Facebook Unfriends News, and it’s a Shame

I had to smile when I read that Facebook’s reducing news content in the newsfeed. Mark Zuckerberg wrote on their blog “our time is better spent bringing people closer together… public content… is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

In other words, pardon the interruption as we’ve tried to crack this news nut.  NVM, JK. You can now go back to your selfies and vacation pics.

I don’t think it is the final word.  If anything is constant with the feed it is constant change; and the flood of buzz, news and speculation that follow every tick (indeed, there were two more news-related announcements since).

But it is a good time to take stock; as Facebook has come full circle in less than two years; from when they were accused of liberal newsfeed bias in May 2016 to their machinations to make news safe, to Facebook’s “no mas” moment a couple of weeks ago.

Frankly, I’m exhausted as they took us on a wild ride.  Just recall the headlines:

Look, I get it, Facebook is a business.  They can do what they want. And I know that this news stuff is hard. How can you possibly select stories that are proven to be true and free of bias? It gets to thorny questions about news – how to even define what it is, vs. opinion, hype, trivial info and outright B.S.  Many others are struggling with the challenge, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight.

But I think it is sad as their move implies that news is not so important or worth pursuing.

When you are a destination where 2B people around the world spend time and get info, it’s an awesome responsibility.  My advice to Facebook is that moving fast and breaking things just may not be the best way. Slow down. Take a few breaths. Don’t take away news or stop trying to tame it because it is hard.

And to brands and publishers who get freaked out by every newsfeed tweak:  you need to spread your bets and develop other sources of traffic (see Josh Constine’s piece in TechCrunch).  Build your own audience.  Craft content and write news that appeal to people, not algorithms.

Posted in In the News, Public Relations, Social Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

ICOs, the new Press Release for a Blockchain World

Crowdfunding burst onto the scene years ago giving startups a way to not only raise money but also build buzz. I wrote that platforms like Kickstarter were the new tech PR press release.

Now another form of crowdfunding is rising to prominence. ICOs (initial coin offering) tap into the excitement surrounding bitcoin and blockchain technology.  They make it possible to raise funds by minting a new digital currency while bringing your launch story to a wide audience.

it is hard to understand the significance of ICOs without a little context.  Buzz about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has gone mainstream.  Most of the focus has been on gyrating, mostly climbing valuations.  Many are also excited about the potential of bitcoin to rock the world of money – and blockchain technology to revolutionize how we store and share information.

There are plenty of great articles that tell you why – I won’t take up too much space here.  Suffice it to say that blockchain evokes the excitement of early days of the Internet.  It combines a so-called trust protocol and distributed ledger that can solve privacy, security, and inclusion issues.  Some think that it can deliver on the failed promises of the Internet, put people back in control of their own information, and give them a way to directlty connect and conduct business.

So blockchain is disruptive tech. And ICOs are a disruptive form of fundraising – you don’t need VCs or Wall Street to raise money. If you have any doubt about the importance of ICOs, the numbers tell a dramatic story – Bitcoin News reported that money raised through ICOs eclipsed $1B in a single month in December 2017.

Maxiziming ICO Results

One of the cornerstones of an ICO is the white paper, a document that describes in detail the token offering – and explains why investors (or “participants,” in crypto parlance) should care. What will the business actually do, and why would someone want to hold a new digital currency tied to it?

It’s important to make sure all this is sound. You may not need investment bankers or an army of attorneys – but you do need to comply with regulations, which can seem to be a moving target. Participants need to be careful to avoid scams, in their rush to get in on the action.

The Right Communications and Technology Stuff

The ICO is fertile ground for buzz creation, and a great platform to launch a blockchain or crypto-currency related startup – and we’ve seen many variants, spanning film making, casino junkets, philanthropy, finance and general enterprise tech.

