The snow has been making me want to hibernate these last few days. But, it has given me an opportunity to think, plot and (begin to) plan.

I am watching “Top X Whatever” lists and have been insanely jealous, seeing Chris Brogan or Scott Monty or Micah Baldwin‘s name all over the place. So, I’m figuring out what lists I’ll appear on this time next year.

Putting the relations back in “PR”

I am re-dedicating myself to furthering my skills and talents as a public relations professional. I have a lot of ideas and I look forward to putting them out there.

I am currently planning something fun for my day job that is set to debut the first part of next year, that I feel is a productive step forward to alleviating some of the drama between PR and journalists. I look forward to telling that story, but all in good time.

Through communities such as the folks that gather on Monday evenings to participate in the “#journchat” on Twitter, a potential new PR professionals group in the Seattle area and focusing on some smaller companies, I think there is some positive movement ahead.

Putting the “public” back into public relations

This has two meanings for me. Number one is that my current gig is with a publicly traded company. I must follow certain rules and regulations, most notably RegFD (Regulatory Fair Disclosure). There are tons of small-cap public companies that are probably crippled by these rules and have a difficult time participating in social media and social marketing. For example, you will never see @etelos on Twitter discussing the projects we’re working on because we simply can’t.

As RegFD evolves and the comanies governed by it evolve as well, much progess will be made next year.

The second meaning of the header is that despite Web 2.0’s best effort to virtualize all human interaction, we’re still about people. I am making an effort to actively participate in the Seattle tech scene. I had a great time at an impromptu gathering of several people and with some organization, I’m curious what we can actually accomplish.

Here on the blog, I’m going to try and write about issues that actively effect not only the public relations industry, but the tech industry as a whole. I’m also going to try and be a bit more meta and work in some videos and more photos.

But the key things I will be focusing on are everybody else. Being engaged both physically and virtually is essential to not only the companies that I will work with, but my success as well.

2009 will be a breakout year for a lot of trends, people and companies. What will your biggest win be?


Originally posted on the Etelos blog, but I’ve added some extra commentary here.

Do your customers and prospects trust your blogs? New research from Forrester says they don’t.

Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff recently released a report that had this interesting tidbit, amongst others:

Consumers trust company blogs less than any other channel.

This result comes from a survey wedid in Q2 of 2008. Have a look at the data yourself. Not only do blogs rank below newspapers and portals, they rank below wikis, direct mail, company
email, and message board posts. Only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them. If you’re a corporate blogger or somebody who advises companies, you need to take this into account.

I’d like to know if you trust what we say here on these pages. we strive to create an open discussion on cloud computing, enterprise software and Web app distribution, amongst other topics.

Last year, Etelos was named as one of Inside CRM’s top 20 corporate blogs because we have made an effort to make sure every post is not a promotional spin piece for Etelos.

More to the story

There’s more to this story, though. In the original post, Bernoff lists other sources that people trust more than corporate blogs.

This graph is from Forrester and explains the break down in what sources people trust.

This graph is from Forrester and explains the break down in what sources people trust.

“Email from people you know” at the top is no surprise, but to see items such as wikis and yellow pages ranked higher is interesting. Most yellow pages services are sponsored listings — ads.

Quite frankly, I’m more willing to put faith in a quality, open and honest blog post than in an ad.

What I see in the general trend of trusted sources is that newer sources of energy are decidedly at the bottom of the list, while established or older relationships trend toward the top.

Earning trust

In his summary blog post, Bernoff advises that an open discourse is essential to establishing trust. Basically, what that means is that trust is earned. For a smaller company in a specialized industry such as we are, this trust is earned first in a small circle of companies.

So, how can companies earn trust? Here’s a couple of ways:

  • Don’t just blog about the positives. Perfect software doesn’t exist, especially if yours is wearing a Beta tag.
  • Link out, link early and link often. I feel that referring to others enhances your credibility.
  • Let your content speak to your expertise. If you are truly innovative, your content will say so.
  • Convers with your readers. Invite comments, respond to comments and post comments on others blogs.

So, my challenge to you is to earn some trust. Let me know what steps you’re doing to earn that trust.


A blogger writes a blog. A blog contains information, opinions, links and emotion.

A journalist brings life to factual occurrences. Presents actual, recorded history with zero subjectiveness. And yes, they act with an absence of malice.

Can a person be both? Of course. But not at the same time. In my opinion, blogger and journalist are mutually exclusive and any attempt to blur that line only results in that person losing the “journalist” label in favor of the “blogger” label.

On blogging

I’ve been sitting on this for a bit and every time I see a blogger such as Michael Arrington or Marshall Kirkpatrick referred to as a “journalist,” my journalism degree loses a comma. But I watched as Chris Brogan (and, by association eMoms, 1938Media and others) get raked over the coals because he took a payment in the form of a gift card to put up a post whereby he, wait for it, gave away a gift card.

So, what is a blog? This is a blog. I make no attempt or representation that anything I produce is a fact. In all honesty, if I’m not writing pure opinion or heresay, then there’s no fun in that. My only “facts” are links to others who generally agree with my opinion and that is questionable at best.

A blog is a place where people share their experiences, opinions, dreams and failures. Sure, people can report on things and cover breaking “news.” But they are still blogs. They provide a second layer, which is analysis and opinion. This removes any chance of the label of “journalism” being applied.

On journalism

Journalists and reporters do a great service to our society. I have worked as a reporter and have a BA in journalism, so you can guess where my bias leans.

