In February 2010, I wrote a blog post titled “Google News.” In November 2010, I revised it. Yet it took almost another year and a half to finish the thing, which appeared last week on Mashable. Since the text from 2012 doesn’t include the text from 2010, I figure I should publish the original for posterity.
Google’s announcement earlier this year threatening to pull its business from China stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest. Leaving aside the merits of what the company did, consider the way in which it broke this news.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Google’s vice president of public policy and communications, Rachel Whetstone, began crafting and revising a number of versions of a possible statement the company planned to release publicly.”
Pretty standard fare, right? There’s nothing special about your PR person drafting a statement. But this wasn’t your usual corporate spin. In fact, the statement wasn’t a statement; in its eventual form, it was a blog post.
Like an old shoe, the press release has been around forever. Every year seems to bring another proclamation that it’s on its last legs. While the rumors are exaggerated, they emerge from a stubborn truth: the press release is being eclipsed by digital alternatives that are more flexible, more interesting, and more relevant.
A milestone was reached in 2010, when Google made a major announcement not by press release but by blog post. Five years earlier, a company of Google’s stature would have issued a boilerplate statement on a newswire. Now, a Google executive was crafting a more thoughtful, even heartfelt narrative that was published on the Official Google Blog.
This shift in medium and message represented a new era in corporate communications. No longer does a traditional press release suffice to make news. News now needs to be conveyed in an empathetic tone and delivered in a user-friendly format.
Chris Abraham recently published a case study on the “art of writing the perfect blogger pitch.” There’s a lot to like here. For one, the time and thought Chris and his team devote to this esoterica are rare. For another, spilling your trade secrets takes guts.
And yet, for a purportedly “perfect” pitch, the Abraham Harrison technique, approach, and diction leave much to be desired. Here’s why (in web-friendly fashion, via a list with headings).
Whether you’re seeking a job or looking to advance your career, using social media to raise your visibility is a must. Yet if you want to stand out—either in a stack of resumes or when your boss needs someone to head up a new project—don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Instead, go beyond the cliché of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and write a post for a popular blog.
Is this more time-consuming than sharing a link? Absolutely. Is it more difficult than banging out 140 characters? You bet. Does it seem strange to write for someone else’s blog rather than your own? Certainly.
Yet put the time and effort into crafting a thoughtful piece, and you’ll likely experience a rich range of rewards. At minimum, you’ll demonstrate thought leadership, make a name for yourself, and earn a byline in which you can link to your resume or website. Even better, you could land a promotion, secure a job offer, or generate new business.
Why you should host one, and how to do it
Bloggers’ roundtables have been around for a while. They’re especially popular for book clubs, with the Department of Defense, and among politicians. (One wag asked John McCain if he knew the difference between YouTube and MySpace.)
Yet roundtables never took off as a form of outreach. That’s too bad, because as a vehicle to engage many stakeholders at once, roundtables can be as effective, if not more so, than their headline-grabbing cousins, Twitter and Facebook.
Mention the phrase “blogger engagement” to today’s marketer, and you’re likely to get an eager response, followed by self-professed ignorance. “We’d love to do that—we just don’t know how.”
To some, this scenario spells new business. (In part, this explains why many agencies separate their “digital” practice from their traditional ones.) Yet an honest blogger whisperer will let you in on a secret: If you can pitch a reporter, producer, or booker, you can pitch a blogger. After all, bloggers are just people—susceptible to the same relationship-cultivating techniques that every PR pro performs every day.
Indeed, the best way to understand bloggers is to view them as members of the media. Think of blogger engagement as public relations, albeit a new kind. Neither straight reporter nor pure pundit, the blogger is a hybrid creature who observes his own rules.
Earlier this month, the Daily Beast broke the news that Facebook had hired a powerhouse PR agency to plant negative stories about Google in the press. The agency, Burson-Marstellar, deployed two of its big guns for the campaign: Former CNBC tech reporter Jim Goldman and former Hotline executive editor John Mercurio. In one e-mail, Mercurio offered to help write and place an op-ed if the recipient, blogger Chris Soghoian, would lend his name to it. The savvy Soghoian asked who was bankrolling the campaign, and when Mercurio declined to say, Soghoian made the e-mails public.
What makes this incident interesting is that on one hand, Mercurio did many things right. He used a descriptive subject line: “Op-Ed Opportunity: Google Quietly Launches Sweeping Violation of User Privacy.” His first sentence succinctly and directly summarized the ask. He provided a list of talking points, each supported by a link to an independent sources. And his offer was tantalizing: Who in Washington wouldn’t want a byline in the Washington Post?
Everyone these days wants a blog. Blogs are known to be the most frequently updated—and thus most visited—facet of Web sites, and often form the crux of an organization’s online impact. Few, however, realize just how time-consuming and difficult blogging is.
Indeed, running a blogging consists not only in penning posts, but also in corralling them from colleagues and possibly guest contributors, editing them, and promoting them—not to mention moderating and responding to comments. As such, when considering a group blog for your organization, the following questions may facilitate a decision.
The staple of public relations is the press release. It’s been around forever; follows generally agreed guidelines for format, content, and length; and still succeeds in its objective to publicize the item in question.
And yet, bound by stale conventions that suffocate originality and don’t play well with multimedia, the press release has become obsolete. It’s not that there’s no longer a need to announce big news formally. It’s that there’s a better way to do it than drafting 400 words of boilerplate.
In my first op-ed in a while, I answer this question today at PRWeek. Here’s the text:
Clients often ask, What is new media? To answer this, I like to step back and ask, What is public relations?
Public relations is the practice of improving public perception. In a word, it’s promotion. A corollary of this is strategizing: What media should you use to get your message out?
New media is simply one of these outlets; specifically—and appropriately—it’s the newest outlet. But instead of developing relationships with producers on TV and radio shows, or editors and reporters at newspapers and magazines, we new media folk work with online sources: bloggers, podcasters, Web masters, news aggregators.
Our old media colleagues spend their days on the phone with journalists, meeting them for coffee, drafting press releases, crafting pitches, and compiling media lists. In essence, we do the same thing, but with a different vocabulary and under different rules.