When 140 characters aren't enough, you'll find occasional musings heres
March 18, 2013
I get nearly a hundred calls a year, if not more, from executives, communication leads and consultants, looking for PR expertise, and in probably 70% of cases, the conversation starts something like this: “We’ve been working with a PR firm, but they haven’t getting us results in the media.”
My heart sinks when I hear these words. Sure it means an opportunity for Bird PR, but it means a loss for someone else, and really, it just ain’t that hard to create stories that readers want to consume. And if you figure out that piece of the equation, reporters will be prepared to listen to your pitch and probably better it.
What people want to read = What reporters want to write about
You’d be forgiven for thinking that creativity and media execution are two separate skills, but in my experience they must be entwined. Few organizations can exist like say Apple, solely on product innovation to generate hundreds of thousands of articles each year. Few startups, think Pinterest or Instagram, are “sticky” or different enough that they go viral and have the likes of NPR approaching them about a story.
So what’s a PR pro to do? It’s simple, hack the news. Hack the news? What does that mean? It’s pretty simple. Publications want eyeballs it’s (still) what drives revenues. That means they’re simply not going to publish stories that nobody’s interested in, and yes, you guessed it, this is exactly why so many clients become dissatisfied with their PR firm.
Before I explain how to the hack the news, first, here’s what not to do. Clients: don’t tell your PR agency the story you think they should be pitching. Agencies: don’t let your client drive the message or the narrative, instead, do your job. It comes down to five simple steps:
I have taken numerous companies through this process. Here at Bird PR, it consumes the first few weeks of every new client engagement and thereafter quickly becomes part of the fabric of our storytelling.
Over the years one of my favorite examples remains an award-winning campaign executed for a former client, McAfee, called “Dangerous Celebrities.” It’s a brilliant example of hacking the news that made boring old security software as exciting and headline-grabbing as movie starlet, Jessica Biel.
March 11, 2013
Another round of insanity at SXSW draws to a close (at least for me) so I thought I’d jot down my top five takeaways:
January 17, 2013
Hard to believe we are only in mid-January. Anyone who works in consumer electronics will know that by the time CES is over it feels like we’re halfway through the New Year and ready for summer vacation! One question I get asked every year, especially by start-ups, is whether it’s worth the energy and expense, and if yes, how to maximize their investment. I thought I’d jot down some thoughts about this while the memories are still fresh.
In case you’re not familiar with some of Bird PR’s capabilities, we have years of CE experience under our belt and have developed a pretty unrivaled expertise working with Web-connected devices. From Eye Fi, to Easybloom (now renamed Flower Power by Parrot), Nest to Basis, we have been in at the ground floor, pre-launch phases of all these companies. In each case we helped figure out the right “go to media” strategy, identified the narrative and focused on the problem/solution story that would best resonate with consumers.
So, if you’re thinking about CES for 2014, and incidentally the show attracted 155,000 attendees this year, you might want to consider the following:
- “Consumer Electronics Show” is fast becoming a misnomer. Yes – it’s still the place to go to see the latest shiny hardware, but there’s a fast-growing digital-only contingency, from apps to social media. This year CES also played host to a Digital Hollywood conference as well as other tracks around brand marketing and social media
- Like anything in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in. It’s seemingly never too early to start contacting reporters you or your clients want to meet there. In fact, if you wait until a couple of weeks before the show you’ll find their dance cards are already full.
- Do a lot of pre-briefings before the show actually starts. That way you can guarantee your most important reporters already have a story about your client in the bag.
- Don’t announce anything during the show. It seems counter-intuitive, but “new enough” is good enough to get attention, and having a bit of buzz in the week before CES will actually encourage more folks to seek you out.
- Vegas is a great place to cement relationships. Often this will be the place I get to meet people in person who I’ve worked with on the phone all year.
