Author Archive

Why Press Releases and Web 2.0 Go Together

By George

There is some interesting work happening over at Optaros, a next-generation consulting firm. Optaros helps companies build web sites and back end systems using Web 2.0 principals. The company recently converted its own web site to showcase what it means by Web 2.0.

Full disclosure: Racepoint was Optaros’ PR agency of record for more than a year, but we are no longer are engaged with them.

Optaros’ new web site has a fresh look and feel (although some of the dynamic content looks a bit clunky, especially on the home page). Optaros lists its “8 Principals for B2B Marketing 2.0” in the new age of the web. Most of its principals have been said before, but they present it well. However, number 6 really took us by surprise:

“Stop issuing press releases “over the wire.” The first press release was “put on the wire” on March 8, 1954 by PRNewswire to 12 news outlets in New York City. The pricing model is still based on the number of words with the average press release costing between $500 and $1,000 to put “over the wire”. Instead, email them to reporters/ bloggers to build a personal connection and increase the probability of coverage.”

This is why companies shouldn’t take communications advice from marketers. They simply don’t understand public relations. This principal flies in the face of what is happening on the web (and also contradicts Optaros’ 7th principal, which is to syndicate and actively share content).

In the age of interconnectivity and search engine optimization why would a company choose to limit the distribution of its own news? When a press release goes over the wire – it is automatically picked up by dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of online outlets. These “links” immediately push the press release to the top of Google and Yahoo searches.

When Racepoint launched Ringleader, a next-generation mobile advertising network, several weeks ago, its press release held three of the top spots in the first 10 results in a Google search for the company for more than 10 days. That meant anyone conducting a search for “Ringleader” had a 30 percent chance of clicking on a link to the press release.

That’s a powerful mode of communication. If a company was wise enough to include links to additional content in the press release then it now has an opportunity to engage more directly with potential customers.

Press releases are more important than ever. The mistake in Optaros’ thinking is believing that press releases are written for the press. That’s old-fashioned thinking for company touting to be Web 2.0. Press releases are now for everyone: customers, prospects, partners, investors, employees, bloggers, social networks, reporters, editors, and analysts.

Companies should be writing more of them – and distributing them widely through the wires, through RSS, through aggregators and social bookmarking services, and, yes, even directly to reporters when a reporter has asked for a copy of one (and generally before its been widely distributed).

(And on another note: Optaros clearly doesn’t understand how to develop relationships with the press either. One sure-fire way to get off on the wrong foot with a reporter is to clutter up her inbox with press releases she didn’t ask for.)

There’s little doubt that the industry needs to rethink the way they write press releases. We agree with Optaros that companies should kill the corporate voice and engage with everyone in a more straight forward, plain-spoken manner.

Here are some additional details about our philosophy on press releases.

It’s refreshing to see companies like Optaros opening up and communicating better. They are setting an excellent example for other companies to follow.

But they should leave the public relations advice to the experts.

 

March 17, 2008 at 3:39 pm 3 comments

The Value of Boredom

By George

It’s no secret that the Boston Globe does a mediocre job of covering technology innovation in Massachusetts. The newspaper often spends more time covering California companies or the big national technology brands (like Google and Microsoft) than exploring the incredible innovations happening right in its own backyard.

The reason seems to be that the Globe doesn’t believe the technology happening here has enough consumer value. We’re constantly getting push back from Globe reporters not interested in striking firsts happening here: like the creation of the first real DNA microscope, the invention of the portable CT scanner (being used by the NFL and being featured on TV’s “ER”) or protecting our mounting amount of digital data from disaster – be it dynamic, virtual or physical.

It’s true that a lot of the emerging companies in the Bay State are business-to-business, but we think the Globe needs to spend less time covering the video gaming industry and more time on what’s happening here.

One notable exception, however, is reporter Carolyn Johnson. She has been a refreshing addition to the business pages and appears to have a real passion for writing about next-generation technologies. And the great thing about Carolyn is that she gets technology and is able to translate complicated technologies to a mainstream audience.

