It’s the penultimate session at BlueGlassX, and while I’m ready to get back to work (I don’t even want to know how many e-mails have piled up in my inbox over the last couple of days!), I’m also not ready for this to end! It’s been a great couple of days. But we’re not done quite yet!
Okay, so you’re not a PR professional—you’re a marketer, or you at least practice marketing for your business. But if you think the two don’t overlap, you’re sorely mistaken. More and more, we’re able to draw parallels between PR and online marketing. Understanding the value of PR skills will help you get the most out of your content strategies, and your online marketing efforts. Missy Ward, Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit, Inc., and Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix, are going to spill their secrets to PR success while Melanie Mitchell, Senior Vice President of Search Marketing Strategy for Digitas, moderates. You might want to take notes. Oh wait—that’s what I’m doing! I’d better get to it!
Melanie starts things off by saying how more and more executives are becoming more aware of social media and online media.Relationship-building is also important to SMBs. Businesses are all going after a lot of the same people, so how do you stand out? That’s what Missy and Chris are going to discuss.
First, here are a few slides that Melanie shared to get things started:
Missy is up first. Her presentation is “Real Tactics for Building a Massively Popular Brand.”
For the last ten years, Missy has spoken about marketing, so she’s excited to be here talking about this now.
Social Media has blurred the lines
Differences used to be clearer:
- free vs. paid
- trusted relationships vs. sales
- organic interpretation vs. controlled messaging
- creating buzz vs. the perfect sales angle
Smart companies are using social media to promote/sell their products or service.She brings up the book “Everyone Poops,” and asks, “Why is your poop special?” She thinks about this every day.
Missy and her business partner Shawn Collins started Affiliate Summit with an investment of $400, and to this day, only spend $300 per month on traditional advertising.
How they built the massively popular perception of their brand
- define the brand
- use expertise and community initiatives to build credibility and rapport
- using word of mouth, free tolls and what you know to build your business
What you can get with 400 clams and a lot of sweat equity
- website (without a logo because they couldn’t afford it)
- affiliate program
- marketing through existing personal Web properties
- used good will garnered in other industry-related forums
- published first AffStat report containing ads for their first show, and a coupon which generated 23% of attendees
Nine Years and 23 Shows Later
- 11k people attend every year
- multi-million dollar a year business
- 60+ sponsors and exhibitors annually
- now a full-service media company (podcast, website, magazine, etc.)
2004/2005 – launched affiliate marketing and personal brand blogs
2006 – launched GeekCast.fm, podcast network with 50+ free podcasts
2006 – launched Affiliate Marketing on YouTube, which now has 620 videos
2007 – launched FeedFront Magazine, a free affiliate marketing industry print publication
2007 – launched Pay it Forward scholarships and Merchant Endowment Programs; affiliate marketers can apply for scholarships to the show, or a complimentary exhibitor opportunity
2007 – launched Affiliate Marketers Give Back; raises money for charities
2008 – launched newcomers program; conference veterans volunteer time to help newcomers
2009 – launched additional free and low-cost events; act as a funnel to get people to higher-priced show
2010 – launched Affiliate Summit Forum; platform to network between shows
2010 – launched Affiliate Summit Meetup Days; meetups in more than 20 cities
2012 – launched Performance Marketing Summit; new brand and new show; one-day local conferences; lower price point
And that’s it for her. Next up: Chris.
The Inside Story in Six Headlines
Topix is largest local forum site in the U.S. With 125,000 comments every day. Launched in 2004 with 50,000 local pages. When they launched, they got a lot of press because they were the only game in town.
PR, Launch and Momentum
- easier to launch on the other side of a bad economy
- growth is always a sellable story
- partnering is the standard operating procedure for startup PR
- PR does not drive long-term traffic
PR is not a strategy in and of itself. It’s part of a larger strategy.
Built a High-Growth Web Property
- Web was different in 2004
- Growth engine was SEO
- Adsense revenue from day 1
- 45% of traffic to 10% of local channels
Site metrics show steady upward growth, which led to more news coverage.
The Web is not a place
- Every visitor lives somewhere
- you can’t eat lunch on the web
- 90% of purchased made locally
- big opportunity
- for advertisers
- for publishers
- for community
There is no “local” market
- San Francisco is local
- local is the aggregation of 32,500 places (for the US)
- on the web, no one’s looking for “local”
They built an aggregated news site. They didn’t set out to do local because it’s boring and hard to monetize. In 2004, 51% of traffic of their traffic was from 10% of channels. Nobody else had what they had.
The bad news: there wasn’t enough local content. They went to the blogosphere for content. But bloggers didn’t want to write about their town. So they started putting commentary on the news, and put it into forums so people could write their own stories. By 2009, they had 16 million visitors. The plan worked.
They have become the local news site for many small towns.
- Big opportunity
- $7.8 billion market by 2011
- social media was way to build audience
- major issues remain to connect people
Pitched to investors: A syndicated ad network to drive revenue and grow traffic
They have more local forum posts than anyone.
In 2007, Rich Skrenta left Topix, Chris became CEO, and everything went to hell.
They provide a place for people to report news. A lot of it is gossip. It got so bad, there was a front page story in the New York Times about how vicious people on the site got with each other.
There is such a thing as bad PR.
Change the story.
Change takes time.
Chris responded to people who commented on the story, and who tweeted it, in an effort to do damage control.
They hired more community managers. You can’t ignore your customers when you’re small. If you’re Google or AOL, you can get away with that.
Evaluated what they were doing. In 2010, they realized the site had interactive, local, and engagement, but how were those things able to intersect?
Created Politix so people could discuss politics.
- give people a place to take a standpoint was the initial focus
- showcase and visualize the sentiments of real Americans
- provide highly interactive, directed and curated experience
Went over well. Got great coverage.
- different phases of company require different strategy
- riding a wave is easier than fighting one
- even being a top 100 site is pretty small
- change, for better or worse, is the only constant
Fight to tell your story.
One session to go, and it’s going to be a doozy! Stay with us for more BlueGlassX awesomeness to come!