Journalists using LinkedIn profiles to “vet” interviewees?


As I noted in my recent Online PR whitepaper, there are some novel digital twists occurring within traditional media relations. Take the good old journalist interview. In the past, a journalist would probably have to take at face value a bio provided by the PR person of a prospective interviewee.  On LinkedIn, although the background info provided by the person themselves might be of relevance, more value is to be had from what other people think of them ie LinkedIn recommendations.

Here is a practical example.  We began working with information risk management specialists ArmstrongAdams in December last year. Tim Kipps is ArmstrongAdams’ spokesperson on all issues related to information risk management and IT security.  Tim certainly knows his onions when it comes to his subject matter. However, another thing that I found very impressive were the huge number of recommendations he has on his LinkedIn profile (46). The frequency with which words and phrases like “expertise” and “high integrity” appear has certainly been reassuring to me that in terms of media interviews, we are putting forward someone who is clearly respected in his field and really does know what he is talking about.  And is trustworthy.  For journalists, that surely has to be a good thing.

It’s also a good thing for a PR too. It is easy to overlook the fact that a PR is often judged by the quality of the spokesperson he/she pitches to the media. Rightly or wrongly, a journalist may view a PR less favourably if the quality of interviewee they pitch is seen as sub-optimal. If both PR and client have a mutual interest in ensuring that only the most qualified and worthwhile spokespeople/interviewees are pitched to the media, then surely that too has to be a good thing.

Where are the PR Numerati? (Is Stephen Baker reading this?)


Have just finished reading senior Business Week writer Stephen Baker’s book, The Numerati. A great read – and worthy of several blog posts rather than just one. However, this quick precis (and experiment) will have to suffice for the moment.

The underlying premise of the book is that a combination of maths, monumental data gathering, smarter algorithms and human brains are taking an ever more powerful and influential role in modern society. At first glance, many might dismiss this as a familiar “geeks are going to rule the world” kind of argument. However, Baker is more specific – it’s the mathematicians and statisticians that are wielding the power – and the people who adopt their mindset.

The book goes into detail as to how technology, data and mathematics are having (and will have) an immense impact in various aspects of life such as shopping, politics, blogging, terrorism, healthcare, even romance. In short, the mathematical modelling of humanity.

However, in relation to the field of PR, it did remind me of something that I’ve been banging on about for some time – namely, where are PR’s algorithms? Where are PR’s mathematicians? What PR campaigns are being driven by the kind of data gathering, maths and analysis that is clearly being deployed in other areas of business?

Steve Rubel at Edelman talks about “ a dearth of geek marketers – those who use and understand online sharing tools but also know how to sell a brand”. I agree that this is part of the equation, but there is also a need for the mathematical and analytical mindset in PR that Stephen Baker talks about.

Interestingly, Baker was recently asked in a Bad Pitch Blog interview if there was something he wished all PR people would do (besides leave the face of the earth)?

He replied: “In my dreams, they’d all have read everything I’ve written and understand in great detail the demands of each one of my channels. In other words, they’d quietly tee up just the kind of stories I want to write.”

Of course, even the most diligent PR these days is going to find it nigh on impossible to read everything about every relevant journalist on every relevant channel (the inability of human beings to even come close to digesting the data out there is a constant refrain in his book). Perhaps Baker was hinting that PR ought to be deploying the tools of the Numerati to analyse his output and to help shape the kind targetted PR he seeks? ie generating the kind of very specific and relevant subject lines he craves in PR e-mails.

On a slight tangent, the following is a little experiment.

I’m willing to bet that Stephen Baker has set up a Google alert for the term “The Numerati” – in which case, this blog post should be showing up in his Google Reader shortly. I’m also going to Tweet him directly to see if he responds (Hello Stephen – great book!). And by using the bit.ly URL shortener, I’ll know how many people have been directed to this post via Twitter – and any ensuing conversation around it.

FYI, as I have a track record in building out journalist profiles via Twitter, I’m just wondering what some savvy mathematician would make of the following that might help better inform a PR approach to him?

