In the spirit of effective pitching, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet.
Communication is expressed in different forms. I get that. So why try the same communication approach across channels? Specifically, why do some pitches reaching journalists’ inboxes start something like, “Hi, XYZ. I hope your day is going well. I wanted to talk with you about …”
“I hope your day is going well.”– Let me tell you why that’s wrong.
The potential ROI of leaving that line in does not surpass the risk you take leaving it out.
Every word in a pitch is real estate, from the subject head to a signature. The value of that real estate is dependent on the order the journalist would read the pitch. Meaning, your email subject is the most important. It’s the first impression and what will get that person to delete or open.
The second most important copy is the first two sentences of your pitch. This is where the journalist decides whether they delete or keep reading. Chances are if you’ve got them to read that far, you might actually have a shot at closing the deal or at the least a response.
So why waste this valuable real estate on an insincere-looking greeting? Do you “really” care how this reporter’s day is going or do you care if this person will cover your client?
I asked my Twitter friends to chime in on this today and had some thoughtful feedback from a few journalists. Mitch Wagner, editor in chief of Internet Evolution, said “It’s a courtesy. It’s fine.” He followed up to clarify, “Pitches are entirely impersonal. I assume they’re generated by bulk email software. And I’m fine with that.”
While conceding that the greeting is a waste of real estate, Senior IT Reporter for Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin, followed up with “…the ‘hope you’re well’ doesn’t really bother me so much. There are tons of worse things.”
So the basic point here: While it’s not always considered a rookie mistake to include a warm greeting in your pitch, you’re wasting valuable real estate and potentially lowering the value of your pitch.
Click anywhere on the “Google Graveyard” image above to lay flowers on the grave of your favorite deceased Google product
Online civil discourse has gone down the crapper, Google’s messing with marketers and journalists, and the “social graph” rules Facebook and search alike. What’s a PR pro to do? Start spending some money on the important stuff.
Meanwhile, our own ability to be civil has been tested by two high-profile cases (the firing of two people over in-person and online comments and the ongoing Steubenville rape case) involving the misuse of social media (and much, much worse) and its repercussions. I read many of the tweets and Facebook updates involved, and it depressed me. Let’s face it: social media is going to Hell in a bandwagon — one that many marketers are just now jumping on.
As I spent time researching and reading up on both of these stories — sifting through both opinion and fact — I harkened back to a wonderful conversation that Neville Hobson had with Ike Pigott on FIR #694 about the devaluation of opinion (and the proper research that needs to back it up).
If I Wanted Your Opinion I’d Ask for It on YouTube
“YouTube video Brandweer Nederweert” by mauritsonline
Ike argues on the podcast that as it becomes easier and easier to share opinions, the overall value of opinion is dropping. Add to that the difficulty of sifting through the incredible amount of content that gets generated at ever increasing rates and the cost of researching facts is rising.
The pessimist in me would argue that the Internet is turning into one big YouTube comment thread. And the optimist in me isn’t far behind.
Google has been one very powerful tool in the battle of fact vs. fiction. But it has not been infallible: it remains a reflection of the will (or at least the wherefore) of the masses, who have not always been right. Most of the time, it works out: if, for example, I don’t have my AP Stylebook at hand, I’ll occasionally rely on comparing the number of Google entries for two alternate spellings of a word to decide which one to use, but I have less faith in that than I do in Wikipedia as the last word on anything outside of tech.
But today’s Google search has evolved beyond simply measuring the will of the masses. Today, in addition to scoring search results on signs of external validity, such as inbound links, Google is putting more and more emphasis on your social graph. The results you see in Google search today are increasingly tied not to any objective measure of validity, but to completely subjective measures, such as how close of a relationship you have with the content author.
This is a terrifying situation for me. If you don’t understand why, let me point you to a TED talk by Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble:
In short, the fishbowl is fun to watch for a little while, but you don’t want to live there.
The Good News(?) Part 1: Less Acrimony Among “Friends”?
Is there any good news in all of this? Well, one could argue that, if we’re surrounded only by friends and people who think like us online, there will be fewer disagreements. But that’s incredibly naive: the occasional stray non-conforming message will still make it through Facebook’s “PageRank” algorithm and Google’s “Panda” engine, and when it does, it will be all the more jarring.
The Good News(?) Part 2: Author Rank to Save the Day?
