Illustration: Sandra Kuan
Five years ago, PR 2.0 started to organize informal get-togethers inviting bloggers who not only couldn’t believe it – simply because it didn’t exist when they launched their blog – but who generally couldn’t understand why they were invited. Regardless, it livened things up and gave everyone (at least from Paris) the opportunity to meet other bloggers face-to-face.
Agencies sent out loads of invitations and everyone was genuinely happy to see each other. At the time, advertisers themselves didn’t really know why they were doing this type of activity. Nevertheless, it was cool, innovative and provided a web-oriented dimension.
Operations multiplied. Bloggers were invited to several events each night and offered countless gifts. As a result, blogs were created with the sole purpose of taking advantage of this windfall.
As the number of operations increased, so did the need to stand out. Sample kits were created to increase product seeding and to catch the eye of the solicited blogger. Teasers, where bloggers had to figure out what was behind the kit, were used to generate buzz. And bloggers generally played along, proud to be the first to solve the riddle.
As for the blogger, he began to understand the value of his article and was criticized on all fronts by his readers once he swayed too far from his blog’s purpose or participated in too many events.
No one really wanted to say the same thing as his neighbour, either, and while many bloggers were invited, the trend slowly started to flip, with several different levels of operations (no, it’s not fair but that’s life). Bloggers also started to demand and receive a bit of consideration.
Then came the sponsored posts, horrible remunerated posts that are deplorable but practical when it came to accessing sacred blog stats and knowing the number of posts. PR 2.0 started to standardize in terms of KPI. Bloggers explained to anyone who would listen that the number of page views, rankings and other fast figures didn’t make sense. Bloggers explained the meaning of a PR blogger: a long-term text optimization, site optimization and influencer with a more-or-less large network. Bloggers also attempted to prove that the image of the influential blogger doesn’t really work.
Social media is on the rise and enthusiasts stand out. These are people who love the brand without the same visibility as bloggers, but who are more valuable because they are genuine fans. The brand, in turn, provided these enthusiasts with increased visibility.
At the same time, blogger relations continued to stabilize and brands and bloggers appeared to understand each other, with each aware of the other’s expectations.
Sample kits had gone the way of the dodo and the focus shifted to: the product, the email invitation, the sender, the operation’s appeal in relation to the blog and the opportunity to meet people who offer something completely new.
It’s time to understand how it all works. The right choice for the right brand has never made more sense.
Illustration: Sandra Kuan
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with a bright Marketing Director about his digital projects over the past year. He gave me a hard time about the Key Performance Indicators (the measure of marketing effectiveness) for every single campaign we worked on. We are not the type of agency that develops digital solutions without tracking the results, but even so, measuring the impact that digital has on a particular business, particularly for complex international companies, is often a challenge.
Part way through our meeting he asked me why his brand hadn’t developed a successful Facebook approach. I felt it was important to revisit the KPI discussion we had earlier. How do you want to measure the effectiveness of Facebook: by the number of Friends, Likes or Comments? There was a pause for a moment. In the end, the underlying problem was revealed: overhyped social media. The majority of brands feel they have to jump on the social-media train, without any clear understanding of where it will take them.
Recent research from Lewis PR, a Belgium PR company, revealed that 73% of Belgian companies don’t have a social media policy in place, let alone a social strategy. I would guess that the European average is not far from that.
Expert blogs, such as L2: A Think Tank for Digital Innovation, Altimeter Group and tweepi, are full of tips and tricks on how to successfully use social media. But despite the wealth of information available, too many brands are fixated on the tactics and channels. It’s not about Facebook, Twitter or the tricks-of-the-trade that experts commonly share. The key issue is to evaluate your business by carefully listening to your customers and determining how you can improve their business through social techniques. Otherwise, all your social-media efforts risk becoming a glorified form of public relations.
Illustration: Sandra Kuan
It rarely fails. Whether I’m asked to help with a site experience redesign or work with a client on a social media strategy, I eventually find myself roving into the media rooms of corporate sites.
To get there, I often have to dig deep in the site only to be confronted by a collection of scanned paper artifacts and cold text press releases organized by category, yet difficult to navigate. Frequently, the media room experience fails to create an opportunity to generate dialogue, lacks multimedia content entirely and neglects to tell a brand’s story. When in this environment, I flash back to the days of cranking through reels of library microfiche files, going at it entirely alone in a laborious, solitary pursuit of information consumption. (Those who are too young to have experienced this have only to navigate through the average corporate site’s media section to relive the experience.)
Not only have journalists changed the way they use (or no longer use) the corporate media room, so has the definition of journalists vastly changed to encompass bloggers and other digital influencers. Another heavy digital user, the all-important investor, is actively tweeting and voraciously consuming news and corporate PR content.
While the media is certainly a digital influencer, these days the corporate media room is not a common stop along the critical path. However, press releases and other news are still housed there. Like the microfiche machines, the media room has become a dumping ground for archived content and news.
If a site is the hub of the digital channel marketing effort and we want to drive engagement and conversation with key target audiences, maybe we should be thinking about how digital influencers such as the media and even investors, for whom this content is important, want to engage with the brand.
The media room has become a disconnected space, forgotten in the context of PR strategies, social media plans or corporate site redesigns. What has failed? Are clients failing to factor media room digitization into their requests? Are PR and digital agencies failing to provide the right recommendations and ideas? Who is dropping the ball?
Written by Amanda Moore