But just like a traditional press release or even a Kickstarter campaign, it needs to be done right. A boring press release blasted out to the masses (”sending and praying”), an ill-conceived Kickstarter campaign, and an ICO without the right communications or tech foundation won’t accomplish much.

How do you build early interest among participants in a presale?  Or bring the story to a wider audience, and build brand over the long term? How can you get some attention for your ICO and navigate tough interview questions about scams and bubbles?

It’s a noisy world and a never-ending battle for the consumer’s attention. ICOs and blockchain are new and can be tricky things to explain.  People are trying their best to understand what it all means – and where to put their time and money.

We are launching TokenBoost today to help ICOs launch and succeed.  Here is the official announcement. Check out this link to learn more about how we can help.

Posted in Agency news, Tech PR, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech has an image problem. How do we fix it?

I am a PR guy. I build brands and polish images. My industry is technology. It is not my client (well, companies within tech are).  But if it were, I’d say there’s a problem. Namely I am getting tired of all the articles slamming the tech industry, and painting it with the same brush.

Here are some recent headlines, and excerpts: 

  • NY Times: How Evil Is Tech? “Not long ago, tech was the coolest industry. Everybody wanted to work at Google, Facebook and Apple. But over the past year the mood has shifted. Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.”
  • The Guardian: Silicon Valley has been humbled. But its schemes are as dangerous as ever: “An industry once hailed for fuelling the Arab spring is today repeatedly accused of abetting Islamic State. An industry that prides itself on diversity and tolerance is now regularly in the news for cases of sexual harassment as well as the controversial views … An industry that built its reputation on offering us free things and services is now regularly assailed for making things .. more expensive. The Silicon Valley backlash is on.”
  • Wired: The other Tech Bubble: “Will anyone ever write another positive story about a tech startup? We’ve been burned…. The many hype-building stories about deceptive companies haven’t aged well… The issue is bigger than any single scandal.”
  • NY Times: Tech Giants, Once Seen as Saviors, Are Now Viewed as Threats: “Now tech companies are under fire for creating problems instead of solving them. Tech companies have accrued a tremendous amount of power and influence. Their amount of concentrated authority resembles the divine right of kings, and is sparking a backlash that is still gathering force.”

I am not objecting to the reporting of facts, as presented.  And yes; the media are there to keep other institutions in check; I would never challenge their right to do so.  Further, I don’t want to minimize some of the very real problems emanating from the tech world.

All that said, I find the info in many of these stories to be caricatures and generalizations of the industry that I know, having worked with 100s of tech companies, many of the them startups.

Who is to Blame?

There is plenty of blame to go around regarding the role of tech in our lives; and the state of the tech industry.  But my issue is with some of the coverage – and the resulting image issues.  So, let’s go down the list – a long one – because our relationship with tech is complex and did not happen overnight.

  • Do we blame the tech companies? They should be called out for bad behavior; and when their solutions cause problems.  But let’s keep things in perspective.  Don’t assume they’re all evil, or have ill intent – e.g. Facebook did not set out to create a Russian disinformation machine.  Yes, they want to move fast and break things.  This can sound arrogant and lead to unintended consequences.  They have no choice but to address the issues, so people keep coming back.
  • Do we blame journalists who focus on the outsize stories and egos (stoking unicorn valuations), and who conflate Silicon Valley and Big Tech with the rest of the industry?(I guess that is the point of this article. If they’re so sour on tech, perhaps the writers of these stories should unplug and live off the grid).
  • Do we blame the PRs and marketers that promote tech? Sure, if we are peddling hype and misinformation that adds to media cynisism.
  • Do we blame businesses that eat up technology to improve operations and for competitive advantage?
  • Do we blame society at large – and our love for shiny new toys, tech gadgets, and fascination with entrepreneurialism? (Bingo! We have met the enemy, and he is us).

In summary, I just ask for balance in reporting, and that you not kick tech or the industry to the curb.   Tech continues to be an important engine for our economy, and our innovation is key to U.S. global competitiveness  It enriches our lives in so many ways.  We need to improve it, and reign it in when needed.  But not walk away or shame.

