Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why Ask Why When it Comes to Social Media?

Just about everyone is weighing in on the subject of social media and experts.  I even wrote a post about  social media experts, which leads into my next topic.  Brian Solis recently penned a post to get companies to think and ask some real basic questions when it comes to social media.  Why?

Once again, you need to get beyond engaging in social media because “it’s the thing to do.”  You need to ask some serious questions about why you want to engage in social media — because your customers are certainly asking the questions.

If you haven’t thought about it, take some time to review why social media is important to you and your business and if your customers are even engaged in social media.

Social media has definitely changed the marketing and public relations landscape.  Remember, you’re not just doing it for  self gratification.   Everything you do related to marketing your company should circle back to the needs of  your customers.

What I Like about Google+

Even though I don’t have a Google Plus account and don’t have first-hand experience using it, it seems pretty cool.

Judging by the comments on Facebook and Twitter, most people seem to like it — a lot.

One of the features I think is really cool is Circles. I would probably use Facebook more often if I could break my “friends” up into groups. The primary reason I got a Facebook account was for business purposes, but once my family and friends found out I had an account, I started getting friend requests. Let’s just say I don’t want to mix business with pleasure, so I don’t post that often.

Now with Google+, it appears that you can create different circles of friends who will only see what you’ve posted to a specific circle. Business stuff for colleagues and clients, and personal stuff for family and friends. That’s the way it should be. I hope Facebook is taking note. This is a feature I’ve been waiting for for years. Step up Facebook!

What is a Social Media Expert?

Just about every creative industry has experts.  Advertising, marketing and public relations all have experts.  Peter Shankman recently questioned whether anyone should be considered a social media “expert” in his post I Will Never Hire a Social Media Expert.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines an expert as “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”  So perhaps someone can, in good conscience call themselves a “social media expert.”

I think there is a bigger question — is social media enough for companies to reach their target audience?  I understand the benefits of social media and what it can do for a campaign, but social media is just an element used in marketing or public relations plans, and can’t successfully stand alone.

Not all companies or industries lend themselves to social media.  Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t make it right for you.  I advise my clients to include social media only if it makes sense — business sense.

Advertising vs. Public Relations

A friend sent me a graphic that depicts the difference between marketing, PR, advertising and branding.  It made me think about an article I wrote several years ago about the difference between advertising and PR.  I’m reposting the article here since it still has merit today and is in harmony with the graphic.

I was compelled to write this article for personal reasons.  My family and friends don’t really understand what I do for a living.  Try as I might, they still don’t understand my job as a public relations (PR) consultant.  They generally reply with the following remarks:

  • “Oh, like advertising”
  • “I get it, you write those ads in the magazines”

Since my family and friends are confused, I figured others might be as well.  In this article, I hope to convey in simple terms what advertising is, and how it differs from PR.


Advertising is paying for message placement in the media. You decide what you want to say and how you want you say it – and you pay for that control.  Companies and organizations pay hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars to have their messages seen or heard by consumers.

With advertising you’re able to accomplish three main goals:

  1. Control the message
  2. Repeat the message
  3. Evaluate the message

Not restricted to grammatical rules, an advertisement’s content is edgy, eye-catching, and often contains hip or catchy phrases.

An advertiser wants to grab your attention so that you will remember their product or service.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Do you remember the Sock Puppet?  The clever mascot used by a failed Internet retailer.  We all remember the puppet, but do we remember the product or service?  Most of us have probably forgotten that it was  People remembered the puppet, but that didn’t translate into enough sales.  Other companies have had much success with their advertising campaigns – seeing sales soar through the roof after an effective campaign. Advertising certainly has its place in every marketing plan.

Public Relations

PR has been referred to as “free advertising.”  More accurately though, PR is a way of influencing the media to write about a product or service in a positive manner.  However, PR, unlike its cousin advertising, does not afford a company or organization control over the content, amount, or timing of “the news”.  Key messages must be developed and pitched to the media, with hopes of having them included in an article.  These key messages shape the perception of a company, leading to increased awareness and ultimately an increase in sales.  PR builds the brand, while advertising reinforces the brand.

PR also offers more credibility than advertising because articles are written by an un-biased third party.  After researching your product or service, a reporter writes an objective article.  For this reason, readers are more likely to believe news stories than information conveyed in advertising.  In comparison to running an advertisement, the cost of PR is quite low.

