Social Media Top 5: WTF II, What is(n’t) PR, & Mom-Bloggers PR Boycott

What the F**k is Social Media (One Year Later):

Last year at Podcamp Boston 3, the irrepressible Marta Kagan co-presented a presentation called “What the F**k is Social Media?” Now, she has updated it- it’s an entertaining slide deck that manages to put across some compelling statistics about social media, some simple advice about why and matters and how we might consider it- and manages to keep the original cheeky and irreverent style (though many of us are thankful for the “**” in the title

So What is PR Anyway? (One Week Later):
Last week, I wondered aloud how we are going to finally define pr, because nobody (I’m looking at you,”>PRSA- what’s with this long-winded definition?) has adequately defined it in a way that will keep people from portraying us as blood-sucking, name-dropping flacks– or worse, “publicists.” Aerial Ellis, on PitchEngine, picks up on the inadequacy of the term publicist, and knows that there is more to PR than that sleazy connotation. I’ll think some more- if someone doesn’t start a good working definition, maybe I’ll get something going.

UPDATE: Judy Gombita pointed me to a pretty good, brief, definition of public relations via her blog post: the definition was the result of a collaboration, seen at the “Defining Public Relations” wiki. Read here and give your opinion: does it work? I’m still digesting it. (The CPRS, Canadian PR Society, adopted it this year):

Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.

Mom-Blogger Calls for One-Week PR Boycott:

A post on the mom-blogger community MomDot calls for a one-week PR boycott. It smells to me less of an anti-PR rant (though I am sure many will have seen it that way), but more off a weariness of product pitches. If mom-bloggers indeed need to step back and take a break, go for it. If other mom-bloggers agree that it’s not necessary, they won;t do it. it’s all cool. But if you do it, let us know which week (it’s not specified in the post) The boycott is suggested for August 10-16, which doesn’t work for me. I would like to coordinate it with my vacation, if possible. Thanks.

PR Agency Facebook Fan Pages:

Susan Getgood had one of the better reactions to the Mom-blogger boycott story. In the same post, she says how she doesn’t mind the concept of PR Agency Fan Pages on Facebook. Thanks, Susan. At the same time, personal-brand-in-denial Geoff Livingston (how I kid, Geoff!) is ranting against such fan pages. Valid points– self-promotional back-slapping and in-your-face “we’re great”-ness is interesting to nobody. But, as PR agencies, we also need to know how to use these tools. For the record, SHIFT Communications has started adding content to our fan page. Feel free to join up!

Airing Twitter’s (Dirty?) Laundry via TechCrunch:
The flapdoodle over Twitter’s private documents that were stolen and given to TechCrunch has been interesting to watch. Why? Well for me:

  • It has launched a great discussion (such as in Shel Holtz’s blog) about journalistic ethics– have they changed? Do these documents pass some sort of “public interest” smell test in order to be published?
  • It is a further lesson to companies and PR people that, whatever “journalistic ethics” are officially, TechCrunch will run by its own definition. The fair part of it is that TechCrunch’s editorial chiefs don’t exactly hide their ambition.
  • Admit it– you’re curious what those documents say– you ‘re only afraid they might be disappointingly boring.

So, What is PR Anyway?

nogoodThe most recent flap about what PR is, stemming from the July 5 “Spinning the Web” New York Times story, still bothers me somehow.

Why? I think I have already nailed the idea that the article only portrayed a small slice of what PR is, a part that makes me pretty uncomfortable when it is decoupled from other tactics and more strategic input. But so what? Move on, right?

What I thought was missing from my response and many others was corrective action. There is no definition of PR that enough people agree on. There are too many simplistic and even negative stories out there.

We are great at talking amongst ourselves (isn’t that what I’m doing here?), shouldn’t we make a concerted effort to talk- as a group- to the outside world? Should it be PRSA, or a separate group of leaders?

Do we need to get messaging right first? Yes. Maybe I- and others- should try to define PR once and for all and go for it.

Lots of questions. Asking out loud, I hope we can start making answers.

