Buying eyeballs

I was just about to rant (OK, comment) on the practice of buying eyeballs. It goes like this: Leave a comment on my blog post and something good will happen (we’ll donate to a cause, enter you in a drawing for a prize, etc.). From a marketing perspective, is this how you want to get eyeballs? Is this a valid assessment trick for counting how many eyeballs you get?

Then, I realized that I was offering a small prize for comments on my teaching blog – these are important class instructions and I wanted confirmation that students saw them. Good educational practice?!

So then, I will no longer complain about Iams buying eyeballs. Come on, give them your pair of eyeballs and they will donate 25 meals to animals in shelters! (oh, and enjoy Pawcurious, it’s become one of my favorite blogs)

Search Engine People interview

Ruud Hein of Search Engine People questioned me 🙂

Read my interview, on various PR topics, here.

I wrote about social media culture & social norms, how not to be “creepy,” how to plan strategically for public relations, misunderstandings about what PR is, could, and should be, and tempered the idea of conversational PR.

Do blogs matter in PR? I need your help with new research project…

I’ve started a new research project about the importance of blogs for PR people & the industry as a whole.

I’ve got a favor to ask you: Would you give me 7-8 minutes to take this online survey?

If you’re a PR pro, student, educator, whether you blog or not, I need your thoughts.

I’ll share the results in academic papers and presentations, my PR Connections blog, and here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Listening is not enough

I just came back from SNCR’s New Communications Forum, a conference I thoroughly enjoyed. There was a lot of talk about PR 2.0, 3.0, new strategies, new tactics, new tools, and a cultural revolution in the way we (should) practice the strategic communication professions (PR, marketing, advertising, etc.). You are all familiar with the tenets of this cultural revolution from books such as the Cluetrain Manifesto, Join the Conversation, Naked conversations, and the blogs of many social media-savvy professionals (see blogroll).

The conversations indicate an evolution, if not a revolution of PR from media relations to relationship management. PR isn’t/shouldn’t be only about making noise, raising awareness, and counting eyeballs. It should be about relationships. Fine. So how are companies supposed to do this? THE answer is: LISTEN.

Listening means setting up search alerts and monitoring everything that’s said about your organization online (on blogs, twitter, flickr, facebook, etc.).

So once you find out what people say about you, what do you do? You respond. You correct misperceptions. You clarify misunderstandings. You show the poor bastards you were right, after all.

But what if you were wrong?

Listening without authentic openness to change is not enough. It’s not PR 2.0. It’s just audience research, a tool used in what we boring academics call scientific persuasion.

The more you listen, the better you know what makes your audience tick, the better able you are to persuade them. Ca-ching!

Nope, this is not PR 2.0. It’s PR 1.0 on several small channels instead of a few large ones.

PR 2.0 involves not only listening, but being open to make organizational changes as a result of naked conversations (known in academic circles as dialogue). This is what relationships are about. Partners in a relationship change to adapt to each other.

Why?

Because ultimately PR is not about listening, not about conversations, not about relationships. What’s the point of listening? Why do you engage in conversation? Why build relationships? What’s the end goal?

No, it’s not brand awareness. It’s not increased sales. It’s not improved reputation.

PR is (OK, should be, or can be) about optimizing your organization’s survival in its environment.

Think about it: Your organization operates in a complex society. Its survival and operations influence and are influenced by a large number of audiences (aka stakeholders). For all to survive and thrive, they need to be constantly adapting to each other. I think that’s called nimbleness.

Is it fair or even wise for the organization to be attempting to constantly change its environment through persuasion, but not be open to changing itself?

We know what happens to organisms that don’t adapt to their environments.

So it’s PR’s role to facilitate the mutual adaptation of organization and its environment. This is why naked conversations and relationships are important.

Now, don’t quote on me on that. All I’ve done is explain a major PR theory. One that has thought of PR 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 since 1984. If you want to cite someone, start with Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.

P.S.
The reason why Dell is the model for PR 2.0 is because they follow listening with real changes in the organization’s products and processes, not just talk-back.

P.P.S.

[Edit:] Geoff Livingston’s post this morning about his experience with JetBlue provides a clear illustration to my theoretical point.

The struggle for attention

For a long time, companies have fought for their stakeholders’ attention. The main challenge was for the message to cut through the clutter and get the public’s attention. I’m noticing this dynamic is reversed in social media. Social media users, and bloggers in particular, want companies’ attention. I’ve come across several blog posts lately that deal with getting (or not) enough/appropriate attention from a company. See cases and links below.

So, why is it so important for bloggers to get the attention of companies they blog about? Is it to feel validated? Is it because bloggers are evangelists of the conversation and this is their way of putting pressure on companies to join in? Is it because, as stakeholders, we assume companies should be happy to finally have our attention and we’re disappointed when our expectations are frustrated?

