“How can we get on ‘Oprah’?”
It is shocking to think that I will never hear this question again.
Nearly every company I have ever met with has asked this. Start-ups. Established brands. People who had an idea but no funding. From every industry imaginable.
It got to a point where, during an introductory meeting, I would think, “Wait for it…,” anticipating the inevitable.
I’m just one PR person at one agency. No one seemed to imagine that every PR person, in every city, was having the exact same conversation with their clients.
Oprah Winfrey, as a person, had a dramatic impact on the PR industry without trying. Her success was built on her being herself – authentic, vulnerable, funny, honest, and one of the greatest American success stories. She shared the best and worst of her life with millions of people, and took us along on her personal journey.
Despite her tremendous wealth, Oprah maintained the ability to be your girlfriend next door who asked you in for coffee. During a recent show with Rob Lowe, she admitted to walking in on him during a clothing change, confessing: “He looked gooood.” And that was the great thing about Oprah – she was a girlfriend sharing a secret.
That speaks to her magic as an endorser. When Oprah picked her “Favorite Things” or her book club selections, it was like having your friend whisper, “This is the best.” But even better, she did it on national television, and gave it away to the audience, and whipped them into a frenzy second only to, well, nothing. (I define the “Oprah” audience reaction as, “The maximum reaction anyone can have to anything at any given time.”)
For all of these reasons – the endorsement, the exposure, the word-of-mouth and the inevitable product orders that would follow – the “Oprah” placement was the most coveted in all of PR land. Everyone seemed to think that getting on the show was like waving a magic wand for instant business success. There’s no doubt it did create enormous opportunity for many companies and authors.
But it’s over now and nothing like it will ever happen again.
The reason: technology.
Just as the show’s ratings diminished over the years – due to a shrinking pool of stay-at-home moms and an increase in viewing/entertainment options – so did the requests to be on the show. Where the desire to be on “Oprah” never diminished, the fervor with which clients addressed it waned over the years as they started to ask about other things: “How can we create a viral video for YouTube?”
While television is still important, the idea of “appointment television” has faded as people turn online for their entertainment. There are a wealth of websites, blogs, social networks to turn to for anything at any time of day, fragmenting the audience.
Additionally, the ability to blog has allowed women across the country to, in effect, become their own “Oprahs,” sharing their good and bad hair days, tips for feeding fussy five year-olds, recipes for families on a budget and, yes, their “Favorite Things.”
Rather than trying to climb one crowded mountain for a “brass ring” placement, PR people have adapted by reading, researching and connecting with the blogger community and diving into social media to make authentic connections and create new ways of conveying their clients’ messages.
It’s a vastly different world than it was when Oprah first stepped on stage 25 years ago, and it’s exciting.
Personally, I’ll miss the show. But I won’t miss the question.
If you want to help tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri hands-on, you can use social media to find volunteers opportunities. Community and news site OzarksFirst.com lists web sites for volunteers, together with resources like help hotlines for the victims. Facebook pages like Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery also offer information on how to help. And one Facebook page even reunites pets lost in the tornado with their owners.
If you can’t offer hands-on help, you can help by donating through the Red Cross website. The site also lets residents list themselves as “safe and well” or search for loved ones. Twitter feeds like Relief Spark provide up-to-date information on the developments in Joplin.
On the lighter side, social media evolution now has its own magazine – in print. The Social Media Monthly
is a product of technology group The Cool Blue Company
and features articles by “social media icons
.” The NYC launch party
takes place on May 25.
The following piece is courtesy of our PRGN partner, Landis Communications in San Francisco.
It happens every year. Right around now, we get a bunch of calls from potential new clients launching something new in September (OK, first tip - everyone launches in September - why not October?!). They've taken an important first step in calling in some PR help at least 4 months in advance (vital if you're looking for long lead publication coverage). But there are other traps anyone can fall into. Here's our list of what to avoid:
- Rushing to market before your distribution is locked down. If it's not available, why bother?
- Not spending enough time on the basics - messaging, competitive analysis and media training. You only have one shot to launch - don't blow it by ignoring strategy.
- Poor communication on your differentials - why should I buy your product instead of someone else's?
- Tacking on a social media plan instead of incorporating it into a larger strategy. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
- Keeping your PR firm and ad agency from working together. Integrating your marketing yields exponential results.
- Assuming the CEO should be the spokesperson. Who is the target customer? The spokesperson should be someone they can relate to.
- Not having a PR plan. Yes, it might change, but if you don't have a plan you don't have a rudder.
- Ignoring SEO/SEM. Everyone Googles.
- Ignoring "traditional" media - all media should work together to support your goals.
- Allowing "anyone on staff" to handle your Facebook and Twitter posts. Treat them like mini press releases, with the same care towards grammar and proofing.
The Sunday Times launched its social list this week, a social media measurement application with a spin that makes the list attractive beyond the scope of the paper’s readership. “The Social List” doesn’t rank its users according to their follower numbers and ratios – it ranks them according to the response they get from their network. This concept makes sense. Having a lot of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook doesn’t mean that people are paying attention to your posts. To rank its users, The Social List gathers data from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn and puts together a composite score; sub-lists let users compare their rank to their immediate social circle.
“The Big Time” is going live this week, launched and presented by Bud United, a platform for Budweiser fans. The Big Time is a “social-reality show” and currently casting young adults for the first episode via Bud United’s presence on Facebook and the Chinese social networking site Renren. According to Bud United, The Big Time “is an hour-long competition show where a determined few set out to realize their greatest dream.” The show was designed to increase Budweiser’s social media follower and to spark online discussion.