Audio Post:

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Social Media Top (Five): How to Get Traffic Without Really Trying

How to Get Blog Traffic Without Really Trying:

I often refer to this blog- along with my other social media ventures- as a lab. I want to see what works, what people like, what gets you to read, respond and interact. Lately, I have had three instances that showed working methods of driving traffic to this blog, and for the most part I didn’t really try;

  • Include a link in a comment on a mainstream media article: OK< for this one I did try-- I purposely included a link to a relevant blog post in a comment I left on a (Boston Globe) article about the “Crack o’ Dawn” cycling club.
    When a mainstream media news site lets you leave links in comments (I reckon many still don’t even have links in their main stories- tsk, tsk), it turns out to be a good place to generate looks for your own site. For me, I had run into the same group of riders and had some video on a recent blog post, so was able to offer something relevant (not spammy, which of course is a no-no). I got steady traffic from that source for several days.
  • Predict the death of a major celebrity: Two years ago, i wrote a post titled “Michael Jackson is Dead.” It was not about the King of Pop but rather about the quite-famous-in-his-own-right writer of the authoritative guide to scotch whiskeys. Frankly, he deserved the headline as much as Jacko does. Two years later, the performer Michael Jackson dies, and my post turns up in search engines, causing a huge, temporary and amusing traffic spike. Useful, maybe not. But an interesting look into the psyche of search.
  • mj stat

  • Have an authoritative Internet guru accidentally link to your post. When Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger tried to link on Twitter to the “United Breaks Guitars” video that was just beginning to get attention via YouTube, a typo in the URL shortener he was using ended up leading his readers to, of all places, my blog. Actually it was a pretty good post about public relations from a year or so ago. Another traffic spike, which through coincidence and nothing else ended up sending some a ton of potentially relevant traffic my way. Thanks, David! And thanks for the tip on the video too.

    weinberger stat

Speaking of United Breaks Guitars, here is the video– it’s very well done, and a great way for someone with the means to get the upper hand against horrible customer service. From what I understand, United responded well, but a real response would be for customer service to prevent these kinds of reactions from happening in the first place. I won’t acknowledge applause for United liking the video. That’s not enough.

While I’m at it, here’s a statement Dave Carroll posted after United’s reaction. It’s only fair:

That’s not five, but it’s what I got for now

Social Media Top 5: Social CRM Paparazzi, Leaning on Young PR Pros, and Fighting the Elements

Rockstars of Social CRM- in Pictures!:

I blogged about my side impressions from this event early in the week, but Warren Sukernik put together these entertaining slides that give the perspective of someone who joined the event via Webinar:

Are We Setting Up Young PR pros for Failure?
I have wondered aloud– with help of some PR professors about the state of PR education in colleges, and whether students are getting the education in newer communication methods– the answer, I think, is that there has been a lot of progress between now and a few years ago. David Mullen, in his article, takes a different tack; he wonders if young PR pros are being tagged as “social media experts” due to their Gen-Y credentials, and being given the keys to social media programs. Is this really happening? I don;t for example, feel that we do that at SHIFT communications, where I work. Are they being given the experienced management and strategic support they need to help their teams succeed? David seems pessimistic. I’d like to hear more.

*UPDATE* Karen Russell, who teaches PR at the University of Georgia, weighed in with her take.

…And a Partridge in a Pear Tree(?):
While self-brainstorming this week (ok, that sounds wrong somehow), I searched on the phrase “elements of a social media program.” The results I got made me chuckle. They included:

  • Five Essential Elements
  • Six Successful Elements
  • Seven Critical Elements
  • Forty Key Elements
  • Oh- and Ten tips


There is no shortage of advice, is there?

Something in the Air:
I happened upon friend Colin Browning of New Marketing Labs at a Tweetup (Twitter meetup) during the Enterprise 2.0 conference here in Boston, and he corralled me for this Friday Funnies video now up at his Constructing Social blog. I think I did a good job keeping my composure.

Girl Dies While Tweeting:
No, it’s “Girl Dies While Using an Electrical Appliance in the Bathtub.” I’m sure there are plenty of things we can blame Twitter (or Facebook, or blogs) for. This isn’t one of them.

