Interesting comment string follows his post. He asks in the context of web services, but as you know authenticity is very, very high on my personal list of desirable attributes, so I zeroed in on this question.
My take is that no, it cannot be faked. It might be temporarily, at best, but in the long term, as enough pressure is applied toward delivery of expectations, it will become obvious when the proverbial emperor has no clothes.
I hosted a teleseminar today for PRSA Tech Section practitioners -- Mike Manuel and David Kesmodel (former WSJ Online reporter) were the panelists, and each did an outstanding job. Thanks guys, I'm indebted to you both.
I think PRSA will make the content available if you're interested. David reviewed media interaction strategy, and Mike very expertly covered social media and how to use them in PR. Well worth the time.
The Times is reporting that private equity firm Apax might bid $1.2 billion for PR Newswire. The companies are not necessarily confirming the story, but for the sake of discussion, let's say the story is right.
Is it worth that kind of money?
Obviously (or, to use the preferred "look at me, I'm smart" word of the moment, "clearly"), I haven't done the due diligence, so anything I say is relatively uneducated.
My point of view is that of a practitioner. I have used, and still occasionally use, wire services to distribute information. It is not my preferred method for getting data and information out, however. There are several reasons, including the fact that I prefer to share news according to its best and most honest path to those for whom it's relevant -- sometimes the media is not that path.
Also, the main reason for wire service existence is no longer really there. It used to be you had limited time and capability to get news into as many editorial hands as possible (I well remember the days of faxing information like crazy, trying to get it out). Wire services would take your data and make it available everywhere for you. You can do that now with a blog or a page on your web site.
I can hear this question already: "What if I don't get any traffic to my site? How will anyone see my news?" Answer: A wire service isn't going to solve that problem for you. Either you have newsworthy data or you don't -- how you distribute it is relevant, but not as relevant as the actual value of the news itself. Another case of focusing on a tactic you hope will overcome a deeply flawed strategy. It won't.
So, is the money worth it? Maybe it is now, because everyone seems to keep insisting on pumping out news releases. But if I were betting, I'd say over the long term that value will diminish as companies (hopefully) get smarter about first identifying and then imparting quality data.
I usually wish I had more time for reading for ideas -- you know, just emptying your mind and letting ideas free form around what you read in a magazine, for example. The facts are, however, that a) I don't usually have that kind of time, and b) while I don't mean to be needlessly critical, I don't find a lot of good raw material to use in most media nowadays.
However comma I was just flipping through the December edition of Business 2.0, where there's a section titled (not "entitled") "How To Succeed In 2007," and they have various advice from a lot of people you know of. I don't buy all of it, but the one that really jumped out at me was this cut from Jeff Hicks, president of Crispin Porter & Bogusky (emphases mine):
There are three things I think about the most when it comes to making it as a marketer these days. The first one is there's no amount of money I can pay to get my commercial in front of you, because you can powerfully edit what you spend time with. So my job as a marketer is no longer to interrupt, but to produce content that is so relevant, interesting, entertaining, and involving that my best consumers won't want to live without it. The second thing is understanding that instead of brochures and trade shows, marketing now really begins with the product. Great companies are investing a lot of time and attention into trying to make products that market themselves. The last piece is that user-generated content has made it possible for consumers to own your brand, and if they don't, you're not doing your job. The brands that are adopted, blogged about, and parodied the most are the ones that are going to win because they're involved in the evolution of pop culture. If you're scared to have your brand played with, you're going to be left behind.
John C. Whitehead, former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, shared with me the best piece of advice I've ever received -- "to do a little retail business each day." This response came after I had asked him, at a board meeting on which we served together, what he had learned over all his years of doing business.
Every day, go out of your way to help someone in need -- have your antennae up and pay attention to the people with which life brings you in contact. This is what John meant by his comment. When he was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, he made sure every day he went down to the frontline employees to see if nay of them needed a little help. And it kept him grounded. It's so easy to start thinking of yourself as way too important for most people when you're the co-chair of one of the most powerful firms on the planet.
In April 1985, Mr. Whitehead was asked to become Deputy Secretary of State, second-in-command to Secretary George Schultz, and he served until January 1989. During this period, he was Acting Secretary of State when Mr. Schultz was away from Washington and took a special interest in relations with Eastern Europe, the United Nations, and various administrative reforms in the State Department. Mr. Whitehead was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Reagan.
