Tag Archives: social media

On Social Media (PR) Douchebags Who Don’t Actually Do PR

It’s terrible to come out of blog hibernation with a post about not just social media, but social media PR of all things.  Jeebus, as my friend Sue would say.

But there are still waves of hype crashing around us, and riding those waves apparently are some people who call themselves Social Media PR Douchebags — I mean, Specialists.

Nothing wrong with social media PR, as long as there’s, you know — strategy and thoughtfulness driving the program.  But lately I’ve had more calls that go something like this:

“I’m hoping you and your Agency can help me.  You see, we thought we needed PR, and ________________ told us s/he could help, and that we didn’t really need PR at all, what we needed was SOCIAL MEDIA PR, and it sounded smart and kinda cool so …”

(At which point I nod or murmur sympathetically; like a bobby on a BBC detective show, I know where this is headed.)

“But what _______ mostly did is introduce us at some parties; and you know, it wasn’t all bad.  We were a TC50 finalist!  But afterwards?  We realized s/he didn’t know anyone else — any writers or editors outside that particular crowd.  And then it turned out there was no follow-up strategy at all.”

How did your launch go?  I ask.

“S/he told us not to bother with news, that it’s all relationships so we didn’t  need to do releases or launches except for a party.  But here’s the thing:  we are dead in the water.  No one really knows who we are anymore.  We need other influencers, and funding, and like three other audiences that we’re not reaching.  Can you help?”

I resist the urge to say, “Tsk tsk tsk.”   Instead I say, “Sure.”

(Note to haters:  There’s nothing wrong with “social PR.”  There’s a lot wrong with “social” that doesn’t have really smart PR thinking behind it; or that occurs in a vacuum, as if all you ever needed was Yelp, FB and Twitter to educate the world).

Lest you think this is a new phenomenon fueled by Twitter or Facebook?   This has been going on for a while.

In 2006, one of my clients was lured by a Personality (who very much recalls Eminem’s “It feels so empty without me!”)  The Personality convinced my client to fork over a chunk of our budget — even though we’d been doing really well for them.  He promised to Move the Needle for them in the New Field of Social Media, Which A Traditional Agency Couldn’t Hope to Understand.  (Except that, up til that point, he had been marketing himself as a traditional agency…)

But actually, it worked the other way around.  They helped move the needle for him.  He hadn’t had many clients, and they had new media and cloud computing cred.  He leveraged their coolness to get invited to parties, share buzzwords, state casually that old media was dead (very endearing in some circles), and formulate a bunch of tips and aphorisms, sharable and linkable in 140 characters or less.  Not bad, really.

They got… well, I don’t know what they got, but after a bit they asked us to take them back and they reinstated all our budget.  We still landed them in RWW and TC; but also in those weird little pubs that they needed to reach IT buyers; and the Merc.  And the Times.  And the Journal.

The Personality is still Going Strong.   If I were him, I’d think I was on the right track:  He has a new book out.  He goes to parties and speak at panels, he makes pronouncements which are widely re-tweeted without question.  It’s working for him, why wouldn’t it work for everyone else?

But then there are the people that are calling me and my Agency; burned, if not by him, by someone who wants to be him.

So here’s the thing, people:

If you want to launch a company or a service, call me.    We will talk about who your audience really is, and which media  or tribes– old, new, pubescent — you should be talking with to get to them.  Maybe it’s AdAge.  Maybe it’s TechCrunch or Mashable or TIME, or BusyMom or GreebleMonkey.  Or Parents.   Or AARP (hey, don’t snicker; that is one powerful publication).

We will help you figure out what mediums to use to reach them.  Yes, you probably need short video.  Yes, a social media press release is a good idea.   Yes, we’ll figure out a viral plan, and help you put in place a community with a platform like GetSatisfaction.com if you don’t already have one, or something more sophisticated if that’s what you need.

And maybe you should go to a party.  Maybe you should launch at an Event — sometimes there’s a perfect critical mass of the people you need to talk with attending.   But sometimes events just generate noise, and we have to figure out realistically whether that’s your best chance to be heard.  We can do that.  Together.

But parties alone?  That’s just for Social Media (PR) douchebags.  And most likely, the only person who’ll make money is … well, you know.

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Filed under Media, Media Relations, Social Media, Social Media PR, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

O..M..G… They can’t be in our Social Media Club! Gosh!

A few weeks ago, I attended an event where Kara Swisher referred to the whole social media scene as the “social media self-reflecting echo chamber” and some of its stars as “assclowns.”

There was some uneasy chuckling at this — it was, after all, a panel called “Is Social Media Killing PR?”  But mostly people knew exactly what she meant.    There has been much, much sucking up and self-referencing going on lately.

I could have left it at that, until I read a post on an otherwise usually very thoughtful marketing/buzz blog.  It warned all you unsuspecting innocents out there how to tell if your Social Media Consultant is really a carpetbagger.