Social Media Top 5: Social Media’s Dead- No, It’s a Clique- No, It’s a Jelly Donut

Social Media is Dead (?)
Geoff Livingston wrote the salacious phrase in the title to his recent blog post explaining why he was discontinuing his involvement in the Blog Potomac events. The gist I took from the post was that social media is no longer a shiny new tool, the province of the innovators.

From Geoff Livingston,

From Geoff Livingston,

While I agree with friend and fellow commentator Greg Verdino that perhaps the world as a whole isn’t so far along the “adoption curve” as Geoff suggests, I also agree that the ultimate end here is that social media finally becomes “media” or part of it; ingrained, rather than ghettoized.

Social Media is a Clique (?)
Yup, I’m linking to Mack Collier again. This time, he muses that some “social media folks,” himself included, may come off as aloof and clique-ish when in fact they are merely shy. Some folks probably act as a clique whether they (we?) mean to or not. Will people recognize the difference between aloof social media “rock stars” and shy people who happen to blog a lot? Probably not. Time to be more outgoing- in person, not just on Twitter and blogs.

Social Media is a Jelly Donut a public servant disaster waiting to happen:

In this post from Shel Holtz, he describes a municipality with a Twitter account in which a few misdirected Tweets led to plug-pulling and denouncement of social media. It led to this quote from a public official:

How anyone could ever suggest that a public body could control a Twitter account is beyond me.

Shel then points to a number of communities that are doing social media just fine, thank you very much. Frankly, I’m not surprised by small-mindedness and short-sightedness at the local government level when it comes to these new scary communication methods. This is a prime example of the kicking-and-screaming road to social media adoption.

Bad Pitch, Good Response
In public relations, reporters- and now bloggers- have always complained about bad pitches. John Cass, who I have known for about four years in the Boston marketing community, actually took on well-liked and popular video blogger and author Gary Vaynerchuk, for a pitch that seemed a bit, well, un-customized. Commenters dissected the pitch pretty well so I won’t. I would like to point out the constant presence of Gary in the comments, showing genuine concern he may have offended and trying to solicit advice on how to improve the process. This is another example of the public seeing the PR sausage being made, and it’s a great example of responding positively to negative publicity.

UPDATE: Gary and John will be on a special live edition of the For Immediate Release Podcast on June 26.

World Events More Important Than Scheduled Website Maintenance (!)
I just wanted to give my nod to the Twitter folks and the U.S. State Department, who combined to delay a scheduled Twitter outage so that the burgeoning democracy movement in Iran could continue to use the tool to communicate. An inconvenience to many in the States, but so what?

Social Media Top 5: Brian Solis Gives Me a Headache, Twitter Chat Advice, & Outside the Echo

Getting Out of the Echo Chamber:

My good friend Kyle Flaherty blogged recently about getting out of the social media “echo chamber,” and the resultant decrease in his activity blogging and on Twitter. There has been a lot of talk about taking social media out of the “echo chamber” so everyone uses it, but this is more about just shutting it off for a bit and losing nothing (well, blog traffic– if that’s important, and other social media channel momentum).

fail-meterSo, is it good to disconnect to get perspective? To recharge? To prevent burnout? I probably is. Many colleagues know when to shut it off (some do it for work only, other the other way around. I simply see this post as a reminder that all of us have social networks that exist outside of the online networks, and those need just as much tending.

A Frightening Walk Through Past Failures:
Mack collier did something brave recently: he sifted through his early blog posts and found himself cringing at some of his early posts. The lesson? We all find our voices online– or in any medium, including our “meatspace” groups– after time, after starting out tentatively, after making mistakes, after chaning focus or direction.

I took a look through my early blog posts too, and recommend that you don’t (look at mine, I mean– definitely revisit yours).

Twitter Chat Advice:
Kami Huyse has a nice post on how to participate in Twitter chat. The advice is common sense, but still worth reading. More important to me was that she listed a bunch of existing regular chats that take place on Twitter. Here are the ones Kami listed:

More chats? Certainly, feel free to tell me about them in comments

Brian Solis Gives Me a Headache. Again:

His image of the “Twitterverse,” showing (almost) all the applications and services, is a nice visualization of the universe created by one of the dumbest, simplest online conversation tools out there.

