I love RealSelf. It’s a site that educates women about choices for looking younger.
I have written a lot about how anti-aging information is essential for managing one’s career. Aging is not equal in the workplace. Women are penalized much more heavily than men. So women can gain power in the world through knowledge of the tools for looking younger.
But mainstream media is reluctant to recommend that women turn to a resource like RealSelf. Those reporters don't like the reality of the world they live in, so they don't write about it.
That's why public relations professionals should scrap the traditional pitch to mainstream media — saying that is almost cutting edge, except that Obama's team beat me to it:
Time magazine has great analysis on why Obama's campaign team was so effective. “Incoming press secretary Robert Gibbs pointedly told the New York Times magazine that Obama never sat down with the Washington Post Editorial Board. You could go to Cedar Rapids and Waterloo [Iowa} and understand that people weren't reading the Washington Post … Obama posts weekly addresses on YouTube, and Gibbs answers questions via video on change.gov.”
But the big problem with PR pitches to print media is that there are too many failure paths. There is nothing to click. You have to make a note to yourself, while reading the paper, to go check out something online. And then you write a link that is prone to typos and then you can’t lose the note. All this means a newspaper pitch is unlikely to go viral.
Pete Blackshaw, from Consumergeneratedmedia.com, says, “PR is not the owner of the story. There are still some PR people who are great at convincing the mainstream media to pick up their client’s story. But today, the story, if it goes anywhere, will grow through consumers, online.”
The good news is that finally, there’s a social media tool that people expect to see pitches on. No longer do PR types have to annoy bloggers to the point that bloggers create blacklists. Now publicity mavens have a spot of their own, and, big news, the bloggers love trolling Twitter for good pitches.
Here’s how it works: The online influencers are on Twitter. They send traffic to blogs and Facebook and StumbleUpon. And those people email their friends, in community-wide missives, and that’s how something becomes viral.
The only catch is that PR folks need to get good at pitching in 140 characters.
And sure you can do it without Twitter. But in this situation, Twitter is hard to beat.
“Brands will adopt Twitter for everything from media/influencer outreach to consumer service to crisis communities. But more than any push channel, Twitter will give consumers—advocates and critics—unprecedented access to corporate personnel, and vice versa,” says Scott Monty, author of the Social Media Marketing Blog.
But even the best viral campaigns are not as effective as real conversations. Companies will participate in the conversation instead of paying people to control it. “The consumers who love the company and help vet the storyline will also be keen to help the company succeed — promoting that storyline in … guided content,” according to Todd Defren, who blogs at pr-squared.com.
This is happening now. We’re in a recession. So it makes sense that instead of paying expensive PR agencies to work their magic on outdated media gatekeepers you save the money. Instead, train passionate employees and customers to have authentic conversations about the brand.
Here is a great example: When bombs went off in Mumbai last November, American Express immediately went through their databases to find any customers who might be there. American Express called each customer to see if they needed cash, housing or help getting a way out of the city.
I didn’t find this out from the news. The gatekeepers of the media world wouldn’t print this. They’d think it was too much like PR.
I heard it from my mom, who works at AmEx. And it didn’t feel like PR at all: She was genuinely proud to work for a company that would do that so she wanted people to know.
And I’m telling you because I don’t care if something sounds like PR or not. I care if I got a chill when I heard the story. And I did.
Note to AmEx: This is your new PR. Compliments of all of us. Because we’re all in this business of PR now.
(For a great overview of social media and PR, read interviews by Peter Kim in Social Media Predictions 2009.)