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AIG's Conversational PR at Daily Kos

AIG accepted (selectively at least) an invitation from Daily Kos to engage directly with its readers.

“On Tuesday, I posted a press release I’d received from AIG media relations rep Peter Tulupman in response to a post I’d written expressing outrage at the news of yet another expensive AIG retreat taken after the taxpayer bailout. In the Tuesday post, I invited Daily Kos readers to submit questions to Mr. Tulupman in the hopes that the desire he expressed on behalf of AIG to engage in dialogue with our community was geniune.”

To his credit, AIG’s Tulupman agreed to answer some of the questions.

AIG Answers Daily Kos

There are hundreds of questions and comments, some that are very angry and some that are especially unflattering to AIG. At this point, though, AIG can’t be too worried about damaging its brand more than its been damaged by the evening news. And, meanwhile, I bet a small percentage of Daily Kos readers go deep into those comments, meaning (if I’m right) the bulk of the Daily Kos community will read the few questions AIG opts to answer — which aren’t going to be the most scathing — and will leave the experience with at least a small measure of new respect for AIG. Hey, they joined the fray.

Why does a brand need to be in so much trouble before its willing to jump into the mosh pit?

(Thanks, Rolf!)

Sam Whitmore: Is Social Media Killing PR?

Sam’s short answer: nope. But marketing tactics, skillsets and strategies are evolving fast.

“PR budgets, traditionally defined, won’t be rising anytime soon. When the economy comes back, opportunity will look different. It already does. Look at Federated Media with its “conversational marketing” initiatives. Look at BzzAgent and its WOM initiatives. New elements are emerging. They’re not killing PR. But they’re casting a shadow. How to step out from it might make for a good follow-up panel.”

Blogs Are The New Trade Press

That’s the headline for Greg Jarboe’s column today at Search Engine Watch. I worked with Greg at Ziff-Davis in the mid 1990s and was at CMP before that, so it’s sad to see the group tombstone for the trade magazines that have gone under in recent years.

Trade Press Tombstone

The good news is that the readers

of those magazines did not suffer the same plight. They’ve just gone online and, in most cases, filled their informational needs with leading business blogs for their industry.

“According to Compete, 382,749 people visited Search Engine Watch in November 2007; 342,970 visited Search Engine Land; 278,014 visited WebProNews; 139,914 visited Marketing Pilgrim; 77,085 visited Search Engine Roundtable; and 32,398 visited Search Newz.

“This puts them in the same ballpark as the circulation of print publications: 440,000 for InformationWeek; 400,100 for eWeek; 58,979 for Advertising Age; and 23,152 for AdWeek.

“More to the point, the number of visitors to the online publications and group blogs covering the search industry is in the same ballpark as the number of visitors to the websites of trade publications in the technology or advertising industries.

“According to Compete, 424,773 people visited InformationWeek.com in November 2007; 331,060 visited eWeek.com; 213,900 visited AdAge.com; and 101,140 visited AdWeek.com.”

PR Guru Charlie Kondek On How Not To Pitch Boing Boing

Bulldog Reporters Daily Dog

In a guest column at Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog, Charlie Kondek describes Boing Boing as the NY Times or Oprah of the internet, but also guides PR pros on the right and wrong ways to approach top blogs with a story. What a great tutorial! Am I allowed to republish so much of it here on my site?!

“Boing Boing is a grand slam to PR people working in new media relations. It is the holy grail of new media placements, the Internet equivalent of The New York Times or an Oprah Winfrey Show. But just because Boing Boing is top of the online heap doesn’t mean it’s a good target for your pitching effort. Knowing when it fits and managing your client’s expectations when it doesn’t are as important as your pitch-text crafting skills.

“Really, this speaks to a larger problem. Clients know they want to be online, but they often don’t know as much about the online outlets that are most relevant to their business. Many of them have heard of Boing Boing and it springs (pun intended) to mind when they think of the digital landscape. In their minds, it represents the full power and scope of blogging.

“I see Boing Boing referenced all the time in case studies and presentations by PR and advertising firms. You’ll see a quick succession of PowerPoint slides that tells a story like this: “Average Joe blogs about a bad experience with your company. The next day it is picked up by Boing Boing. Then it’s Digg’d. Then it’s ALL OVER THE NET, and your shareholders REVOLT!” I myself have often heard, “What does it take to get us on Boing Boing?” or “Do you think the Boing Boing guys would go for that?”….

“Boing Boing flourishes because its readers send it all kinds of great suggestions and because its contributors are very good. There’s a very specific process for this, so by all means pitch them as they want to be pitched.

“Chances are good, however, that Boing Boing does not want to try a new dog food. They may not even be interested in your new social media environment or software application. They might be interested if you are pitching on behalf of a small, quirky toy maker or a new, modern art exhibit, and they are definitely a powerful force for making online videos and other net items “viral.” But if you think you can slap together a thirty-second spot of a kid wiping out on a skateboard, brand it, upload it to YouTube, submit it to Boing Boing, and have it be the next Star Wars Kid, you got another think coming.

“Ditto Dooce, who, last time I checked, doesn’t accept overtures from PR firms but is receptive to ad buys….”

