Social Media

How To Fire Up Your Media Relations Efforts.

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Media Commentary, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Is traditional media relations dead? Not by a long shot. People still rely on the traditional news media for news. They may not receive the news in the traditional way, e.g. home-delivered newspapers or by faithfully tuning into the 10 p.m. television newscast. But they’re still paying attention to the news.

Which means it still pays for companies to invest in traditional media relations programs. By that, I mean a program in which news coverage is actively pursued by an actual human being attempting to make personal contact with other actual human beings. The “other actual human beings” in this case being, news people. 5Centurions1

It also means thinking through a media relations strategy.  Even better, a strategy might take into account multiple opportunities for creating news over a period of time — several months, six months, a year.

Go Beyond Doing ‘Some Public Relations’

Now I see a lot of people using press release distribution services to disseminate news about their companies. Some are of the paid variety, others free, or at least so low-cost as to be nearly free. Many come from small- to mid-size companies, in what appears to me to be an attempt to do “some public relations.” As in, we’ve got news, we should put out a press release!

If you have news, by all means put out a press release. But wait! Have you thought it through? Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish with this press release? Is it written in such a way as to appeal to news people? Does it conform to AP style? Is it interesting? Do you have graphics – photos, charts, etc. — to help make your story more compelling? Links to online supporting video?

Do you have a larger media relations strategy in place, such as one that identifies key news making opportunities for the company over time — and sets out a plan for pursuing those opportunities to your fullest advantage?

If You Release It, Many Still Won’t See It.

Recently, I helped a client get major news out about a win in a court case. The news was of both local (metro) and national significance. We agreed to put a press release out on one of the major paid news distribution wires. The release would hit all the major business and consumer media in the country — including almost all daily newspapers, television and radio news stations. Key editors covering our type of news were targeted.

Out went the release. In came a barrage of “hits” — mostly verbatim pickup of the release on a variety of web-based news sites that subscribe to the news distribution service. Nice, but not really high-caliber hits — the kind where a reporter is so struck by your news that he/she calls or emails to get more information.

Even before sending the release out on the wire, I had contacted a number of key reporters and editors to alert them to the news. (Did I know all these people? Certainly not. But I figured they would likely be most interested in the news, because it landed on their “beats.”) Most of the reporters I talked with were happy to hear from me. In many instances, they wanted much more information — including a copy of the court transcript — and they wanted to personally interview my client.

As the day went on, I called and emailed numerous other reporters, locally and nationally. Almost to a person, none had seen the press release that went out on the wire earlier that day. None. Even though it was news specifically pertinent to their beats — and of high interest to their audiences — they were unaware of the news until I brought it to their attention. Many of them did in fact request more information. Some wanted to speak with my client, Some very significant stories resulted. The news coverage — specifically that which came about from the personal contacts with the media — wound up generating more business for my client. Which was the ultimate goal of the press release and media relations approach.

I say all this not to toot my own media relations horn (although I can’t deny doing some of that) but to point out the fallacy of thinking the job is complete by simply sending out a press release. Or even doing a bit of media relations follow-up. if you’ve got news, make the most of it! Do the hard media relations work — and it is hard, time-consuming work to get the media’s attention, make no mistake — of leveraging your news to its fullest extent.

You may be surprised at how far your news travels — when it’s assertively presented and pitched.

Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. Some might call him a media junkie, in a good way. He’s written and placed thousands of press releases and company stories in almost every media outlet known to humankind. He’s always delighted to talk media relations strategies with people who want to see if they can do more with their media relations efforts. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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Kickstarter Campaigns And Twitter, A Quick Note.

Posted on June 24, 2014. Filed under: Creative Marketing, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , |

On the matter of Twitter marketing: a young guy, self-identified as a high school student, followed me on Twitter. I followed him back. Whereupon he DMed me (thati is,sent me a Direct Message, for me eyes only) to say he would appreciate it “alot” if I checked out his Kickstarter campaign. To which he featured a link. Interested in his approach, I did check out his Kickstarter page. Turns out he is raising funds to support his fledgling customized coasters endeavor. His coasters are the type used for placing wet beverage containers on.

He set the Kickstarter fundraising bar low, at $500. He’d well surpassed that amount according to Kickstarter’s running count of funds raised.

