With Search Engine Strategies (SES) New York just right around the corner, I thought I’d tap into this year’s keynote David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” (in its second edition already!), “World Wide Rave,” “Cashing in with Content,” and “Eyeball Wars” to get his thoughts on recent marketing trends, marketing ROI (and the barriers it causes) and ‘true’ public relations.
Beth Harte: MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group) has been doing their Marketing Trends Report for three years and this year was the first time you were cited as a top marketing guru and “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” has shifted to a Top 7 resource (from a top 11 resource in 2009). With 70% of marketing executives stating they are planning a social media strategy it seems your message of unlearning traditional marketing practices is finally resonating. And yet, in the same report they cited social media as a top ‘buzz’ word they are tired of hearing about. What are you seeing as causes for this frustration?
David Meerman Scott: The problem is definition. What does “social media” mean anyway?
When I was writing The New Rules of Marketing & PR in 2006, I felt as if I was the only person who had identified the idea that marketing on the Web was fundamentally about understanding your buyers and publishing the valuable information (YouTube vides, blog posts, ebooks, and the like) that informs and educates. This was a radical idea at the time the book was released in 2007, and it was not without controversy, especially from traditional advertising people and public relations professionals.
But then, slowly at first, an understanding started to build about the power of marketing and PR on the Web. Soon the incredible rise of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter created an environment where millions were exposed to what many were now calling “social media.” And then, in 2008, the revolution that is Web marketing and PR went mainstream. “Social media” as an idea was in full-blown hype mode throughout 2009 and into 2010, when thousands of instant-experts started talking about using social media for marketing and public relations purposes.
The issue is that the self-proclaimed gurus spend way too much time talking about the individual tools (such as Twitter) and not enough about the practical aspects of what the tools can do as part of an overall company strategy. And when people hear about Twitter again and again in the same context as the phrase social media, no wonder they get a hangover.
So, yes, “social media” is a buzzword that I am sometimes sick of hearing myself.
It seemed to me that most so-called experts were just hyping the tools themselves. Sure Twitter is important. But what’s fundamentally more important is how marketers and public relations professionals need to evolve their mindset to be successful. Creating a Facebook page or jumping onto Twitter won’t transform your business. Changing your mindset to one of understanding buyers and publishing content on the Web will.
BH: Marketing ROI is top of mind and yet it’s become a barrier to success at the same time. How can marketing executive and their teams learn to stop being stagnated by ROI barriers?
DMS: A decade ago, I was vice president of marketing and PR for a NASDAQ-traded business-to-business technology company. We measured success in two ways. Our lead generation programs were measured via “sales leads:” the number of people who requested a white paper or who tossed a business card into a fishbowl at the trade show. Our public relations programs were measured via a PR clip book, a gathering of all the clippings of magazine and newspaper articles written about the company. The book represented a month’s worth of clippings and was usually bound for us by our PR agency.
Sales leads and press clips were very common forms of measurement accepted by management in many B2B companies. Success—or failure—at a trade show was based on the number of people who stopped by the booth. And in a good month, our PR agency would proudly drop the clip book on a table to hear the “thud factor.” A deep, resonating boom was very, very good indeed.
Fast forward to 2010. The Web gives everyone—not only B2B companies but also consumer brands, consultants, nonprofits, and even rock bands, churches, and colleges—a tremendous opportunity to reach people and engage them in new and different ways. Now we can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an e-book, a Facebook page.
Those measurements, which seemed so great in an offline world, are wholly inadequate online. But what should we do instead?
First of all, ask yourself: “How’s business?”
Next, forget about sales leads and ignore mainstream media clip books. Instead, focus on spreading your ideas. Here are some questions that can help you learn to measure:
- How many people are getting exposed to your ideas?
- How many people are downloading your stuff?
- How often are bloggers writing about you and your ideas?
- (And what are those bloggers saying?)
- Where are you appearing in search results for important phrases?
- How many people are engaging with you and choosing to speak to you about your offerings?
- Is revenue and profit growing?
- Are customers happy?
BH: Somehow along the way PR professionals have lost sight of what ‘true’ PR is and have set their focus on the media. What quick steps can PR pros take to get back to the public relations roots of created mutually beneficial relationships with all of their publics (shareholders, stakeholders, communities, employees, etc.)?
DMS: To paraphrase the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
Nowhere does this description mention the media!
Somewhere along the line “public relations” became the same as “media relations.” What people need to realize is that these are different activities. Media relations, or working through journalists, is fine. Hey, who doesn’t want to be quoted in an important outlet?
But there are so many other ways to hear attention.
PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: YouTube vides, blog posts, ebooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence in Foursquare and so much more.
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I’d like to thank David for his time to share his thoughts with our Social Conversations readers! I am a big fan of David’s, so it was an honor to get some of his time.
For many years David’s books, ebooks (FREE!), videos (also FREE!) and blog posts (still FREE!) have been an on-going inspiration and source of education for me as a marketing, PR and digital marketing professional. If you haven’t tapped into David’s books and generosity (all that FREE stuff I mentioned! Hint, hint…), I urge you to do so because it will change how you look at your current business, marketing and PR strategies – and I promise…for the better!
(Pssst!! See how that works?! David educates me, I buy his stuff, and then I evangelize him to others who in turn get educated, buy his stuff and then evangelize him. The cycle continues on and on and… Pretty simple, eh?)