Well it has been quite the week for corporations in my little part of the online sphere. Earlier this week my good friend Will has his car towed by an Albuquerque towing company of meth addicts because he accidentally parked on the wrong side of a McDonalds and “McDonalds Parking Enforcement” officers had his car towed away. Parking enforcement officers… yeah really.
(BTW, this is the same lot I’ve parked in many times to eat at a different restaurant – come tow me, bitches.)
But more importantly, this has been one of the weeks where Apple has crossed over the line of corporate paranoia and let their cyberpunkish “Corporate Overlord” mentality show through. And from a PR standpoint Apple’s not looking too great.
Jesus Buddha Christ, Apple. Really? Let’s break this down:
- A tech blog gets a hold of your super secret next generation iPhone that was lost at a bar,
- And then returns it to you after reviewing it
- (Which happened after you denied the prototype’s existence),
- Then you send your super secret “Apple Force” to the journalist’s house demanding to look around
- (Which he says “hell no” to. Makes sense.)
- And then you have the reporter’s house busted into by the cops and multiple computers, et al “taken for examination.”
Let’s see, did I miss anything? Nope, didn’t think so. I’m just surprised that Apple didn’t hire a private group of mercenaries to bust this poor guy’s door down.
Wow Apple, you have really opened yourself up to ridicule at the least, and a potential lawsuit on the more serious end. (and if the EFF and other technology or media non-profits don’t sign on to object to this kind of treatment of a journalist, then y’all just need to pass your 501c3 cards forward because y’all are dismissed.)
But in true Apple form, Steve Jobs has penned a letter about… Apple’s problem with Adobe’s Flash?? It’s like Steve-O really thinks that by ignoring the problem, or dictating the terms of engagement, he can control all of the coverage he gets. And right on cue, noted tech journalist (and Steve Jobs apologist) Walt Mossberg will pen a column decrying Flash (and asking why the hell Team “Apple Force” didn’t tase the entire Gizmodo staff over and over).
So this is a PR and tech blog. What advice would I give Apple if they asked?
Well, this being Apple, they never would because in their minds “The Jobs” can’t do anything wrong. That said, I’d tell them to cut this crap out.
- Drop any charges,
- Get the police to turn over all equipment taken from Jason Chen’s house,
- Replace any broken or damaged equipment on Apple’s dime,
- Pray that Apple doesn’t get sued,
- And one more thing, stop acting like jerks.
I guess Steve-O really hasn’t learned anything about tact (or new media) from the Think Secret lawsuit. Jon Stewart is right, chill the hell out Apple.
(And before Apple Evangelists start typing a response about how I’m some Apple hater, this post, much like this video in years past, was completely created on a Mac.)
Is the world of newspapers really as bad off as recently reported? I’ve given this a lot of thought after reading today that Editor and Publisher was going under. In the last few years a lot of newspapers have shrunk, fired staff, closed down, or merged with other news outlets (TV, etc) in response to a diminishing readership and the recent economic crunch. People have asked if this means that newspapers are on their last leg.
No, it doesn’t. In fact, I’m willing to bet that when the newspaper shakedown is over you are going to see the resurgence of the hometown newspaper. In smaller towns there are very few media outlets, and the newspaper still plays a major role in informing the public.
It’s this focusing of effort that will help save newspapers. They will still have to reduce staff, because some of the staff used in the paper’s expansion will become redundant (as they say in the Isles)
In larger towns and cities, regional papers will probably have to revert back to that hometown model – for instance, the Albuquerque Journal (my local paper) needs to refocus from trying to be “New Mexico’s Biggest Newspaper” to Albuquerque’s newspaper. They have a bureau in Santa Fe for the “Journal North/Santa Fe” section that needs to be shut down. Santa Fe has its own paper, the Santa Fe New Mexican, which is successful in Santa Fe while not competing with the Journal in Albuquerque. The Journal will never be able to successfully overthrow the New Mexican, so why not pack it in, bring some of the staff to fill vacancies that have gone unfilled for over a year, and refocus their efforts on their core market?
Another question involves changing the media consolidation rules, while allowing for much smaller, more targeted media outlets to grown. Is this a threat to the current laws limiting consolidation of media outlets in a certain area? If newspapers can’t merge with TV stations and/or radio stations and end up going out of business – is this really better for the community?
I’ve been reading about Michael Arrington (the guru behind TechCrunch) and his decision to no longer honor embargoes asked for (demanded?) by PR professionals when certain stories are sent to TechCrunch. This has apparently caused quite an uproar in certain quarters of the PR community, with comments flying back and forth on the post at TechCrunch and throughout the Blogo/Twito/Globo-Sphere, with people picking sides.
The first thing that hit me was how this sounded like Gina Trapani’s wiki where she whipped out the ban-hammer and listed the PR companies that she got tired of spamming her personal email address and gave people a quick and easy way to include these companies (5WPR, Ogilvy, Edelman, etc) in your spam filter. There were a lot of big PR companies being called out, and a few New Media PR companies that appear to have been caught in the wake of e-blasting out stories that people don’t want to read.
The following thought was, PR people still use embargoes? Seriously? I mentioned this to a co-worker last week and she asked the same thing.
Embargoes were usually used to give news companies (alleged) “exclusives” or dictate to a media outlet when they could run with a story. Big surprise, they only succeed at pissing off journalists/media outlets while getting ignored part of the time anyway. Then you get pissed, and they get more pissed, and it spirals down from there. And unless you’re a company crucial to a media outlet’s coverage, or large enough to have an impact if you decide to stop sending info their way (like Microsoft, Apple, Ford, Google, etc), then the media outlet doesn’t need to change the way it does business. You do.