Posted in Public Relations, Tech, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lin Pophal on the Evolving Role and Field of PR

I’ve known Lin Pophal for years through her work as a writer for eContent, HR Executive, and others; have pitched her client stories and my own thought leadership topics (I’m in her eContent story on content curation tools).

Earlier this year, Lin posted a Profnet about the changing world of PR. Readers here know that it’s a pet topic of mine, and I eagerly replied. Then, I forgot about it, until she emailed recently that my commentary was included in her new book: 21st Century Secrets to Effective PR.

I was, of course, thrilled to be in it and eager to read Lin Pophal’s book. I wanted to get Lin’s take on the topic, and also was curious about her PR background, since as I said, I first got to know her in her journalist role.

I found it to be a great read, with helpful insights about where the field is now, where it is going, and a wealth of actionable tips for maximizing results. I also learned about Lin’s agency work at Strategic Communications; and that she teaches, and has written quite a few books on PR and marketing.

I asked Lin if she’d answer a few questions, and she agreed; read on for the Q and A:

Journalists have called PR the Dark Side, now quite a few wear both hats.  Is this a sign of the future of PR (and journalism)?

I definitely think that it is. Much of this may be because of the shifts taking place in journalism these days–traditional media outlets struggling to remain viable resulting in many journalists finding themselves needing to pursue different types of work; the rise of the “citizen journalist” where just about anybody can hang out a shingle and be a “writer;” the blurring of the lines between PR and marketing, news and advertising. In smaller markets, like where I live, there has long been a tendency for media professionals to seek corporate roles when they become available. When I was director of corporate communications at a local healthcare organization, I would regularly receive a number of resumes from reporters whenever PR jobs opened up.

Is there the potential for conflict?

Yes. It’s interesting to me that the digital world is still very different than the traditional when it comes to revealing what is “advertising” and what is “news.” Run an ad in a newspaper and it needs to be labeled as an ad. Include a link in an online news piece, though, or pay an influencer to promote your brand in their blog post and it gets a bit murkier. I think the regulations that are emerging are good but more needs to be done to distinguish native advertising from news. The focus on “fake news,” I believe, will definitely aid this process and may result in the pendulum swinging back to reward professional journalists, with a clear distinction between them and anyone with a Twitter feed.

I think there’s also the potential for confusion and the proliferation of, if not “fake,” just misleading information. Forbes “contributors” and other similar sources of information are a good example and I’ve straddled the line with this for some time. With my “journalist” hat on I find the proliferation of these types of sources to be troubling and misleading–they appear to the casual observer to represent well-reported and edited pieces appearing in reputable media outlets. Yet they’re really simply PR pieces. I definitely cautioned students in my university classes against using these types of sources as credible references in their papers/projects. With my PR hat on, though, I’ve helped clients land these types of opportunities.

Is it interesting to get pitches?

It is very interesting to get pitches and I’ve learned a lot from those that cross my desk–both what to do and what not to do. So I think I’ve become much better at pitching myself and my clients and getting coverage. Reviewing HARO and ProfNet pitches also helps me to stay up-to-date on trends and topics that I might not otherwise have been exposed to. Many times an item I see will prompt me to do additional research to learn about something I hadn’t heard of before.

What are your pet peeves regarding pitches?

I have a number of them, and have included them in the book, but I’d say my top ones are:

  • Responding to a query without giving a response – e.g. “I have a great source for you,” or “You really need to contact me.”
  • Following up over and over and over again if I don’t respond to a pitch. If I don’t respond, it’s because the pitch wasn’t a fit.
  • Agreeing to an interview and then becoming a no-show.

What are the three most important trends related to PR?

