How To Get an Angry Email From Me

So you know how I keep railing on Public Relations people? Yeah… That. I’ve decided to use one such PR Representative, a Mr. Cory O’Brien, as an object lesson. Though he doesn’t deserve it, I will leave his phone number and email address out.

Hi Site Owner,

My name is Cory O’Brien, and I’m the outreach manager for Guerilla PR. We are currently working with RealNetworks to help promote the release of their new RealPlayer®, and I’d like to send you a copy of the premium version for you to review on Suicide Fan.

Real has added some cool new features to the RealPlayer ([link removed]), and it’s now the perfect way to save, sort, search and share online videos. My favorite feature is the ability to download any non-DRM-protected video in the most popular formats to your hard drive with a single click, enabling you to watch them anywhere, anytime, without the need for an Internet connection.

Imagine this: You’re surfing through YouTube, MetaCafe, or Dailymotion, looking at football highlights, when you finally come across the clip you’ve been searching for. You click the RealPlayer download button that is hovering above the video window, and it instantly saves a copy of that video to your hard drive. Then, with that saved copy, you can easily show your friends, watch it anytime, or even burn it to a disc to watch on your TV. Want to share the video with your friend across the country? Just click the ‘Share Video Link’ button, and they’ll receive a link via email to go check out that very same video.

Though I think that this new player is a useful tool, I would love to know what you think. If you’re interested, please email me back and I’ll provide you with the download codes for a free copy of RealPlayer Plus, which is normally $29.99, and includes advanced features like DVD burning.

In addition, please check out www.guerillapr.com/real where you will find a variety of media that you can use for your post about the RealPlayer. There is a streaming, Flash-based slideshow which can be embedded onto any page, an animated viral video that explains the features, a how-to video narrated by a zombie, and a walk-through video that explains all of the new features.

Again, I would love to have you review the new RealPlayer, so please let me know if you are interested so that I can send you a download code for the Plus version. I look forward to hearing from you, so don’t hesitate to send me any questions, comments, concerns or tips you might have. Thanks!

Respectfully,

Cory O’Brien

Outreach Manager
Guerilla PR, Inc
415.460.****
85 Bolinas Road, Suite #17
Fairfax, CA 94930
*****@guerillapr.com
www.guerillapr.com

So let’s start at the top of this email.

  1. He addressed me as “Site Owner”. Is it difficult to figure out what my name is? I mean, here’s a hint – it’s in my email address.
  2. He referred to a dead podcast I used to do, but is no longer even on the net. Is this so hard to actually take the time to figure out. You make yourself look like a complete idiot.
  3. “Though I think that this new player is a useful tool, I would love to know what you think.” Is that so? Why would I waste my time? Besides, do you really think this is a useful tool or are you just saying that because it’s your job?
  4. “Again, I would love to have you review the new RealPlayer.” Don’t hold your breath, Cory.

Yes, I did respond harshly. I never do, but I’m really sick of PR people who think they are making the world a better place for their clients by pitching bloggers but having no idea what our world is like. I’m even more disappointed that an internet company like Real has engaged this kind of agency. Surely they could get more traction by grabbing Livingston Communications or Topaz Partners to do their PR.

hey smart guy-

Quit spamming people with your PR junk. If you had done your homework, you’d know SF doesn’t exist any longer. It doesn’t take a genius.

Go find out how to pitch your PR more effectively. Come back and talk to me after you’ve done so.

Everything you need to know.

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Everything I Needed to Know about PR I learned from Office Space

The funniest movie I ever saw is a late 90s geek favorite film Office Space. I know you all have seen it. And if not – put the kids to bed and go watch it now. Really. It’s not only funny, but it might just be the one thing that PR folks need to not be laughed at by social media people. Trust me on this. And to prove my point, I shared these thoughts this past weekend with some really great PR people that are trying to do it effectively in Boston.