Since I’m currently involved in setting up a Kickstarter campaign for a client, I was interested in his marketing approach via Twitter.

A DM With A Valid Call-To-Action

His DM to me stood out from the normal stuff you get when you follow someone on Twitter. That’s usually something like “Thanks for following me. I post regularly at XXX” or some such useless drivel.

I’ll have to keep this approach in mind as the deadline draws nearer for dropping the flag on my client’s Kickstarter campaign. Will in fact use it. Seems like a good use of social media to me. It’s an honest approach: “I followed you for a reason, here’s my reason: I want you to support my Kickstarter campaign. And I also want you to know about my products, which you might be interested in purchasing yourself.” What’s wrong with that? Nothing, so far as I can tell. Twitter’s set up for just this type of thing — communicating a call-to-action to strangers.

I’m always interested in learning more about using Twitter as a promotional device. What are your thoughts?

My one criticism of my young correspondent’s DM is grammatical in nature: mashing together “a lot” into “alot.” Not a pretty sight, that.

Doug Hovelson, author of this blog post, is an experienced media relations and public relations professional working out of Minneapolis. He’s helped dozens of companies – from Fortune 500 size to start-ups — grow their businesses with effective public relations programs. He can be reached at 612-722-5501 or at doughovelson AT MSN Dot COM.

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Pitching The Media, Channel Basics

Posted on April 3, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Reporters even today, in this most post-modern of post-modern worlds to date, prefer to get their pitches from PR people under cover of email. Or, get this, they’ll even take a story idea by telephone — yes that strange little talking device that pre-dates even the VCR, microwave ovens and the use of the designated hitter in baseball — over getting hit up with an idea by, say, a Tweet.

Not to say that all reporters, news producers and the like eschew the social media avenues for pitch contacts. TV reporters and program producers seem to get an abundance of their story ideas from social media sources, according to the 2014 Vocus State of the Media Report. This makes sense, since television news is particularly keen on reaching out to viewers for news tips and just generally more open to engaging with viewers via social media.

Best Bet – Email!

Email emerges as the favorite medium for story pitching for a number of reasons. One, it’s private. Two, it’s fast and also because people pay more attention to what’s happening in the email streams than they do to what’s being beamed at them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. Three, it’s easier to keep track of pitches sent via email versus the social media circuits.

Keeping things private, Edward Snowden aside, is pretty much a given when working with the news media. Some news people — outside the aforementioned local TV news realm — are receptive to receiving tips via openly public media such as Twitter. But putting a story idea up on a public Twitter feed also cues competitors in to what a reporter may be doing. It’s no way to pitch an exclusive story, that’s for sure. Most reporters that I know and work with seem to work under the assumption that whatever story they’re doing is their own private business — and they just don’t want other people outside their organization to know what they’re working on until they’re ready to reveal it themselves. This makes email a better choice than a public Tweet, especially if you’re pitching a particular story angle to a particular reporter. Using the private DM channel on Twitter to contact a reporter is a better approach – assuming you have that option – but again, there’s the chance that the reporter isn’t checking the Twitter feedline that often.

By Any Means Possible

A nice option is to use Twitter as a story-pitch alerter – signaling the reporter that you’ve got a newsy idea to discuss, with a note that you’ve sent an email – if that’s the case or left a voice-mail message if that’s the case. Use it as another tool for getting a news person’s attention, in other words.

Reporters often use Facebook and LinkedIn as means of tracking down sources. LinkedIn has its advantages with its built-in InMail feature, which allows users to send private emails to others in the LinkedIn system.

I find Twitter to be of immense use as a media relations tool, less for direct pitching of stories than for staying informed about specific media outlets and reporters. In fact, I often find myself browsing through my list of people I’m following on Twitter to find reporters and media outlets that might be interested in stories I’m currently pitching. The list changes all the time, depending on what I’m working on.

Personal Contact Is Essential

But for pitching story ideas – when you’re the pitcher – the best approach still seems to be a combination of email and followup telephone contact, perhaps supplemented by contacts on Twitter and other social media outlets where the news person maintains a presence. The unsettling thing about email is that you’re never sure if your pitch has been seen by a reporter who probably gets bombarded by email all day long. (There are unobtrusive email tracking systems that you can use to see if your emails are being opened; they just let you know if and when someone’s clicked open your email. (I’m not real familiar with the technology, although I’m interested in hearing from anyone who does know how effective such systems are and so forth.)

