Monday, June 29, 2009

My Comment on Jon and Kate Book...Plus Five...

I took a call last week from Grand Rapids Press reporter Chris Knape, who was asking for a comment about a new book by Kate Gosselin scheduled to be released by Grand Rapids-based Zondervan soon. The issue is that the book, which is touted as a look inside a tight-knit family, will come out shortly after Kate and her husband, Jon, announced they are divorcing.

So my comment appeared in the article the next day. That's not such a big deal. What is interesting is where the comment went from there, which demonstrates the speed and reach of the media, both conventional and blogosphere, these days.

Knape's article was picked up by RNS (Religion News Service). From there it also ran in different forms, but including my comment, in USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor.

From there it went into blogs and social media sites, including the Examiner and Straight from Hel, a blog by freelance editor and publishing advisor Helen Ginger.

Again, my comment is not so interesting. It is interesting that Zondervan's "hometown" paper got the ball rolling on this story. It is also interesting to read the comments in the newspapers and blog sites---free focus group for Zondervan, which has not yet said whether the book will be released as scheduled, canned, or tweaked for later release.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PR and Podcast Radio

PR people have often debated the value of pitching local talk radio vs hard news stations. You can reach a lot of people, but some of these talk hosts can make light of your information rather than objectively report on it. So talk radio pitching always required smart strategy and a consideration of the specifics of each situation.

Now there's a new complication: former talk show hosts doing podcast radio.

Dave Jagger and Geri Jarvis were on West Michigan radio stations WLHT and WHTS for years before leaving the air waves a few years ago. Now they are back--by themselves in the form of weekday podcasts of their musings about West Michigan issues at

On the one hand, this could be a new opportunity for the media relations function of PR people in West Michigan. If the pair get a large following either on their web site or via iTunes subscriptions, it may be a good way to reach a key public. Of course, that's a big "if" and it may be hard to know the size and characteristics of their audience if they don't share it themselves. If they want to monetize the effort, they likely will be gathering such data and sharing with potential advertisers. (Currently there is a space for sponsors but none listed so far).

However, there is also a question about the merits of pitching a podcast. Dave and Geri used to be in an environment where there was limited spectrum and a few competing radio stations in the market. Getting them to talk about your organization or issue would automatically reach a significant audience. Now they are in an environment where anyone--including PR firms and their clients--could do their own podcasts. There are more voices, and smaller audiences. They can't just muse about things the way they did on air in the past--in the online, podcast, subscription environment, they'll have to offer some unique quality that will attract and keep listeners. And PR people will have to weigh who to pitch, if they should pitch, or if they should just reach publics directly with podcasts and other tactics.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

West Michigan and Twitter

I enjoyed Candace Beeke's Business Review blog post about West Michigan being "Twitterilliterate." 

I think the experiences she recounts are typical. They're not necessarily unique to West Michigan or to Twitter as the latest tech trend.

From the days when a CEO was quoted as saying "this personal computer thing is just a fad" (actual quote, though I can't locate the source just now), there has been a pattern of new technology acceptance: early adaptors with frenzied excitement, skeptics wondering what the big deal is, moderate acceptance and use, and then, eventually, near ubiquity at least in professional circles. I can still picture colleagues retired not that long ago who resisted having a computer or had a secretary receive and print out their emails til their last day in the office.

New innovations either die on the vine (we forget those) or they gradually take root, blossom and spread. See Diffusion of Innovations Theory for more on this (and note that Everett Rogers taught at Michigan State for many years). I think with Twitter we are seeing the characteristics of innovations Rogers laid out. Before people embrace Twitter, they need to: see its relative advantage to other forms of communication, understand and overcome its complexity, see its compatibility with their way of working, and be able to observe it and try it before fully adopting it.

It's also always striking to me how new technology, particularly social media, seems to make a distinction between public relations (relationship building) and marketing (a forum for financial exchange). People asking for an immediate and financial ROI on Twitter may not "get" the conversational, interpersonal, long-horizon benefit of Twitter. The communication may be immediate, but the new customer, brand loyalty, support for a non-profit, political public opinion change or other metric is not always instantaneously visible (though it has been in some cases).

My sense is that here in West Michigan there are many early adaptors to Twitter and other social networking platforms who truly understand the technology now as well as its future potential for personal and professional improvement.  That was evident at the social media slam I attended recently (see previous post). Ours is a region with a history of innovative individuals in the business, non-profit, and government sectors. I already follow a good number of them on Twitter. 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Social Media Slam

Last Thursday I attended a "social media slam" organized by LinkedUpGR (A LinkedIn group that can be followed on Twitter @LinkedUpGR), moderated by blogger/consultant Laura Bergells (@maniactive), and hosted at Amway world headquarters in Ada by PR staff Robin Luymes (@SuperDu) and Cindy Droog (@cindydroog).

Laura Bergells was kind enough to videotape those who shared comments at the slam and posted the videos  to her YouTube channel. This link is to video of my chatter, but be sure to click on the related videos of other West Michigan people who shared insights and perspectives on social media.

Here's a quick recap of some notes I jotted at the slam:

  • "Groundswell" is a a highly recommended book on social media; (It is published by the folks at Forrester Research and has an accompanying blog as well);
  • 80-year-olds are using social media too--some for dating!;
  • social media enables others to find out more about you personally (which has both positive and negative implications);
  • it is easy to start in social media, but can be difficult to maintain;
  • creating, monitoring, and responding in social media is increasingly a full-time job--literally--in many organizations;
  • there are lots of people NOT on Twitter yet (as evidenced by a show of hands at the slam);
  • lots of people consider Twitter etc a time issue--how  do you keep up, but yet it's not wise to ignore it;
  • several expressed difficulty getting the boss to understand social media and even allow employees to engage in it; (I would recommend providing the boss objective articles from WSJ or Business Week etc that stress you ignore social media at your organization's peril);
  • people stressed that participation in social media should not be merely personal or trivial but should contribute  constructively to the conversation, whatever that may be given your industry, cause etc;
  • joining "Twibes" (Twitter groups) and other industry or topic-specific groups online is a great way to cut through the clutter and start establishing some meaningful relationships and resources in social media;
  • maintaining control is important, even to the point of taking vacations from social media.
Hope to see more of you at future LinkedUpGR events. Also, Grand Rapids Social Marketing (@grsm) has periodic meet-ups to discuss social media in Grand Rapids/West Michigan. Check out their blog and follow them on Twitter  for more. After all, online is great, but should never replace actual face-to-face interactions.