Recent Interviews with Media Innovators

Over at our MediaBlather more-or-less weekly podcast, David Strom and I have been interviewing a lot of successful social media practitioners lately. Here’s a roundup of some recent programs.

PR Strategies for Startups

Jason Calacanis

Jason Calacanis

This week Paul and David discuss some of the strategies that serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis mentions in his subscriber-only mailing list (note: our recording is mistaken about where to find it) about PR strategies that have resonated with him. As he says in his post:

“You don’t need a PR firm, you don’t need an in-house PR person and you don’t need to spend ANY money to get amazing PR. You don’t need to be connected, and you don’t need to be a ‘name brand.'”

He talks about how you can be the brand, and be totally involved in what your company is doing. And always pick up the dinner check. They also talk about others who have succeeded in garnering positive press for little dough. Two jeers this week for Konica Minolta printers from David and Gannett’s reaction to the Gannett blog from Paul.

You can download and listen to the podcast here.

Social secrets of David Nour

This week Paul and David talk to David Nour from Atlanta. He is a champion of using social networks for business purposes, both in terms of using the tools to extend his own networks and also to enhance the connections within corporate types.

David met David at the annual National Speakers Association conference last month and learned a lot of great tips in how to get the most out of LinkedIn and Facebook. He spends about an hour daily updating his profiles and connecting with his networks, and in the process has been able to consult to some of the world’s largest corporations. He says you need to understand what you are trying to accomplish at the outset, and also that these are early versions of the services and have limited functionality (LinkedIn’s Groups is a prime example of that). To be a great social networker, you need both producers and consumers to be active on each network.

He is also a prolific speaker, executive coach and the author of a new book called Relationship Economics: the art and science of social networks that will be out in stores in a few weeks.

You can download and listen to the podcast here.

Mr. LinkedIn

Who says you can’t reinvent yourself after 20 years in the business? Not Chuck Hester. A veteran of technology public relations going back to the days of print, Hester has become a disciple of the business networking service LinkedIn. He uses LinkedIn to organize meetings and group dinners during his frequent travels and to maintain a list of hundreds of business contacts. When he wants to meet someone, he often starts with LinkedIn Answers or a query to his network. The strategy has drawn media attention and made Hester a master connector in tech media. And that’s paying off for his employer, e-mail service firm iContact. Chuck Hester shares some secrets of effective LinkedIn use in this interview.

Download the podcast (15:00)

Tech PR War Stories podcast offers new social media advice

Over at the Tech PR War Stories podcast, David Strom and I have been busy interviewing some fascinating people about social media marketing. Here’s a roundup of recent activity. You can subscribe to the podcast feed on the site or by clicking here.

Tamar Weinberg44: Internet Marketing Superlist Author Shares Secrets
At the end of 2007, Tamar Weinberg assembled an amazing assortment of blog entries about everything from headline writing to linkbaiting to becoming a power user. Tamar will give you a twentysomething’s perspective on social media. If you’re trying to really understand this phenomenon, listen to what she has to say.

Four great trade show tips

Evan Schuman (TPRWS 39) of has spent a lot of time at trade shows lately and he sent us these four tips for getting the most out of media contacts.

45: The social media skeptic

Jennifer Mattern calls herself the “social media Grinch.” But that doesn’t mean she’s down on social media. It’s just that she thinks the focus on social media can distract PR people from their real work, In this interview, she outlines her cautionary advice about social media and stresses the fundamentals that PR people still need to employ.

46: How to find influencers

I’m writing a how-to book about social media marketing and one chapter is devoted to hands-on techniques for finding influencers online. It isn’t as simple as it sounds. In this episode, I talk about what I learned conducting influencer searches on behalf of a mythical Quebec resort. Step one: master advanced search.

47: Twitter magic

Many people’s first reaction to is that they just don’t get it. It looks like barely controlled chaos. But Twitter has inspired a passionate following. Laura Fitton is a poster child for a service that is revolutionizing the way people interact with their social networks. In this interview, she describes what’s unique about Twitter and how it can be useful even to people who don’t use it that often.

Mommycast grows franchise

One of the best parts of writing my book was having a chance to meet some of the people who produce Mommycast, a podcast for mothers and families. In many ways, Mommycast exemplifies the concept of the “new influencer” because it’s the product of ordinary people who did something great without any help from mainstream media, venture capitalists or other kingmakers.