  • Video – I continue to read about the positive impact of video given today’s heavy use of smartphones and emergence of apps like Facebook Live; I think it’s likely that this will evolve into more interactive video – e.g. AR and VR
  • AI – I’ve read, and written about, AI and its potential for impact on the writing industry/content marketing – I think there is also potential for an impact on PR activities on both sides – e.g. the use of chatbots to engage reporters/editors, using predictive analytics to spot trends, or impending crises, etc.
  • More vigorous vetting of sources, again related back to “fake news” fears – I think it will become increasingly difficult for non-expert “experts” to get traction as reputable media outlets become much more rigorous in their screening of both sources and the information they provide

How are the skills and requirements for the fields changing?

There’s definitely more need for visual skills – photography, video and perhaps an emerging need to also understand AR, VR, 360 video, etc. There’s also a need for not only an understanding of the digital environment in terms of creating, posting and getting traction with online content but the need for analytical skills to help identify what works well and to use that information to continually improve the content being created. There is also a growing need for writers to have their own online following–that seems to be increasingly valued by media outlets who often ask me to “share the link on your social channels.”

The bottom line, though, I think (but of course I’m biased) is that strong writing will continue to be the most important skill for both journalists and PR professionals. And, in fact, I think the bar is being raised here. As more and more content is being created, and even though Google has clamped down on a lot of the “junk content” out there, content consumers will become increasingly discriminating. Media outlets competing for eyeballs will need to meet that demand for higher levels of quality. I think that as AI allows some of the administrative, rote types of activities to be automated, outlets will be able to focus on being more strategic, more discerning and more discriminating in terms of the content they produce–and its validity, accuracy and quality.



Posted in Books, In the News, PR, Public Relations, Reading Files | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How Stone Temple Kills it with B2B Marketing Videos

I first learned of Stone Temple and their great work in SEO and digital marketing through an acquaintance, and interviewed CEO Eric Enge for a post on Maximize Social Business awhile back.  Then, I met Mark Traphagen, who participated in my panel on branding and thought leadership at the Social Tools Summit in October (where he won a Social Guru award).

Through this collaboration I learned of Stone Temple’s very creative use of video. On the face of it, the idea of using video for B2B marketing in 2017 might not seem that groundbreaking. But how do you do this well and consistently if you are not already a huge company? How do you make the topic fun and interesting? It would not seem to have “next YouTube video stars” written all over.

But these guys clearly got it down, and consistently produce compelling segments (one example – they actually duplicated the deck and garb of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise in this one about Why Enterprise SEO is so Challenging).  The team also clearly have lots of fun doing this – and get great results too.

I had to learn more, and asked Mark if he’d entertain some questions for the blog.  He agreed; see the Q and A below.

How did you get the idea to use videos to promote Stone Temple?

By 2014 it was obvious that video was the rising star of content marketing. More people were showing a preference for video content, and we were hearing the first rumblings from major players like Facebook that they would be giving preferential treatment to video content. Plus we knew it was something we needed to develop firsthand expertise in because our clients would be asking for it. We decided to try something different from the typical “how to” marketing videos, so our Here’s Why series episodes all incorporate a quick skit (usually with zany costumes and props) that introduces and closes each video. We believe that adding an element of fun (especially making fun or ourselves) humanizes our topics, and our audience seems to love it!

How often do you post them?

We post a new Here’s Why video every Monday at this link and on our YouTube channel.

How long does it take to produce a video, from conception to final version?

I’m frightened to ty to calculate that! We are currently about three months ahead on episodes ready to publish. We film then in groups of 4 to 6 episodes at a time, so I’ll estimate the time investment per group: About 3-4 hours for ideation, 6-10 for script writing, 2-3 for filming (we have it down now so we can film an episode in under 30 minutes), an hour or two of post-production work by our videographer per video, and probably another 2 hours per video spent on promotion once they’re published. Please, nobody add all that up!

How many people are involved? Can you walk us through the process?