Advertising and Public Relations

Successful companies integrate advertising and public relations with their entire communications programs.  Combining the two programs can give your communications plan a boost.  Advertising in the same magazine where you have received news coverage is further reinforcement.  The beauty of PR is that even small companies can compete with the big guys.  Larger companies may outspend them in advertising, but a smaller company can be on equal footing with an effective PR program.

Taking the Squeeze Out of Launching a Startup

I read an interesting post by Robert Scoble about launching startups.  I’ve helped many companies launch their products and services, including at the DEMO conference, and Robert makes some good points about the elements of a good product launch.

He’s right that a company needs to tell a good story and not just rely on the buzz and splash at launch conferences, but I do feel the launch conferences serve a good purpose.  Where else can you get investors, reporters/bloggers, and luminaries in the same room together?

“You’re Nothing But a Welfare Check!”

There’s an older (homeless-looking) woman who hangs out between Peet’s Coffee and Arizmendi’s Bakery on Lakeshore in Oakland.  She can be kind of scary as she blurts out (sometimes) vulgar words to passersby.  Her eyes are so piercing, it’s like she’s looking right through you.  This morning she was sitting in front of Peet’s and uttered some unintelligible words as I passed .  On my way back to my car from Arizmendi’s, I noticed a woman with a walker approaching  the older woman and she handed her a dollar bill.

Indignant, the older woman uttered more unintelligible words, and then said, “take your dollar and buy a cup of coffee…you’re nothing but a welfare check.”  Huh?!?  What?!?  I laughed until I cried!

I have no idea what the older woman meant by that, but it made me think how easy it is to stereotype or prejudge people.  The woman with the walker no doubt thought she was doing a good deed by attempting to give the older woman some money.  I’ve seen this older woman for several years on Lakeshore and although she’s strange, and can sometimes be a little scary, I’ve never known her to panhandle.

Lesson:  Don’t be so quick to judge others and don’t make assumptions.

“You’re nothing but a welfare check” — my new saying when someone does something stupid “;-)

Stop the Presses — Online Video Rules!

Clients will often express their preference over having print coverage of an article instead of the online version. But take a look at this brief video. It shows the value of online coverage and why it’s a better deal.

The Online Media from RealWire on Vimeo.

Protecting Your Reputation

Has anyone ever created a negative Website or written an unflattering post about you or your company? Those flaming Websites and blog posts can be damaging and have long-lasting effects. Is there anything you can do about it?

Well, a new industry has popped up called Reputation Management with the promise of burying those negative pages and replacing them with positive pages.

This week’s BusinessWeek magazine has an article about the practice. Here’s how it works. After tracking negative pages, the reputation management company will promote pages with positive data and then do search engine optimization. The result? The positive pages rise in rank and the negative pages are pushed off the first page of search results – the ultimate goal. And some reputation management companies hire bloggers to blog about their clients, which creates more positive pages.

It seems there are ways to remove negative comments lurking in cyberspace, but what caused people to make negative comments in the first place? If they’re disgruntled customers, it may be time to face your critics head-on and win their trust back.

Getting Your Press Releases Juiced – Google Style

I recently attended a Business Wire event in San Francisco on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for press releases and SVP Laura Sturaitis gave some good tips on optimizing press releases.

Many of us understand the importance of optimizing websites to get better ranking on search engines — also called the Google Juice — but now it’s just as important to use the right keywords and tags to get a good ranking for your press releases.

Not only are the right keywords or keyword phrases important, but formatting is also crucial. Consider jazzing up your text by using bold, italics, symbols, bullet points and sub heads. Also include social networking tags such as a company’s Digg or page in addition to relevant Technorati tags.

When using links, choose relevant links that will drive traffic to the page you’re promoting rather than your main home page.

Also create permalinks for your press releases so a viewer will never get the dreaded 404 error message.

A Picture’s worth a Thousand Words

So, it’s been said. Linking to photos and graphics can also increase your ranking. In addition to adding a photo or graphic directly to your press release that’s sent over the wire, you can also link to a stored photo or video on one of the popular storage sites — Flickr, YouTube or Google Video.

Web 2.0 has certainly changed the way we look at news. Gone are the days of writing press releases only for editors and reporters. Now we have to write for machines too!

Foremski’s Facebook Experiment Comes to an End

Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher received so many emails (more than 37k at the time) and most of them from PR pros that he tried an experiment – he asked PR pros to only pitch him via Facebook.

After two months, Tom received even more emails so he’s decided to go back to accepting pitches via email. Unfortunately his experiment didn’t work. He will now give priority to pitches from those he’s connected to via Facebook or LinkedIn.


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