Every day, while at the State Department, Whitehead instructed his staff to find a person somewhere that just needed a little help -- someone stuck in another country with their passport stolen -- anyone that could use some help from the number 2 guy in the State Department.
John Whitehead taught me to set aside 30 minutes each day and go out of my way to offer assistance to someone that needs a little extra help. And it's been those moments over this past year that have given me the most joy. ONce I started paying attention to the little signs of people in need all around me, I began to see people crossing my path almost every day that just needed a little help.
Look for someone today to help. Please remember to give thanks and give back during this holiday season and throughout the year. Happy Thanksgiving to my frineds in teh U.S. and happy holidays to everyone across the globe. May peace and prosperity bless your life.
I'm especially impressed and thankful for John's frank and honest assessment of product promotion via media relations. Why am I that impressed? Because for every practitioner like John, who will say "Listen, this is a great product, but I don't want you to waste your money chasing clips for no business purpose," there are 500 agencies or soloists who will gladly take your money, slam the editors with empty pitches, produce not much in result, and thus perpetuate the sham side of our industry.
Nothing against any particular agency or practitioner. Not at all. The fact simply is that if PR wants the proverbial "seat at the table" it's always demanding, the industry needs to aggressively re-orient itself (and the way it's perceived) away from chasing newspaper headlines and toward building productive relationships and exchanges of information.
“_____.com Leads Web 2.0 Revolution with New Unrivalled Revenue-Sharing Social Networking Site
In one of the most monumental projects ever created for the Internet, _____.com has launched a never-before-seen user-powered news site, positioning the company to achieve success of MySpace and YouTube proportions.”
Aren't you tired of writing that? Aren't you tired of your leading provider client endlessly re-editing the release to make sure "everyone understands [their] positioning"? Aren't you tired of slamming the phones, hoping editors didn't File 13 your preciously wordsmithed press release?
Sometimes the press release and won't-you-please-make-me-famous phoneathon process reminds me of a needy teenager hoping and swooning and begging for attention from the object of their desire, who has about seven other things on which to concentrate. Begging for attention when there's not much reason to pay it is -- and this is put mildly, obviously, a waste of time.
How about a position of strength instead? Wouldn't that be better? And, of course, how do you get one of those?
You get it by finding common ground and a shared agenda. You build a relationship with a journalist, preferably before you start having news to share. You get smart with him/her about the industry, feed data to one another and compare notes. You do that as well with your customers -- by getting in front of them, reading what they say about you and your products in the myriad forums easily available through the magic of a .45 second Internet search. You get to know your competitors and learn to anticipate what they're going to say about you. You hold your tongue on the news front until you have news. You make something authentic that addresses a known market pain. You do your homework.
This takes time, and you must be patient.
Looks like I got off on a rant here, and I didn't really mean to. I started with a simple kudos to a blogger / practitioner I admire and enjoy reading. But I keep hoping my tiny voice can get a little amplification here and help dislodge some of the very old and very tired practices we seem to insist on employing, at either our own or our clients' behest, and which are proven nearly daily to be largely ineffective.
I'm a person of myriad strangeness. The five that are probably the most benign:
I can't stand tomatoes or mushrooms. I wish I liked them, but I don't. I can, however, eat nearly anything with these as an added ingredient (e.g., tomato sauce in Italian food). No, it's not the texture. Tomatoes taste like crap to me.
I drank with the best of them, particularly in my younger days, but I've never ingested a drug. I don't know if that makes me weird or just puts me directly in a small minority. Whatever. I just never saw the point.
You probably can't find very many people who care less about NFL football than me. I appreciate the game, and I'll watch the Super Bowl, but week-by-week, forget it. Overall I'd rather play sports than watch.
I'm a decent athlete, but there is no sport that makes me look dumber (than I already do) than trying to play basketball. I have no feel for the game. However, I can spin a ball on my finger as if I'd played for the Globetrotters.
If you name a popular song from the 80s, I can probably tell you the year it was released.
Truth is I don't mind these memes because people (most people) interest me. But the further truth is I don't have another five to tag, sorry. Carry on.