Got Twitter space to spare? Ben & Jerry’s is asking Twitter users to commit unused characters to standing up for economic justice; all you need to do is use fairtweeds.com to tweet. Ben & Jerry's Twitter application turns any spare characters of the 140 characters available per Tweet into a message about Fair Trade, on the occasion of World Fair Trade Day on May 14. With this simple but brilliant idea, Ben & Jerry’s social media team not only raises awareness on Fair Trade, but also lets social media users spread the word for them. Well done.
You’d think she doesn’t need more awareness, but Lady Gaga is expanding her Facebook presence. Partnering with Zynga, Gaga will launch her own version of Zynga’s Facebook game FarmVille - GagaVille. GagaVille will be (virtually) neighboring FarmVille; its visitors can listen to songs from Gaga’s yet unreleased album and download the album for free after a $25 Zynga game card purchase at Best Buy. Zynga players can also get limited edition Lady Gaga items on RewardVille, Zynga’s virtual currency program.
In addition to her version of FarmVille, Zynga and Gaga are launching “Words With Gaga,” a contest within Zynga’s Words With Friends game. Players using the Gaga word of the day can win Gaga concert tickets and a signed copy of her new album. Gaga is announcing the word of the day via her Facebook page.
Castle VP Hilary Allard will be moderating the social media panel at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago on May 21. The panel - comprised of operators and consultants - is designed to give restaurateurs a "social media 101" overview of best practices on engaging with customers and winning new fans in our digital world. For more information, visit.
The royal wedding last Friday was the most watched event on the web with a record-breaking number of 1.6 million simultaneous video views. Livestream.com even broke a record within the record, with 300,000 concurrent viewers on its site. Video coverage of the wedding was also available on Hulu, CNN.com and of course YouTube via an official “Royal Channel.” Associated Press livestreamed the wedding through their Facebook page.
But the royal wedding was not only a major video event; it also dominated Twitter trending topics worldwide. On the quest for the best hashtag for the event, hashtagbattle.com users clearly stated that they preferred hashtag #royalwedding over the official hashtag #rw2011 – maybe the reason why the favored hashtag ranked second on Twitter trending topics, and the official one only third. The number one Twitter trending topic was “William and Kate.”
Twitter was the social media outlet of choice for the online community to share thoughts on the wedding, used by 94.7 percent, with the U.S. creating the biggest buzz worldwide. At least temporarily, the Royal Wedding got more attention than the Japan earthquake. Surprisingly, most commented on were not Will and Kate, or Pippa and Harry; the Queen herself was mentioned in more than 35 percent of posts, leaving all other attendants behind.
Broadcasters worked hard to employ social media in addition to video coverage to engage their audience. ABC and NBC both reached out though their Twitter accounts. For a bigger buzz, ABC conducted hashtag polls; NBC had created a Facebook event and mobile apps; and CNN let viewers put their own spin on the event via iReport.
The royal wedding official website incorporated a multitude of social media channels.
It linked to The Royal Channel on YouTube, provided updates via Twitter and Flickr and helped fans to connect with the royals through the British Monarchy Facebook page.
Long live social media.
It took a year. Longer than it takes to create a human being. But we did it -- we finally launched our new website with our new brand. You're here and we'd love to get your opinion.
We walk our clients through brand evolutions all the time. Advise them on their websites. Tell them how to leverage them. But there's a reason that doctors aren't supposed to operate on their family members (that's true, isn't it?); when you are so close to the "patient," it's tough to be objective.
Objectivity is a critical part of any marketing program or effort. When you work day to day providing a service, creating a product, selling anything, you lose some objectivity. It's normal. Maybe you begin to drink the Kool-Aid without realizing it tastes a little "off," or maybe you forget some of the elements that are apparent to the subjective audience.
But if you're not taking a step back and really looking at your message, delivery and content, you may not be conveying what you need to convey. You may just be conveying things through a slightly foggy lens.
Objectivity allows us to understand whether something is resonating, and gives us the ability to try things another way. Our website is a good example of this. Although we continued to get positive feedback on our previous website, by looking at other sites, we were able to objectively see that there were better ways to get our message across.
Here are some ways to ensure objectivity in your marketing:
Start with a blank slate: Sometimes you just have to start from scratch. It's hard to be truly objective if you're still wedded to a legacy idea or platform. Wipe off that slate and think about what you could do if you weren't wedded. Guess what? Maybe you're not.
Seek other opinions: We all get attached to our own ideas and opinions. It's human nature. But go outside your comfort zone--to an expert, a consultant, a friend or advisor. Ask them good, pointed questions and really listen to their answers. Hey, we're a marketing firm and we hired outside help to work on our new brand and website. We were just too close to it.
Put something aside and revisit it: Time can be a game changer. Something you created last week might seem less fabulous this week. Give yourself time to evaluate what you created -- or what was created for you -- and see if it has legs.
Be open-minded: One of Castle's partners likes our new brand and website less than the other. We're not saying who. Nevertheless, we both agree that it is effective, reflective of where we are today and where we're going, and appropriate for our goals. Listen to what the consensus might be, and be willing to concede your opinion for the greater good.
Look at other examples: Whatever you're creating, someone, somewhere is trying to do something similar. Do a little research into your competitors, or even other industries, to find examples of what you like, and what you don't like. It can help you define where you're going.
Test: Focus groups, betas and surveys work. If you're not sure, ask your audience. Do some formal or informal testing and stack the deck a little before you make your decision. You'll be better informed.
Let's face it...hire an expert: We would be remiss if we didn't suggest that an outside organization with the right expertise can help you get from A to Z a lot more efficiently. We hire attorneys for legal work and CPAs for accounting work; there's a reason for that. They're experienced and they can help you through the above steps with less pain than it takes to attempt it on your own. (And by "they" we mean "Castle.")
Contact us and we'll apply our objectivity and experience to your marketing (PR, social media, events or incentives) challenge. Painlessly.