- Media-only events are (often) worth the money. There are plenty to choose from: From CES Unveiled (which I think is a little too early being 2 nights before the show floor opens) to Pepcom’s Digital Experience the night before the show opens, and ShowStoppers at the end of the first day. The latter is cheaper and in my experience doesn’t quite attract the top tier reporters. In all cases, about a 1,000 reporters walk through giving you the chance to make more connections in three hours than you ever could on a media tour.
- Think about a wearable, highly visible branded giveaway that people can wear during the show. Pins, slap bracelets, etc.
- Plan ahead. Restaurants get booked weeks ahead – best to have a reservation on hand for a media dinner or business dinner, even if you cancel it nearer the time.
- Wear the most comfortable shoes you own. Really. This year I walked an average of five miles a day. And I know this thanks to my trusty Basis band.
- Dose up on vitamins and try and stay healthy! The Las Vegas Convention Center is indeed a melting pot.
And for cost-conscious start-ups:
- Book your flights and hotels as far in advance as you can. The prices only go up nearer the time.
- Take the shuttle from the airport. You avoid the heinous cab lines and it’s only about $8 – much cheaper.
- Get a monorail pass – but make sure you choose a hotel that is on the monorail line. You won’t want to walk far at the end
If you want to talk about launching a product either at CES next year, or before, shoot me an email.
December 20, 2012
September 6, 2012
If you haven’t heard of FOMO, then you are definitely behind the curve and I suggest you get up to speed and QUICK!
It’s the latest catchphrase being coined by marketers, and in case you’re scratching your head and wondering if I accidentally flipped the FO and the MO, nope, FOMO = “fear of missing out.”
FOMO has been with us since time began. In fact, it was Adam’s fear of missing out that led him to take a bite of Eve’s infamous apple. It’s how cyber criminals persuade us to click on those nasty links they embed in spam messages. And social media companies have been built on it. Go on, admit it: you’ve seen a friend post about a party or gig on Facebook and wished you’d been there.
So now you get the concept. What does this have to do with marketing? FOMO is something that marketers are consciously tapping into to augment the viral effect. It’s in our nature as humans to follow the cool, smart people. So whether it’s a ‘secret’ club night you hear about via text message, or insider deals on hot home design items (think One King’s Lane) – wanting to get “in” when you are “out” – makes us work harder as consumers.
According to JWT’s research, this tactic is especially effective with Millenials with 50% saying they spread themselves too thin for fear of missing out. They say “yes” to everything because they want to stay in the know.
Behind every great concept is a counter-intuitive way to make it work even better. The Road Safety Council, in its bid to stop teens texting while driving, has flipped the concept at Distraction.gov. Young drivers are urged to ‘miss out’ on the immediacy of reading a text to avoid fatal car accidents.
So as you build your next campaign, ask yourself whether you’re tapping into the core human trait of FOMO.
May 14, 2012
CTIA Wireless is being billed as a bit of a snooze this year. I’ll admit, my first impression was that it was more booth babes than product announcements or innovation. The shining light for me was the conversation behind mobile payments. The idea went from being an indie movie – everyone agrees is great but its hard to find on Netflix – to an Oscar-nominated blockbuster. Visa announced Visa.me, MasterCard has their PayPass Wallet and neat gadgets like the iCache all brought the idea out in plain day light for us to use.
In my last blog I mockingly described SXSWi as “where the yupsters have come to refuel on the hipsters that drive their creativity and provide them with the sort of “champaign problems” that their newest apps and gadgets aim to address.” CTIA Wireless’ keynote speakers, although horrifically promotional at times, took the idea of solving our daily annoyances with technology to a global level by applying major trends including data, access and mobile payments.
Visa Inc. President John Partridge described how mobile payments could significantly affect rural middle eastern economies where 70 percent of people don’t have access to proper banking, and President Bill Clinton explained how texting is being used to alleviate the massive problem of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in South Africa. The proliferation of mobile is established, but there we were hearing that it’s leap frogging other technologies, such as computers, in countries where only mobile could make practical sense.
