As I've mentioned, I am going to be doing a series of talks to PR and marketing executives as well as government communications officers in Ottawa and Toronto at the end of this month as the guest of Joe Thornley.
I'm going to ask PR people who seem to me to have made the transition from strictly traditional to social media, to give some advice that my audiences may find useful. David Parmet was among the first who came to mind.
If you think you have something to add to this conversation, please join in--or email me here.
1. David, for the benefit of our studio audience can you give us a little professional background on yourself.
After casting about for a career I discovered a talent for media relations while working on NY Mayor David Dinkins's re-election campaign in 1993. Since then I've worked in the public and private sector - mainly in agencies and mainly for technology clients.
Completely apart from this - I've been on the Internet since the days of BBSs and dial up with 300 baud modems. My wife and I were members of Mindvox - one of the first ISPs and Internet communities in New York in the early 1990s. I've had an email address since 1993 and been blogging since about the turn of the century. But it wasn't until a few years ago that the convergence between social media and marketing became apparent to me.
2. Who do you currently represent?
A handful of small start-ups with a focus on social media. Currently, I'm working with Coco Myles, BackBeat Media and BlogTalkRadio. I'm also doing some work with a firm involved in book and author promotions to bring them into the social media world. I also consult with agencies on specific projects and provide general advice on developing social media programs for their clients.
3. How do you get new business?
A combination of word-of-mouth, my blog and aggressive networking.
4. Your blog got you the legendary EnglishCut account. Can you briefly tell the story of what happened and what you did for them?
Hugh MacLeod and I know each other through our respective blogs. Hugh was working with Thomas Mahon, a bespoke tailor who began blogging about the culture and history of Savile Row in early 2005. Hugh suggested I could take advantage of Thomas's blog and see if any of the NY area fashion and style press would be interested in speaking with him.
We got hits for the blog in Boing Boing and Fast Company as well as an interview on the BusinessWeek blog. What was even more interesting was coverage in places like the NY Times Style Magazine and Men's Health that had nothing at all to do with the blog - but the fact that a Savile Row tailor was so open and willing to talk about his business made Thomas a natural source for these publications. The Men's Health article was very interesting - the writer was doing a piece on 'how to spot a cheap suit and since Thomas was unavailable at the time to talk, quotes were pulled out of the blog and run in the final piece.
5. Exactly what happened to make you give up on traditional agencies?
I faced a combination of not being able to work with the kind of clients I wanted to and not being able to develop and execute social media plans for any clients. Unfortunately, these sort of clients and programs can't work in agencies since they don't pay very well - the companies are too small and the programs too ill-defined (at least in ways traditional PR would define and invoice them).
When I jumped, in February 2005 I had a fairly well-read blog about my family life and I was very interested in blogging about PR and ways PR and social media could work together. However I was working with an agency that viewed blogging as no more than a fad. So after a heart to heart with my wife, a gut check and a long argument with my boss - I took the plunge. I've never looked back.
In retrospect, leaving agency life was the best thing for my career.
6. If you ran a traditional PR agency, what would you do to adjust
course because of blogging and social media?
I would encourage everyone in the agency to blog, podcast, whatever..
about anything at all that occurred to them. By immersing everyone in the agency into social media it will become a natural way of doing business, not something they add on at the end of the program.
I would also make sure that social media is integrated into every plan - and not viewed as a separate practice. I would also reward employees for social media hits as they would be rewarded for mainstream hits.
7. What should traditional marketers do to adjust course?
Understand that social media is not something some strange tribe of kids or hipsters is doing but that it's now something so common to so many people that it's no longer 'new' or different. Many people go to Google before going to the Yellow Pages. In a few years that will be most people.
Traditional marketing is not going to just go away, but it's now part of a larger field. There are more options open to marketers than ever before, so look at this as an opportunity and not a threat.
8. Do you see a future for traditional PR and marketing folk who continue to practice PR as they always have?
Yes. There will always be a market for traditional big-brand PR as practiced by the big agencies. Fortune 500 companies with big ad and PR budgets aren't going away.
I would however see a great deal of money coming from those Fortune 500 companies now spent on social media campaigns in addition to traditional marketing. If the big agencies are smart, they will see this as an opportunity and develop plans to incorporate social media into what they do - otherwise folks like you and I are going to get very rich.
9. What's your perception of how blogging impacts media relations?
As I mentioned, I will be Joe Thornley's guest at the end of this month in a series of presentations to PR, marketing and government communications officers. I'm asking a few of the PR practitioners I think have done a superior job of integrating social media with PR.
David Parmet was among the very first to come to mind and I will use some of what he has to say in my talks. If you think you can add to this conversation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are now so intertwined that to see them as separate or different is missing the point entirely. If you are in tech PR how would you define Mike Arrington, Charlene Li or Om Malik? If you are pitching celebrity news, would you put Gawker or Jossip on the 'b' list because they are just blogs? (FYI, I know agency folks who do exactly this.. but I digress)
For smart PR people, this just means many more targets to pitch our clients. For the rest it means a lot of missed opportunities to get their clients some ink.