The consumer voice is the new form of public relations. This next session will be a Q&A session with some the brightest minds in PR.
Question: Why is it that most PR people these days are so hideous?
Peter Shankman: Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t changed in 30 years. The technology to pitch journalists and hit journalists inaccurately has gotten easier and cheaper. I started HARO, which reverses the process. If you can answer the journalists, it takes the PR person out of the process.
The biggest problem we have is that PR people are centered on getting their story in the press.
In recent decades, the sewing circle died. Personal recommendation really went away. It was replaced by press people, telling you what movie to see, what restaurant to go to.
Now,with social circles, the sewing circle is back.
PR people are behind the times. They’re still married to getting the front page. You need to start talking about specific interaction with customers.
Personal recommendation is the new PR, and PR hasn’t gotten this yet.
Sonia Simone: Nobody cares about authority anymore, because everyone wants to know what their friend says on Facebook. That’s valid, in one sense. We don’t care so much about traditional authority figures (doctors, politicians, etc), but people still look for those who know what the hell they’re talking about.
It’s your job to be awesome, and give them something to talk about.
It’s a split role. You will always ask your friends, but you still need someone who knows what they’re doing at the end of the chain.
Question: Because of the web, PR people need to be held to the same type of metics as marketers. What are your thoughts on this?
Peter Shankman: The problem is, they said the same thing 30 years ago: “How much is this translating into revenue?”
I’m in the belief that social media is very simple.
When I worked at AOL, it was a simple premise. The internet wasn’t always free. We had one job, “Keep your users online as long as possible” because this is how you generate reveune.
For every dollar you spend, you need to be making two. If you’re not generating reveunue with Social, Marketing, etc. you’re doing it wrong. If you’re pitching 75 people and not getting results, you should be fired.
You need to generate revenue from PR.
The trouble is, the business that continues to accept no results from PR people.
Sonia Simone: What’s being measured is how many bullsh*t pitches you sent this month. If you sent a pitch to a big name, and he says f*ck off, he has a right to do so.
Peter Shankman: Don’t expect a PR person to go and get you on the front page of Tech Crunch if you don’t have a story. The PR agents are at fault for taking on the client without the story. If you don’t have a story at this present time – what is your industry doing?
Reporters love trends. For example, have you had incredible client success that you can turn into a story of customer service?
PR works, if you have the right stuff to talk about.
Sonia Simone: If you want coverage in any media, if you want people to talk about what you’re doing – do something epic.
What are you doing that’s worth talking about?
Question: PR is more than just pitching. What advice do you have for a good pitch?
Peter Shankman: If you can’t explain your story to 6 year old, and have that kid understand it, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
So help me god, if you send me an attachment, I will call you out on Twitter so fast.
Limit your pitch to three paragraphs:
- First paragraph: Hello, here’s what I’m about
- Second paragraph: Here’s why it’s specific to your readership.
- Third paragraph: Here’s my contact information.
- Anything longer than that … SQUIRREL!
Sonia Simone: I don’t want to know why it’s perfect for me, I want to know why it’s relevant to my readers. Talk to me about stuff my readers want to know about.
Adam Singer: Be brief, and include a link to what you’re talking about.
Question: There’s a war on who owns content. People say PR should own content, some people say marketing should. Should content be a collaborative effort, who should own the content?
Peter Shankman: Content doesn’t live in a vacuum. There are different divisions of your company. The person who should own the content should be the most passionate about the content, but never let it out the door without it being proofed and clean.
Bad writing is killing America, it will destroy your company.
“The average attention span to gain a new customer is 2.7 – 3 seconds to get them in” – that’s a headline.
Become great headline writers, because we’re a country of headline readers.
There are studies that show the people who bounce within 5 seconds do so because the writing sucks.
Sonia Simone: The department person who owns content should be really good at content. My favorite people are the ones who say, “what do you do?” and they answer, “I don’t know, I do a lot of stuff.”
It depends on the structure of your company.
Where are your really smart creative people, that don’t get along well with any other people in your company, because they’re so weird? Those are the people who should own your content.
Question: What do you think PR people can do to become interesting?
Peter Shankman: Take a writing class for starters. Anyone can call themselves a consultant, with no idea with what they’re doing or how they can benefit.
If you want to increase your ability to provide good content, number one – take a writing class.
See what other people are writing – cut, steal. Don’t plagiarize. Steal the concept of how they’re writing – does it excite you?
Sonia Simone: Don’t talk like corporate robots.
Good content is about your customers. If you want to create seriously good content – you need to listen to what the top ten things you customers are b*tching about. It doesn’t matter if it’s about you, or something unrelated to you.
Declare war on the top ten problems your customers b*tch about in social media, and you will have enough to talk about forever
Peter Shankman: Content doesn’t need to be the written word. If you don’t know how to write, then speak – do a video.
Sonia Simone: Be entertaining, and useful at the same time. If you are entertaining and useful, and you sound like an illiterate ape, you’ll still be okay.
Peter Shankman: Having an audience is a privilege, not a right. Give your audience what they like to hear. Don’t do contests, they bring in visitors that want free stuff, who will immediately leave. The same applies to an audience, they can go anywhere they want without a reason.