Early this year, Mommycast split from Podshow for unstated reasons, but it appears their new partner Podango, has got big plans. From a press release due to hit the wires on Wednesday:

“MommyCast and Friends” Network To Launch at Podango MommyCast, one of the most popular shows on the web, by and for women immersed in the fullness of motherhood and life, is launching the MommyCast and Friends Family Channel at Podango as part of an exclusive, multi-station deal with show producer KDCP Networks, LLC., the MommyCast production company. As part of the deal, KDCP Networks will develop “MommyCast and Friends,” a new network of family-oriented audio and video podcasts…

Started in March, 2005, MommyCast. has been featured in the Hollywood Reporter, Washingtonian Magazine, BusinessWeek, Variety magazines and the USA Today. Paige and Gretchen of MommyCast have also been interviewed by CNN, NBC, the BBC, Brandweek and The Wall Street Journal. MommyCast holds the distinction of being one of the first independent podcasts to land a major corporate sponsorship, which came via Dixie Paper Co. They have also established themselves as a member of the Buena Vista Entertainment Press Corps and are sponsored by Walt Disney Studios for family fare DVD movie releases.

MommyCast was the first podcast to do an enhanced podcast review of a movie, March of the Penguins, released by Warner Independent Pictures. MommyCast is proudly represented by The Endeavor Agency, Hollywood, California. MommyCast recently won the 2007 Webby, Best “Family & Parenting” Site category.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer group of folks.

My interview on Blog Talk Radio

I’ve done lots of radio interviews over the years, and they are invariably similar: the host has maybe three to five minutes to talk and asks a question every 30 seconds or so. You can’t slow down because the listener’s attention will wane and will switch to another station. It’s invigorating, but also ultimately frustrating because it’s so hard to say much that’s meaningful in that short a period of time.

That’s why my interview this week on Blog Talk Radio was such a pleasant surprise. Just minutes before going on the air, host Wayne Hurlbert informed me that the program lasted a full hour with no commercial breaks. This is like telling someone in a Porsche that they have the entire highway to themselves. It was such a pleasure to stretch out and really talk over some of the issues with Wayne, who asked excellent questions. I don’t know if anyone has the stomach to listen to me for an hour, but if you want to hear more details about what I learned about social media while writing The New Influencers, give it a listen.

Tech PR War Stories 14: Are CMP layoffs the death knell for IT print media?

This week in the Tech PR War Stories podcast, David and I reflect on upheaval at CMP, which laid off 20% of its workforce last week and shuttered some print publications. I suggest that this is the beginning of the end of print publishing in the IT media market and note that the economics of online publishing in that area are now weighted toward using freelance and blogger contributors instead of full-time staff.

David points out that technology companies are becoming more aggressive about launching their own online and even print publications, and that some of the senior editors who have lost their jobs in IT media will move over to work for vendors. We agree that these custom publishing operations are legitimate targets for PR people to place their clients. Now that everyone can publish easily to the Web, the definition of a “media company” is becoming fuzzier.

In Cheers & Jeers, I praise Oovoo, a new videoconferencing service that sent customized video messages to journalists and bloggers as part of its launch campaign. My jeer goes to Dell Computer, which sent a cease-and-desist notice to, an action that ultimately backfired on Dell. But at least Dell was contrite in blogging about the mistake and even linking to underground photos of unannounced Dell products. My, how times have changed!

Listen to the podcast here (right click to download): 15:05

Tech PR War Stories Episode 11: our guest is Sam Whitmore

Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey is one of the most influential publications in the high-tech PR community, and David Strom and I were fortunate to have Sam himself as a guest on Tech PR War Stories this week.

We asked Sam to talk about the up-and-coming influencers in IT media and his response surprised me. He’s evidently looking at media that tap into the real issues that IT pros wrestle with week-to-week more than new publishers and editors. He also had a lot to say about the ethos of the blogosphere and how PR pros should work with this new class of journalist. Bottom line: deal with it. These are the new journalists and their ethics and practices aren’t all that different from the folks you’ve dealt with for years.

Good stuff from a thought leader who pulls no punches.

Our podcast interview with David Meerman Scott

This week in Tech PR War Stories, David Strom and I chat with David Meerman Scott, author of the forthcoming book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, which is due out any day now. David talks about the ideas that got him elected to Marketing Sherpa’s Viral Marketing Hall of Fame two years running, as well as his call for PR people to get a clue about search and start writing press releases using terms buyers care about rather than words they think the media wants to hear.

This will be a two-part interview, with the second running next week. And we barely scratched the surface of what’s in David’s book. Download the podcast. It’s free!

We Regret the Error

This week in the Tech PR War Stories podcast, David Strom and I talk about corrections. You don’t really need corrections online because you can just fix the original story. But maybe corrections are still important as an admission of error. Do we still need them?

Our jumping-off point is last week’s dust-up between Steve Rubel and Jim Louderback. Services like Twitter have lowered the barrier to putting your foot in your mouth, and Steve found out the hard way what problems an offhand comment can cause.

The show notes and download page is here.

David Weinberger's presentation available as a podcast

That was fast! Dan Bricklin has already posted a podcast of David Weinberger’s April 24 presentation to the Mass. Technology Leadership Council. The first 30 minutes are a fascinating prepared presentation. The next 80 minutes are a discussion that could have gone on for hours.

Thanks to Alex Howard for tipping me off to the podcast’s availability.