Though many of us were there for niche solutions within the wireless world – mobile backhaul, data capacity, operating systems – the conference was able to establish a future-focused dialogue on how these advances can be applied more broadly. I may agree with CNET’s Roger Cheng that we don’t need two CTIA Wireless shows a year, but I hope they keep the half of this show that I did enjoy.
March 21, 2012
By Bird PRster, Libby Kearney
I hate to talk about SXSWi, but truth be told, I loved it. Lots to do, be stimulated by and simply enjoy. The beating heart of the Interactive section are the yupsters who have come to refuel on the hipsters that drive their creativity and provide them with the sort of “champaign problems” that their newest apps and gadgets aim to address.
“Oh no! I can’t find like-minded people around me to share my thoughts on Barry Diller’s keynote and then find a free lunch!”
Overhyped technology aside, SXSWi was a great experience. So much is written about how to prepare but I found that if you had the SXSW app, a few contacts with adventurous spirits and shoes that could go from day-to-night, you had the ingredients for a robust time. The air is thick with ambition and plenty to be inspired by. Whether you were hearing more about the newest buzz words in media (transmedia anyone? I hear Top Chef does it well.) or simply listening to the story of those who have been there, done that, it’s a great place to dig in and hear about what’s cool – not necessarily new – but cool for sure. It could be a concert you can’t miss, app you must try or gorilla marketing technique that is getting shocking attention, good or bad.
There were a few frustrations as a PR professional when it came to the panels and sessions. Often you’d have a group that had clearly drunk their company Kool-Aid before going onstage and didn’t offer a lot of vision outside of what had worked for them specifically. A breath of fresh air came from Jeff Jordan, in a session moderated by Jenna Wortham from The New York Times, who spoke on his journey from PayPal and eBay to his current role as a VC with prominent investments in startup darlings like Pinterest and Airbnb. His thoughts on the art of the successful company pivot resonated with the packed room and led to a great discussion between him and Jenna as well as the audience.
At the end of the day – for this early-adopter, indie music loving yupster – SXSWi may be part of my annual plan. Smart people ready to eat, drink, pitch a new idea and be merry? Yes please!
March 13, 2012
By Alice Chan
Clients always ask what they should be doing at “South by” Interactive, so fresh off the experience I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on how to maximize exposure.
SXSW offers a unique experience to mingle with your fans and followers and build real, in-person relationships with evangelists. If you’ve never been to SXSW the best way I can describe it is a lowbrow version of TED meets spring break on the streets of Austin. The attendees are entrepreneurs and brands along with their customers, developers and investors, all sharing their ideas and intent on partying ’til they drop.
The net effect is (mildly organized) chaos. This is not the place to go if you want to be assured of high quality content at every panel or serious, quiet business conversations. But it is the place to go…
- If you are trying to attract a Gen Y or Millenial crowd to your product/service, you’ll find them here by the thousands. They like to eat, stay up all night and get free stuff, so bear this in mind when planning. They are most likely taste makers among their friends and peers, so turning them into evangelists will pay off.
- If you really want to make an impact because your target audience (consumers, developers, investors) is going to be at SXSW, be prepared to spend some serious marketing dollars: propose a panel or three, co-sponsor a party, put a street team out there, host a private dinner for influencers, etc.
- While some companies, like Highlight which had just launched, and Instagram, which announced its Android app was coming (not that strong of a news story), did break news at the event, to me, it didn’t seem that having a launch or something new to say was huge currency. More important seemed to be sharing visions, inspiring ideas, or even teaching people how to do things.
- While there are thousands of panels, the hot ones really standout. If you’re a lesser-known startup, think about inviting a well-known journalist to moderate your panel along with bigger companies in your space. The halo effect will be worth the trade-off for sharing the limelight. Be edgy and provocative with your panel submission – that’s what this crowd is looking for.
- If you’re target is developers, hackathons and intense conversations about the possibility of app development were often well attended and created a great opportunity to get people hands-on with your product.