“Instead of lusting after these hard-to-get blog placements, your time would be better spent identifying other targets for your pitching effort and evaluating them for your campaigns.”

Mark Ecko Is Retarded

That’s the headline someone used for a story posted to Digg. (Admittedly it’s been Dugg only once, and Marc Ecko’s first name is actually spelled with a C.) But the story of Marc Ecko buying Barry Bonds’s 756th homerun ball for $750,000, marking it with an asterisk and sending it to the Baseball Hall of Fame has me thinking the exact opposite about Mr. Ecko. I’m convinced Marc Ecko is a genius of conversational marketing.

Marc Ecko

What does Ecko get for his $750,000? Well, for starters, 10 million people (maybe a bit fewer, you could vote multiple times) went to his site to vote on what he should do with the ball. And just now I searched for “marc ecko” + “barry bonds” and Google returned 88,600 results. At least a handful of the stories I read call Ecko some variation of an idiot, but almost every one tells readers — in the first paragraph — that Marc Ecko is a fashion designer. That can’t be all bad.

Dell's Blog Admits Mistakes, Wins Support

It’s refreshing to read an honest assessment of Dell’s blunders at its own blog, Direct2Dell:

“Now’s not the time to mince words, so let me just say it… we blew it.

“I’m referring to a recent blog post from an ex-Dell kiosk employee that received more attention after the Consumerist blogged about it, and even more still after we asked them to remove it.

“In this case, I agree with what Jeff Jarvis had to say: instead of trying to control information that was made public, we should have simply corrected anything that was inaccurate. We didn’t do that, and now we’re paying for it.”

Go, Dell!

You have to wonder why more companies don’t do the same. First, you sleep better at night with the guilt off your conscience. Second, it’s so darn hard, these days, not to get caught. Finally, your customers will you respect you more for coming clean. Here, for example, is “Erica” in a comment to Dell’s apology post:

“Thanks for apologizing. As Gaby on Consumerist wrote, working with and not against the consumer will work for you, I believe. In any situation (marriage, the workplace, or customer relations), when a person feels respected, acknowledged, and treated as human, they are more likely to cooperate and remain loyal. When many other companies are not willing to do that, being the one company that listens to their customers could be quite an asset.”

Influential Bloggers Reshaping Offline Institutions

Yes, yes, we’ve heard it all before: Bloggers are really influential! But two stories I read this weekend — about relatively small websites operated by one and four people, respectively, affecting enormous impact on storied offline institutions — made me sit up straight, and smile.

First, Jeff Jarvis (of BuzzMachine) shakes up Dell’s corporate culture, marketing tactics and approach product design (Ad Age).

“Back in the summer of 2005, Dell ignored Jeff Jarvis’ complaints about a lemon laptop at its own peril. The blogger’s ‘Dell Hell’ rants teed up a mainstream story starring the PC manufacturer as an arrogant giant that became a case study in how one man’s website could shred a corporate reputation.”

Second, the crew at Boing Boing is credited with the success of Boston-based Gardner Museum’s new podcast programming — the strategy they hope will save the museum as its membership base ages — according to Boston.com.

“We were optimistically hoping 25,000 would download this thing in a single year,” Landrum said. “Now it’s going to be about 10 times that.”

Making Viral Marketing Work

In my first column as guest blogger for Alan Graham’s “Tales from the Web 2.0 Frontier (ZDNet), I talk about two case studies of “conversational marketing” in which brands managed to to stay on-message while also creating campaigns that achieved PR and viral success — Cisco’s “Welcome to the Human Network” and Dice’s “Rant Banner”:

“Every marketer these days wants the kids at My Space befriending their corporate mascots, producing fun-yet-favorable YouTube videos that feature their products and writing blog posts on that fresh, revitalized feeling that comes from using their brand of soap. But here’s the catch. Most of us – the My Space kids included – don’t want to talk about most companies’ products. We want to talk about ourselves! So what’s an aspiring “conversational marketer” to do?

Find a way to associate your brand and products with a conversation that your customers are already having or would like to have.”

Check out the full piece at ZDNet.

Edelman / Microsoft: Free Laptops to Bloggers

And another episode of trouble stemming from a lack of transparency (NY Tmes).

Cisco's Human Network Campaign: #2 Result on Google

Last month’s “Welcome to the Human Network” campaign by Cisco continues to illustrate the impact of “author driven” or “conversational marketing” beyond the surface metrics of impressions and click-through rates. Sure, by letting authors lend their names and personal definitions to Cisco ads on their own sites, Cisco’s ads experienced better-than-average click through rates.

But more than that, the campaign introduced a new phrase — “the human network” — to the business / IT lexicon. As proof, the term has made its way to Wikipedia as an entry, with Cisco getting credit for popularizing the phrase. The campaign’s landing page, because it’s a collection of insights and definitions from leading business and tech thought leaders rather than marketing-speak from Cisco, attracted links from sites across the web. Now, as a result, a Google search for “human network” returns the campaign’s landing page in the #2 position — ahead of Cisco’s own site.

cisco-on-google.png

I forget which coach for the Italian national soccer team coined the phrase “total football” for a style of play in which every player played like he was actively, offensively involved in every play, wherever he was on the field; every player firing on all pistons, all the time. This kind of ad campaign ought to be called “total marketing.”