28 February 2009

Royal Families play on YouTube

I was surprised to read that a few days ago, the news of Swedish crown princess Victoria's engagement to entrepreneur Daniel Westling was broadcast over YouTube by the Royal Family.

I've already blogged about the Obama campaign's level of sophistication with social media tools and our ability to watch Obama's weekly address on YouTube, but after reading about the Swedish Royal Family, I decided to take a look at the Brits. Sure enough, they have their own YouTube channel, The Royal Channel.

The channel has 26,409 subscribers today and more than two million views. It was started in October 2007. Talk about being ahead of the game! The British monarchy has long been the center of gossip and tabloids in the UK, but to actually launch their own channel is really quite open and progressive. You can check out royal visits to various schools, interviews with different royal family members and historic looks at the nation's treasures.

By contrast, the White House YouTube channel seems to verge on a new form of propaganda as it's almost 100% focused on matters of state, with a presidential spin. It's drier. For example, I was surprised this week's Stevie Wonder concert at the White House wasn't available through the White House channel. I guess the fundamental difference in public image as conveyed "officially" through YouTube might hinge on the fact that the British Royal Family is more often the subject of celebrity gossip rather than governance.

In a recent interview, Macon Phillips, the White House's new media director and the man behind WhiteHouse.gov, admitted he has spent more time managing the daily flow of news from the White House during a challenging economic environment than considering the big picture of how to build the administration's new media message since Obama's inauguration on January 20.

Still, the Obama administration's emphasis on interactivity and transparency is much more advanced than what we would have seen from the competition. Speaking of interactivity, here's this week's address from President Obama:

24 February 2009

How public relations helps steer opinion and the news

I'm one of those lucky young adults that still receives periodic care packages from her parents containing the latest mail still arriving at their house for me, a health tips newsletter (my Dad is a hospital chaplain, so he's very keyed in to these things), cookies or brownies, Trident chewing gum and newspaper clippings my Dad has read and saved for me.

The clippings usually fall into one of two categories: news about my high school or PR/Social Media/Marketing. (Dad sent me the article about Doritos and the Super Bowl, too.)

Yesterday's care package contained a clipping from last Monday's USA Today, "How public relations helps steer opinion and the news."

The article by Seth Brown also ran online – it's introducing a new book by PR industry veterans, Trevor Morris and Simon Goldsworthy, who just published, PR: A Persuasive Industry? Spin, Public Relations and the Shaping of the Modern Media.

According to Seth Brown, the book calls PR amoral, a tool for good or evil purposes (I guess government propaganda might fall on the "evil" side). I like this quote from the article:

"A group that often derides PR professionals is journalists, who often see themselves as truth-seekers forced to deal with flacks in order to get information. Yet without the PR industry, Morris and Goldsworthy argue, there would be little news."

Yep, definitely run into that quite a bit... the love-hate relationship PR pro's face with journalists overwhelmed with emails, text messages, IM's, Twitter DM's, phone calls, Facebook pokes and more.

I haven't read the book, which has been called an "intelligent guidebook" to PR, rather than a textbook, but I'll definitely add it to my reading list.

What I find interesting is the insight Morris and Goldsworthy have provided with regards to how PR actually affects news cycles. For example, they cite a study which found that more than half of the stories in an edition of The Wall Street Journal were based on press releases. They also argue that PR is essential for a free press to function. Interesting, huh?

And, last but not least, one more thought to digest for anyone working in public relations, interested in good PR or looking for PR services:

"Perhaps the most alluring thing about being a PR consultant is that no formal training is required: no certification, no universally acknowledged test, no courses offered at many prestigious universities (although some colleges offer PR studies). Essentially, there are no barriers to entry... PR [is] 'a wholly legitimate aid to the exchange of information and ideas in society.'"

Of course, they are clearly biased, but so am I. As a Stanford graduate holding a degree in History, Literature and the Arts, I appreciate the recognition that PR is less about the trade and more about strategy and the ability to create an interesting, relevant and timely story that is newsworthy, informative and supportive of real business goals for the client company.