You Must Engage the Community

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: “Joanna.”
Joanna: “Yeah?”
Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: “We need to talk. Do you know what this is about?”
Joanna: “My, uh, flair?”
Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: “Yeah. Or, uh, your lack of flair. Because, uh, I’m counting and I only see 15 pieces. Let me ask you a question, Joanna. What do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum?”
Joanna: “Huh. What do I thin– Um, you know what, Stan? If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”
Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: “Well, I thought I remembered you saying that you wanted to express yourself.”
Joanna: “Yeah. You know what? Yeah, I do. I do wanna express myself. Okay? And I don’t need 37 pieces of flair to do it. (She flips him off) Alright? There’s my flair. Okay? And this is me expressing myself. Okay? (She starts flipping everyone off) There it is. I hate this job! I hate this g*ddamn job, and I don’t need it!”

[listen - Language included, NSFW]

A lot of PR folks these days seem to have the idea that social media is where it’s at amd that they need us to be effective. They are absolutely correct. They know how many pieces of flair are minimum and many PR agencies do a very good job of meeting the minimum standard. They are out there in Technorati and on the blogs finding out what people are saying about their client. Some agencies even have “proprietary market research” software which checks these conversation out for them and spit out nicely collated reports for the board meetings.

However, there are conversations happening that are impossible to index and in some cases even know about while doing “social media drive bys”. They wouldn’t miss these conversations if they were engaged in the community. By engagement, I mean participating.

As a PR person, you have a 9-5 job or whatever it is. How much conversation are you having on your own time just because you love the community? If your answer is not much, you’re only wearing the minimum pieces of flair.

You Don’t Want to Gamble Your Decisions

Michael: “You think the Pet Rock was a really great idea?”
Smykowski: “Sure it was. The guy made a million dollars. You know, I had an idea like that once, a long time ago.”
Peter: “Really, what was it, Tom?”
Smykowski: “Well, alright. It was a ‘jump to conclusions’ mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor and would have different conclusions written on it that you could jump to.”
Michael: “That is the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom.”
Samir: “Yes. Yes, it’s horrible, this idea.”

[listen]

The hardest thing for someone who is a relative outsider to a community to do is to break into the community. That’s why it’s important, especially for PR folks, to be smart about how they pitch bloggers, podcasters and other members of the social media. It is far less likely that your client or company will be accepted, for instance, if you blanket social mediaites with press releases and “your message” without taking the time to build community and relationship with them first.

I get half a dozen unsolicited press releases every week and I have yet to offer a bit of coverage for any of them. Without relationship and community, PR messages are likely to fall on deaf ears. Measure your approach. Don’t gamble it away with a “Jump to Conclusions Mat”.

Engage Conversation by Listening First

Peter: “We have to swear to God, Allah, that nobody knows about this but us. Alright? No family members, no girlfriends, nobody.”
Samir: “Of course.”
Michael: “Agreed.”
Lawrence: [from the next apartment through the wall] “Don’t worry, man! I won’t tell anyone either!”
Michael: “What the f*ck is that?”
Peter: “No, don’t worry about him. He’s cool.”

[listen -NSFW]

There’s a tremendous amount of conversation happening everywhere on the net. Notably, blogs are a great place for interaction between companies and customers. Instinctively, PR companies can be a little gun shy about unmetered conversation as it relates to their company. However, this is the essence of transparency, trust and consumer confidence.

Listening is a skill that seems to have gotten lost a lot of the times. My dad uses to tell me that God gave me two ears so I could listen twice as much as I talk. Unfortunately, in todays ad-driven, PR-protectionism market, consumers are told exactly what to believe and traditional mindsets insinuate that we should be realy darn happy that we’ve been “informed”.

People are not stupid, though, and we are capable of making our own rationally (or perhaps irrationally) derived thoughts. Folks in the PR industry should come into the grass-roots mediasphere with the intent that they want to listen and by doing so, earn the trust of those that they are listening to.

Buy In!

Peter: “The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I just don’t care.”
Bob Porter: “Don’t– Don’t care?”
Peter: “It’s a problem of motivation, alright. Now, if I work my a*s off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see a dime. So where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob. I have eight different bosses right now.”
Bob Slydell: “I beg your pardon?”
Peter: “Eight bosses.”
Bob Slydell: “Eight?”
Peter: “Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motvation is not to be hassled. That and the fear losing my job. But you know, Bob, that’ll only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”

[listen]

There’s something about complete “buy in” that is reassuring and noticeable. This principle may apply to marketers more than PR folks, but the reality is that honest communication is noticeable and dishonest communication is even more noticeable.