And yet, there are no absolutes — whatever works best with individual reporters and news people is the best approach.

Active media relations is very challenging work. The digital age has made it all the more complicated and demanding. People who do media relations work well tend to live and breathe the media world. Many are former journalists — more of them now than say 10 years ago. Now I’m speaking of media relations as the practice of reaching out to the media to generate coverage for clients. This goes beyond the idea of simply pumping out a press release, throwing it out on a paid distribution service, and sitting back to see what happens. Many companies do this for quick-fix SEO – search engine optimization reasons. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve got a good story to tell, one that you believe should be of interest to the media, then it’s worth taking the time to personally pitch the story to the media as well. The keys to great results, as the Vocus study shows, are persistence and using the appropriate means of contact.

Good Stories Buried With The Bad

Let me finish with a quote from a reporter at a national news media outlets in Southern California, as identified in the Vocus report. The reporter responds to the question of whether she is open to receiving pitches via social media. Her response appears to indicate that she isn’t currently receiving many pitches via social media.

“Yes, I think. It is hard to say what the long-term effect of my social media experience will be if my Facebook instant message or Twitter Direct Message box becomes packed with pitches like my email box is now. I routinely miss important emails as it is now because they are buried within the stack of “story ideas.” I think a more elegant solution is ahead of us, I just don’t know what it is yet.” – See more at: VOCUS State of the Media Report.

She sums up the crux of the matter, from a media relations perspective, very well when she says that a lot of important emails get buried under the stack of story ideas in her email box. That’s where good media relations people earn their keep – by finding ways to call pitch-saturated reporters’ and editors’ attention to their clients’ good story ideas. (Because a good story is a terrible thing to waste, damn it!)

Hats off to VOCUS for doing the report.

Got a media relations story to share, commentary on my commentary, etc? I’d love to hear from you.

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Social media: love is not enough for most businesses to live on

Posted on February 6, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Strikes me that one of the hardest things for companies to do is to do social media properly from the inside of the company.

So natural to use the time/digital space to talk about the company and its wonderful culture, accomplishments, etc. But is that of real interest to the readers companies most want to attract?

Employees and their families, company “friendlies” – the “choir”  — naturally like to see that. If that’s the target audience, fine.

Detached observers, such as prospects, probably want to see something else – content that makes them think, entertains them, inspires them, informs them, hits them where they live.

Content such as journalists, and outsiders such as PR agencies and freelancers, produce.

It’s great to be loved by those who know you. Even better for businesses to be loved by strangers who may want to do business with you.

More on the subject here, from an MIT study: If You Like It They May Not Come.

I like to help people get the most for their marketing and PR money. If you think you could use some help making your social media strategies more effective, maybe we should talk. I’m almost a certified outsider, journalist, agency guy and freelancer all in one. I’m at Doug Hovelson or simply respond to this post.

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Social Media For Therapists

Posted on February 15, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , |

Interesting look at special challenges facing those in medical/therapy professions and their use of social media:

A Psychotherapist’s Guide to Facebook and Twitter: Why Clinicians Should Give a Tweet!.

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Timely Tweets – Coincidence Or Celestial Magic?

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , |

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell (Photo credit: Kevan)

Remarkable bit of serendipity – or perhaps further support for the idea that “there are no coincidences” – when these two Tweets arrived moments apart on my feed today:

Boing Boing@BoingBoing

After worst blackout in global history, India’s power minister rates his performance as “Excellent”

Bridget Cusick@BridgetCusick

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

[Editor’s note: “There are no coincidences” attributed variously to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecies), Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (death be not coincidental!) and that source of all sources, “old adage.”]


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If Only The Dead Knew Facebook

Posted on May 24, 2012. Filed under: Digital Dalliances, Public Relations, Ramblings, Social Media, Society, Sporting life | Tags: , |

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I come from a long line of dead people,” novelist Lawrence Block observed via one of his tough-guy detective characters.

