Why EVERYTHING is not marketing

Is everything marketing?, how is everything marketing

 

In a conversation on Twitter last night a good friend Stefan Lubinski suggested that everything these days is marketing.  I disagree – and here’s why.

There are more platforms than ever before on which to communicate to large groups of people – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Blogger, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram, Snapchat, Meerkat, Periscope, Google Plus, Google Hangouts, Email, SMS, WhatsApp… to name but a few.  There are more online publications than ever before – on any topic you can think of.  There are more people using them to publicize products, services, opinions, content – you name it.  But that’s NOT marketing.

At best, the majority of it is publicity; at worst it is just noise.  Like somebody with a megaphone stood shouting at people in the digital street.

Some are shouting orders: ‘Do this!’, ‘Click here!’, ‘Buy this!’, ‘Read that!’.

Very little of it could be described as marketing!

Marketing is about getting people to take a specific action – because they want to.  This requires them to understand what they are being asked to do and do it willingly in order to support you or  your organization.  The action needs to be specific and clearly defined.  It should, also, have a defined commercial value.

No matter how much you urge somebody to do something; no matter how loud you shout or how often, if they don’t want to do it all you do is lose your voice.

I wrote a few months ago that most PR and marketing is publicity that explains more.

 

SXSW, Social Media, IRL

SXSW Is Social Media – IRL

As an entrepreneur and a PR ‘guy’ SXSW is an interesting experience.  2015 was my second time in Austin and as I sit in a bar on my way to the airport I wanted to share a few observations and some recommendations for other entrepreneurs considering attending next year.

I was fortunate to be part of the Canadian trade delegation this year.  As an expat Brit living in Canada it was great to be allowed to represent my adopted home.  It was also great to see what some of my co-entrepreneurs are working on across the technology, film and music industries.  Canadians have a reputation for being not tooting their horn loudly enough.  We need to fix that – there is clearly plenty to ‘toot’ about!

So, what stood out this year?

The same old buzzwords;  continued lack of substance. 

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the word engagement I’d be a very rich man.  If I had a dollar for every time it was used correctly, I would probably not have enough to pay for a coffee at the airport.  The same is true for terms like brand, authenticity, “social”.

They have become mantras for the tech, PRublicity [my term for the army of ‘PR Pros’ that are actually publicists] and marketing industries but most within the industry – let alone their customers – understand either their meaning or their significance.

There’s no longer differentiation between PR, marketing and publicity

…but there should be.  My peers have lost sight of the value of each discipline.  The majority of events were public relations [despite the fact that most would not describe them as such.  The majority of what many would call marketing was, in fact, publicity.  SXSW has become a competition from companies to see who can make the most noise. and this leads to a lot of waste – wasted cash, wasted resources and wasted opportunities.

None of these are ever  long-term strategy for business success – but for many of the small businesses and startups attending it is the fastest path to running out of money.

This year, more than ever, the background noise was louder than ever.  Being heard was ever more difficult.  SXSW is a perfect illustration of how most companies are using social media platforms – as a tool for shouting messages in the hope they are heard, rather than a opportunity to better understand their customers, identify sales opportunities and complement customer service activities.

As a result, both social and SXSW are likely to become less attractive and less effective unless attendees change the way they use them.

The conference is about the speakers, not the attendees. 

I caveat this that I didn’t attend the conference but followed as many of the sessions that I could on twitter.  From what I saw it’s the same “celebrities” saying the same, hackneyed, vanilla stuff they’ve been saying for years!  There’s little practical value in the conference panels for the attendees paying thousands of dollars for the badge – it appears to be more a vehicle for people to promote themselves, rather than adding value to attendees.

[I also realize that my chances of speaking at the event are now zero!!]

The real value is in serendipity 

Everybody says that ‘south-by’ is about the people you meet in a bar or at a party.  And, it’s true.  It’s the random meetings; the conversations; the introductions to complete strangers, by complete strangers that will be the things that have lasting value in the weeks and months after we leave Austin.
Nobody can explain what it is they do – or why anybody should care

Part of what I do is helping customers figure out how they explain what they do and the value it provides for their customers.  I help them figure out why anybody – whether a prospect, investor, analyst or journalist – would care about their product or service.  At events I take time to ask people representing the exhibitors what they do – and I’m always surprised at how few are able to do it.  Most try; the majority use long-drawn out explanations that are full of meaningless words.  Almost none can do it in a sentence or two in words my parents would understand.

Having spent thousands of dollars to exhibit they fail to clear the first hurdle.

SXSW is social media – in real life.  