It carried a breezy video comment with a young pup smilingly declaiming that there are actually people who don’t know what the Cluetrain Manifesto is, and knowing what it is should be a test (I am actually quite fond of the Cluetrain Manifesto, in the nostalgic way some people might be of, say, Goodnight Moon or their first love; but some of my more acerbic peers refer to it as the Common Sense Manifesto).

You know, it was harmless.  Maybe they just were trying to be cute. He was contributing.  And yet the combined effect reminded me of an endless string of cliche movie scenes: the stepsisters make fun of Cinderella:

The Socs make fun of Ponyboy:

The Mean Girls… well, you get the idea.

Some of the insights were fine.  You should be wary of someone who doesn’t listen.  Or whose first suggestion is a Facebook group.

But as one Twitterer told me privately, “the tone [of that post] made me cringe.  It was so smug.”

Yah.  We’re smug — because we broke the code, and we got here first.  Or more first-ier, anyway.  We know things these noobs don’t know.   (insert comment calculated to suck up to Michael Arrington).

I have nothing against Michael Arrington.  He’s great at what he does.  In fact, leave him out of this.  It’s the whole wink-wink say-no-more, you can’t be in my club thing that has sprung up lately.

Sidebar-With-A-Point: You know who got me into Twitter?  @micah (Micah Baldwin) and the late @mochant (Marc Orchant).  Two incredibly different men; two very different approaches.  About a year ago, at deFrag.   Marc started telling me excitedly about Twitter after Gnomedex; it was a “breakthrough” for him.  Micah laid out his arguments for Twitter completely differently.  But clearly, simply.  Not once did he say, “you’re too old,” or, “you’re too new.”

Both guys were amazing that way.  Brilliant, kind, open — natural teachers who had been at the social media game for a while.  They were and are symbolic to me of what makes the open web succeed: you give people the information, explain why it’s useful, and see how they connect with it.

Micah could have given me, you know, that half-smile that kids reserve for people over 40 when they see them dance, when they’re embarrassed for them.

But instead he was just straight-up.  “No, Twitter’s really cool.  You should do it.  Here’s the value for me:….”   He laid it out, and he made sense.    I was on Twitter that afternoon.

Yeah, several months after he and others were on it.

Maybe it’s the economic downturn — in a recession, some people want to make just that much more sure that someone knows that we know what we’re doing and knew it FIRST before those  new people came in and started LIKING social media and trying to USE IT and making it all, you know, social and useful.

And yes, the blog post had a point — because there’s money to be made in brandishing phrases like “personal brand” and “social media consultant,”  it helps to have some insights.

But part of why I didn’t get on Twitter earlier was because of a guy who was in some ways the opposite of Micah and Marc.  A blogger/social media personality who trails little odorless puffs of hype behind him like the low-carbon Highlander Hybrid he started driving after he saw it on Project Runway.   He is smart, he gets ironically and mildly underexcited about everything, he blogs about everything, people love to say they know him, he claims to know everyone.

I suspected that for him Twitter was the solution to that old Eminem song:  “It feels so empty without me.”  That was how I saw it — microblogging a tech raven’s life as it flew from one shiny object to the next.  So since he was excited about Twitter two years ago, I felt forced to hate it, even though he didn’t know and wouldn’t care.

I was wrong about Twitter.  I avoided this cool thing, just because he was annoying.  (But haven’t you done that?   Maybe it was a book, like The Tipping Point or Tuesdays with Morrie, that you avoided just because people flocked to it in droves and formed well, Facebook Groups about it.   Or a movie that could not have possibly lived up to the hype.  Or even Ron Paul, or Barack Obama.

But you give in –  read the book or see the movie, or listen to Barack Obama talk.  You  concede that though the hype is annoying — well, there’s something there.)

The whole social media self-referencing echo chamber is getting annoying.  But there’s still something there of value for people that are willing to walk past the posted insults of the  Socs, or the whispered taunts of the Mean Girls, and make their own way towards the amazing resources to be found.

My husband works only tangentially with the tech world.  He’s starting to find the value in Twitter as a tool for conversations with customers he didn’t know he had — just the way the Cluetrain Manifesto would want him to — and he wouldn’t know how to find the manifesto if it bit him in the …a**clown.

So please let’s stop the code words, do our jobs, follow our curiousity and trust that it will sort itself out, for the most part without having to act like Closed Web Snobs.

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Filed under Ethics, Tech and hype, Technology and PR, Web 2.0

Cancer, Social Media, and the Meaning of Small Things

On a crisp September day in 1995 — long before there was such a term as “Social Media” — I sat at my computer with my 28K modem, sobbing as quietly as I could, trying not to wake up my 3 month-old son. And I typed this question:

“I need to know how to help a young Mom with cancer. She’s only 30, she has three young daughters and not much time. Please, can anyone help me?”