I was impressed with her piece in yesterday’s Idea section on – of all things – boredom. Carolyn explores the idea that boredom is necessary to spark innovation and that our modern obsession with filling every moment with micro-entertainment might not be good for us. Take this passage:

“But are we too busy twirling through the songs on our iPods — while checking e-mail, while changing lanes on the highway — to consider whether we are giving up a good thing? We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life’s greatest luxuries — one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works.”

It’s a fascinating read and an example of how Carolyn gets beyond the obvious and explores the philosophy and trends behind where we are going as a society.

It also makes you want to put down your mobile device – at least for a couple of hours every day (or until it rings).

March 10, 2008 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

How the Web and Social Networking Sites Have Changed News Gathering

By George

Another senseless act of gun violence erupted today – this time on the rural campus of Northern Illinois University. A graduate student is being identified as the gunman who went on a murderous rampage that left five students and the gunman dead. A total of 21 people were shot.

Our sympathies are with the victims, their families, and their friends.

The shooting has unleashed another 24/7 cycle of news coverage. The cable channels, wire services, and national newspapers have been updating the story continuously since it broke this morning. One of the remarkable aspects to this tragic story is the significant role that social media networks and the Web are having on the coverage.

The Web continues to transform the news industry – the way to cover the news, research the news, and present it to readers. For example, CNN is showing photographs of the victims from their Facebook pages. Facebook is fast becoming a news destination for reporters looking for personal information about people suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The cable station even has video of Facebook as an unseen user clicks through the individual pages of the shooting victims.

CNN has also been conducting online research into the identified suspect – finding photographs and other Web content to help fill out its profile of him. ABC News is doing the same. They posted a story today containing information culled from users of an online music community where the killer was allegedly an active participant.

CNN is among the first news outlets to set up an online forum for readers to sound off on the shootings. Hundreds of readers have already left comments behind on the tragedy. CNN has used the forum as a way to gauge national reaction to the shootings.

But it wasn’t only readers wanting to communicate using the latest technology. According to the Washington Post: “Inside the library (at Northern Illinois), more than 50 students gathered around computers. They searched for news and to send messages to friends and relatives, and also tried to use their mobile telephones.”

February 15, 2008 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

Corporate Social Responsibility — Getting Beyond Philanthropy

By Peter Prodromou

People can find something to criticize about everything, including the transparency of Bono’s “Red” campaign. The Red campaign was started a little over a year ago and includes corporations like the Gap, who donate a portion of sales proceeds from Red branded merchandise to help with medical issues in developing countries. It seems the New York Times has questions about how much of that money is getting to these countries.

The Times article comes on the heels of Dell Computer joining the campaign and publicizing its participation during a Super Bowl ad.

That’s the problem with today’s brand of corporate social responsibility (CSR). It simply too sporadic and even if it isn’t — the way it’s executed leaves people with the best intentions open to criticism. This trend points to the glaring need for companies to reform their views and execution on social corporate responsibility. Companies today need to ingrain in their DNA and their corporate positioning the spirit of CSR.

We applaud Dell, Gap and every other participant for joining the Red campaign. Now we ask them to be truly bold. They can begin by reframing their corporate images around a handful of the most important issues in the world today – whether the environment, solving poverty or something else. They should think not only about giving, but empowering societies by developing and providing them with the tools they need to elevate themselves.

Imagine a cleaner world brought to you by a Green General Motors, or a future bastion of democracy in the developing world with entrepreneurialism powered by accessible computers. That’s the true spirit of CSR – the kind companies must focus on to lead and compete in the 21st century.

 

 

February 7, 2008 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

It’s a Brave New World (2.0)


By Peter Prodromou

It’s been nearly 80 years since Edward Bernays changed the face of PR by marching a bunch of women down Madison Avenue smoking cigarettes. Yet even with the passage of time, you could argue nothing’s changed. Companies and governments still use the same tired approaches to publicize their agendas:

1 Part Wall Street Journal + 1 Part Charitable Act = Successful Reputation Management

The problem with that formula is that the world has passed it by.