I was asked to sum up SXSW by a friend who has never been.  The best description I could come up with was that it’s like social media, only in real life.  Lots of noise, some interesting conversations and occasionally you meet somebody where there is mutual business benefit.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: focus on finding the people that matter most to your business and building and maintaining strong relationships with them.  Social media is fun, but real-life will always deliver more business value.

This is the first of a series of post-SXSW reflection pieces.  I’d love to hear your observations: the highs and lows, and the just plain weird.

iFail – Apple’s ‘Historic’ Announcement Will Do Untold Damage

Hyped more than any Apple event that I can remember. Dubbed a ‘Historic Announcement’ by the media. Apple’s iPhone 6/Apple Pay/Apple Watch keynote will do untold damage to the company.  Here’s why.

First, the live stream was a disaster.  I failed to stream from the start; frequently displayed the test page; had simultaneous translation that competed with Tim Cook [on an already quiet audio stream]; returned to the start…  This is not the slick, composed and seamless company with an abnormal attention-to-detail that we’ve become accustomed to.

AppleLive, iWatch, iPhone6, Public Relations, iFail
We interrupt this historic event…

Second, the announcements.  A new iPhone that had been ‘leaked’ by just about every technology publication in the last month. Apple Pay, a contactless payment application [NFC and contactless payment have both been around for more than a decade] and the much anticipated Apple Watch that, well, let’s just say, it’s not pretty and, while it has some nice design tweaks and technology, it’s not exactly historic.  None of the announcements were exactly new [remember Galaxy Gear, Pebble, Android Wear?!]

Three all of the announcements were positioned as being Apple innovations.  Apple’s credibility starts to wear a little thin on this one.  It had a six and a half minute pseudo intellectual video about the iWatch and another [shorter] video about its Activity app.

But, and here is the real problem… Apple hyped this event to the point of calling it historic.  I’ll say it again… Apple claimed the event would include a historic announcement.  While it delivered some nice products to add to its portfolio it failed to deliver anything that could realistically be considered historic.  Not even close.

It’s not the first time. Apple has, in recent years, has been expected to deliver revolutionary new products but has failed.  It’s lost ground to the competition and, given its notoriously strict and predictable release cycle looks set to lose further ground.  This is not good news for the company or its investors.  It does not bode well for future events… how long will people believe the hype? How long will the fanboys and the media supporters be prepared to continue to support a company turning out what are “me-too” products [nice ones, admittedly] but not industry leading or historic.

This could do serious long-term damage to the relationships that Apple has built over the last decade with customers around the world as part of a relentless and meticulous public relations program. Apple has built relationships with customers based on trust – and over-hyping events like it did for today’s keynote will quickly erode it. Why does this matter? It is these relationships that have resulted in hundreds of millions of sales and record share prices.  Today’s event could be the first – and a major – backward step Apple has made in the last decade – likely undermining the trust the company has built in the its claims.

Once  this process starts, it’s almost impossible to recover.

The degree to which Apple is, I’d suggest, as much a victim of the reality distortion field as its loyal customers ever were, was Tim Cook’s claim, ‘Isn’t that the best single you’ve ever heard’ as U2 played. It was alright, but not that good! Certainly not the best I’ve ever heard. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.

[…and before you accuse me of being anti-Apple, this post was written on a Mac!]

Startup and PR marketing and PR tip: when you’re streaming video make sure you have the infrastructure that scales.

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Things Can Go South On Social Media. Quickly!

Earlier today I wrote a post about best practice on social media.  I should have known better!  If you want an example of how quickly perceptions can change on social media, check this out!

Having published my original post I tweeted, “We may disagree about PR but get’s social. You can learn from his example! [cc ]”.  It seems, however, that despite calling Shane out for best practice in social media, he wasn’t happy!  

You can read his tweets below [from the bottom up]. 

Social Media, Public Relations, 'Experts'
Everything can change in 140 characters

Apparently, he was concerned that I had outed his professional background in my piece because I had said he works in social media and, as he had admitted publicly to me on Friday, has no experience in public relations.  This, despite the fact that he’d written a piece that assumed publicity was PR – and that PR was dead.  For anybody that doesn’t understand the industry I work in this is misleading – and, having worked in the profession for 17 years, I feel justified in correcting this common misconception.

Here are my tweets from this morning’s exchange:

Public Relations, PR, Social Media, Publicity, THINK DIFFERENT [LY]Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.00.05 PM

If you want to read Friday’s exchanges then you can find them at @THINK_Lyndon

Why am I so passionate about this topic?

Let’s face it, my industry does a good enough job without help from uninformed commentators like Shane adding their misguided opinions that are based on an incorrect definition of what public relations is.  I have spent 17 years trying to help businesses to understand that public relations is not about publicity, but about relationships – despite the industry’s attempts to drive it in to the ground for a quick buck.

