Resurrecting the Press Release?

16 09 2011

3 years ago I proclaimed to a public relations class that the press release could see its virtual end in a few years, thanks to Twitter. My proof? This post from journalist Tom Foremski, and the fact that Twitter accomplishes better what the Press Release is designed to do: Get the news out quickly and concisely. Now, don’t get me wrong, getting your story to the local, regional, national and even global press will never vanish. Press agentry is a live and well. But the press release as we know it? Dead. Dead because journalists need more. Dead because social media users are changing the media game.

And then Google did this:

The tweet linked to a Google press release entitled: “Google Just Got Zagat Rated” (which you can find here). The press release is anything but traditional. Sure, it features the usual wasted-space quotes proclaiming that the company A (Google) is “excited,” “pleased,” or “hopeful” about the merger with company B (Zagat) (you know, the stating-the-obvious quotes that have no news value whatsoever). But there are a few “innovations” to this revived press release:

It Spreads the Voice Around. This press release isn’t only bylined, it’s relevantly bylined. I asked my students in my digital PR and Ad class at the Univ. of Houston last week why the VP of Local, Maps and Location Services bylined this press release. That is, why not one of the dynamic duo (Larry Page or Sergey Brin). The answer I was looking for (and which they caught on to in seconds…my students are brilliant, and yes I’m biased) was: Strategic Relevance. Zagat, the foodie ratings company, matters much more to mapping services than, say, Adsense, Blogger, or Google+. It’s quite simple actually: It makes even more sense NOW to use google maps than any other mapping service because before you get directions, you get help making the decision whether to make the trip in the first place.

The Dynamic Duo “Holy Schmidt Batman, Eric’s Gone!”

It’s written with the Audience in Mind: Foodies. The intro has “Foodie” written all over it. Local-Diamond-in-the-Stripmall-Rough restaurant reference? Check. Food rating? Check. Word-of-Mouth-Credibility? Check. Personal story? Check. Yep, it’s all there…at least in what, for all intents and purposes, would be considered the lead. Mayer even adds her own vote of confidence for the 27 point food rating of the unrelated restaurant mentioned in the lead.

It’s Quirky.  Much has been made about the quirkiness of Social Media. As of yet, no one has actually defined what it means to be quirky, but I would imagine it would include synonyms like ironic, weird bordering on uncomfortable, but funny in a strange, you’ve-got-to-be-there sort of way. By these definitions, this post is quirky because Mayer slobbers all over the press release, gushing about Zagat and the new acquisition in a “should we give you two some time alone” sort of way. It looks like professional writing watered down to be conversational, and for most media outlets (i.e. Wall Street Journal), it probably doesn’t work. Online? Fine by me.

What it doesn’t have is the usual stuffy, high-minded verbiage about company profits, projected revenue, and the other technical mumbo-jumbo that the everyday reader, not to mention the Foodie, would probably gloss over anyway. Unfortunately, that means it’s also a little bland on investor-relevant information and almost devoid of any quotables for a reporter. But then again, a “press release” this isn’t. A “social press release”–Maybe. One friend excitedly sharing news with another–definitely. A press release as we know it? Probably not. And yet, this new incarnation could spark the revival of Press Release Writing.

Editors Note: Probably one of the most odd concoction of searches and websites to put this post together, including: “Holy Batman Phrases” and this site, “Social Media is Quirky,” “Google Head Honchos,” “How to Haiku” (at first glance, I was dubious Mayer’s Tweet was a real haiku…had to be certain), and “Die Press Release Die!”


The New Case for Publicity Stunts

19 05 2010

I think many of us have been conditioned to believe that publicity stunts are cheap parlor tricks, something superficial meant to get a surface-level response that fails to build a true mutually beneficial relationship with an organization’s stakeholders. Publicity stunts may get a bad rep because they’re a hallmark of the dreaded Press Agentry model of public relations (in which the media is used to unfairly push an organization’s agenda on the public).

And while this may be true–planning an event just to get media coverage and the consequential attention it garners is a superficial strategy–new media opens up a new realm of value for publicity-engendering activities. Take this reenactment of Ghostbusters at the New York Public Library.

This charade has publicity stunt all over it…but it arguably has more sincerity and true entertainment value than traditional publicity stunts. New media technology has created a new, original venue for entertainment. The diverse array of entertainment opportunities has created not only more opportunities for attention, but arguably more opportunities for org-public relationship-building. A “stunt” like this stands to build an emotional connection between the public and the NYPL, through a recognition of the library’s significance in cinema. In this way, the NYPL and publics who watch (or experience first hand) this reenactment share a connection built around entertainment, further engendering a relational connection.

New media’s influence on public relations, and in this case, it’s opportunities it provides for building relationships around entertainment, should be welcomed, rather than written off as cheap parlor tricks.

Now, for a follow-up, I’d like to see the Library employ symmetrical book stacking “Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947″…because no human being would stack books like this.

Integrating Communication: Engaging Your Audience

6 10 2009

Too many people think that integrated marketing communications (IMC) is only about making all your messages match. At its most basic, some see IMC as branding: using the same logo, colors, and tagline in every communication piece. But in reality, IMC has little to do with making everything look the same, at least for successful IMC. No, IMC is about engaging individuals and groups across your stakeholder spectrum, through synergy and appealing to their hearts and minds.