Brian Makes my head spin. Click for larger image

Brian Makes my head spin. Click for larger image

PR Students on Learning About Twitter:

One of my favorite PR professors (ok they;re all my favorite), Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu of Clemson, posted these reactions by her students after they were asked to learn about and use Twitter.

I won;t recap here, just go read it– but I was struck by the number of students who say they “get it.” I was hoping for some more “What the *** is this” reactions, though I guess the students wouldn’t say this to their professor- would they? Some students did admit to “semi-getting it” or simply taking a while to cotton to Twitter as an effective communications tool. I will continue to be fascinated by what and how students are learning about social media as it gets introduced into the curricula more and more.

PR Dead? Kill Dumb PR


First, thanks to Shel Holtz for writing more extensively on this:

The "PR Is Dead" meme ironically lives quite heartily, but this article by Fuat Kircaali, founder of Sys-Con Media and a new service called Ulitzer, goes straight to the self-parody pile.

While Shel’s post fairly outlines the possible benefits of the Ulitzer service, Kircaali’s use of his soapbox to declare the Death of public relations at the hands of his own wonderful new service ( lacks credibility.

If you are going to kill PR, don’t announce your plans in such a blatantly hucksterish way that it would make any decent PR person blush.

Want to kill PR? Kill bad PR. I’ll buy the bullets.

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Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message or go to: for my fundraising page– and thank you!

Social Media Top 5: PodCamp Boston, WSJ Social Media Rules are Cool, Martha Analyzes Twitter

Podcamp Boston 4 is Coming, August 8-9: I’m a little disappointed that I have a partial conflict on the 8th (it’s family, so I’m not exactly sad about it), but I plan to be around as much as possible outside of that. I have had some involvement in PodCamp Boston since the very first one in September 2006. The event is special to me because it is the first place I met folks such as Chris Brogan, Christopher Penn, Bryan Person, C.C. Chapman, Gregory Narain, and a number of other folks I consider friends (not just social media friends either).

This year’s theme, to quote the site:

“Podcasting and social media has gone beyond the geek set this year and many of us are engaging with businesses and corporations to educate them. At Podcamp Boston 4 lies the opportunities to teach people and companies about podcasting and social media.”

Will I see you at UMass Boston in August?

New Wall Street Journal Social Network Conduct Rules Trigger Bunched-Up Undies Syndrome:

So a major newspaper has added social media guidelines for reporters. Does this mean the paper is showing a “policy of opacity?” Are they treating their reporters like “kindergartners?” Does it make you not want to work there? I don’t think so.

A couple of thoughts:

  • In general, these rules spell out the common sense we need to exhibit in representing our employers’ brands– not just online but in any outside interactions. Of course, we are not used to seeing “rules” spelled out in such detail, and that makes a lot of people cry “Big Brother!” But in truth, whether these guidelines exist or not, there is a “don’t be an idiot” rule for all your interactions. A too-heavy-handed enforcement may be a different story, but that’s not in evidence today.
  • VC blogger Fred Wilson takes some sensible objections, though his objection to the line about consulting editors before publicly friending confidential sources is off-base. There are some people you want in background for a reason.
  • Valleywag takes a very entertaining low road, tying itself into knots (so you don’t have to!) to present examples of WSJ staffers “breaking” the new rules.

UPDATE: Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek weighs in with some more common sense– about how he breaks the rules often, but also how he applies them when appropriate.

Martha Stewart Talks Twitter Turkey with David Carr (not Caar) of the New York Times; Why do Her Followers Use Twitter?

I’ll cut to the chase: we’re worried that the Oprahs and Marthas of the world are ruining Twitter. Sure, more people are on Twitter to follow celebrities, but you can safely ignore them and follow the people who are there for “social networking and communication,” if you like- and note, the “social networking” crowd still edges out the “celebrity” crowd in this survey conducted by a celebrity.