Newspapers stay in business through advertising and that is the traditional source of income for bloggers as well. So, can online journalists survive this way as well? Of course. Google AdSense and other advertising platforms can provide an income (and let’s be honest, journalists make next to nothing. Full disclosure: my first reporting gig paid me <$19,000 per year. I got laid off after three months) and eliminate the need to participate in pay per post programs and paid reviews.

It is possible to be an online-only journalist.  The posts follow journalistic ethics and attributes information and even includes quotes. But by inserting a subjective opinion, the writer eliminates the assumption of objectiveness. And this does everyone a disservice. But one thing is important to note, here — Journalists are real people. They have a brain, they know a ton of information and when they do share an opinion, a lot of respect and weight is behind it. Sometimes real people can’t contain their opinions and they leak out. Such is the danger with objective practices.

Journalism is an art, talent and skill. And I think that true journalism is fading away as more and more people move into content creation and blogging. I am all for people getting online and sharing their thoughts, opinions and distributing them. But do it under the auspices of blogging and not journalism. Please?

Thoughts?


I’ve bounced around on a couple of topics on this blog. But one of the most common cries for help/lashing out in anger I see around PR is over the pitch. I’m not sure how many PR people have actually been pitched before, but it can be quite annoying at times.

So, I want to offer my perspective on pitching. I used to be a reporter and, while I wasn’t on an TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb scale, I did have a lot of other work to do and the pitches would frustrate me. That being said, I’ve come up with my Three S’s of Pitching: sincere, succinct and scalable.

Sincere

I talked about being genuine recently and sincerity goes hand in hand with that. You are asking a busy reporter to take the time to talk to/cover/link to your client. Provide that person some legitimate reason why you believe this is important. This is about believing in the brands/clients/products you represent. Here are some tips on sincerity:

  • Avoid hype language. If you claim to be a leader, attribute the source.
  • Be humble. Acknowledge the blogger’s position and that you appreciate any time they might be able to give.
  • Be newsworthy. In journalism, it’s called the news hook. What is different or unique or special about this news or pitch that makes it newsworthy?
  • Diction. The words you choose carry great weight. Only one product can be unique. It is not fairly unique.
  • Show don’t tell. Remember that old axiom? It’s so applicable when pitching. Give details to support your claim and make sure they’re accurate.

Succinct

By keeping your messages short and to the point, you’ll endear yourself to, well, anybody really. When I was in college, I invented a word — “concisification.” A verb exists as well — “concisify.” The general premise is to take what you’ve written and rewrite it in half the space.

Simple enough, right? But to quote Mark Twain, “If I had more time, I’d write a shorter letter.” And it’s true. So how do you concisify something?

  • Active, not passive. Avoid passive voice like the plague. That is all.
  • Dead construction. This is a tricky one. Phrases such as “There is…” or “There are…” rob you of space. Instead of “There is new features…” Simply state “New features…”
  • Be assertive. Phrases such as “This product could very well be the next big thing” shows weakness and is not compelling. “This product is the next big thing.” Is tighter, more active and easier to read.
  • Avoid excessive similes and metaphors. Overusing these literary tools is like using a jack hammer to remove a tooth. Sure, it may work, but it can be quite painful.

Scalable

Let’s face it, we’re busy too. The expectation is that every pitch sent is a perfect, unique display of your PR prowess. But how realistic is this? The product pitch is essential and needs to be deployed at the ready.

So, a good pitch is scalable and can be sent out to different contacts but still be effective. I think that really, this is as simple as having a Word or Google Doc with the generic text in it. But deploy it from there. Don’t copy/paste from an email or use the forward feature. Mistakes can happen. Other tips on making your pitch scalable:

  • Micro pitch it. Use social media to spread the word.
  • Force it viral. Have your client send out a brief email to its contact base and ask colleagues/partners to post to Twitter and other networks.
  • Incorporate the sincerity and succinctness described above.

So, there you have the three S’s of pitching. What methods do you use? What are some successful tactics you’ve used in the past?


Back in April, we were promised that the Twitpitch would be the future. And after eight months, it looks like the future is still on the way. The same can be said with a recent project called “MicroPR.”

These short, high-level pitches are great for putting a link out onto Twitter, but for targeted, effective pitches, they are merely an arrow in the public relations professional’s quiver.

I’ll start with Twitpitch. Stowe Boyd, whom I have met a number of times and always enjoy chatting with, devised a plan to streamline getting pitches. A great idea and if you want to pitch Stowe, and Stowe only, then get on Twitter and throw #twitpitch on there.

What this exemplifies more than anything is how each pitch must be customized, tailored and based on the person doing the pitching’s knowledge of the recipient. Stowe likes music, composes songs and also has a music blog. Did you know that or did you just know to put #twitpitch in a twitter message?

MicroPR

MicroPR is essentially a way for reporters to pitch PR and Marketing people via Twitter. The full story is on Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 blog (which, if you’re not reading, you should be). So, on the surface, sounds like a great idea. And a cursory search of Twitter, shows the beginnings of an effective discourse.

But my problem is that it seems to be a case of PR folks outsmarting themselves. Thanks to MicroPR and Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter Out, PR folks are able to keep an eye out for opportunities to place their clients in front of attentive reporters.

But of course a lot of hard work is still to be done. Establish rapport, making a connection is still the name of the game. I think that email is still an invaluable tool for PR pros. MicroPR requires a journalist to alter an ingrained work flow in order to post to MicroPR, monitor the results and then choose the best source.

So, two tools that are trying to unite PR and journalists. But I think the true task is to keep the emphasis on the relations part of our career. What do you think?