The stereotypical picture is of a slick used car salesman who will sell you a lemon without thinking twice. Unfortunately for the used car salesman, they’ve been made and everyone knows not to trust them before they go in. Particularly savvy customers still go in but with the knowledge of cars and places to look to find out if a car is a lemon before he buys it.

Social media people are naturally cynical of anyone telling them what to believe or think. We don’t like it with the press. We bicker among ourselves when someone slings a little mud. We’re certainly not going to let a PR person pitch us on something that is obviously not bought into by the PR rep. Unfortunately for you guys, we generall can tell. The people who don’t buy in are the ones who are not engaging (#1), who are making drive-by choices (#2) and who don’t want to take the time to get the heartbeat of the community (#3).

Speak Smartly

Milton: “I-I said I don’t care if they lay me off, either. Because, I told– I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time then I’m– I’m quitting– I’m going to quit. And I told Dom too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year. And I used to be over by the window and I could see the squirrels and they were married. But then they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler. But I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler.”
Peter: “Okay, Milton.”
Milton: “And, oh, no, it’s not okay because if they make me– if they– If they take my stapler then I’ll– I’ll have to– I’ll set the building on fire.”
Peter: “Okay’ well, that sounds, uh, that sounds great. Uh, I’ll talk to you later, alright? Bye.”

[listen]

Ah, good old Milton. How could I write an article about Office Space and not mention Milton? :-) Well, as it turns out, Milton too can teach PR folks something about social media. Even though you can’t understand him, Milton has demonstrated why it’s important to speak the language of the audience you are trying to reach. Remember that bloggers may or may not be your target audience. We get bombarded by people wanting us to promote events and get togethers and computers and cameras. The problem is that since you’re not speaking our language, you don’t live in our world – you simply drive through – we are not likely to understand you and you are not likely to speak our language.

Before the building burns down, stop and listen to the folks you are pitching. Don’t just read an About page, but read the blog. Even if you don’t understand it. I’m much more likely to lend opportunities to people who have read my blog and have interacted with me via comment or email.

Most PR is still back a few years trying to catch up. Some PR doesn’t have any concept of social media and, successful or not, are losing time and money because they aren’t engaging the social media centers. If you can follow the Rules of Office Space, you will have a huge lead on competitors and have gained the trust and resperct of those of us operating everyday in the social sense.

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Google Can Kiss My Derriére

I’ve given yesterday’s Google smackdown a bit of thought over the past 24 hours. I’ve been angry, sad, indifferent, resigned. I’ve gone through the entire spectrum of emotion over the deal trying to figure out how it would affect what I do and how I do it. After sleeping on the matter for the past day and reading the opinions of lots of other people who were affected, I’m inclined to let Google shoot themselves in the foot.

As one commenter in my previous post noted, this is classic FUD. That theory rings really loudly in my ears and I’m inclined to go with that theory. Google slaps down a bunch of prominent people, lets the buzz take over and hope that the warning shot would be taken seriously by the rest of the blogosphere. Well, Google can kiss my derriére.

I’m not inclined to change the way I do things, nor am I inclined to recommend anyone else change what they do, how they do it or try to avoid Google PageRank penalties in the future. In the case of my blog, I have not broken any rules nor have I pimped my blog in some way to artificially manipulate SERPs or PageRanking. In fact, what I’ve done is no different that the bulk of other legitimate blogs.

Let me summarize what Google exists for, from the perspective of a blogger, content producer and user.

Google Exists to Produce Relevant Search Results

Google is first and foremost a search engine. Sure it has lots of other tools and apps that they offer, but their bread and butter is search and to that end, they want to produce relevant search results to users. They want to produce relevancy and authority. You’re more likely to get gadget recommendations from Engadget, for instance, than our own The Gadget Blog. It’s the truth. Engadget is just the authority followed by Gizmodo. Yes, they are competitors. That’s fine. They are the authorities. When I search for a gadget that our blog and Engadget has written about, I expect, as a user, that the Engadget listing would rank higher. Google wants to produce relevant, authoritative content.

Google has an Advertising Business

Google Adsense is Google’s advertising arm and will run on any site regardless of PageRank. On the flip side, commodity advertising companies rely heavily on PageRank. What you have here is a burgeoning case of Conflict of Interest in the case of Google.