- Chevy – not a brand you’d typically associate with this crowd – got some serious good will with its fleet of 35 ‘Catch a Chevy‘ cars that drove around town for free – you could flag them down like cabs, or even sign up to drive yourself.
- Journalists get overloaded, so if you want to host a private dinner or lunch, or set up a briefing, do it well in advance.
- Saturday night was all “see and be seen” parties while Sunday seemed to be more about ‘hangover’ brunches and BBQs, although the FourSquare and Path parties amped this back up again later in the night. And the fact it had finally stopped raining helped.
- People get very tired after the first couple of days – beyond the usual coffee lounges, I gotta believe this offers a rich source of creative ideas.
- Bad weather can really mess up any street team or outdoor venues so be sure you have a plan B.
Bottom line: SXSW is not for every brand, but if it fits your marketing strategy it can help build and sustain some real buzz.
March 12, 2012
I plan to write a few posts as I digest the craziness of SXSW and get a sense of the trends and patterns emerging that affect PR. For now, I wanted to share some quick highlights from Kara Swisher’s interview yesterday with Drew Houston, co-founder of the amazing Dropbox.
I love Dropbox. We run our business on it. It was cool to learn more about the 29 year old behind the company. (He’s on his sixth start-up having being hired for his first tech gig aged 14).
- To get funding, the key investors insisted Houston get a co-founder. Two heads are better than one.
- He moved from Boston because the eco-system in Silicon Valley for consumer internet companies is like nowhere else
- They tested the first iteration with “normal” “real” people they found on craigslist. It was a train wreck and got them to understand how to build a better producta- They built something simple because they didn’t have time to build something complicated – and it resulted in a better product
- They focus on trying to solve problems people have with their technology – (hallelujah!)
- His ideal is that the technology should serve you (not the other way around)
- Focus on the product and the employees – that’s all you have
Sounds simple, but having worked with numerous startups, getting all of this to align at the right time is what makes for an amazing product.
October 24, 2011
Sarah Lacy, TechCrunch, just tweeted: “thank god i came out of maternity leave to do a story that the times broke the embargo on by 8 hrs. THIS is why @techcrunch doesn’t do them.” The story in question was one about the founding father of the iPod, Tony Fadell’s new venture: Nest.* And it struck me, just as I believe PR has never been harder, the same is probably true of journalism, blogging, reporting – call it what you will.
I’m not sure if this is a result purely of the economy (breaking news drive advertising), or a confluence of multiple factors like social media and fierce competition from numerous blogs all jostling to be the first to break news. Whatever it is, things are shifting in our business and it can make honing in on the right strategy pretty tricky.
Take figuring out who to brief, when to brief them and what to say. With outlets placing a much bigger emphasis on being the first to break news, if you’re working for a brand smaller than Apple’s, you’re probably contemplating exclusives more often than ever before. The irony of TechCrunch’s Lacy getting scooped by the NY Times needs no explanation.
Perhaps for once, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence.
(*Disclosure: Nest was Bird PR’s founding client, now handled by Outcast).
August 5, 2011
This week we had to say goodbye to one of the best PR people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and one of my closest friends, Gina Aumiller Bender. Gina very sadly lost her brave fight with cancer on Wednesday. She was taken from us too young and leaves behind a devoted family and a huge circle of friends and people she met through her work. The truth is that anyone she worked with soon became a friend.
Gina helped me get my feet wet (come to think of it, not just my feet) when I first landed here in the Bay Area in 1998. She was working at Sony at the time, doing PR for their VAIO PC range, which was no easy task, and I worked at the agency that was supporting them. Through working with her I met all the key CE reporters and learned how to do PR the American way.
Gina upheld the highest standards, was a stickler for good writing, a fanatic about details and would never say it couldn’t be done. She ran events like clockwork and would achieve superhuman feats like back-to-back media ‘sneak peeks’ days before major shows like Comdex, CES and PC Expo. And when I say ‘back-to-back’ I mean we’d be in San Francisco one day, and virtually the next day we’d be putting on an event in NYC.
