When You Win Over A Community: The Story of Help A Reporter Out

I don’t want to sound like a fanboy of Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) since I already posted about it recently, but I wanted to point out this video produced by one of the many fans of Shankman’s new query service.

In truth, I am sort of a fanboy for the service. I have found some real value from it since joining HARO when it was only a Facebook group, but I am using this video to illustrate a point. Continue reading When You Win Over A Community: The Story of Help A Reporter Out

It’s No Dark Night for The Dark Knight

I saw The Dark Knight at the first IMAX midnight showing Thursday night.

In the long line of fans and fanboys, some dressed in Joker or Batman costumes, I kept thinking about the viral marketing and alternate reality game, or ARG, that has now come to an end, I assume, with the release of the movie. Depending upon who you ask, people either saw a lot of marketing for The Dark Knight or just a few commercials here and there. For those who were listening, there was plenty to hear.

I speculated awhile back that this campaign might be looking to blow the top off traditional marketing if Heath Ledger’s death turned out to be some kind of trickery. I wasn’t the only one who thought that either. Of course, faking Ledger’s death would have been an extremely controversial part of any marketing plan, but I think there would have been an insane amount of buzz surrounding the film if they had spun the gossip readers around in their chairs.

Unfortunately, Ledger’s death was not any sort of hoax, but the ARG and viral marketing done for The Dark Knight still represents some of the best outreach for the hardcore fan crowd that I have ever seen. By stringing together ARG events, several websites, outdoor signage and more traditional advertising, The Dark Knight‘s marketing gave fans just enough to stay hungry until the release of the film.

Chris Lee of the LA Times went over all the many facets of the campaign back in March. Rather than being one deep alternate reality game or one simple viral website to promote the film, The Dark Knight marketing team and 42 Entertainment provided several big reveals.

By using several websites to run numerous small ARG projects, the marketers kept fans pining for the movie’s release. I am convinced that someone involved with the marketing for The Dark Knight is an insider at GoDaddy just looking at the complete list of all the sites affiliated with the movie.

The campaigns started off pretty small. One of the most noteworthy early on was making a game out of revealing the first photo of Ledger’s Joker pixel by pixel. Fans had to translate puzzles in email messages which unlocked just a pixel of the image until the entire photo was revealed.

Staged events like the street side campaign stands for Harvey Dent seemed to almost go unnoticed, but those true fans that ran into them on the street or sought them out through IBelieveInHarveyDent.com got free Harvey Dent swag and a reminder of the film.

While it looked like a perfectly legitimate campaign site for the fictional Gotham District Attorney at first, IBelieveInHarveyDent.com was defaced — we must assume by the Joker — as the film’s release grew closer. Prior to the “vandalism,” The Community Guy praised it for staying in character.

Defaced I Believe in Harvey Dent Site

To get the full story on the Dent campaign, you should also check out IBelieveInHarveyDentToo.com. Don’t ‘Select All’ in your browser, or you might discover something there as well.

The Joker set up shop at whysoserious.com to lead a scavenger hunt at San Diego’s Comic-Con and then provide the locations of bakeries around the United States where fans could receive a cake. Each cake was packed with an evidence bag containing a cell phone, phone charger, Joker gear and instructions to keep the phone on you at all times.

A similar piece of the ARG puzzle ran through the Clown Travel Agency, leading fans on another scavenger hunt for the Joker. In the end, a select group of fans who got there first received bowling ball bags containing a Joker-themed ball and a cell phone.

With all the various online and off-line marketing projects coming together, The Dark Knight had plenty of buzz opening weekend.

Early reports from E! Online are that The Dark Knight passed up Spider-Man 3 by grossing $155.3 million in its first weekend. The movie also set the records for opening day and single day.

While people all over the world may love their Batman, the success of The Dark Knight and especially this big opening weekend is a result of their innovative and consistent marketing. Even with the death of Heath Ledger endangering the project, the studio and 42 Entertainment put together enough rabbit holes to keep fans in the Batman universe and to keep the mainstream media reporting about their movie right up until the release date.

I know the ARG definitely pushed me to go see it early. I don’t normally rush out to see a movie the first weekend it comes out, but because of all the marketing and the IMAX showings, I jumped on board to get a ticket early.

How did the ARG and viral marketing influence you? Did you rush out to see the movie this weekend, or do you have no interest in it? Have you even ever heard of Batman? Continue the discussion by dropping a comment below.

Don’t play with your news. It’ll stick that way

As “news fatigue” sweeps the nation’s youth and increases the difficulty of presenting in-depth news, MSNBC has a new suite of tools to present news in an interesting way.

Called NewsWare, the new collection of offerings lets visitors play with their news and take it places like Facebook when in widget form. Continue reading Don’t play with your news. It’ll stick that way

Time to work: Public Relations pitching in a social media world

Pitching bloggers, just like traditional media outlets, takes research and significant effort. To be effective, you really have to know your audience and what will interest them.

Off-topic pitches are a bad first impression, and they can stick with you if you are unlucky enough.