Shane, as you can see, disagrees!  He, after all, thinks you don’t need to be a singer to know how to sing! [his words not mine] I’m not qualified to comment on that, as anybody that has heard me caterwauling along to a Radiohead of Depeche Mode track will confirm!  But what I am qualified to talk about than him is public relations – I’m 17 years more qualified that Shane and, despite his claims that he’s open to being corrected, I’m not so sure!

I’m also not convinced that he really understands communication, let alone social, at all.

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PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Social Media Best Practice | The THINK PR Espresso

Read this post, “Things can go wrong in Social. Quickly!” for an update on this post.

At the end of last week I read an article on Technorati by Shane Paul Neil, entitled, “Technology, self-promotion and the death of public relations.  It’s one of many to make this claim recently.  It’s also one of many written by authors that don’t understand public relations – confusing publicity with PR.

Had the article focused on publicity I would have agreed with most of the points that Shane makes.  The fact that it focuses on public relations means that most of his opinions on why he believes PR is dead or dying are wrong.  Just plain wrong.  The problem is that Shane doesn’t have a PR background: he works as a social strategist and while, when I questioned him on Twitter about his experience of public relations, he had the correct definition, his understanding of what that looks like is incorrect.

It’s a problem I’ve written about many times.  The majority of so-called ‘professionals’ working in the PR industry don’t know the difference and have done an excellent job at misinforming customers and complementary industries like marketing and publicity about what it is we do. It’s something I want to change and challenging people that write in, supposedly credible media outlets, when they get it wrong is the first stage.

Technorati, Public Relations, Publicity, Social Media

Having added a comment, which was in ‘moderation’ for almost a day [and which has subsequently been deleted] I took to Twitter.  What were the author’s PR credentials/experience? It turns out I was right – he has none.  But, what happened next is something that every company can learn from.  It’s an example of how to use social media to engage people.

My usual experience of trying to have a conversation about an article – where I have constructive criticism [OK, sometimes the constructive looks a lot like frustrated irritation] – is that I get no response.  Either that or I get a firm rebuttal or the digital equivalent of “f*@! you’ – people usually don’t like being asked to support their position with evidence or experience.  A social ‘conversation I’d had with AirPR earlier in the week was a prime example of this approach. I’d questioned the company’s position that PR is actually customer marketing [it fundamentally misunderstands the difference between PR and marketing]

This was different.

Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

After an initial back and forth, a conversation broke out.  I went from irritation about the piece to appreciating the opportunity to have the conversation – to make and debate my opinion with Shane. What’s more – rather than trying to make sure that the publication didn’t see my comments, Shane got the Managing Editor at Technorati in on the conversation.  There was talk about a series of views on the topic because the original piece had highlighted passionate responses from a number of people and with a range of differing perspectives.

This is social media as it is supposed to be used. It’s not about publicity – self-or otherwise.  It’s not about broadcasting a message and labelling people that agree friends, while labelling those that don’t trolls.  Social Media’s value is about the discussion; the conversation; the opportunity to change perceptions in real-time. It’s an extension of the owned internet, where organizations and individuals have the opportunity to publish their opinions – and start conversations where all opinions are welcomed [unless you really are a troll!].

Shane showed that, while he doesn’t understand PR, he understands the power of social media as a communications tool.  I started out questioning whether he had anything of value to add to the discussion about the future of communications and found, where social is concerned, he does.  He probably understands more about PR than most ‘PR’ people.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: social media is about conversation.  The tools are just that – tools.  You still need the basic skills required to use them for best effect.

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Public Relations Espresso

Context. It’ll Be The Death of Social Media Platforms | The THINK PR Espresso

As a rookie PR I remember being told by a colleague that the only thing you can control when sending an email is the intention when it’s sent. You can’t control how the recipient interprets what you say. This has stuck with me every since.

It’s the same with public relations, marketing and publicity. You often have no control over how a message, a call to action or a piece of content is perceived by the person receiving it. A lot of the uncontrollable is a result of context. Context has been a recurring theme for me lately, particularly in discussions about social media.

A lack of context means that social and digital platforms have a real disadvantage to some of the more traditional delivery mechanisms used in public relations, marketing and publicity. Is a lack of context meaning your audience is missing something important from your PR, marketing and publicity messages?

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Social Media, Brand Called Obama, Yes We Can

What The Brand Called Obama Means For Your Business

Yesterday I was lucky enough to interview business journalist Ellen McGirt about a piece she wrote back in 2008, called ‘The Brand Called Obama‘.  It tells the story of the President’s campaign – both to get the Democratic nomination and for President – and how he used social media to build the ‘Yes We Can’ platform.