Four people, with occasional help from others, such as extras for some episodes. Eric Enge and I are the main performers/presenters, and I also write the scripts and handle social promotion. Kiki helps with acquiring props and costumes, prepping the scripts for the teleprompters, and creating the blog posts and YouTube uploads. Finally, our videographer Jon films each episode, does post-production editing and adds captions.

Each video starts with a script (we used to do them off-the-cuff, but found scripting made them tighter and better), usually prepared a couple of weeks before filming. Once the script is delivered, Kiki procures any costumes or props needed, and formats the script for our teleprompters (we use three now—one at the camera and one on each side of the “stage” so Eric and I can talk to each other more naturally). During the week each month that I’m up at our Massachusetts headquarters, we usually schedule 2-3 one hour sessions, and film two episodes in each session. Jon then edits and sends us a draft video for approval. Kiki sends this to a transcription service. Once a transcript of the video is received, Jon creates captions for the video. Kiki uploads the final video to YouTube and schedules it for publication. She also uses the transcript to create a post for our blog with the YouTube video embedded. When the video and blog post publish, I begin paid and organic social campaigns to promote them.

How do you come up with ideas?

Most of the Here’s Why videos are repurposed from other content we’ve already created, both for our own site and for guest posts elsewhere. Sometimes we can get three or four videos out of one piece of content, as the five minute videos can focus more on one aspect of the content. More and more I’m trying to come up with original ideas for the videos, but that’s a lot harder. For those, I usually try to pay attention to questions people ask online about digital marketing, and we also brainstorm with our senior consultants.

Do you have a topic calendar?

We do! Once I have titles and outlines for the next group of videos we’re going to shoot, Kiki adds them to a calendar for production and when they will publish.

What was your most popular video?

Our most popular video ever was not a Here’s Why video, but amazingly enough a very rough video we shot at the last moment to include in our first major study that went viral. It’s a summary of our test of how good Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri were at answering questions. It now has over 160,000 views and proves that you don’t need expensive production values if your topic is great!

Our most popular Here’s Why video is “Why Micromoment Content Will Increase Your Marketing Wins” with almost 20,000 views. We now have 25 videos with over 4000 views on YouTube, and over the past year all our videos averaged over 3000 views each.

How do you promote them?

We post the blog version of each episode to our social channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. We also typically do a paid boost on Facebook, and occasionally on Twitter. We also run paid campaigns on YouTube, and have found the increased watch time those paid campaigns give us has also increased our organic reach there. We also encourage fans to sign up to get an email notification of each new episode.

Is there a certain persona or funnel stage you target?

We consider these videos to be mostly top-of-funnel, brand-awareness builders. They are meant to build our reputation as helpful experts in our industry. While our primary target is digital marketing decision makers at larger companies, we’re happy that these videos have broad appeal to anyone trying to do better digital marketing, even small business people who will never become our customers. Their love for what we create tuns them into tremendous evangelists for us, and increases our social proof and organic authority that helps bring us in front of the people we really want to reach.

What impact have they had on your business and/or web or social footprints?

While it’s hard to measure with data because we typically have a long sales cycle (several months to years before closing a client), we know from a lot of anecdotal evidence that our videos have played a significant role in keeping Stone Temple top-of-mind along the customer journey. As our primary regular content, and because of how widely they are shared and viewed, they have had a significant impact in expanding our social following and reach. And we’re told all the time that in addition to being great educational resources, the humor and personality of these videos make us seem like people our prospects want to do business with.

Can you share anything about costs to produce these or ROI?

It’s not insignificant, but has come way down since we are mostly through with the fixed costs of building our studio, and we now have more streamlined processes to reduce the time investment per video. Since these videos are not aimed at a direct conversion, we don’t track ROI, but we do know the value of customers we’ve gained with the help of the videos far exceeds their cost.

Do you do any live video or native posting on various channels? Plans for this?