If you're short on time or money and can't get to the book, at least read the article in USA Today. Thanks again for the great find, Dad!

19 February 2009

SEO and PR – A Happy Marriage?

I attended a free webinar, "SEO + Public Relations = Your Secret Marketing Weapon in 2009," put on by the team at Webmarketing123.com yesterday hoping to find the proof in the pudding that SEO and PR should by joined at the hip.

I have to say, I'm still not convinced.

CEO, Paul Taylor, did a great job of walking us through the benefits of SEO-izing your PR and marketing collateral and results, but I've had experiences where that just doesn't work.

Example 1: Optimizing a press release for SEO and PR

I've tried this two ways:

1) Write a release, then look at a list of key words to insert.

2) Look at the key words, then write a press release with them in mind (try to use each 1-4 times and space them out).

The latter worked better for me, but if you're supposed to insert your URL and keywords ~3 times each for near optimal SEO, it gets rough and the news starts to sound like giberrish. If the release then needs to go through legal approval and potentially partner or customer approval, you're in trouble.

That's only one example, but I do think there's more beyond just blending SEO with PR and, voilĂ , you're on page one of wherever you want to be. The challenge often seems to be a classic case of having too many cooks in the kitchen. You've got the remote teams, such as the PR firm, the SEO firm, potentially the SEM consultant, and then all of the internal constituents, such as the corporate marketing/advertising team, sales, product marketing, etc., and each is focused on maximizing content value for his or her benefit.

BusinessWeek ran an insightful article by B.L. Ochman this morning, "Debunking Six Social Media Myths." Though I appreciated every myth debunked, I feel her pain with Myth #4: You can do it all in-house.

With regards to effective and viral social media campaigns, she writes:

"It is rare indeed to find an in-house team that can not only conceive and execute a social media campaign but also drive traffic to it with effective e-mail segmentation, search optimization, blogger outreach, blog advertising, Google ads, and more."

I do believe things like SEO and PR should work together – of course it's good to have a well-oiled machine running on all cylinders – but I don't think it's as easy as simply "working together." Further, given that both PR and SEO are often outsourced strategic services, is it reasonable to expect both sides to come together without the forcing factor of the client company embarking on a holistic marcomm campaign which takes months of pre-planning and coordination? That's hard to come by when you're working with startups, particularly high tech startups.

I remain optimistic, however, that there are definitely lessons both PR and SEO can learn from each other. Throw social media in there, and you've got a party!

I'd appreciate any wisdom out there about the evolution of these siloed services and think I will continue to attend free webinars on the topic to at least keep me engaged in thinking about the right combo of SEO + PR.

18 February 2009

Doritos top Super Bowl ad meter, VCAMs you can bank

Who says you can't have 15 seconds of fame and a million dollars? For Dave and Joe Herbert, two amateur film makers from Batesville, Indiana, a bag of chips and a snow globe was all they needed to gain prime time coverage during this year's Super Bowl. Well, almost.

The Super Bowl is notorious for mega half-time shows and tier one commercials which live online long after the game is over.

This year, Frito-Lay invited amateur Doritos junkies to "Crash the Super Bowl" by submitting their own ads, with the winner featured during the Super Bowl commercial breaks. The contest ran online January 5-24, with a grand prize of $1,000,000. By voting, you were entered to win tickets to the Super Bowl.

This isn't the first community-driven online ad contest, and it won't be the last. While the Herbert brothers' ad was rated best Super Bowl commercial by USA Today's Ad Meter real-time consumer rating, the buck doesn't stop there.

For example, Current TV features up-to-date contest listings for VCAMs - Viewer-Created Ad Messages. Past contests included HP, L'Oreal, Nikon, and there are still 23 days left to enter T-Mobile's G1 ad contest.

Of course, don't think that good old fashioned marketing and PR aren't involved here. The PR and marketing that goes into publicizing these contests and getting communities excited about the payoff (filming, fame and fortune) only add to the hype around your product, service or brand. Smart, huh?

It's the age of DIY commercials and the economy is bad, so get your camcorder, get creative and go.