mac users can get a free dashboard widget at Apple.)

Alexa Traffic Rank is based on the usage of millions of Alexa toolbar users. It is the most common gauge to determine traffic. Importance: it provides an excellent snapshot to see which direction your Web site is moving from a broad perspective. Triviality: traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the right traffic. (Bonus: Terence Chang recently offered some tips about Alexa.)

Bloglines is a free online service for searching, subscribing, creating and sharing news feeds, blogs, and Web content. Importance: the more subscribers and bookmarkers, the more likely these subscribers will visit your blog. Triviality: There are many subscription services, which is why some people are now pushing FeedBurner as a better measure. However, keep in mind that some subscribers are likely to add a blog to multiple readers, which means the measure is likely less than. (Bonus: ProBlogger asks if full feeds increases subscription rates.)

Technorati tracks 94.9 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Its authority system, which is one of the most criticized (for some reason), ranks blogs based on links from other blogs in the last 180 days. Importance: the authority rank indicates how many other social media participants consider your post relevant enough to comment about it on their blogs. Triviality: Meemes and other link lists can artificially inflate ranking. (Bonus: Make Money Online shares one strategy.)

Digg and other news aggregators allow user submitted content to be voted on by a community. Importance: a post that gets "dugg" by hundreds of members will most certainly increase traffic. Triviality: member alliances can increase diggs on content with little substance. (Bonus: Digerati Marketing recently posted some Digg tactics.)

Social Networks can include any number of places, ranging from to Facebook to Linkedin to (if we’re being honest) Twitter. Almost all of them (including Technorati, which has "favorites") have some sort of “connection” mechanism. Importance: friends can mean the difference between exposure and no exposure. Triviality: it’s relatively easy to make friends and connections. (Bonus: If you ask, 90 percent of those asked will add you, unless you are a troll.)

Content/Frequency/Comments is another measure that has been around for a while. It was recently re-popularized by Edelman’s complex Social Media Index. Importance: the frequency of posting and number of comments all contribute to increased traffic. Triviality: posting too frequently buries good content and comments can all too easily be inflated. (Bonus: Here are the top ten tips that have been around a long time.)

Conclusion. Everybody likes the rankings, traffic, comments, diggs, and, well, whatever (yeah, me too). They create conversation, attract attention, and demonstrate momentum even when social media pundits weight the numbers toward those areas they excel (and we all know they do) or attempt to game the system.

At best, it seems to me that it is these measures and the gaming of them that slows social media from becoming more mainstream (as it makes the average business owner skeptical of blogs). At worst, it detracts from what communication people are supposed to focus on: the company's overall strategy and the true measures of success (like market share, sales, etc.).

Put plainly, Seth Godin doesn’t have a successful blog because he ranks 8,311 on Alexa or 13 on Technorati. Godin has a successful blog because his online brand is consistent with who he wants to be perceived as and, more importantly, he sells a lot of books (The Dip, released May 10, is still #447 on Amazon).

In sum, the best measures of success come from achieving results that are derived out of a sound business strategy. Certainly, any of these measures can help provide a performance snapshot (assuming you avoid the temptation to game them), but the active pursuit of them won't do much more than distract from what really matters.


Wednesday, May 2

Overreacting Or Not: PC Magazine

The times … they are changing.

I didn't write about Steve Rubel's Twitter gaffe with PC Magazine when it happened. And for most, the story is over. Yet, for me, I'm still considering how it might represent some serious changes in media relations.


Rubel is senior vice president at Edelman's me2revolution practice. Edelman is the largest independent global PR firm. So when Rubel put out a random Twit — “PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash” — people noticed, especially Jim Louderback, editor in chief of PC Magazine.

Louderback's answer to the Twit can be seen in a blog post (above link). He asks, among other things, "Should I instruct the staff to avoid covering Edelman's clients? Ignore their requests for meetings, reviews and news stories? Blacklist the "" email domain in our exchange servers, effectively turning their requests into spam? If we're not relevant to Edelman's employees, then how could we be relevant to their clients?"


From a pure public relations perspective, Rubel made a mistake and did the right thing by apologizing and offering clarification. (This is precisely the kind of stuff that makes me wonder how public relations practitioners might have to adjust for something like a random thought racing across Twitter.)

However, if we remove this pure public relations perspective from the equation, maybe we come up with a different answer, one that addresses Louderback's original question: "Boycott Edelman, or would that be over reacting?" (sic)

Maybe the question is best answered by the media's long-held position to not be held hostage by advertisers who threaten to pull media buys over unfavorable editorials.

Wouldn't a boycott of Edelman and its clients over an unfavorable comment about the magazine be the same thing? Should Rubel, who has since said he reads PC Magazine via RSS feeds, censor himself on critiquing publications because of his position?


I don't know. But what I do know is that Louderback might have been better off calling or e-mailing Rubel before writing the editorial … just as public relations practitioners prescribe to their clients after an unfavorable media attention. The outcome might have been more favorable for everyone.

Rubel, much like a publisher, could have then retracted, corrected, or amended his statement on his own instead of being "learned." Louderback might have even had an opportunity to find out why Rubel felt that way, enough so, apparently, to fire off the Twit.

Regardless of whether the original message was a good idea or not (it wasn't), the bigger story here, at least to me, is what this means for the relationship between public relations and the media? What does it mean?

The times … oh how they are changing.


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