Presenting, Martha Stewart: Researcher:

From The Martha Blog, Martha Stewart

From "The Martha Blog," Martha Stewart

“Twitter Visits Surpass New York Times and Wall Street Journal”
I’ll bet number of M&M’s consumed daily also surpasses the combined circulation of both papers as well. Apples to apples? not quite. Does this headline say that Twitter is supplanting the news? No- Twitter is a gateway– to news, conversations, content, locations, basically just about anything you want to direct people to. It’s not a direct replacement for anything.

Advice: Look Like Your Avatar: Peter Kim’s advice is sound: if you are representing yourself online, and especially if you plan to meet people: colleagues, clients, contemporaries, influencers- it’s great if those people recognize you right away. I get a lot of people saying they know me from my photo- even though I took it with my old cell phone, it clearly shows my face, and I’m not doing anything goofy- you can see a small version of it on the Twitter widget in the right margin of this blog. It’s one of those little things that some people ignore needlessly.

Of Tea Parties and Muddled Messaging


The April 15 Tax Day tea parties were a great example of grass roots, viral organization to move thousands of people (whether you believe the reported attendance or not) to do something.

But here’s the problem; what were they doing? In PR, we counsel clients to have consistent messages that leave no doubt who you are and what you stand for. Were the tea parties:

– Libertarian tax protests?
– Conservative protests against Obama?
– A stand against pork-barrel spending and government waste?
– An anti-gay marriage event?
– FOX News sponsored GOP pom-pom waving?

Depending on what you believed, the event was either a success or was muddled by a lack of central messaging.

If you fail to define yourself- or worse, define yourself badly- then others will gladly fill the void.

Were the tea parties a success? Can anyone tell?

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Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Social Media Top 5: Spock, Caucasians and Cockroaches

Star Trek Screening Was Social Media Marketing? Well, it’s not just the Twitter reaction, which helped and becomes more and more valuable as Twitter gains steam. But the Word of Mouth value among a passionate affinity group (Trekkers!) and a jaw-dropping stunt (switch a beloved movie, Star Trek II, and replace with the untested new one, but bring the Real Mr. Spock along to introduce it!). anyone familiar with the Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon Movie festival knows that social marketing and word-of-mouth are neither confined to online, nor new to online (see Ain’t It Cool News coverage here). Hat-tip to Mike Troiano for the post.

Journalists becoming Consultants? Jon Fine’s BusinessWeek column takes one shop to task for possibly corrupting journalistic ethics, but more interesting to me was the much less cynical leadoff bit about Kaspersky labs hiring journalists to produce content for them. This is in line with a recent post by David Meerman Scott plainly saying that paid corporate writing gigs may be a great safe haven for the growing number of displaced journalists. A related side note: I have been seeing requests on LinkedIn recently from journalists asking about the transition from journalism to PR (one I made ten years ago, so feel free to ask).

Why we need the “hyper-local” publications to blog:

So they can compare the mayoral candidates to characters in “The Big Lebowski.” Priceless (I wonder if candidate Setti “The Dude” Warren drinks White Russians aka Caucasians?).

Earned Media (PR) to Trump Paid Media (Ads)? Venture blogger Fred Wilson thinks so. PR people, are we running with this and jamming it down ad peoples’ throats? I just love to see the ad folks show their thin-skinned side and would hate to miss an opportunity. Wilson’s case may not be bullet-proof. However, the idea that earned media is less expensive is very old, and the better value has long been suspected (or suspect if that is your view). Declining return on paid media is the only thing that will really close that case once and for all. But, of course, there are never, ever any absolutes. Ever.

FriendFeed cool But Doomed? That’s what TechCrunch says. Robert Scoble disagrees, but does concede that Twitter has won the war for now among short-attention-span social media vehicles. Scoble brings up the Friendster/MySpace history as an example. Fair enough, but I see FriendFeed and Twitter, if they develop in certain ways, as complementary. I use FriendFeed as just that- an aggregation of peoples’ feeds, and while the threaded conversations are very functional, it seems the level of instant engagement and stupid ease-of-use of Twitter make it a real unkillable cockroach of social media (not the first time I have said that).

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!