No truer words were ever spoken. So far as we know, no person to date has ever lived forever. Candidates are out there – baseball slugger Ted Williams was famously put on cryogenic ice post-mortem, with the hope that science could someday get Teddy Ballgame back into the game of life. And why not. Teddy enjoyed life, loved fishing and if anything can make a person want to live forever, it’s fishing. Better than sex, or at least longer-lasting, plus it’s legal to practice in public.

Forgotten Even By Their Kinfolks

Now I don’t know how all those dead people throughout history, so many of them unsung and totally unknown today — even by their living kin — felt about living lives of ultimate obscurity. Quite possibly, most of them never gave it much thought. For all the Julius Caesars, Cleopatras and Charlemagnes of history, there were millions – nay, billions – more who never achieved much more recognition than an ant.

Would that have changed if Facebook had been around in ancient Roman times? What would those Facebook pages have been like – would the people, the men and women in the Roman street, have been so diligent in posting the daily details of their private lives into the public databanks of Facebook I? One can only speculate. And if so, what would they have said?

Heard On The Ancient Roman Street

“Giancarlo is off fighting the Goths on the northern front today. Lions mauled the Christians today in the Colosseum. What a spectacular finish by Mario in the featured chariot race last night. Luigi’s is having a special on clams today. Ran into Ovid on the Appian Way this morning, he was out for his usual morning jog…we chatted about the weather – too hot! — and the inflation rate — too high! My tooth aches this morning. Anybody know any good dentists in south Rome? Saw Brutus at Alfonso’s Sporting Goods store this afternoon – he was checking out knives. Here’s a picture of me and my family at our barbecue last weekend, it was finger-lickin’ good. I hear there’s an orgy tonight at the Campesino Club, who else is planning to attend? How about them Lions? I like Rafael’s House of Furniture. We’re taking our vacation on the Riviera this year, we leave next week. Am I the only one who wishes that Cicero would shut his mouth? Anybody know any good restaurants in Naples? I’ve got to go there for business next week. Avoid walking near the Tiber downtown – it really stinks this time of year.”

And so forth.

That Was Then, This Is The Now Of Facebook

Fast forward 2,000 years, to a time and place – well, any place since we live in such a globally connected world today — and the citizenry, well, the citizenry is chitter-chattering away all over the Internet. Facebook. Twitter. Tumbl’r. Pinterest. WordPress. YouTube. It’s a communicative cornucopia, a frenzy of engagement of epic proportions. Digital dynasties emerge overnight – Pinterest, for God’s sake? Where was Pinterest five years ago? Big Data is on the rise. (Lesser data, such as newspapers, are crumbling into oblivion however.) Lady Gaga is more famous than Cleopatra, Walter Winchell has been replaced by TMZ and hardly anyone reads Ovid anymore.

But the people of the Facebook street, a billion or so strong, they are making up for humanity’s time lost in historical obscurity. Just think, 2,000 years from now, assuming the robot class hasn’t assumed dominance over the clamoring masses, people of that time will likely be plumbing the digital archives of the early years of the Third Millennium for clues into what life was like for the 21st century ancients. What a wealth of data they will have to draw upon, assuming they’re interested. Who knows? By then, history might really have ended for all time, replaced by what we know not – since we who live today belong to a specific historical period. Perhaps Teddy Ballgame will re-emerge from the cryogenic crypt to instruct the 41st century masses in the fine art of whacking a baseball.

So the next time you go to tell your Facebook followers what’s on your mind, just remember: you’re teeing it up for history. You just might want to keep that 41st century savant in mind.

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When Social Media Bites The Hand That Feeds

Posted on April 24, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Social Media | Tags: , |

Joliet Jake

Joliet Jake (Photo credit: harry harris)

Fight social media fire with fire? Small retailers have no choice but to buck up when it comes to online reviews.

Peeved customers no longer suffer in silence. They take to the Internet, to voice their displeasure over ill-treatment, real and perceived.

People are not afraid to speak up on the Internet. They’ll say things online that they couldn’t or wouldn’t say face-to-face.

A Critic In Every Corner?