Because of the investment we’re already putting into these videos, we’ve only dabbled with live video recently. We did a lot more of it in the past when we used to produce two live Google Hangout shows a week. We do occasionally still do live shows, now using YouTube live, for special programs. A recent example was a panel we put together with several other top marketers for a live (and lively!) discussion of weird Google results we had observed. You can see the recording here.

Posted in Branding, Interviews, Marketing, PR Tech | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Too Left Tweet: Brands Get Political at their Peril


The term “coffee break” took on new meaning this week as right-wingers smashed their Keurigs with baseball bats (the above GIF shows Jordan Klepper of The Opposition doing the same, as a spoof).

The backlash came when Keurig and others tweeted about pulling ads from the Sean Hannity show, following his interview of the embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy S. Moore.   It seems that these brands wanted to vote with their ad dollars, and register disapproval of Moore and host Hannity – as most know by now, the candidate is the subject of some controversy.

Companies are learning the perils of wading into political waters – and that, yes, their social media musings do matter.  Many quickly retracted, going so far as to delete tweets and issue statements explaining their decisions, as reported in this NY Times piece by Sapna Maheshwari.  She writes: “…by Tuesday, those companies were clarifying — or even deleting — statements they had made on the platform… Those moves followed a backlash against Keurig that included fans of Mr. Hannity posting videos of themselves destroying the company’s coffee makers. ‘It’s pretty unusual to see companies like this handling an issue so poorly,’ said Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University… This idea that you can take back a tweet is pretty shocking,’ she said. ‘It’s remarkable that they clearly didn’t vet their social media posts internally and everyone wasn’t on board when they tweeted.'”

What are some takeaways for brand and PR execs?

  • First and foremost, they should be aware of the risks and rewards of taking a stand.  Stepped up corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs may encourage brands to get more active and vocal – yet a survey reported in PR Week reveals that most people don’t like it when brands get political.
  • Companies should have and enforce a social media policy – and make sure their public statements and communications teams are in sync with the corporate policy on the above (if this isn’t already blindingly obvious).
  • Finally, deleting tweets is kind of like trying to unring the bell, or issue a correction of a press release that’s already on the wire – it is a losing proposition, and often just draws more attention.


Posted in Branding, Campaign Analysis, Current Affairs, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of the Linguistic Kill Shot

I am writing a post that I hope will start a meme and crowd sourced effort to turn our president’s famous weapon on himself. It’s the “linguistic kill shot.”

Trump has perfected the art of name calling. He always seems to come up with the perfect words to neutralize opponents. They reduce people to cartoon labels, making them seem weak, ineffectual, liddle (as in Corker), or crooked (as in Hillary).

I thought of this while watching Dilbert creator Scott Adams on CNN. Host Michael Smerconish interviewed the cartoonist about his new book “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.”

(Update: The Smerconsih video is no longer available, so I replaced it with Jake Tapper’s interview of Scott Adams).

Adams (who is also a trained hypnotist and persuasion expert) predicted a Trump victory before others, back in August 2015. He said in the CNN interview: “[Trump] has the full arsenal of persuasion like I’ve never seen – probably the strongest ‘talent stack’.”

The host presented the following Trump tweet as one that Adams called a “persuasion gem:”

(Folks, I needed to hold my nose, grab forceps and go to Trump’s actual Twitter feed to get the embed code – I am not complaining, but just wanted you to know the dedication I have to this blog and my readers).

Here’s why (see the YouTube video for the full interview):

Adams said that to persuade you need to “move people’s attention and energy where you want it… and away from something you don’t want people to talk about. He has a technique of having just enough wrongness to grab your energy and put it where he wants it.”

Smerconish asked if Trump is vulnerable to a linguistic kill shot, and if so, what would it be? They kicked a couple of ideas around, but none seemed to work:

  • Dangerous Donald (he was elected to be dangerous and disrupt the status quo)
  • Cheetos Jesus (funny imagery but people love Cheetos and Jesus)

And we need a good one right now. Because nothing seems to stick to the Teflon Don (hey, maybe there’s one right there – but it’s been used before).