In 1995 I had no MySpace, no TechCrunch, no Twitter; no Cluetrain Manifesto. @Scobleizer was probably just a mensch working at Microsoft. Bill Gates was a minor celebrity; people shook their heads about Apple’s tiny market share. AOL and Netscape were king, and when you loaded a website, you had to watch a blue bar while it loaded — long enough to grow a whole new hairstyle sometimes.

In short, I didn’t have the power tools we have today — the myriad complicated ways we celebrate of connecting to each other – our widgets, our followers, our networks.

What I had in 1995 was an amazing friend named Sabine with a buoyant smile, three young daughters… and terminal cancer.

What I also had in 1995 was access to AOL‘s chat rooms. Yep: chat rooms.

I had found the one that said, “AOLMoms.” I entered, waited for it to load, and typed my question.

I typed that question again and again as the chat scrolled down in front of me. And then suddenly:

“I can help. I am a Mom who has had cancer. I have survived it three times. What do you want to know?”

It felt like a miracle. Her screen name was MS_Tylee, and I’ve never forgotten her.

“Anything,” I typed back. “What would help?”

MS_Tylee asked me what stage cancer my friend had; told me about what kinds of foods would upset her stomach given the type of treatment she was getting; what kind of help would actually be helpful — laundry, little errands, child care and maybe meals on days around her chemo treatments.

I was so grateful. What she did was small for her — a few moments’ typing at her desk — but it was huge for me.

I printed off everything she said. Then I helped organize people who were glad to do anything they could. If you’ve ever dealt with cancer first- or second-hand, you know: you feel helpless. There’s this war going on at the cellular level, and you’re not really even allowed in the ring (even if you are the ring). So every day you figure out something you can do.

It turned out I’d need that knowledge: that same month, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. And then another friend — Dale, also a mother — a month later.

Sabine died the following June. She was one of the first people in my circle to have three kids; I learned so much from her about how to handle it. She was also one of the first people in my circle to have cancer, and I guess, to leave those children so young. As I grieved her, I just determined that I would take something from this loss; that I would help people the way that MS_Tylee had helped me.

I totally got it — long before there was Community Building software — about the Internet’s power to pluck just the right help, seemingly out of the air.

I also got that small gestures — things that don’t take much time or money — can make a humongous difference to a person who needs them. Offering to fold laundry or cook a meal. Or just taking a moment to call, even when you’re scared of what you might hear.

I learned to do what I could: sometimes it would be a lot, other times it would be small.

But it would be something. Because with cancer — or AIDS, or a sudden death, or a disaster — there are, often, no mulligans. No road back if you regret your inaction.

It’s what you can live with, you’ll pardon the expression. Or not.

A few years later, a friend and children’s author was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer – with no health insurance. She fought hard, and eventually lost — but not before she and her family saw tremendous love and support, quite a bit from people they’d never met.

I bring this up because I have read and heard lately, several clarion calls – some, like Jeremy Pepper’s, really eloquent — for Social Media to quit its navel-gazing, its fascination with hearing itself talk, and actually do something besides vid-cast itself on Qik for a change.

See, it is pointed out, what you could do in the service of good — you with your thousands of followers; or you, who has made millions talking about the Web’s ability to connect. Or you — take a break from your videocast to shill for someone who needs help.

So true. But I’m not waiting for the Social Media stars or anyone else to make huge gestures – though it would be nice.

Instead we could do what the Web has always done best: a bunch of small gestures that people can live with.

The Web makes it easy for us to be outward, to have those moments when we shine outside of ourselves and afford someone else the benefit of grace — whether it’s of not feeling alone, or sending the equivalent of an overpriced cup of coffee via PayPal –because we can. Because both literally and figuratively, it adds up to more than it could possibly mean to us to put that actual cup of coffee in a cupholder and drive somewhere.

It’s your call. Maybe you click away from this page, shudder and never come back. Or maybe you click through to a link — read a story, send a good wish or small contribution, or put someone’s story up on your blog.

Or maybe you do nothing to help the people here, but instead take a minute to call someone who would just appreciate being remembered.

That’s all I’m sayin’. Just find the courage. Or the compassion. But it doesn’t have to be huge.

For me, I do this for Sabine. For my mother. For MS_Tylee. For all the many people we have lost to cancer and other illnesses, and for those who are still fighting. For Marc Orchant. For my friend Steve Koloskus (and believe me, he is a whole ‘nother story, and merits his own post sometime). For anyone who’s ever shown me kindness when they didn’t have to, through the Internet or otherwise.

Everyone has someone whom they know, in whose memory they are their best selves — cancer or no cancer.

And I will create a separate page to link to people who are waging these battles. You can decide whether to help. I’m starting with Lisa and Tricia.  And, though it’s not about cancer — eMOM.

The Internet was about connection long before it was about Friends lists. Or maybe I should say it was about Friends before it was about lists.

But either way, it was always about 1s and 0s adding up to something much bigger.

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Filed under Media Relations, Tech and hype, Uncategorized, Web 2.0