Reporters and editors, especially of New Media outlets, wouldn’t care if most of the companies out there stopped sending them press releases. In fact, all of them would probably start popping open the bubbly in celebration. When I was still working at the local newspaper, I was in charge of manning the fax machine (yeah I’m dating myself a little bit here) in addition to my regular duties. In my time at the paper, less than a dozen releases ever made it past the trash can. Most of the people the sports department (where I worked) reporters spoke with already had personal relationships with the writers (coaches, players, sports info officers) and knew to contact them personally and didn’t need the fax waste.
Contrast that to when I was working at my first PR firm, on the other side of the “send” key. We’d invested in some “media relations” Web site, with a database of thousands of reporters and (allegedly) how to get in touch with them, forms set up to enter your own press releases and the potential to blast them to thousands of reporters, whether they wanted your information or not. I watched as one pitch went out to over 2,300 business reporters all over the U.S. (Somehow I don’t think the farm business reporter from the “Peoria Pittance Proper” really cared about the NYC client’s pitch)
When you use these pitch-fest programs, you don’t have to know any of the media outlets you are e-blasting. You don’t have any personal relation with the reporter you want to get interested in your stuff.
That’s what a lot of PR now a days is missing. Public relations is kind of a misnomer for what needs to be done. It needs to be called “Personal relations”.” Too many PR professionals, especially when pitching nationally, are still depending so much on these databases or yellow books of media contacts.
Please, my fellow PR peeps, if you are going to use one of these databases to pitch a story nationally, at least make sure the person you are calling a) covers the area you think they do, and b) wants to receive your email. Chances are they don’t. And then you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Push vs. Pull
A lot of PR needs to start shifting from the idea of pushing press releases to some kind of “narrowcasting,” creating meaningful content for your specific target audiences that they can then pull to their desktop/email/browser. It’s the difference between forcing your message onto someone or getting to know them and letting them be genuinely interested in your information. Your audience probably won’t be as big as you’d like – but the media landscape has been shifting from large distribution channels to many more, but smaller, means of communicating to your target demographic. (think about the difference between network TV and cable – while network TV has a larger audience, you can better target a narrow audience by selecting a cable channel that matches your audience needs (food network, SciFi, etc) and tailoring your messages to match not only your audience, but that specific channel.
And finally, for those PR people complaining about Mr. Arrington or Ms. Trapani’s actions. Remember, TechCrunch and LifeHacker are their media outlets, they get to decide how they want to run them.
I was thinking about this post while giving a presentation in class this evening. We had an open ended assignment where each person presented on a topic related to the mass media. Being interested in online communications, I focused on Web communications by mass media outlets. That got me thinking about bloggers (which I wrapped up the presentation with) and how people in my profession should look at content creation vs. pitching to bloggers.
A lot of PR peeps are looking at how to pitch bloggers and other A-list social media mavens instead of working towards creating their own content.This is fine, but it’s as if the mindset of PR people around the globe continues to be:
“I’m in PR. I’m used to pitching people, sending stuff out. I must pitch the “media.” I’m not going to create my own content. I don’t shoot video, and sound like I gargled with rusty razor blades.”
Trust me I know where you’re coming from. I don’t have that creamy radio voice either and am more “Body by Buddha” than “Body by Jake.” Ya know what, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about authenticity. It’s about your company becoming the media outlet, instead of waiting for reporting from the media which may never come. It’s about PR person as civic journalist (or corporate journalist) than traditional “pitch man.”
(This also matters to you and your personal brand. You are your own Hollywood director. But wunder-dude Chris Brogan has a lot of great articles on this. I may give my own humble take later (but read Chris first))
Your company should become part of the conversation, not just treat bloggers/podcasters/et al as one more media outlet to just pitch to. Remember, it’s called “YOU”Tube for a reason. Use it to create your online brand, then your company will piggyback on the “you” brand (if you identify yourself as working for that company). Then other bloggers might get interested in your product/organization.
And your first efforts don’t have to be Hollywood-esque. Just get some practice time in with your camera and some software. Here’s a little footage of me practicing around with my Flip Video Camera and the Sony Imagination Studio software. There’s also more relevant footage (PR wise) that I shot for work located here.
Sylvester Stallone, “Rambo” (Which was a lot better than it’s given credit for)
Oh man, I came back from a meeting to find out that Tim Russert, one of NBC’s iconic journalists, died in the NBC offices today. I’m still processing it now, I grew into my political maturity watching Russert, a fellow Buffalo Bills fan (one reason I liked him I think), on Sunday mornings, and later, with the advent of technology and my inability to get up on Sunday mornings after a 5 a.m. crash time the night before, downloading “Meet the Press” to my iPod, spending part of the day walking Pickles (my dog) and listening to the show. Sometimes arguing with him or his guests, like any political junkie does I guess. (my neighbors must think Pickles and I had the strangest arguments)
I never understood a lot of the vitriol thrown at Russert from partisans on the right and the left. To me, he always tried to call it straight down the middle, being fair, yet tough, to the people he had on the other side of the table. To me that was the epitome of fairness – when both sides were attacking you for your “bias,” that usually meant you were doing something right. Watching Russert, I tried to learn how he was able to dissect a complex issue and present it to his viewers, and his guest, in a way that was to the point. I can fault him slightly for not having the biggest BS-O’meter in the world, but on a personal, and a professional level, I respected his candor and tenacity.
Being a political junkie himself, Russert will at least be able to enjoy this election from on high, sharing a drink, and debating the presidential election with people like Edward Murrow. (Not to mention trying to get that post-death interview with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.)
The interview table got a little smaller today. Via con dios, Tim.
When trying to get the media interested in your story, don’t send a blanket email out to every reporter you can find an email address for. Because the reporters are starting to push back and not only block those email addresses, they are also posting the worst offenders online.