Let me suggest a few to get your creative juices floating; and I’d love to hear from readers and if you can share this on social and start a meme.

  • Duplicitous Don
  • Snake Oil Don
  • Huckster Trump
  • Lying Don
  • Don the Deceiver
  • Small hands (not catchy but gets under his skin, clearly)
Posted in Current Affairs, In the News, Politics, Public Relations | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Social Tools Summit Wrap

I enjoyed attending my third consecutive Social Tools Summit event in Boston last week, where I moderated a panel on branding and thought leadership.

It was great to take a day and get caught up on the state of the art in social media.  The field is constantly changing, and there’s never a shortage of new tech, challenges and opportunities.

The day featured panels on just about every aspect of the field.  Experts and practitioners from big and small companies, education, non-profits, etc., chimed in on case studies and best practices.  Social Tools may not be the biggest or splashiest event – but it fosters great dialog, networking and learning.

Branding and Thought Leadership

My panel covered areas ranging from video, to engaging people with live events and products, and influencer and content marketing.  You can see the curated tweets below.  Thanks to the panel for making it a great session: Jody Krasner Gladstein, Werner Kunz, Mark Traphagen, Martin Jones, and Victoria Desemone.  Two social “Trenders” presented opposing views and kept the rest of us honest: Rachael Cobb and Sonia Mahnot.


Conference co-organizer Neal Schaffer delivered a stellar keynote on the importance of alignment of social media with other objectives.  He also mentioned his forthcoming book, The Business of Influence, which I am excited about.  And it was great hearing from Damian Keyes, founder of DK Music Management, on the future of influencer marketing.


Here are the product awards:

  1. Best of Show: Talkwalker analytics (won Most Innovative last year)
  2. Most Innovative: Outgrow interactive content platform
  3. Highest ROI: Lithium social media management

Here are the people awards:

  1. Social Genius: Kate Hutchinson (congrats, Kate! Nice bump from Best Tweeter 2016)
  2. Social Hero: Rachael Cobb (making our panel proud!)
  3. Social Guru: Mark Traphagen (way to go, co-panelist!)

Social Tools

Half the fun of this event is learning about new solutions and the favored tools of attendees – I always take careful notes.  Here are some that were mentioned during the day, along with comments and descriptions (I was surprised not to see more vendors at this show as it is a great forum for hearing about what works, can be improved and feature wish lists):

Posted in Events, PR Tech, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

See You at Social Tools Summit Next Week

I am very much looking forward to Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools17) in Boston next Wednesday, where I will be moderating a panel on branding and thought leadership.

It is the third time I am participating, and am thrilled that Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony invited me back (see my cheat sheet from last year). It looks like it will be another great event. The day will be packed with informative sessions, tech demos, and a nice range of speakers and panels. You should really check it out if you work in social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

The panel I’m on has good mix of folks from academia, consulting and client side practitioners:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late. Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.

Posted in Branding, Events, Influencer marketing, Marketing, PR, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

4 PR Lessons From Comedy via Seinfeld and Stern

I’ve always been a big fan of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and like to tell the story of how my friends and I were heckled by him in the 80s, before the eponymous TV show made Seinfeld a superstar.

Four of us were sitting in a downtown NYC bar and spied Jerry with a posse (that could have easily passed for the gang on his show, but of course wasn’t) a couple of tables over.

They noted us staring and Jerry threw a couple of wisecracks our way – he found it amusing that my best buddy and I were on a double date with twin sisters. It made our night.

Flash forward a bunch of years to the present. I was in a Seinfeld state of mind, having just watched (and loved) his new Netflix special Jerry before Seinfeld; and was thrilled to hear him being interviewed by Howard Stern on Sirius radio. (Stern is another uniquely NY comic personality who I’ve loved to listen to over the years, since his days on NBC talk radio in the 80s).