Google does not like to have its SERPs artificially manipulated

The beauty of the Google algorithm is that no one really knows all the details. I’d doubt even the founders or CEO have the full picture. This is a deep, dark secret held as closely as the Coca-cola formula. Going a step farther, Google’s algorithm changes as time goes on and as the volume of indexable content grows and challenges with spam and search engine gaming grow. Google likes to have the final word on what is authoritative and relevant. So they do things like lay a smackdown on people selling text links in exchange for PageRank juice. Purchased influence is not something Google likes to deal with.

Now having said all that – what I expect of Google and what I think Google expects of itself – let me tell you exactly what Google has told the world about itself.

“PageRank is Irrelevant”

In the early days of PageRank, it was about casting relevancy of sites. The higher the PageRank, the more authoritative a site was. Now PageRank is less important as only advertisers really care about it. It’s more important to rank well for keywords and phrases – why? Because of Adsense. I’ll get to that later, though.

What Google has shown with their zealous adjustments on PageRank is that content really is not all that important. What is offered to the world is really not that relevant. What is relevant is playing by Google’s dictates. When they say jump, if you jump, you’ll rank high in PageRank. Realistically, PageRank is about the only leverage Google has to influence relevance and by penalizing those that are highly relevant arbitrarily, they have devalued the perception of PageRank beyond its already low perception.

“We Don’t Want You to Advertise Unless You Use Adsense”

The people who have been penalized in this and the last update are people who are monetizing their blogs. The people who are selling text links – okay, slap a nofollow tag on those links and prevent manipulation. Those penalized yesterday – well, I don’t think any were selling text links, but we are running advertising. And we’re not running Adsense. Under the assumption (faulty as it is) that advertisers only want to run ads on sites that have higher PageRank, and Google Adsense does not rely on PageRank, Google has throttled anyone making significant income on non-Adsense advertising. They are trying to dictate how we monetize.

“Content is Not King. Playing by Our Rules is King.”

I stated yesterday and I’ll state it again today: Those who were penalized yesterday should not be the ones who are demoted but PROmoted. If Google’s endgame is to produce relevant and authoritative listings (see point #1 above), then they should be trying to figure out how to promote our content more. They should be asking us to be listed in Google News. They should be pre-populating our feeds in Google Reader. They should be striking up dialogue with us about how to address their concerns while protecting ours. It’s our content, Google.

Now I still cannot speak publicly for b5media, though my inclination is that the corporate position will be roughly in line with my position, I do not plan to change how I run my site. PageRank 3. So what? Google can kiss my derriére. You as the readers discover this site through search results (which to be clear are not necessarily affected by PageRank, so let’s keep that argument separate), through social media promotion via Twitter, Facebook and reading other blogs, and through networking. As noted in the comments on SEOMoz’ White Board Friday a few weeks ago, this blog is an influencer blog – it doesn’t have the volume of traffic of, say, Scoble but the key people who need to read this blog, read it. They don’t care about PageRank. You don’t care about PageRank. Why should I care about PageRank.

I still have people approach me at conferences asking me “Hey, aren’t you the guy from Technosailor?” I still am in the Technorati 5000 (was Technorati 2000 but I don’t try anymore since T’rati is pretty much irrelevant too). I still have people who look forward to meeting me whenever I’m going somewhere. I still have people who LOVE the chance to write here (there’s original Spanish Language content coming as soon as I can secure the writer!). This blog is successful on its own without Google. It’s a shame Google won’t play the game with us, but if they want to be on their own island, let them be.

For bloggers who are not sure what to make of this whole thing, I’d say ignore it. Don’t worry about PageRank. Don’t worry about whether or not you should include a blogroll on your site. My advice about avoiding blogrolls centers on value for everyone when you link to your favorite blogs in the context of your content instead of a semi-static blogroll no one may ever look at. It has nothing to do with whether Google might or might not penalize you for having a blogroll. For bloggers in networks, I’d say forget about Google’s pagerank. Don’t install the toolbar. Don’t torture yourself. Like Alexa ratings, the numbers are completely bunk and are not in your control anyway. Just ignore it. Produce great content, and people will find you. Trust me, they always do. People want good content, not PageRank. Write for your readers or yourself. Google can kiss your derriére.

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