With the growing number of social media communication tools and the rampant abuse of journalists’ email addresses, more and more journalists opt to require that public relations practitioners reach out to them through their social network of choice. Bloggers and the stars of online media are leading this movement.

Brian Solis highlighted several preferred contact methods of the big names of the blogosphere today.

Some like Facebook while others are incredibly turned off when you bring business to their wall.

Several ask that all pitches be twittered to them and add a little bonus pressure to PR reps to cram their message into just 140 characters — if the message is really that good, you should not need all 140.

ReadWriteWeb‘s Marshall Kirkpatrick prompted Brian Solis’ post after he shared that his favorite method of receiving pitches was through RSS feeds. Bloggers have started to post this sort of information online to help us all out.

Brian highlighted Kirkpatrick’s opinion on getting something outside of the (in)box:

He summarizes what you should do this way, “PR people, please send us the RSS feeds of your clients’ blogs and news release. The full fire-hose of company news and updates for us to pick out what’s interesting, someplace outside of our email inboxes, free of dreadful press release rhetoric (skip to the second paragraph where details usually are, then skip past any executive quotes and hope there are readable details somewhere) – that sounds like a dream come true. I know that’s where I get most of the stories I write about, not from email pitches. Send both, but company feeds are likely to be looked at more closely.”

RSS feed pitching encourages the growing trend of corporate blogging, and in the process of demanding just a feed, Kirkpatrick is also taking away the control, the choice, that PR reps have in what they choose to send out about their clients. Is that such a bad thing? Giving the journalists more info about you on a regular basis and letting them highlight what they will?

Kirkpatrick’s post points out one particular tech-savvy PR practitioner who used Yahoo Pipes to create one massive feed of all his clients. Very clever. I’m jealous.

Read Brian’s complete post for several detailed looks at what prominent bloggers and journalists desire from their PR friends.

As each journalist better defines their pitch acceptance process, it’s on all public relations professionals to do the research.

Almost every blogger that has made up their mind has a contact page or post detailing how they like for PR people to reach them, and off-line journalists are speaking out to inform PR people what they like to see as well.

Find it and follow it or reach out to journalists and ask them what they like before you shoot off an email.

As Brian put it: “Yes, it’s time consuming. But this is about relationships and not about broadcasting spam.” Well said, Brian. Well said.

How to Game YouTube and Go Viral

Dan Ackerman Greenberg’s guest post on TechCrunch sparked heated discussion about the ethics of gaming YouTube to get more views.

I am not a fan of gaming the system with fake comments and trickery like changing titles, tags and thumbnails, but there is no doubt that many “viral video specialists” use these tactics to get their videos viewed.

If you really want to generate a following and positive karma for your brand, I think it’s best to let the good videos rise to the top and go viral. Call me a dreamer. Natural selection FTW!

Here’s a little tongue-in-cheek video that shows you how it’s done by the people that brought us Ooh Girl!:

I personally miss the “Wild West days,” as Greenberg termed them, when a great video on YouTube would rise to the top with no tampering. I think the best videos still do, but the space will certainly be cluttered by those who will try to manipulate it in the coming years just like the blogosphere.

Help A Reporter Out!

Although it’s gotten its fair share of blog posts and media hits in NY Times, Marketing Sherpa and MarketingProfs over the last several days, Peter Shankman‘s Help A Reporter Out project deserves a mention here as well for those of you who don’t have your finger on the pulse of the marketing infostream.

Help A Reporter is Shankman’s mailing list for requests from reporters seeking interviewees and experts on a deadline. He runs it to generate good karma, but the list also benefits public relations pros and businesses who watch it as long as they respond when a request is relevant to them.

In short, don’t abuse this system. It’s very bad karma, and Shankman will remove you for repeated offenses. The value of Shankman’s list is in the trust that the emails connect reporters to truly relevant and available experts.

The group began as a Facebook group called “If I can help a reporter out, I will…” that I was lucky enough to stumble upon a few months ago in perusing the words and tips of marketing gurus online. It was growing at the time but has since grown beyond the scope of Facebook’s messaging restrictions. At 1200 members, Facebook no longer allows admins to send out messages to the group members, so Shankman acted fast to create the new site/list system at helpareporter.com.

Shankman sent out a Facebook message to the group members celebrating the new site:

It means our little experiment here in social media and PR is working!

This makes me happy. 🙂

But, we’re getting bigger! And we’ve outgrown our Playpen!

If you are looking to get your business mentioned in the media or work in public relations or as a publicist, you should get on this mailing list. Remember what it’s all about and keep winning good karma points by responding when you can assist but not pushing yourself into a story where you don’t belong.

As long as we keep this thing going, this list could be the start of a nice mutual network for public relations practitioners and reporters. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along?

As Shankman says:

It’s a simple idea, and one that can really help not only reporters, but all of us, as well! The bigger it gets, the better chance we have to make sure that reporters get the sources they need. The more they get the sources they need, the more likely they are to tell other journalists, which in the end, gives you more chances to get yourself, your clients, or your company some good press!

Go to helpareporter.com to sign up for the list. More on the list from Shankman himself:

The site’s been built to be as simple as this one: Simply enter your name/company/email, and you’ll get reporter requests sent to you via email, usually immediately after a reporter sends them to me.