Number of pages referencing Stephen Baker at Business Week.com = 4.010
Reference to the term Numerati over the last 12 months (allowing for the fact that is is a common Italian word)

Twitter profile

BusinessWeek writer, author of The Numerati (2008)
Location: Montclair, NJ
Time Zone: Eastern Time (US & Canada)
Joined: Tue 08 Jan 2008 20:31
Following: 195
Followers: 2276
Updates: 927
Favorites: 7
Friend: Yes
Notifications: No
Protected: No
Web: http://thenumerati.net
Twitter: twitter.com/stevebaker

Mike Butcher, Techcrunch UK: “Only a handful of PR firms are any good”


Why is it there is always a great blog post that you only catch up on a while after it is has been published?

For some reason I missed Mike Butcher’s “top 15 ways to get on with TechCrunch UK, and maybe other media” post when it first came out in August. No matter. It has some good, non time sensitive advice – all worth sharing.

However, I do have a difference of opinion with Mike on some of the following:

“Here’s the thing about PR firms. Only a small number are really any good. What happens is that there are individuals inside big PR firms who know their trade, understand how to interface with the media, read blogs, etc etc. If they’re good, they usually end up leaving and setting up their own boutique firm. In which case I still hear from them. The best PRs behave like the best contacts – they keep in contact, float ideas, check if something is of interest before bothering to send you a full-blown release, etc etc. Others are good, but decide instead to rise through the ranks inside MEGA PR CORP, and guys like me stop hearing from them because they have been replaced by a spotty teenager / recent graduate who just reads your name and number out on a list and “checks if you got the press release”. Or worse, they call you to check if they can email over the non-exclusive (Aargh!) press release. Either that person learns fast and turns into a decent PR or they stay being the person who who cold calls you with crap – at least until they eventually realise they’d do a lot better in life as a bingo caller.”

It is a truism that people don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. And the PR business is no different. PR firms build their businesses on the promise of the brand (ie you can count on a certain level of value and quality whoever works on your account). Of course, this just isn’t true. Mike seems to bemoan the fact good media relations people have the nerve to want to get promoted. However, I’ve blogged in the past about the fact that the really good media relations people in agencies are faced with a Catch 22 situation – if you are good, you tend to get more accounts pushed your way – however, there is a ceiling on the number of accounts you can possible service to an acceptable level (because most journalists have no idea about all the other stuff that is expected of a PR – account management, billing, reporting, internal politics, etc). If you want to get promoted, you have to take on a more managerial role. Which means not doing what you were good at in the first place. Smart agencies would hopefully get the good senior media relations folk to train the rookies. But as per previous downturns, training is usually the first budget to go.

When Mike talks about PRs who “learn fast” or “eventually realise they’d do a lot better in life as a bingo caller”, he seems to be laying all the blame on the individual. I’d say it is more a fault of management. If that person were trained properly in the first place, much of the “learning” that Mike thinks they require wouldn’t be needed in the first place. And if they don’t seem to be “learning”, it is just possible that their managers have told them to keep doing it this way. Which may explain why so many boutique firms emerge.

In reality, when Mike says they are only a handful PR firms that are any good, he means there are only a handful of good PR people. But what journalists regard as good PR people aren’t necessarily the same people who can build large, successful PR businesses. Given that such universally derided practices such as the press release follow up call still persist, a cynic might argue that people wouldn’t keep doing it if there weren’t some value in it.

What is a Twiphorism? (Pronounced Twi-for-izm) #twiphorism #twphm


Twiphorism is a new word I’ve coined – it’s formed by merging Twitter with Aphorism.

Wikipedia describes an aphorism as “an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and easily memorable form.”

So a Twiphorism is “an original thought written in a laconic and easily memorable form. And capable of being expresed via Twitter in 140 characters or less”.

As it happens, a number of the aphoristic examples given by Wikipedia could be Twiphorisms eg

Mediocrity is forgiven more easily than talent.Emil Krotky

What are your favourite Twiphorisms? Your own or somebody else’s? If you can squeeze it into 129 characters, include the following hash tag:  #twiphorism (or #twphm if pushed for space).

How to test your media pitch with a tame journalist


I note that heavyweight UK business and consumer journalists Guy Clapperton, Sally Morris and Lori Miles have lauched a new PR training service called What The Press Wants.