Adam Singer: Copy the successful sites. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, look at what’s being done.
Peter Shankman: Top ten lists still work wonders. People love numbers. Give people numbers “Top X ways to do this,” they love it.
Question: What are some of the biggest mistakes that PR people are still making?
Peter Shankman: Not tying something to current events. There is tons of news going on all over. How can you tie into that?
Sonia Simone: It’s useful, I save money, and it’s entertaining. It always works.
Adam Singer: You want to tag onto what’s happening, and be the second paragraph in that story.
Question: What’s your advice for doing PR for things that aren’t as exciting?
Peter Shankman: Instead of focusing on national news coverage, try focusing on local news when relevant. The smaller the market, the better chance you have at getting something in the local news.
Stop thinking big, start thinking smaller.
PR doesn’t need to be in the newspaper, reach out to (outlets) themselves (that you want to get interested).
Sonia Simone: Think about the story as a transformation. PR is not media relations. Public relations is now making a connection with people in the public. Sometimes it’s people who buy from you, sometimes it’s people who talk about what you do.
Question: What suggestions do you have to break the mindset of large, slow moving companies?
Peter Shankman: The greatest lover in the world is a reformed hater.
Take a hater and make them happy again. Loyal customers are ones who had a problem, and you fixed the problem.
Reply, listen and go out of your way to do one better. We expect to be treated like crap. Treat your customers one level above rap by listening, and they’ll be happy.
Treat customers well, and they’ll do your PR for you.
Sonia Simone: Find an intelligent executive, start giving them the Kool-aid. Translate between rational human thought, and executive thinking. If you can’t do it,
The meteor is entering the atmosphere, and the dinosaurs have very little time left.
[Find the person who is] giving a slight sh*t, versus giving no sh*t at all.
You have to find the example of “if they can do it, we can do it.” That’s persuasive given to executives, give short lists.
Peter Shankman: If you have ten stories that you want to pitch to a report, cut it down to two. Find the best stories you have, and pitch those.
Focus on the good customer experiences, and let them tell the story for you.
Adam Singer: Go directly to the consumer. You don’t need media anymore – go directly to consumers.
Sonia Simone: You can have your own blog. Publish your ten stories, and see what your audience picks as the most interesting story. Pitch that.
The more listening you do, the more ideas that will have legs, that you didn’t have to thin of on your own.
Question: How do you brainstorm ideas?
Peter Shankman: For me, I know that I have the attention span of twig. So what I do, I will never write unless I just got a workout in.
Working out spurs creativity. A good hard run is the equivalent of an adderrol for some people.
I strongly recommend to write when the creativity strikes you. The best thing I did was get a MacBook air- it’s light I can take it anywhere. Carry a wireless 4G card, too.
Best way to generate creativity is to up your exercise.
Sonia Simone: It sucks. Writing for a living sucks. Don’t do it. Hire people, hire broke creative people – don’t do it yourself. It’s a rich untapped natural resource.
If you insist on doing it yourself – have a tight relationship with your people. We have a community of customers. That is a great place. Look for irritation. If you look for irritation, through social media spying, etc.
Go to your competitor’s page, see what’s pissing people off. Look for irritation,
Anywhere there is irritation, you will have interest.
Find the right answer to that question, and provide that answer.
If you don’t catch your ideas, they just go away. Have something to catch your ideas. No matter how awesome it is, you’ll forget it.
Adam Singer: “Write drunk, edit sober.” – Hemmingway
Question: How do we extend our abilities to listen behind the walls?
Peter Shankman: Google tends to pick up specific mentions. You can get at least a sense. If you can’t get behind the wall, then join the network. Get to learn the network you’re reaching out to.
Question: Peter, what were your four basic rules for writing?
- Be Transparent – if you know something about something, say it. If you’re connected in some way, say it. Otherwise, you’ll lose face.
- Be Relevant to your Audience.
- Be Brief.
- Learn to be top of mind. Stay connected, reach out to people and say hello. Don’t pitch, just drop a line.
Question: Headlines are super important. can we get a quick crash course?
Peter Shankman: The best headlines I’ve ever seen are 7 words that describe exactly what you’re pitching about. Give me something that makes me want to open an email.
Read women’s magazines. Be a little self deprecating.
Sonia Simone: Always put a benefit in the headlines. Reporters want trends. The headline has to tell people they’re going to get something they want. Don’t be the noise that doesn’t make sense. If it’s random and makes no sense, I won’t look at it. Make it clear, be beneficial.
Use trends. Make it clear, be beneficial. If you’re at ninja level, you can include something curious.
Simone Takeaway: Listen to your customers. Don’t listen to what they say about you, listen what they say about your topic. Declare war on the ten topics they hate.
Shankman Takeaway: Embrace the concept, not the brand. We all talk about the last greatest thing. What are the current concepts we’re dealing with? Understand your audience – they will tell you the greatest thing.
I think it’s safe to say this panel made us all rethink how we interact with customers and the media! Time for lunch then we’ll be back with “The Anatomy of Successful Content Marketing Initiatives.”