I’ll collect some case studies here that can hopefully teach us something about this need for attention:

Target dismisses blogger Amy Jussel from shapingyouth.org; blog storm ensues, story is picked up by the NY Times.

Saturn comments on blogger’s post; blogosphere celebrates Saturn’s engagement. Story here.

Ike Piggott praises companies reading his blog, such as Citi and Canon.

Blogger advises auto insurance company esurance to let character Erin Esurance play in the social media landscape, esurance responds, but bloggers  won’t take no for an answer.

I’m sure there are many more such examples out there (if you send me links, I’ll add them here) that all speak about this struggle for attention.

What are your thoughts? Why is corporate attention so important to bloggers? Are their expectations reasonable? Will this lead to redesigning the PR function so it can participate in thousands of conversations? How should companies handle requests and pressure for attention? –VERY carefully, suggest the Target and esurance examples, as responses will be published, analyzed, and criticized. Oh and… use a conversational human voice. Any well thought-out, well-written response may be dismissed as a “prepared statement.” “Honest opinions pecked off in a few minutes on a laptop” will do. No mercy out there in the blogosphere.

Social media and marketing

Shel Israel explains it beautifully:

The essence of social media is that it is humans. Humans connect to humans and they form communities. They own their communities, brands don’t. The perspective of traditional marketing is to take a message and find delivery channels to inseminate into people’s foreheads. This is not social. Social is for a marketing executive to start a blog and ask people why they hate his marketing efforts–then listen–really listen to what people say the way Dell has done and a few others are trying to do.

I can’t wait to share this quote with my PR students. I love it because it explains something that I’ve been thinking about… what happens to cultures and communities when corporate interests intervene (or try to own communities/conversations). This quote explains that one of the things that happens is that the conversation loses its humanity and authenticity. It becomes hollow. It ends.

Silly, what comes to mind is Suze Orman’s line: “People first, then money, then things.” – what a good lesson to teach my PR students!

Related post: The only real social networks are personal ones 

Is Apple the worst good company?

So IT (inevitable tragedy) happened. I dropped my iPhone.

Options?

  • pay $250 for a replacement unit (by mail or in an Apple store)
  • pay $150-200 for some company to put in a replacement screen (which voids the Apple warranty)
  • continue using it, although the glass is cracked, the beauty is gone, and my eyes tear up every time I look at it
  • (no, the $5 DYI option is not an option)

I’ll pay $250 for the replacement unit. Although I know I’ll probably drop this one too, sooner or later (please, God, later!). So I investigated the possibility of buying some kind of insurance against accidental damage.

Apple sells an extended warranty, but no insurance against accidental damage. Of course, the regular $3.99-5 AT&T phone insurance is not available for the iPhone.

An AT&T store manager recommended Safeware, and other sources suggested checking with home/renter’s insurance companies. Geico doesn’t offer it, but apparently State Farm does. I called two State Farm agents and they both told me State Farm stopped writing this policy for the iPhone because they were losing money. A Safeware customer rep. told me Apple hasn’t released components for the iPhone, so no one can repair it – that’s why insurance is not available. I did find one company who offers iPhone extended warranty (just like Apple Care) and Accidental Damage Protection (ADP): SquareTrade. You can buy ADP only within the first 30 days of getting a brand new iphone. The rep. told me they’re also considering dropping iPhone coverage, because it doesn’t make financial sense.

I hate Apple.

But I love my iPhone.

So, does having a good/revolutionary product mean you can abuse your market? Dictate your own terms, set high prices, refuse insurance, make it difficult for other companies to insure your product, charge a fortune for a replacement unit when you know it will, sooner or later, break?!

What are the factors that make it possible for Apple to “abuse” customers and still keep them coming back?

  • a good product. After having the iPhone for a few months, I can’t imagine living without it. It’s useful! It’s beautiful. I’m emotionally attached to it, to the pleasant experience of using it, and to the unique feeling of “cool!” (powerful branding, there). I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it. It’s gotten me at a level deeper than reason.
  • targeting a high-end market. People who buy the iphone (most of them, anyway) can afford the $250 replacement cost. They won’t be happy about it, but it won’t break the bank.

Apple’s marketing strategy works – but is it good PR? Apple has the potential to define a new type of organization-public relationship: the (happily) abusive one! Can this type of relationship last, in the long run? Does it provide enough of a trust cushion to carry Apple through a major crisis, should one happen?

What do you think?

Is Apple’s marketing strategy somewhat abusive? What makes it work? What does it mean for PR and the long-term relationship with publics? How do you feel about your iPhone? How do you protect your iPhone? If it broke, would you pay $250 to replace it? If it broke again, would you pay $250 again?

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