We recently found out that my wife is pregnant with our second child. With that comes a fair amount of introspection, thinking about the future and what is to come. For me, this sense of adventure, this sense of wonder, was coupled with an opportunity.

That sense of adventure and that opportunity to pursue it are leading me to a new opportunity. Starting in a couple of days, I will be joining a scrappy PR agency called Voxus where I will get to work with a growing client base that is focused on emerging technologies, service providers and consumer companies. I get to work with startups again and this makes me happy. I get to help shape some amazing stories. (and, as with our first child, there’s precedent too)

I’m going to miss the friends I have made over the last 3.5 years at Waggener Edstrom. I have had some amazing opportunities to do amazing work with amazing people. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. 

I mentioned amazing experiences and opportunities. I’ve helped bring Windows 8 to the world, I’ve helped bring Microsoft Surface to the world. I’ve been a part of countless brainstorms, strategy sessions and other activities that help set the course for one of the biggest companies in the world. These experiences are what I keep this in mind whenever I had a frustrating experience or was asked to pull coverage at 4pm on a Friday or refresh that briefing doc for the 12th time. This is the best job in the world, hands down. We get to tell stories and create. We get paid to create amazing that makes people happy, elicits emotions and rewards the junior software engineer coding away on the next version of Dynamics or Office or a new database schema with their moment in the headlines.

I am thankful for the laughs, deep sighs and countless swear words exclaimed. I am thankful for the happy hours, the events, the times looking for pizza in Austin at 1am. I am thankful for the lessons and the support for me and my family. And with that, I am going to work with a small and scrappy agency that helps small and scrappy clients tell big stories. I’ll still be doing digital work (which means too much time on Twitter) and even sharing learnings and some best practices from time to time.

Away we go on a new adventure. And, if you’ve ever wanted to work with me, now’s the time. Let’s go tell some amazing stories!

A while back, I had an experience to work with a paid spokesperson to host a client event. Now, paid spokespeople are not a new tactic by any means. But generally these are celebrities (note: the definition of celebrity is subjective) that get paid to show up, mingle, say a few scripted words and get in the first town car out of there.

For this, we took a bit of a different tactic. Working with a well-known blogger, we gave the host free reign over the invite list. The host selected people from her network that should tend and that she felt would get value from what we were doing.

Instead of a scripted demo/product pitch, we wanted the host to tell her story. We felt that was interesting enough and the product simply sit on the table. Of course we had some suggested messaging that we would have appreciated having mentioned, but we wouldn’t be super bummed if it wasn’t.

And, you know what? It worked. The comments we heard were resoundingly fabulous. We wanted to be respectful of these folks’ time and give them an influencer event they would want to attend. In act, we had folks asking for more information about the product because it was not an over-the-top pitch.

So, how do we go about ensuring that influencer events are successful in the future?

  1. Let the product speak for itself: In this case, the product was one that could truly stand alone. We let attendees interact, experience and discuss the product without stepping in too much.
  2. Give up the reigns: We were simply facilitators. We brought the group together and embraced any group dynamics that happened.
  3. The host with the most: Were there other people in the city that had more traffic, followers or fame? Sure. But for the audience we had in the room, the importance of familiarity was crucial in finding success.
  4. Follow up: Since this was a tight-knit community, I really think that there was a cascading effect for when coverage started posting, it encouraged others to post as well.

As a PR person, letting go can be hard, but having faith in who you work with can lead to a lot of success.

Posted in PR

In a world where coverage on the top three technology blog can generate less than 3,000 page views yet client’s blog posts routinely torch the top of TechMeme, what role does the media play in the future of media relations?

website traffic from tech blogs

Thanks to @percival for sharing a look at what a few writeups on tech blogs brings. Direct and t.co links combine for a large part of his traffic.

Well, the role of trusted opinion will likely not go away. But the role of informant and source of original information is shifting to the companies that are providing the news. This is a trend that is not unique to technology companies either.

Non tech story tellers

The Seattle Police Department has had a couple of viral successes lately. The articles are penned by a former journalist and are informative, entertaining and readable. And they don’t come from a news outlet. Similar story in Milwaukee where the police department there launched one of the most content-forward websites I’ve ever seen. As a former cops and crime reporter, I could only wish I had this level of access.

We’re seeing the evolution of message control in the entertainment space too. The lead singer of Machine Head, Robb Flynn, just launched a well-written diary/blog that’s already getting external coverage.

There’s tons of other examples of companies using their own properties to break news, control a conversation and establishing themselves as the definitive source of information on a topic. This tactic is not new. What is happening, however, is that the concept of media relations can be facilitated by an RSS feed. But here’s a big caveat here:

Using a blog as a trusted media source only works if there is a solid content strategy in place.

Using your blog as your news hub

We know that content strategies hinge on one important thing: content. But what kind of content works best? While the safe answer here is “it depends,” I’ll offer that the best content is what drives action. A simple product update can drive a fresh round of signups or sales and help drive the bottom line. All you need to do is ensure there’s a call to action that is clear and accessible.

But the real answer is simply to be present. Post about more than just news and invite a community to form around your content and embrace that community when it does form. Encourage your bloggers to be involved in the comments and establish their voice in the public.

But what’s this have to do with media relations? A lot. Access to information and exclusives puts a continuous strain on the relationship between flacks and hacks. Conditioning not only your consumer audience but also the media to seek information out from you first helps both parties.

The challenges of an open business

Now, there’s a couple of challenges with this evolution. Namely, not everything is news and not everything is public. For the first one, that’s the beauty of the blog. A blog post of product updates and features may not generate coverage, but it gives you an opportunity to share some deep links to product pages and show some product images.

As for the fact that you’ll still have embargoed or NDA information? Well, that’s where the relations part of this equation comes into play.

I’ve been doing a lot more media relations lately and I’m finding that I enjoy it more and more. This industry is rooted in relationships and sometimes just picking up the phone or making a dumb joke can be all you need to do to kick-start that relationship.

I have a concept I call agendaless pitching. Essentially this is the pitch you make to introduce yourself or your client and it’s way more important than any pitch going forward. Be clear about your intentions, be clear about your relationship and be clear about your expectations.

Oh, and followup.

What I really mean is that this job is fucking awesome, but it’s bad form to cuss in a headline.

Essentially, I am convinced that public relations is one of the best jobs in the world. My entire day boils down to being able to tell as many people as possible a story. Sure I have to prove I’m doing it well and there’s a lot of people to keep happy.

But at the end of the day, my life is one that is creative, fun and fulfilling story I get to tell. Do you get to do what you love? Why not? What’s stopping you from getting happy?

Find your happy.

Posted in PR