For Example: Queensland, Australia’s “Best Job in the World” Campaign:

This campaign embodies IMC. It’s about building relationships and engaging stakeholders, through an innovative message that is carried and translated across multiple media channels.

oh…and in case you want to know which video application won?


A successful IMC campaign should have continuity, and a sense of permanence to it. Of course, this was fully built into the Queensland campaign:

The NBA: It’s PR-Tastic!

5 03 2009

you’ve got to love the NBA. With each new season, David Stern seems to out-do himself in reaching out to the broadening and emerging publics that support (or could support) the NBA.  In a stunning new move, the NBA introduced Noche Latina or an appreciation night for all things Latino.

In response, several teams donned jerseys in Spanish…well almost (including my Lakers):ept_sports_nba_experts-256693482-1236181230Nice move by an organization that recognizes its rapidly expanding public-base. But, I would have liked to see them take it a step further. Adding a “los” to the team name doesn’t exactly equate spanish translation. I say: don’t hold back NBA, let’s translate the names completely:

Los del Lago (the Lakers)

Los Sol (the Suns)

Los Caliente (the Heat)

Los Cohetes (the Rockets): which is an interesting case in and of itself, as the Rockets added a Chinese flair to their jersey and logo as soon as they drafted Yao Ming several years ago…so, I guess you could call them the first Chinese-Hispanic fusion team!


Forget the jersey, let’s talk about a FedEx Holiday

17 02 2009

As you probably know, I love highlighting unique cases of public relations where public interest and opinion clash with corporate agenda.

I found one such example browsing sports news this morning. In an unprecedented display of love for a Fortune 500 company, Memphis opted out of flying the corporate colors of FedEx on a special FedEx appreciation night. Apparently, the jersey (pictured below), would cause a local and national enrage about capitalism gone awry…

Well, I say, what’s worse? Displaying the corporate colors or dedicating an night to “appreciate FedEx”? I mean, isn’t it bad enough that FedEx has now become a verb for sending package (even when we plan on sending it via UPS)? Why aren’t we talking about turning a non-commercial basketball exhibition into a corporate-endorsed activity? Euro jerseys don corporate emblems, and NASCAR drivers are ad incarnates for their sponsors. I guess if you consider this is an NCAA-no-corporate-endorsements-allowed event, then you can say otherwise…

But at issue here, says I, is why aren’t we questioning FedEx Appreciation night? Maybe it’s a matter of diverting attention with this about-face on using the corporate colors on the jersey. You may disagree with me, but backing off on using the corporate colors sure looks like they’re diverting attention, and it seems like the type of stuff that gets PR practitioners derided rather than praised…

Ogilvy Blog: Social Media and PR

11 11 2008

John Stauffer interviewed me for Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence blog at the Grunig Lecture a week or so ago. Here’s the interview he posted on the blog:

I enjoyed the conference and the chance to hear from John, who discussed public relations and social media, and offered some interesting insight on measurement and evaluation. Frankly, I think these are the kinds of discussions we need to be having–practitioners and academics need to work together to navigate PR’s relevance in social media, and create innovative ways to use the medium to help organizations build relationships with a public base that is evermore technologically savvy and has more access to interact with organizations on a personal level.

The First Annual Grunig Lecture

4 11 2008

I had the supreme opportunity to attend the Univ. of MD’s first annual Grunig Lecture this past Thursday. This inaugural event in what is to be an ongoing series at UMD was appropriately themed around the timely-issue of public relations and social media.

A few tidbits I found particularly interesting:

  • First, a little shameless self-promotion. Following the introductory hour and half of round-table discussions, a few of my students approached me all agast because what I had been saying for the last few months (that the future of PR is social media, and their success in the field will depend greatly on how well they can manage that space) was right on target. What can I say? It’s nice to be validated in your opinion, even if it takes someone else (or even two or three someone elses) to prove it to your students.
  • I enjoyed an hour long round-table discussion from Ogilvy’s Online Strategy guru John Stauffer.  I found it particularly interesting how focused Ogilvy is on bringing clients into the online space using digital points and metrics as evaluation. I think we’re seeing an unprecedented era in public relations in which practice is led by measurement. And this is most likely because it CAN be.  More interesting than how beneficial social media is for enhancing public relations’ reach and relationship-building with publics is the conversation around just how much easier social media makes it to evaluate public relations.  And I think that web visits, page ranks, and unique views are just the tip of the Iceberg here.
  • On a side note: I was honored to be interviewed by John for the Ogilvy blog, and trusting that my answers to his questions were somewhat intelligible, I’ll be posting a link to the blog once it’s up.
  • Richard Edelman, the CEO of the agency that bears his name, was the keynote speaker. His remarks were engaging, as he sought to show how social media is redefining PR’s role in the organization. He introduced a public engagement model of public relations which I’ll discuss a little more extensively in an upcoming post.  He also made a bold declaration, saying that the future of public relations will be played out on SMS and mobile technology, more than it will be played out on blogs, Facebook, and other social media resources. I have to say that I had never considered that, but it makes perfect sense. If the drive for information is driven by immediacy, I can’t imagine any more immediate tool than an Apple 3G.