Rant: Silicon Valley Fenetics

Yes, intentionally misspelled. Phonetics.

Phonetics and mashup are all the rage in Silicon Valley web 2.0 start-up naming conventions right now.  When it was Digg, FaceBook and Skype, this was different.  It was cool, fresh and neat.  You could not help but ask yourself, what’s that?!?

Now, it’s not cute anymore (‘sup Pownce and Jaiku!). Instead it signals, “Oh, another 2 dot-bomb.” OK, maybe we’re not there yet, but you get the point.

Branding gurus are charging clients tens, hundreds of thousands for not-so-cheeky plays on phonetics or slamming two words together.  Read TechCrunch, and you’ll find posts littered with examples:

Out of the three of these, there’s only one I like: TasteBook. Why?  Because it tells you or at least gives you an idea of what it does.  TasteBook allows Shazam-Poster-C10097475users to create and order custom hardback cookbooks (“tastebooks”). BTW, that’s what a company name is supposed to do. Tell potential buyers, partners and investors what kind of business it is.

One must wonder how much longer this latest naming fad will continue.  And if you don’t think it’s a fad, how many eGoofy cos and .bombs can you name in five seconds? Pets.com, eHarmony, eLuminant, etc., etc.

P.S. As a result of this rant and as a tribute to Doug Haslam, I’ve decided to rename my PR firm Shazaaamr.

Down with the Press Release!!

First of all, thank you, Aaron, for asking me to contribute to Technosailor. It’s great to be here, and also serving a readership that’s not in the insular marketing blogosphere bubble.

The best thing about writing for you (as opposed to communicators) is that you already understand that PR and marketing sucks. I don’t need to argue that point. You know what it’s like to get a ridiculous press release, have a flack ask you to write up their product on the blog, sit through ridiculous ads, or suffer through another BS webinar. You’ve been on the receiving end”¦ and hate it.

The great hope of folks like Shel Israel, Brian Solis, Todd Defren, Kami Huyse, Toby Bloomberg, Chris Heuer and other advanced marketing minds is that social media can correct the wayward ways of this backwards industry. We want to refocus it on the actual community. Marketing and PR should not be about leads, but about serving a community and building good will between an organization and its stakeholders (note this word is not Audience).

Social Media Releases

Let’s start with a simple example.

Nothing stinks more than the inexcusable press release ““ a.k.a. the mindless drivel — that marketing departments use to spam news reporters, bloggers, analysts and their stakeholders. The press release was a mass communication tool, blasted out over a wire mechanism to media outlets. It soon lose it its value to news organizations.

Why? As PR became a popular marketing tool in the 80s and 90s, businesses and organizations filled their news releases with positioning statements, posturing to the media and their target audiences.

News releases are a very self centered activity, and rarely offers actual news, mostly because companies and PR pros don’t understand what media outlets considered news to be, and the news needs of companies’ communities. As a result, press releases usually have no real news value to the media or associated communities. News is something that’s new, and as media are dedicated to business trends or events of significance that their communities care about ““ just like any decent blogger — they ignore news releases.

Though the press release does have some search engine optimization and secondary direct community outreach value, it’s not optimized for ultimate results. Thus the diminished value of news releases.

Enter Social Media Releases

News documents do have value. According to Outsell, Inc. in November 2006, 51% of information technologists (IT) source their news from press releases found on Yahoo or Google News over traditional trade journals (via Brian Solis). To better talk with an organization’s community, releases need to be re-engineered to better serve them.

SMRtemplate Originally created by Todd Defren of SHIFT Media, the social media release combines the best elements of new media and significantly streamlines the valuable elements of the news release. The social media release provides new media community members dynamic information, including a bulleted statements of value, additional sources, multimedia content (podcast, video, graphics, etc.).

Readers are provided social media methods of publishing via network tags ( a la Digg, Reddit, etc.), and can use these elements independently or as a whole, really to their tastes. And media members like them, too.

Why? Much less BS. When executed correctly, bulleted facts replace spin (a possible acronym: stupid PR imitating news). Concise readable documents create multiple paths for community members, bloggers and journalists alike to enage in more information.

Coca-Cola entered by taking an approach other than buying real estate and creating a store. Working with the crayon agency, Coca-Cola opted to break into the 3D metaverse by getting out amongst the population. During the Second Life launch event, one blogger in attendance told crayon agency team member Shel Holz that that the event was like a class in “How to do social media right.” Shel’s very successful blog details the results to date, which have already been significant, in turn validating the experimental social media release.

Other examples:

What It Means

The combination of outbound promotion and social network attraction creates a new dynamic marketing mechanism. This next generation press release is much more valuable to its audiences, is community centric, and enables widespread dissemination. It creates multiple methods of pulling in community members who may be interested in your service, product or ideas.

This does not mean all social media releases will succeed. Here are the facts. Over spun BS won’t work whether its bulleted or parenthetical; social media-enabled or plain text. Find in this October, 2006 Buzz Bin entry on what I believe to be the content benchmarks of a media-attention-worthy news release. But if you’re on either the giving or receiving side of promotion, then the social media release tactic should be considered a better vehicle for organizations to communicate with their communities.

If you’d like to learn more, visit Chris Heuer’s Elements of a Social Media Release.