Then again, the Internet has unleashed the inner critic in all of us. Millions of people now peck or swipe away — with rapture unfettered —  at digital devices, hammering out pithy commentary on movies, meals, tourist attractions, liquor stores, hardware stores, auto repair shops…about the only things that don’t get reviewed are jails and prisons, it seems. Who knows? Maybe someone like Joliet Jake is spitting out reviews of prison commissaries and in-cell amenities somewhere on Facebook or Yelp.

The point is, retail blood is spilled on the Internet every day by disgruntled customers. If it hasn’t happened to your business yet, odds are it will. No it’s not a certainty. Neither is getting called to jury duty – some people slide through life and live to a ripe old age without ever being hailed into jury duty too. Luck of the draw, really.

TV Story Captures The Dilemma

A recent news story from Los Angeles’ KABC-TV illustrates the plight of restaurateurs caught in the cross-hairs of online critics today: Under Fire.

Respond, Yes. Retaliate, Maybe Not.

But you don’t want to just be a sitting duck either. Prepare yourself for the eventuality of being digitally panned in some fashion or the other.  Consider this scenario: Someone visits a retailer’s restroom, discovers its blanketed with the rudest of graffiti, snaps a picture of it on his iPad, posts it to Facebook, and voilà – damage done! Maybe the graffiti was of very recent vintage – a leave-behind of the Sharpie-wielding patron who just preceded our visitor into the loo. The feckless critic won’t take such an eventuality into account. She’ll just run it up the Twitter pole and there you have it – your business image besmirched.

Some of the best advice going is to:

  • Stay cool. Analyze the situation. Is the criticism valid? If so, you might be best served by responding politely and with a positive attitude to the critic in the online forum. Thank the customer for pointing out the issue, and reward them with a small token of your consideration for being a good customer – a discount coupon, free meal, whatever seems appropriate. Then correct the problem, of course.
  •  Don’t be abrasive or defensive. The annals of the Internet are already chock full of horror stories about businesses that responded harshly to customer online commentary.
  • Unless it’s really out-of-bounds, you can’t win. You’re better off taking a slight loss, and moving on. Grin and bear it, in other words. If it’s an egregious assault on your business, one that you believe is without merit, you may want to see if you can convince the operator of the service to remove the comment. That won’t prevent the poster from re-posting somewhere else, of course.
  •  If it’s a problem that occurred because of circumstances particular to the customer’s visit, you may want to respond calmly and patiently to the criticism. Accept responsibility, explain the situation and what you’re doing to make sure it won’t happen again. Do this online, in response to your critic’s posting. Offer to talk – communicate – off-line or via private channels in order to resolve the dispute as well.
  • Remember, your goal is to resolve the situation as peacefully and equitably as possible, so you can continue to go about your business of running a great business.

Bouncing back from a harsh social media experience can be daunting. The trick is to turn it to your favor. A fresh public relations approach may be just what the doctor ordered, too.

Your thoughts? Experiences? Stories, horror, happy or otherwise?

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My Soul To Be Social Mediaicized

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, Society | Tags: , , , , |

English: Joseph Stalin after 1943 in military ...

Image via Wikipedia

Get socialized!

It’s my new thing, a sort of accidental New Year’s resolution: know more about, and do more in, the social media world.

Reminds me of the ’60’s line, “My soul has been psychedelicized” by The Chambers Brothers.

Were I writing in the 1930s, you might take me for a convert to Leninism — if I’d been so bold as to confess to a longing to be socialized back then. They had a crude form of social media back then — think postcards, think telegrams, think street corner preachers and sidewalk barkers for the music halls and burlesque theaters — but they didn’t call it that.

Lenin doesn’t much figure into my thinking today, although it is intriguing to muse about what uses he and other lions of the Russian revolution might have found for social media technologies.  Nothing fun, that’s for sure. Apps for instantaneously snitching out your counter-revolutionary neighbor, hair stylist, mother. Streaming video from the show trials of fallen Bolshies. Stalin posting pictures of his bare-chested virile self on Twitter. That kind of thing.

The Social Leap!

My leap into socialization has to do with Facebook! LinkedIn! Twitter! Google+! Blogging! Flickr! Tumblr!

Need I go on?

I think not.

So what did I learn today, in my revolutionary journey through the social media jungle? (Not to be confused with the “urban jungle” again ca. the early years of the 20th century, see George Bernard Shaw or Nelson Algren).