It’s simple, it’s STILL FREE, and it’s no SPAM. It’s a double-opt-in list, with an automatic opt-out if you ever decide to leave us. Couldn’t be simpler, and yes, I’m still doing this because it’s good Karma.

So go to http://www.helpareporter.com and sign up.

The Moneyball Method of Marketing

I know that this post by Steve Rubel was posted last year, but in mining my RSS feeds from Google Reader today, I came across this post on the movement towards Moneyball Marketing as marketers look to online and had to talk about it because of how much I enjoyed Moneyball.

In Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, Lewis showed how baseball manager Billy Beane built a successful team by changing the critical stats. Rather than choosing players based on the big time stats that the Yankees liked, the A’s started getting players with good on-base percentages and slugging percentages–players that weren’t as highly sought after in the drafts and had less star mentality.

As Rubel projects, the same could be true for marketing in the online realm. Marketers looking to reduce costs could go more niche and find smaller sites that produced better results. These sites wouldn’t have as much of a “star mentality” and don’t charge as much for advertising.

I had never thought about Moneyball applying to marketing until I read this post, but now it seems like a great way to describe the more efficient way of marketing on the Web. Rubel also lists some ways to start applying the Moneyball method:

Here are three ways you can apply Moneyball Marketer in your organization today:

1) Become a Super Cruncher – Look beyond the common methods for evaluating media and identify more meaningful, perhaps esoteric statistics. For example, make a buy based on a site’s ability to drive consumers to complete high value tasks.

2) Skip Reach, Go Niche – As hard as it is, try forgoing some of the larger sites in favor of emerging niche ones that deliver a higher percentage of your target. Work with them to create measurable, outside-the-box programs. For example, consider Takklean emerging social network focusing on high school sports.

3) Think Relationships, Not Impressions – The most successful companies in business today recognize that relationships rule. Consider launching programs that allow you to hone your relationships with narrow segments of your audience. Go beyond impressions.

Is Community Management the future of marketing?

There’s a reason that I want to integrate a role as a community manager into my normal public relations duties. As more and more marketers profess the equal ground that social networks create between marketers and consumers, marketers have to redefine themselves.

Jeremiah Owyang answered his own question on how marketers could stay relevant in a recent post.

Question: Many consumers loathe marketers, now consumers can bypass marketers with social media tools, the power has shifted to the participants, how do marketers stay relevant?

Answer: Marketers must participate, or let consumers participate on their behalf, it’s a new world.

The best way to participate is to become what is today defined as a community manager.

Just like Larry Hryb became the face of Microsoft’s Xbox as Major Nelson and Frank O’Connor became a “Content Monkey” for Bungie, community managers have taken on the role of passing information to the community and letting the community do what they will.

This model works best with brands where a large fan base already exists on the Web. It’s not as strict and defined a communication format as traditional public relations, but it is one that more consumers and fans appreciate.

Community managers produce original content and writing for the community rather than issuing press releases directly to the press. They overcome a greater challenge in establishing a relationship of trust with the consumers since they are affiliated directly with the company they represent, but those marketers that pass on a consistently honest message to the consumer reap the reward of developing a brand community out of their marketing efforts.

By bypassing the media, niche brands can also see rewards. Even though they may be too small for industry journalists to take note, they can develop a cult following through their own blogging and community development.

This passive marketing of the future puts the community managers on equal ground with consumers and allows them to interact and participate in a meaningful way. It will be the most effective marketing communication method in the future, so it would benefit every PR practitioner to integrate community management into normal PR functions in order to stay relevant.

Understand what public relations can do for you

TalentZoo.com featured a great set of 18 PR Tips for Startups from Brian Solis in a recent email. His tips feature a few pet peeves of mine about some people’s concept of public relations. Often, folks can doubt the power of PR.

2. Don’t undervalue PR.

PR, when done right, is extremely valuable to company branding, which has immeasurable benefits in the long haul. Customers have choices and if you’re not consistently vying for their attention, it’s pretty easy to fall off their radar screen when they evaluate options. Too many companies nickel and dime PR to the point of absurdity. Don’t get me wrong. Expensive PR doesn’t equal success. But short changing PR is usually a first step in the wrong direction.

As a general rule, PR should always be consistent because it does take time and maintained effort to establish relationships with the journalists that cover your business and find coverage opportunities. Solis does a great job expanding upon these two principles through all 18 tips–even enforcing how important it is for executives to meet regularly with their PR department and involve them early in decisions that can affect their messaging.

Marketing-savvy corporate executives are working with PR, Advertising, and Marcom teams to explore options and strategies on how to participate in relevant online conversations. This represents a shift in outbound marketing as it creates a direct channel between companies and customers, and ultimately people.

He even recommends my dream job within a company:

Hire a community manager. In the new world of social media, new PR can be complemented through the efforts of someone who can actively represent the company in all things social so that they can provide proactive information and support to people looking for guidance in the communities they frequent. Don’t market to them, have conversations.

Now, who’s interested?