“Writer’s Digest Book Shipment” by angelshupe
There is one more hope for all of this: Google’s Author Rank may just save the day. Marketers are scrambling to figure out how to best prepare for the emergence of Author Rank, which places more emphasis on authorship than on the site an article appears on. If Author Rank can still keep things objective, and not rely too heavily on the social graph, I may change my opinion of Google. Until then, I’m treading cautiously and always exploring alternatives.
Biting the Hand that Feeds You
One final note on this horrible Google mess, one inspired by a comment from Fresh Grounder Ruth Bazinet: I don’t think Google had any idea how much some of the biggest influencers of online opinion (myself not included) depend on both Google Reader and Google Alerts. All of the negative publicity just may backfire. Take, for example, Evernote’s recent revelation that downloads of their product have jumped since the announcement of Google Keep. Was spite perhaps partially responsible for the spike? As Mike Loukides pointed out, it’s a matter of “stability as a service,” and Google applications and services don’t have a great track record there.
The Internet is not a civil place. But it is an interesting and useful place, and as long as I have good search tools and good filter tools, I don’t care if what you say is wrong or disagreeable. When these tools start breaking down, I get cranky. But, as they say, you get what you pay for. We’ve largely relied on free versions of these tools and services, and I think it may be time to pony up the dough and put our money where or minds are.
Seven years ago today, Twitter was born. For many of us in PR, this would be a life-changing occurrence.
When Twitter first hit the scene, most of us thought it was trivial, myself included. Early adopters quickly learned the possibilities of Twitter. So what started as a place to share thoughts and make friends evolved into a platform to advance causes, social statuses, and any other agenda you have.
So do we have a seven-year itch? Is Twitter dying?
While I’m sure there are user statistics out there and someone knows the definitive answer, I’d like to share some anecdotal evidence of a shift in the Twitter user experience that may hint to a crescendo that has already taken place.
I was unfollowed by an influencer on Twitter today. Normally this is no big deal. However, this unfollow is part of a trend that I’m noticing with my Twitter friends.
Everybody knows that person that started out on Twitter years ago with the rest of us. They built their following over time, organically, engaging with their community, growing their clout. Fast forward to 2013 where perceived online clout is easier to get than ever before. It’s no longer enough to follow and be followed, and I can hardly argue with that.
As Chuck Tanowitz pointed out a few weeks ago, listening and search on Twitter is more important than direct follows. Smart influencers see that and are taking advantage of this to increase their perceived online clout – furthering their personal brand.
Where an influencer may have once followed thousands, or perhaps even tens of thousands, with a following to match; they’re now purging their friend count down to less than a thousand. I’ve even seen cases where they’ve gone down to zero and slowly built back up to a couple hundred.
So why should you care?
Perceived clout can help drive real clout
We’re all guilty of it. We discover a new person on Twitter that interests us. Naturally part of our judgment whether to follow that person rests on their follower:friend ratio. It’s a context clue, almost like what we use when we judge a person at a social event – Is this person friendly? Who else in the room are they connected with? What are they wearing?
More people will seek a higher Twitter follower:friend ratio because they will be perceived as having a higher influence. This is important for journalists and others seeking online authority.
Unfollowed but not forgotten
I get unfollows all the time. I don’t take them personally. It’s rare that someone I would consider an influencer unfollows me so when it happens I ask for feedback. Was it all of my curse words? Did I offend? Was I boring?
“I’m still listening” is the response I often get. In order for that influencer to increase their perceived, and ultimately, real clout, they unfollow a bulk of their Twitter friends. They do this to increase their follower:friend ratio. They are still listening.
We are now in lists and in columns on a dashboard of some influencers. You are no longer followed but not forgotten. This makes what you say and how you say it more important than ever before. Search is king in the Twitter of 2013.
So is Twitter dying? In my humble opinion, at least here in the U.S, yes Twitter has peaked. In people’s quest for clout, they’ve taken the fun out of using Twitter. It’s now a productivity tool. Happy anniversary Twitter. Thanks for all the fun times. It was nice knowing you.
“I’ve been working with you for a couple of months, why am I not famous?”
A client once said that to me. Well, more than one client. The fact is, he wasn’t famous because these things take time.
Very often prospects come to us and say “we’re launching in two weeks and we want big media, can you do it?”
Our answer is always, “no, we can’t.” Getting attention takes time, not just for the initial launch, which is a good start, but for long-term growth. No one story or one blog post or one tweet will set the world on fire. You need a plan, a full program, aimed at an ultimate goal. Any PR program, whether it is focused on media or social, takes consistent, sustained effort to truly develop and grow.