I wanted to know what businesses and politicians could learn from what Obama did more than 6 years ago.  Here’s my interview:

What do you think companies can learn from Obama’s use of social media?  Why do you think more politicians haven’t been able to emulate what he did?

@unmarketing says he didn’t say “immediacy” trumps “authenticity”.

Unmarketing 4

 Update

Since posting the original post Scott as contacted me to say that he was misquoted and that he didn’t say that immediacy trumps authenticity – and I’m happy to update the post to reflect this.  I’ve included the original post below for context.

@THINK_Lyndon, @unmarketing, Lyndon Johnson, Scott Stratten
A conversation between @unmarketing and @THINK_Lyndon

The conversation I had with Scott raises some interesting issues – including the problem of paraphrasing in 140 characters, the value of social media when an audience shares something incorrectly [either because paraphrasing misrepresents what was said, or because it has been misunderstood] and the potential pitfalls of allowing a message to be shared by third-parties.  It also demonstrates the importance of context – a point made by Scott that makes is that it’s always best to be in the room to hear first hand what is being said.  I couldn’t agree more.

Unmarketing 3

But it raises trust issues with anything posted on a social platform and – as I have said repeatedly – the ability of an algorhythm [Google’s, Klout’s…] to determine who should be trusted, who is credible and who adds value.  If the only context is the sharing of a social post or volume of repeat visits to a website these algorhythms have no way of measuring the accuracy, relevance, accuracy or credibility of individual accounts.

I don’t know how technology fixes this, but  I do question the value of computers measuring credibility or trust.  The only sensible way would appear to be in the same room – to hear what is said and to see the whites of somebody’s eyes in order to judge that individuals credibility and trustworthiness.  It also suggests that Apple has its social policy spot on – and more companies should follow the company’s lead.

And, it also raises questions about my approach to these questions.  I’m increasingly spending less time on social platforms and more time meeting people in person – and in that vein I’m inviting Scott for a coffee.  It seems unfair for me to judge him based on social media and online – so until I have the chance to meet him I’ll reserve my judgement.  Name a coffee shop in the city we both call home and a time Scott, and I’ll be there.

Original post

@unmarketing- immediacy trumps authenticity
@unmarketing says immediacy trumps authenticity. Do you agree?

It’s a great sound bite, but it is simply not true.

If you’ve read the THINK blog before you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of Scott Stratten [@unmarketing on Twitter]. I read his first book, watched some videos and read a few interviews with him and wasn’t impressed. But I have to be honest even I was surprised by what I read from the Canadian Public Relations Society annual conference – at which he was a keynote speaker.

If you believe Scott, speed of response – immediacy to use his words – is now more important than authenticity. Being quick to respond is, it would appear, more important than being real or credible.

Ask yourself, would you rather somebody respond with a quick answer than a right answer? Reply as quickly as possible or when they have the correct answer? Pretend to be something they aren’t, in the name of speed, or be themselves? Do you want somebody to tell you then can help you – only to find out down the line that they can’t? Do you want a pilot to do the first thing he thinks of in an emergency – or the right thing?! What if the EMS sent out the first available person, rather than somebody that was qualified to provide treatment?!

I know which I’d prefer.

My other concern about this approach is that expecting to build long-term relationships, based on speed, rather than credibility and trust is setting unreasonable expectations. I’m also not sure that the people you’re trying to build relationships with will hang around if they find out you’ve lied to them for the sake of speed.  Relationships take time to build – for a good reason.  Immediacy is the biggest social deception.

I hate the word authentic because, more often than not, it is used by people that are trying to convince you they are being themselves – rather than actually being themselves. “Authenticity” is a mask worn by people that are scared you’ll see who they really are if they are themselves.

I’ve been reading about Apple this morning – discussions about whether the company is social or anti-social because it shies away from the mainstream social platforms. They are, to my mind, one of the most social companies out there because they’ve built relationships – strong relationships that are the envy of many – based on strong, real, values and continually delivering exceptional products. Steve Jobs once said he’d rather have the best product in a segment rather than the first product to market – quality over speed; “authenticity” over immediacy. People may not have liked Steve Jobs personality, but they love the products created around the values which he lived and worked by…

But that’s another post!

Which shows somebody cares most – speed or being real? Let me know in the comments below.

Public Relations Espresso

Online communities or fiefdoms?

Today on the THINK PR Espresso I’m pondering the curious world we live in – one lived largely online and where conversations are started… as long as it is OK with the community owner or moderator.  An experience today left me scratching my head and wondering whether we’re creating online communities or whether they are actually just fiefdoms.

Listen to my experience and you decide.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.