David Meerman Scott wrote about The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, viral marketing and online media to reach buyers directly, which I recommend to any business owner willing to have a direct conversation with customers.
He recently released World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories, which is one of the books in my Amazon shopping cart.
David has lived and worked in New York, Tokyo, Boston, and Hong Kong and now also lives digitally, like many of us. Our conversation is about things digital, influence, and his work.
A while back we talked about thought leadership at Conversation Agent. The main question was are blogs the new thought leadership? What do you think?
David: No way! A blog is just technology. That's like saying your television set is entertainment. Thought leadership is when you know your marketplace (I call them your buyer personas) really, really well and you create information especially for them.
When you know what problems your buyer personas have that you can help solve, then you can create some interesting content that brands you as a thought leader. There is no better marketing out there.
Of course, a blog is one way to deliver thought leadership information but there are many more -- a YouTube video, an eBook, charts, graphs, research reports, a set of photographs are just a few. Many have been talking about time and attention.
Your work focuses around the new rules of marketing and PR. Is it easier to break the old rules today with the proliferation of information about social media or is it just as challenging?
David: In thinking about attention, there seem to be four main ways to generate it today. What's interesting to me, is that three of them have been around for many decades as tools of business, but one of them is new because of the Web. As I evaluate companies on a regular basis it seems that they are spending too much time, money, and effort on three ways of generating attention, and not enough on a fourth way, which is to earn attention by publishing great information online that people will find.
You can BUY attention. (This is called advertising). You buy access to people through television commercials, magazine and newspaper ads, the Yellow Pages, billboards, trade show floor space, direct mail lists, and the like. Advertising agency staffers are really good at buying attention.
You can BEG for attention. (This is called Public Relations). You beg for access via the editorial gatekeepers at radio and TV stations, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and more and more these days, bloggers, podcasters and other social networking sites.
I realize that the word "beg" is a little extreme, but in my former life as VP of corporate communications for several public companies I did feel a bit like a beggar. And these days I get hundreds of pitches a month from people (usually PR agency staffers) who want me to write about something in the magazine articles I write or my blog or books and many of these pitches have a whiff of desperation about them.
You can BUG people one at a time to get attention. (This is called sales). You knock on doors, call people on the telephone, send personal emails, or wait for individuals to walk into your showroom. Again, sorry about the extreme nature of the word "bug" but that's what I feel when the confronted with pushy sales tactics.
You can EARN attention online. The idea is creating something interesting and publishing it online for free: A YouTube video, blog, research report, series of photos, twitter stream, ebook, Facebook fan page and the like.
Most organizations have a corporate culture around one of these approaches to generating attention. (Examples: P&G primarily generates attention through advertising, Apple via PR, EMC via sales, and Zappos via social media). Often the defining organizational culture is because the founder or the CEO has a strong point of view. When the CEO comes up through the sales track, all attention problems are likely to become sales problems.
Chances are that your CEO did not come up via the social media track. So you’ll have to convince your boss to invest in social media. Most organizations over spend on advertising and sales and under-invest in social media, but nearly all organizations should be doing some combination of all four ways of generating attention.
Tell us a little bit of how you got here. What are the ideas and people that influenced you? Why?
David: I worked as a marketing executive for information companies most of my career. I was Asia marketing director for Knight-Ridder, at the time one of the world's largest information companies and then I was VP marketing for NewsEdge (which was sold to Thomson in 2001). I was lucky to have been working in the electronic information business way before the public Web started to gain traction in the mid-1990s. This experience was unique in that it gave me a way to think about information as a marketing tool.
When I first started talking about the ideas of reaching buyers directly with Web-based information, I was treated as a nutcase. In 2002 and 2003 these ideas were radical. PR people and advertising people were resistant. Company executives were unwilling to listen.
However, in 2004 I started my blog. One of the biggest influences on me and my ideas was (and still is) Seth Godin. His ideas about Permission Marketing were like a dose of adrenaline when I first read them. And he was one of the first marketing bloggers. I was excited that in 2006 he noticed some of my ideas and wrote about them on his blog. It was exciting for me and charged me up. He also showed me that you can make a career by being a radical.
I know that many who are making a difference today are there because they want to change the world. In a way, the tools have made it easier to spread the word, but it is really about intent. When did you first realize you were going to step forward to help transform public relations? Was there a specific event or conversation that inspired you?
David: I was fired from Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters) in 2002 which was one of the best career moments I've had (although I didn't realize it at the time). My ideas around Web marketing and online PR were too radical for my former employer. So I decided to start my own business to spread what I had learned about marketing & PR on the Web.
It was tough going at first because 2002 and 2003 were very early for these ideas. Luckily, some foreword thinking companies agreed with me an I was able to grow my business.
Who do you consider part of your team? If you were to share one word of advice with them, what would it be?
David: I am fiercely independent. I don't have any employees. However I have a huge virtual team including my publisher John Wiley & Sons, my designer Doug Eymer, my SEO guru StewArt Media, my speaking coach Nick Morgan, and my family. My virtual team also includes all my blog readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends because I test ideas on my blog before I put them into books and my speeches.
What about you? What are you helping transform? How do you feel you contribute? Feel free to ask any questions of David as well.