The Wall Street Journal is still important and, let’s face it, who can argue with the righteousness of charitable acts? But the reality is, today’s audiences are more fragmented, sophisticated and connected than ever. The power of the internet and digital media has given everyone and anyone the power to drive perception. At the same time, the public is more issues driven than ever. Just think about how many of your friends and neighbors talk about the environment… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The companies and countries that are going to define this century are going to need more than economic might and an audience with print and broadcast media. They’re going to be tapped into those issues and, equally important, they’re going to have to understand the value of new technology and web media for not only communicating a story, but creating conversations and on-on-one constituent relationships.

They’ll do it through digital media, blogs, forums and other discussion sites. They’ll do it visually, using the web to spread their message far and wide. Most important, they’ll do it credibly with true commitment to the issues that concern the public today and through true relationship building.

So who’s getting it right? Think One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) – empowering people all over the globe to gain access to knowledge and talking about it on the web, as well as through traditional media. Think British Petroleum, moving to transform from an old oil company, to a next generation energy resource – and is proud – and daring enough — to talk about it.

These are the organizations that give you hope for a better tomorrow and a view into real leadership. These are the model organizations that work now or will work with World 2.0.

February 6, 2008 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

Can the Internet Really Go Down — Everywhere?

By George

Apparently yes.

The vulnerability is scary. According to CNN.com, an anchor from a ship may have severed an undersea cable in the Mediterranean Sea and taken out Internet service in large regions of the Middle East and Asia (including China and India).

With so much information and critical services now Web-based – the cost of this outage will be in the billions. The United States has been spared from the outage (although the Web was in slow motion most of the morning).

But U.S. business have off-shored so much technical and customer support overseas that companies like IBM and Intel are still assessing the damage to their operations. It probably won’t be pretty.

Stay tuned to this story because it has greater ramifications than just the business losses and downtime. Government and business these days can barely function without the Internet (I think of our own operations at Racepoint Group – with a lot of our tools and many of our databases Web-based).

If an anchor can wipe out the Internet on two continents – the discussion falling out of this disaster will be centered on what will need to be done to fully protect and deliver the Web – while having reliable back up solutions in place.

 

January 31, 2008 at 4:31 pm 1 comment

OLPC Raises More Than $35 Million

By George

From November 12 through December 31, One Laptop Per Child ran a charitable campaign in North America called the Give One Get One.  It was simple.  Buy two of OLPC’s XO laptops (often called the $100 laptop) for $399 U.S. dollars and you get one; while the second is shipped to a child in a developing country.

The campaign is a case study on the effectiveness of public relations in building awareness, creating consumer demand and driving action.  OLPC is a non-profit organization and couldn’t afford a fancy advertising campaign to spread the word about G1G1.  So they turned to Racepoint Group.

We have been working with OLPC for more than a year — doing pro bono communications work.  But the G1G1 campaign was different.  The public relations campaign we created for G1G1 would be augmented by a small (but very creative) advertising campaign (publications and broadcasters agreed to run these ads and short videos as public service announcements).  But we were primarily on our own in building awareness and driving traffic to the G1G1 web site where consumers would be able to purchase the amazing XO laptops.

We had already done a remarkable job in media relations for OLPC — but now we were tasked with directly impacting sales.  We had to move beyond the core technology and business writers and focus on consumer press.  The goal of G1G1 was to reach consumers — directly.  There was the added difficulty that consumers could only buy the XO in one place — a web site built by OLPC.  Consumers wouldn’t be able to go to a store to look at, touch, or play with the XO.  In fact, we wouldn’t even be able to tell them exactly when they would receive their XOs.

A difficult challenge, indeed.

But our campaign generated thousands of articles and broadcasts — from a feature in People magazine to appearances on “Good Morning, America” and FOX-TV and hundreds of blog posts.  For the month of December — OLPC was everywhere.  The results speak for themselves.  OLPC sold more than 160,000 XO laptops and raised more than $35 million dollars.

Proof that when public relations is done right — it can create a powerful impact.

January 10, 2008 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

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