Online Tellers, Beware

Wonderful and unsettling information was what I learned today.

Take “creativity,” for example. That’s generally a wonderful thing, especially for the artistically, marketing and Ponzi scheme inclined. But it’s not such a wonderful thing to cite as a skill or attribute on your LinkedIn profile, so I learned. Better to show your creativity in your profile, than to self-ascribe it. I think that makes sense, too. It’s the first thing you learn in Writing 101 – show the reader what you’re talking about. (Oh, the horror — a reader bored is a reader lost forevermore.) Being Creative On LinkedIn Won’t Do You Any Favours

Banish Those Banalities

So be creative in your use of social media, but don’t say you’re creative. Saying so makes it seem as if you are not so creative. And that’s not what you want. You want to cut a bold figure on the Internet. (To cut a figure, as in “he cut a fine figure,” a figure of speech encountered rarely today, where it would not have been out of place to say of Theodore Roosevelt or Babe Ruth, “there goes a fine figure of a man.” And if you ever saw Joe Stalin in the street, you would have most certainly said something to the effect of “there’s as fine a figure of a man as ever walked the Soviet earth.” If you said anything at all.  For to say ill of Joe would almost certainly have earned you rough carriage in a Black Maria to Lubyanka Prison, and denied all access to the Internet or a Tweeting machine.)

So, yes, be creative in all your online endeavors.

That’s what I learned today on the path to full 21st century cyber-socialization! And you?

[Editor’s Note: No Bolsheviks were abused in the writing of this post.]

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A World Gone Ad-Mad: North Dakota’s Cautionary Facebook Tale

Posted on January 13, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

A portion of downtown Fargo, North Dakota as v...

Fargo, N.D. Image via Wikipedia

If there’s one thing marketers get drummed into their heads, it’s the need to test specific ad concepts and strategies before going live with them — and spending buckets of dollars to do so.

Testing itself is a cost, of course.

Testing ad concepts with focus groups is time-consuming and costly. But the good sense doctors of marketing say that only a fool goes out into the market with fresh advertising — especially on a major regional or national scale — without first probing for audience disconnects.

When your target market is national or super-regional, as was the case with a new ad from the North Dakota Dept. of Commerce’s Tourism division, promoting the state’s lively, if not abundant, night-life, it’s advisable to do the focus group part right.

N.D. Tourism apparently decided to use Facebook as its focus group venue. Turns out, Facebook is a great way to get feedback on advertising tests. Too good, in fact. The online testing experiment blew up in North Dakota’s broad face, strewing hard-edged shards of criticism across the Internet.

The ad in question, designed for magazine display, depicts some sporty but clean-cut young chaps lounging in the window seats of a trendy-looking bar, eyeing with unabashed pleasure a group of three young women decamped on the sidewalk outside the bar. Everybody seems to be having a good time, or at least looking forward to having a good time together, not so surprising considering this is what young men and women tend to do when they go out on the town.

But the copy lines, while terse and grabby, were all wrong according to many of the online commentators. “Drinks. Dinner. Decisions. Arrive a guest. Leave a legend.”

Too suggestive to many, it seems, of a meat-market approach to marketing the social virtues of urbane North Dakota cities, in this case, Fargo.

What first brought my attention to the matter was this Thursday evening Tweet from journalist Lucy Kafanov, to wit: LucyKafanov This North Dakota tourism ad pretty much cements my desire to avoid the state at all costs.

Ms. Kafanov’s stony sentiment toward the Peace Garden State was soon echoed across the cyber universe. Scads of reviewers, many young women apparently miffed over the idea of becoming the stuff of lewd legend should they venture into the North Dakota wilds, voiced their objections online. N.D. Tourism officials woke up on Friday morning to discover their world gone mad. What started out as an innocent attempt to pre-test the efficacy of the ad on the Tourism department’s Facebook page had degenerated into a monumental pile-up of ill will toward the state.

Holy haystacks! What a PR nightmare for Sara Otte Coleman, N.D.’s tourism director, forced to plead her case for understanding of the ad against a din of derision that would leave her in the end to say, in a Forum news story: “At this point, I would say we’d have lots of other options to showcase the nightlife and the downtown fun atmosphere that Fargo and Grand Forks and Bismarck have to offer,” she said. “I would say no, we can probably find a better way to communicate the intended message than that ad.”