Social Media’s Breakout Year

This article originally appeared in BtoB magazine.

Marketing changed forever the night of February 4, 2007. That was the night that Super Bowl XLI, the most-watched advertising event of the year, featured no fewer than four ads created by ordinary consumers.

Frito-Lay’s 30-second Doritos spot drew the most attention. Produced in just four days at a cost of fewer than $13, it scored second in comScore Networks’ ratings of ads viewers said they’d like to see again. That spot, along with campaigns from Alka-Seltzer, Chevrolet and the NFL itself almost overnight put consumer-generated advertising on the map.

Social media has had a breakout year. While most of the innovation is still in the consumer marketing sector, b2b marketers are joining the party. Businesses that cautiously circle the blogosphere over the last couple of years jumped in with both feet last year. Corporate blogs targeting business customers now include Kodak, Marriott, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Accenture, Southwest Airlines, Extended Stay Hotels and Wells Fargo.

Podcasts, those digital radio programs that almost no one had heard of two years ago, are now mainstream, with more than 90,000 programs listed on search engine PodNova. In the technology market, which has led the way in social media adoption, podcasts have become a standard companion to the more mature web cast. The convenience of the portable offline medium appeals to busy decision makers.

As an advertising medium, podcasting still hasn’t found its footing. EMarketer forecasts that podcasts will be a $400 million advertising market by 2011. That’s dramatic growth over current levels, but still a drop in the bucket compared to the more than $60 billion that Jefferies & Co. estimates businesses will spend on online advertising in 2010.

The real action in b2b podcasting is in programs produced by businesses to connect with their customers. Companies like American Airlines, Deloitte & Touche, Chrysler, General Electric and General Mills have launched programs about everything from business travel to nutrition. Needless to say, podcasts are ubiquitous in the publishing market. Directory Podcast Alley lists more than 1,500 podcast programs about business.

But it was video that hogged the spotlight in 2006. The phenomenal popularity of video download sites like YouTube (which logs 65,000 new videos each day), Google Video and Revver, combined with controversy over copyright issues, have made video the social media poster child.

Online video appeals to marketers on several levels. It allows them to inexpensively test ideas and to repurpose clips that would otherwise end up on the cutting room floor. Online video also offers a low-cost alternative to television, typically the costliest line item in the marketer’s budget. Plummeting equipment prices and open-source software have made it possible for amateurs to produce reasonably good quality programs at very low cost. Video is also a particularly effective medium for viral marketing, the brand of promotion in which people link to and share popular content with each other.

There have been some notable business-to-business viral video successes. Blendtec, a Utah-based maker of blenders for home and commercial use, scored a mega-hit with “Will It Blend?,” a series of Letterman-esque shorts in which Blendtec founder Tom Dickson pulverizes everything from golf balls to computer components using the company’s products. The clip showing an iPod being turned to dust has logged more than 3.5 million downloads on YouTube alone.

Eastman Kodak scored a smaller hit with “Winds of Change,” a humorous, self-deprecating video that was reportedly never meant to be seen outside the company. YouTube watchers overwhelmingly praised Kodak for acknowledging its past mistakes and vowing to be a leader in digital imaging.

Video and other viral marketing techniques have their downside, though. While word-of-mouth marketing can spread positive buzz with astonishing speed, buzz can work both ways.

Unilever N.V. experienced both extremes last year. It’s “Dove evolution” video, showing a young woman’s transformation into a billboard beauty, scored millions of downloads and positive comments. Yet a video invitation to customers to create videos for a Dove advertising campaign was so poorly received that the company shut down comments on YouTube.

All this activity rolls up into the bigger phenomenon of viral marketing, which is gaining traction in the b2b world. Grand Central Communications spread the word about its new product—a service that consolidates people’s phone numbers—by seeding the blogosphere with free accounts. Bloggers’ mostly rave reviews were noted by mainstream media, which gushed about the service.

Nokia Corp. is in its eighth iteration of a similar campaign in which high-end cell phones are distributed to influential bloggers whose commentary, both positive and negative, is posted on a company Web site.

Both companies are counseled by Comunicano, a marketing boutique that specializes in blogger relations.

Andy Abramson, who runs Comunicano, describes the strategy as “a story that pops in the media because of all the heat generated below. By the time the media bites, the story is already baked,” he said. “Once you have a fully-baked brand, it’s almost impossible to compete with.”

Jupiter Research reported in March that 48% of brand marketers plan to use social marketing tactics in the next year, a 10% increase over the previous year. However, an earlier Jupiter study also reported that seven in 10 consumers don’t trust product information they find on social media. The emergence of new services like PayPerPost, which pays bloggers to write about products, has stoked the controversy.

It’s hard to believe that the concept of social media marketing barely even existed two years ago. For now, the trend has all the characteristics of a craze, and no one knows whether it will go mainstream or crash and burn. It’s clear, though, that plenty of businesses will try their hands in the coming year.

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