After Sony, she went to work at e-Stamp – another client of mine. By now, we had become firm friends. After that she worked at Steve Perlman’s Moxi, which was later named Digeo. She took time off to battle her illness and raise her family, and then more recently worked at Dash Navigation.
I say this with all sincerity: there are very few PR people made in the Gina mold. She was tireless, a true believer in our craft and I am going to miss her more than words can say. Rest in peace my dear.
June 29, 2011
Yesterday’s news that Biz Stone is leaving Twitter to join co-founder Ev, on a different (ad)venture, is probably not surprising. After all, many entrepreneurs are driven by the freewheeling and heady freedom of inventing, innovating and not having to follow a whole bunch of rules. That changes when you get bigger, although Twitter is still relatively small despite the gargantuan size of its brand. Their old/new company is called Obvious.
This, from the NY Times blog, really caught my attention:
“In an interview last year, Mr. Williams said Obvious was originally meant to be an incubator to develop ideas for multiple products or companies and see what happened. He learned that start-ups need that kind of flexibility, he said, because both Blogger and Twitter sprang out of other companies as side projects.”
Blogger and Twitter were side projects! It’s a great reminder that being open minded and keeping many irons in the fire can yield great things. Imagine the vision and foresight it took to let these projects flourish.
June 16, 2011
It’s hard to avoid all the “Weiner” jokes, double entendres and the ‘what was he thinking?’ questions. As a communicator, I’m not so interested in the fact he clearly wasn’t thinking with his head when he whipped out his er, camera. The thing I’m curious about is at what point did lying about his antics seem like a good idea.
We know that lying never pays off. The American public is smart enough to sniff out most lies. Ultimately, lies only serve to make the liar look ridiculous. When the inevitable admission of truth comes, resignation is really the only option. Better to take it on the chin, admit foolishness, shorten the news cycle and maybe get some credit in the future for owning up quickly. This debacle has been going on for three weeks.
The media called Weiner’s four minute resignation press conference chaotic. To boot, a reporter from Howard Stern apparently kept interrupting Weiner’s speech. What a waste of a career and maybe even a marriage.
June 1, 2011
Nice write up in PR Week today about the launch of Bird PR and what we’re all about. You can read the story here, but probably need a subscription to view the full text.
May 5, 2011
Hard to believe that three months have flown by since I left Red. I’ve been busy ever since, thinking about what I want to do and how I want to spend my time. And then of course, there’s the all important matter of how to earn a living.
It’s been a gift to have a few months to take a fresh look at the world of communications and PR, how it intersects with technology and to see what’s going on with products and services for people. When you go “at it” day in day out, for 20 years, you can easily forget what it feels like to have enough space (mental and physical) to do some exploring.
It became clear that PR has earned me a great living, so it’s time to give back. Whether it’s teaching a class (I recently taught a class at The University of Santa Clara), or having more time to be a mentor to people I have enjoyed working with over the years, it feels good.
While it may seem obvious to say that PR is in the midst of the biggest changes since publishing took to the internet, it’s true. I started work back in the days of faxing pitches to news desks. Can you imagine? Many of you can’t.
Today we have a huge opportunity to help brands engage in meaningful, direct conversations with their customers – be it individuals or enterprises. The key things are killer content and being relevant. Uncovering these narratives is a passion of mine and I hope to focus on that in my work with companies and agencies.
The more traditional media outlets definitely have a place in our world. Whether they’re breaking news or curating content, it’s still our job as communications professionals to ensure that our clients are visible and, again, relevant.
Enough for now. I’d love your feedback on this web site. If you find an error or inaccuracy – please tell me. And if there’s something else you’d like to see up here, please let me know. I get asked on a daily basis for recommendations about people and for referrals to experts in various fields, so check out the ‘resources’ tab.
Thanks for reading,