As the name of the venture suggests, they ought to know better than most exactly what journalists are looking for. Among the various courses provided, I also noted that they are offering a “test your pitch” service to PRs.

In their own words: “About to launch an expensive, creative and high profile PR campaign? Why not give it a trial run in the privacy of your own building before rolling it out to an unforgiving audience? With full non-disclosure assurance, we can send a journalist with relevant senior experience into your office for a test run – to spot any glitches or highlight any positives you may have under-developed.”

I know this kind of thing has been tried before and I wish them all the best with it. However, I’ve always wondered who the real target customer for such a service would be – the client who has commissioned the PR campaign – or the PR company who has created the campaign? Perhaps it would be better to get the journalist involved at the campaign creation stage rather than spend time, money and effort building something only to find out it has as much chance of working as a chocolate fireguard.

Why Mike Hancock MP might not think Cuil is “cool” (then again, perhaps he might)


I wasn’t planning to add more to the general hype around Cuil. However, Mr Robert Schifreen has pointed out in another place that the new kid on the search block may have some work do.

Specifically, he is referring to the search term Mike Hancock MP. (WARNING: the results for this term in Cuil may offend some people and could be considered non-office safe).

Perhaps Mike may prefer the results he gets on Google. Then again, according to TheyWorkForYou.com, he has voted moderately in favour of equal gay rights. So who knows.

Dan Roam and the 21st century feedback loop


How’s this for a piece of zeitgeist?

I posted yesterday about Dan Roam’s book The Back of the Napkin. Overnight, he picks up a Google Alert about my blog post and in turn, comments – and posts a very nice response in return.

Might need to look at updating my sketch to map the ongoing impact….

Dan Roam’s “Back of a Napkin” approach to visual thinking (and how I bought the book).


Dan Roam’s “The Back of the Napkin” book about visual thinking is a novel approach to problem solving (and deserves a blog post all of its own)

Informative blog too.

However, I thought it worth examining how I went from not knowing a thing about Dan Roam at midday on Saturday, to understanding a lot more about him and buying his book nearly 11 hours later – as well as finding out a few other interesting things along the way.

Here’s the text based version of events (the diagram above is my own pen and paper effort based on Roam’s tips).

1. My wife buys a copy of The Guardian on Saturday. Leaves me the Sport, Money and Work sections.

2. I look at the front page of the Work Section. Feature entitled “Sketch It Out”. I read about Dan Roam’s book The Back of The Napkin – all about visual thinking and how to use drawing as a highly efficient aid to problem solving (Key message: you don’t need to be able to draw). Note: Guardian offers book to readers for £14.99 – I decide to do more research before committing to buying – and will certainly check Amazon first before buying.

3. Intrigued, I decide later that evening to Google Dan Roam. Top result is for Digital Roam, his own company. Spend a few mins looking at website – then check out his blog. Some very interesting posts

4. Download some PDFs of his visual thinking toolkit – Napkin Tools.

5. Watch Youtube video of Dan Roam presenting to Google staff.

6. Subscribe to Dan Roam’s RSS Feed

6. Decide to buy book (£9.99). Go to Amazon.co.uk to purchase. End up buying another book – Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen - purely on the back of Amazon recommendations (and because I was in book buying mood).

7. Via Dan Roam’s blog, go to Hans Rosling’s Gapminder.org and Ted.com video – now that’s how to present data!

You may think this is an extraordinary effort to decide whether or not to buy a book. But it is only when you detail all the various elements that went into this particular buying process that you begin to understand some of complexity of PR and marketing today.

And Dan Roam and Garr Reynolds both got a book sale out of me – although the routes to each one were very different. And Hans Rosling’s work was a revelation. What a wonderful world we live in.

Why you should question any tech B-to-B PR campaign that emphasises print over online


A very instructive interview with IDG founder Pat McGovern in today’s Guardian – with some unavoidable conclusions for the tech PR sector.

McGovern hasn’t built a $3bn empire by getting things too wrong – so worth listening to his views on the future of B-to-B publishing (he says all B-to-B publishing will be online in 10 years).

A few things in the feature did stand out. For example, many questioned his decision to drop the print edition of Infoworld in the US – saying farewell to distributing 180,000 copies every week. “Many said without print people wouldn’t be reminded every week of our brand and 40% of our revenue would disappear overnight,” claims McGovern.