So there. Lesson learned, the hard way: be careful what you test for on Facebook. You might be starting a viral fire that’s really hard to squelch once it gets going. And not all viral fires are friendly. Makes a typical focus group meeting, with soft drinks and pizza all around, seem downright inviting.

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Shouting Fire In A Crowded Room

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: Digital Dalliances, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

Truman Capote, as photographed by Roger Higgin...

Truman Capote, photographed by Roger Higgins

Never shout “fire” in a crowded room – unless there actually is a fire, of course.

That’s an axiom we’ve all grown up with, and yet, it seems to be pretty much useless as an admonition in a digital world driven by fire-shouters.

Just today, as every online day, I’ve seen a Tweet or two alluding to some set of “essential” things I need to know about this, that and the other thing. All of which are aimed at making me feel as if I’m an inadequate marketer unless I quick grab hold of the mouse and click on over to the poster’s page of invaluable, nay business- and reputation-saving, tips. It’s all about garnering attention, certainly, and I can understand that – in the battle for share of the digital marketing mind, all is fair.

But I as a client, assuming I were a client, would not be much in a mood for getting much work done if I spent the livelong day chasing down every hot new lead purporting to clue me in on what’s missing in my marketing strategies.

The Chattering Seas…

Since I am both client and client-seeker, in my business life mind you, I am sorry to say that on certain days it just seems as if I’m adrift in a sea of mind-addling marketing teases. That’s the time I spend online, exposed to the Twitter medium, for example – a medium that I abuse, no question about it, and much to my chagrin. Because when you get right down to it, there is a lot of essentially non-essential information floating about hither and thither under the guise of essentiality.

Which is not to say it’s not good information. People dispense with an abundance of good information all the time via the social media platforms. But separating out what’s essential versus what’s only good, therein lies a challenge of epic proportions. But that’s only half the challenge, and indeed the lesser half as it stands. The better half of the challenge, the more Herculean aspect, is to know how to rein in one’s curiosity, it seems to me.

What Would Pliny Say?

Because the Internet is a world of wonders for those with a yen for the new. There’s always something new out of the Internet, to piggyback off the statement that Pliny the Elder made re: Africa some years back. The trick, it seems, for me, and perhaps a few others, is to try and figure out how to enjoy and even benefit from this world of endless inspiration, entertainment and edification without going crazy. I’m reminded of the comment once made about Truman Capote, how he in his years after writing In Cold Blood mostly abandoned the writing craft and became a magazine addict. Better than an opium addict chez Coleridge, perhaps, but still not highly conducive to the pursuit of personal productivity.

So there you have it. Resolved, here and now, to be a better, more conscientious consumer of digital goods.

How to do it? Perhaps I’ll write on that later on. Maybe even put together a series of essential tip sheets on how to make the most of your Internet experience.

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TweetDeck Goes Long For Twitter

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , |

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

New from TweetDeck, a new workaround – or an improvement, if you’re of the marketing persuasion – that allows Tweeters to break the 140-character tweet barrier on Twitter. (Say that tongue-twisting sentence three times in a row without stopping to breathe.)

Say what, you might say, is Twitter no longer Twitter without its minimalist approach to free speech?

I say, “Bring it on.” Much as I enjoy the art of crafting the pithy Twitter call-out, I have often found myself stretched to compress a thought into the standard Tweet tube.

TweetDeck’s new service lets you write as much as you like in Tweet mode. When you post to Twitter, the service provides a link to a TweetDeck page where your excess verbiage can be viewed all its glory.

It expands on the notion of Twitter as a micro-blogging platform, while maintaining the breezy brevity of Twitter itself. ( based Tweets are truncated at 140-characters on Twitter itself.)

[DISCLAIMER] I’ve not used the service yet myself, but plan to shortly. Why write about it before using it? Sounds like an excellent addition to the Twitter arsenal, especially for those in the PR, marketing and journalism worlds. More to come once I’ve taken for a test spin. I’d certainly like to hear from anyone who’s used and seen some results from it.

[ADDENDUM, Feb. 1] More than one killer content expander service for Twitter, here’s another: Must be even more to come…

More information at:

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