While I’m writing about PR programs, this is also true of careers. In a great blog post on the Harvard Business Review, Daniel Gulati points out that fast-tracking your career isn’t always the best move. Whether it’s pop music stars or Amazon, time matters. Spending the time to build means long-term success, but rushing to get things done can lead to failure.
As an example, let’s take a look at two recent viral video examples, both of which took a lot of time to become “overnight sensations.” The first is the “47 Percent” video that is credited with helping paint Governor Mitt Romney as out of touch with the electorate.
According to a Buzzfeed timeline, the video first surfaced online on May 31. Then on June 10, Prouty worked to get some buzz on it. According to the Huffington Post, Prouty spent the next few months going into comments sections of various sites and writing about it, sending it to journalists and even sending it to the Romney campaign.
Finally he reached out to James Carter using tried and true media relations techniques: research and outreach. The Huffington Post started chasing the story in late August, but it wasn’t until early September that the story finally hit anything resembling a mainstream media target. The same day Mother Jones posted the video and it took off from there.
So from the moment the video was first posted online to the moment it began its true rise took about four months.
Now let’s look at a more recent video, one that graphically and clearly demonstrates wealth inequality in America. It’s a great video, I first saw it on Facebook and many of my (liberal) friends are sharing it.
The viewership stats for the Wealth Inequity in America video show a long time of inactivity before virality.
Now to be fair, three to six months isn’t a lot of time. But to many tech companies who expect results immediately, it can seem like an eternity.
However, hidden in both of these examples are the stories you didn’t see and the luck involved in creating viral success. What videos of politicians did we not see because the people posting weren’t as committed to getting the word out? What if Mashable just didn’t find the inequities video all that interesting? Or if they weren’t searching YouTube in the first place?
Also to consider: what defines “success” for these videos? In the first case it was about broad exposure, but for the second I’m not sure the producer ever had much of a goal in mind. For other videos, if the goal is to reach a small audience or explain something to a specific group, then the measurement is much different.
The bottom line is that true fame (and any fortune ensuing from that) takes time and effort. Overnight successes are rarely overnight successes, even in the fast-paced world of social media.
I’ve noticed an increase in engagement activity on my Twitter feed recently, and many of the most engaged users are not even my followers. While we’ve known for a long time that growing your follower count shouldn’t be a primary goal of any social program, it’s becoming increasingly clear that — similar to “Likes” on Facebook Pages — your Twitter follower count is essentially a meaningless metric.
Listen to the advice of anyone who works regularly in the Twitterverse and you’ll hear about various tools designed to help you make your experience more productive. Hootsuite comes up often for its ability to run multiple columns of both pre-selected lists and searches, as well as its ability to easily schedule tweets. Another is SeeSaw, which lets you visually track topics and hashtags then curate that information. Lists and searches dominate my personal Twitter experience and I don’t think I’m alone. Tools to manage these are much more valuable than any tool aimed at growing your followers.
Here at Fresh Ground we worked with CoupFlip, a secondary market for daily deals. CoupFlip buys deals from people who bought them and aren’t going to use them, then resells those deals. Of course, deals have expiration dates, so timing is important. A key factor that the founders told us as we started the project was that they needed to be in front of buyers close to the time of transaction.
Our program focused on various components, including a heftydose of media relations, but a small part focused on Twitter search patterns. We researched the most-used hashtags around deals and then created a program to target the right audiences.
By focusing on regional tags as well as those around #dailydeals CoupFlip sold out all the deals we offered up. The tweets themselves were pretty simple, strategically written and well-timed.
While the CoupFlip Twitter account didn’t have a huge following, we never really needed it, search created the right kind of engagement.
Twitter, of course, understands this, as it’s offering up ads based on people’s hashtag and search habits. If you’re a regular list user you’ve probably started to see these sponsored tweets around.
I’m not sure if Twitter is going to start releasing the search data in the way that Google offers up keyword analysis, but one can certainly inform the other. Keywords that people use to search on Google are likely to be the same keywords people use to set up their Hootsuite search columns. Twitter is starting to work more closely with certified partners, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this data becoming more prominent through those tools.
Then you need to look at how you use Twitter to inform Google search. Yes, I know that tweets are not currently part of the Google search stream, though they are part of the Bing stream. However, there are tools like Twylah which aim to help use Tweets to increase your branding and search results. A good example is on the page of Twylah founder Eric Kim.
The key here is to not just see Twitter as a chatroom, but as a place to create a branded experience that targets the right people. With a little thought and planning, you can meet your core business goals, and not just your Twitter follower goals.