One year later, InfoWorld’s online revenues had trebled, the magazine’s overall revenues were up 10%, and without the costs of print, paper and postage, profit margins went from -3% to 37%.

He also says it costs around $20,000 to launch a new online magazine title – compared with $400,000 for a print version.

And here’s an eye-opener – 60pc of the content on IDG’s B-to-B sites is user generated. As McGovern rather too gleefully admits: “It’s nice to have more than half your content generated for free.”

So what are the implications for tech PR?

1. Any PR approach that prioritises print over online needs to be seriously questioned.

2. Tech buyers still trust media brands such as Computer Weekly, Computerworld, etc – however, the way they consume and interact with the magazine is very different. They are unlikely to pay much (if any) attention to the print title. And even when they get information from the online version, it is most likely to be via search rather than because they treat the online title as a destination. Even the small proportion of readers who will subscribe to a magazine RSS feed are likely to filter the content. The 80/20 principle applies ie 80pc of individual reader value will lie in 20pc of the content – readers will increasingly select only the really relevant stuff.

3. If 60pc of content is user generated, then the way in which PR is involved in the process of content generation and conversation is going to be very different.

4. Paradoxically, some magazine related events may become more valuable eg I’d wager that Information Age events are seen as more valuable by many of its readers than the print version of the magazine. They trust the brand, but they don’t have time to read the print version. And they will get content from the magazine online – and via search (and RSS if the magazine reinstated its RSS feeds….). Particular events, however, allow for networking, peer contact, etc.

Given the importance of search in this whole equation, any tech PR programme that doesn’t integrate with a carefully thought through approach to buyer behaviour and search is seriously flawed.

How the 80/20 principle dominates PR, social media and life


Richard Koch’s book The 80/20 Principle was first published in 1997 and went on to become a cult business classic (500,000+ copies sold. He later wrote the 80/20 Way which extended the approach to life generally).

I only properly read both books recently as a result of the suggested reading list in Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week (it made me realise what a big debt Ferris owes to these earlier works – in many ways, the 4HWW philosophy is a practical application of Koch’s 80/20 approach).

So what is the 80/20 Principle? In short, it is an extended application of Pareto’s Principle (Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, 1848 – 1923, was looking at patterns of wealth and income in 19th century England. He found that 20pc of the population enjoyed 80pc of the wealth – he also found that you could reliably predict that 10pc would have 65pc and 5pc would have 50pc. The key point is not the percentages, but the fact that the distribution of wealth across a population was predictably unbalanced).

Koch’s insight was to apply this predictable imbalance across a whole host of business and life phenomena. However, reading his books made me realise that although the 80/20 concept gets bandied around a lot, people often miss the subtlety of what Koch was getting act. For example:

80/20 is simply shorthand – the ratio could be anything 90/10, 70/30, etc. In fact, it doesn’t need to add up to 100 eg 70/20. The key point is that a 50/50 relationship between two sets of related phenomena is the exception rather than the rule. And yet, we naturally act as though the norm is a direct correlation between input and output or effort and reward.

The principle is thus counterintuitive. As Koch points out: “High performers are not 10 or 20 times more intelligent than other people – it is the methods and resources they use that are unusually powerful.”

Take some of his examples: Less than 20pc of all recorded music is played more than 80pc of the time; Fewer than 20pc of clouds will produce 80pc of rain, etc.

Let’s look at the world of PR and social media (I have no scientific evidence for these examples – I suggest them as possible ratios – why not analyse these in your own business and see what results you get:

20pc of agency employees do 80pc of the work clients value

5pc of companies gain more than 80pc of press coverage

Less than 1pc of press releases generate 99pc of press interest

Less than 10pc of your press contacts generate 100pc of the press coverage

Less than 10pc of your blog posts generate more than 90pc of the blog hits

I’m sure you can come up with many more. The point Koch would no doubt make is that in many cases, people will carry on behaving as though there is a 50:50 relationship in the above examples.

As Koch says, the world is resolutely non-linear. By focussing on and analysing the 20pc of inputs that generate the 80pc benefit in all cases, you should be able to obtain significant gains. Less is more.

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