They schmoozed and eventually got around to the challenges of being a stand-up and bringing the funny (“joke architecture” as Jerry called it).  This got me thinking about some of the ways that great comedy is not so different from PR.

Below I share snippets from the interview, and takeaways for PR:

Dress the Part (Stage the Set)

They started with pleasantries. Jerry complimented the Stern Show’s new set. Howard and Robin complimented Jerry on his sport jacket – part of the comedian’s standup uniform.

This led to a discussion of Jerry’s look. The jacket works well for him, but might not be appropriate for Dave Chappelle or Louie CK.

Takeaways: The jacket is an important part of Jerry’s brand. What aspects of your brand stand out and set your company apart? Seemingly minor things like the color choices on your website or logo design should complement the text narrative.

More generally, we instruct clients that it is not just the news, but the wrapper that can be important. In addition to the (hopefully) substance of the press release, it is the quality of the writing or event that can make all the difference.

Build (and Continue) the Story

Jerry and Howard discussed the challenges of writing comedy:

Howard: I was surprised to hear that you write down every single word on a legal pad.

Jerry: Every word is absolutely important.  I’ll take 10 minutes to get a syllable, I’ll count the syllables.

I like the architecture of a joke. When I watch a comic, here’s what I’m looking for: He brings something up that he wants to do a bit on. OK, that’s the easy part, noticing something that needs to be made fun of. He gets a couple of laughs. How deep can he go? Can he get a second wave? If he can get the second wave, then I say OK this guy’s really thinking.

Howard: It’s like riding a wave.

Jerry: Right, how far can you ride a wave?

Takeaways: This sounds a lot like pitch and headline writing. It’s important to be compelling and succinct. After the initial pitch or launch, can you continue to build the story? You need to craft a narrative, ideally one that rides the waves of industry trends and hot topics.

Be Brilliant (It’s a Tough Crowd)

Howard shared a prior conversation in which Jerry once said he’d made a great observation, but left it on the cutting room floor; he couldn’t go any further with it.

Howard said that afterwards he had surreptitiously offered Jerry ideas in an email that was never sent – because Howard thought it might be seen as arrogant, to school Jerry on how to finish a joke.

Jerry agreed, and said that, to be fair, Howard should sit in the audience and see for himself how the Stern material would go over, had it been used by Jerry.

Jerry: You would see how tough it really is. The hardest thing is to write standup. It has to be brilliant.

Takeaways: Similarly, the media can be a tough crowd, as they are generally slammed, juggling multiple ideas and priorities, and fighting deadlines.  They get lots of PR pitches, and won’t consider yours, unless it is relevant to their beat, interesting, and topical.

So go out there and be brilliant! It might sound tough and intimidating – but take the time and care to do this, and great results will follow.

A Stellar Brand (Jerry on his own PR)

For all of these great takeaweays, Jerry was strangely mystified when it came to his own PR and reputation.  Howard brought up the recent incident in which Jerry very publicly refused to hug pop singer Kesha:

Howard: What a firestorm it created!

Jerry: I was fascinated by it, couldn’t even understand it.

Howard, his sidekick Robin Quivers and Jerry discussed this at length and Jerry did explain and defend himself (he does not know Kesha, and what if the genders were reversed)? But Jerry seemed relatively unconcerned and maybe even a bit amused about the whole thing:

Howard: Have you gone back and tried to hear her music since then?

Jerry: I’ve been a little busy.

Not much to say here, except that when you have a great brand and reputation like Jerry Seinfeld’s, you can afford to pick battles and sometimes just let the water roll off your back.

If you like reading about comedy and marketing, please check out my story on Maximize Social Busines: 7 Things Content Marketers can Learn from Standup Comedians.


Posted in Branding, In the News, Interviews, Marketing, PR, Public Relations | 2 Comments