Public relations guru Jeremy Pepper worries in a recent post that PR is losing out to advertising over who really influences social media. As advertising gurus, we think the reverse is true. Public relations rules online, because only PR is truly relevant. We love online advertising when it works … but we see rising cries of desperation from many web campaigns. As evidence, check out the godawful home page to MySpace.com to see how their marketing folks have turned it into a screaming billboard.
You can’t “game” relevance. This is why SEO is so hard — web site owners try to link farm and content stuff to rise in Google’s organic rankings, but without true relevance, they’ll never make it big.
We’ve seen four basic public relations approaches required for online marketing:
– create news (Nick Haley’s Apple ad)
– break news (Huffington Post, a blog-turned-real media outlet)
– share news (Digg.com’s user rankings)
– comment brilliantly on news (Seth Godin’s blog)
In simple terms, to pull users to your content, make it relevant. Give away something of value to get the attention you want. Google pay-per-click campaigns really are a perfect form of sharing news that is relevant to users (who are typing in search terms for the product). To pull people to your other web content, you need to create the same near-perfect connection.
Public relations is sometimes seen as a dark, Machiavellian attempt to spin fiction to the masses. In reality, PR works best when it combines relevant truths with a story about a product or service that recipients may find useful. The internet is a perfect sorting mechanism to make relevance and truth rise to the top (which is why Wikipedia works so well). Media planning makes advertising work in the same way — a good media plan puts the right ad in front of the right consumers, where the consumer will find it relevant.
A question for marketers: Have your media planners, ad creatives, web designers and public relations advisors sat down at the same table recently? If they aren’t all talking, you may miss the social media boat.
Cool Biz, Japan’s effort to rid the world of suits, ties, and carbon dioxide pollution, has made news since it launched in 2005. Seems Japan’s environmental minister Yuriko Koike had the bright idea to convince businessmen to stop wearing suits — in a culture that is very buttoned up — so offices could ease up on air conditioning. This in turn slashed electrical use and stopped 1.4 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.
We ran through the news archives to try to see when, exactly, this ideavirus tipped the point. It helped that a core group, central government, was mandated to adjust office temperatures to 82.4F through September. Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi showed up for work without a tie. And in a brilliant move, the executive chiefs of Toyota, Fuji Xerox, Show Shell Oil and Sanyo were invited to model fashion sans ties in a gala held by Japan’s top designer Hiroko Koshino.
All of which makes us wonder: How can anyone control such crowd psychology? Marketers try and try to push their products into mass adoption, but Razor Scooters, Hush Puppies, and tapping fists instead of high-fiving are all viral events in the U.S. that seemed to happen overnight, with little push or control.
Perhaps viral PR can only be achieved if the cause resonates with the pop culture of the moment. Regardless of our politics, we think all of us may feel a bit bad about driving SUVs while it’s 91 degrees in October. So Japan, by accident or design, followed the rules of Seth in launching an ideavirus: make your concept virusworthy — will people really care? — and then identify the “hive” or core group to participate, expose the idea to key influencers, and give them the tools to spread the word.
If you’ve never worried that a large mass of snow and ice has detached from a mountain slope and is sliding or falling suddenly toward you, me neither. But this week I found out a former colleague running a research firm hobbies by heliskiing in New Zealand and India, where avalanches are serious risks. He got some press in Ad Age, posted it on his site, and maybe gets some buzz. Tying an analytical research product in to hip, dangerous PR thrills. Cool.
All of this got me thinking.
1. Why do so many other marketers not coordinate advertising media plans with PR, when it should all work together?
2. Why can’t I vacation jumping from helicopters in New Zealand?