Posts Tagged social media

FTC Guidelines on Endorsements and Testimonials

If you’re a blogger getting paid to post, you’re now going to have to disclose it. The social Web is under Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scrutiny. I have worked with several mommy bloggers with very high integrity. A few, however, were running pay for post operations — printing product reviews in exchange for cash — without revealing payments. That is influence gone awry. Now the FTC has put bloggers on notice with a requirement to disclose payments or promotional consideration related to such reviews.

The Federal Trade Commission recently approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

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Online, Offline and ‘Inline’

32140518Until the Internet we lived our lives offline, connecting in person and by phone. The Internet opened up a new platform for online connections through social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and microblogging platforms like Twitter and Jaiku.

There’s also another platform, the next platform for personal exploration. I call it ‘Inline.’ The Inline platform is accessed through meditation and contemplation and doing so regularly enables connectivity to consciousness itself.

Consciousness is the inner spark or inner link in us, the golden link within us that connects our highest and most illumined part with our lowest and most unillumined part. Consciousness is the connecting link between Heaven and earth,” says Indian Guru Sri Chinmoy.

For geeks like me who are already conversant in offline and online media, inline exploration is both an opportunity and a challenge to know Cosmic Consciousness. Some feel Twitter gets us to group consciousness in the online platform. I think meditation does that same on the inline platform.

I try to explore the inline platform early morning and late evening. Ultimately, it might be our destiny to know it and live there, too. Who knows, by going deeper within, we may get some great ideas for living more peacefully on Planet Earth.

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On Twitter, You Are Your Brand

twitterTwitter is the rage and I’m enjoying the conversation.

What happens when tweeters with great ideas, accomplishments, networks, etc., are followed? Some have turned the attention into a business. For them Twitter is a tool for honing their ‘name’ brands.

I kind of enjoy watching tweeters morph their conversation into a ‘brand.’ I enjoy the observers of social media behavior and trends who steer thinking. And the bloggers at highly read blogs who excitedly trumpet headlines about companies that might be important, let time decide.

For those involved in new media, social media and technology, Twitter can be an effective business tool. Its greatest achievement, to me, is as an energy nexus for Bay Area and other talent. It’s kind of like a Grateful Dead Concert with scores of great musicians jamming away; the generated energy is kind of organic, powerful, profound and its influence is already starting to be felt.

Yea, I do like this 24 hour a day short burst newswire. You can reach lots of eyeballs if you’re connected well and creative with 140 characters or less.

How and when it fully proliferates across the business/consumer mosaic is another question. Twitter is struggling to build a reliable platform that stays on. It’s a truly amazing online environment that has suffered chronic structural problems since its inception.

Can I live without Twitter? In a nanosecond. Right now, it’s kinda awesome in its own way.

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PODCAST: Launching Your Startup

This past Sunday at Sun’s Startup Camp before an audience of about 600 attendees, I had a chance to explore the challenges facing startup companies with a brilliant panel: Matt Dickman, Fleishman-Hillard (Matt’s blog); Christina Kerley, ckEpiphany, Inc. (CK’s blog); Jyri Engström, Google (Jyri’s blog); and Adam Metz, theMix (Adam’s blog).

Now you can view and download the sessions as we explore prelaunch and launch strategies and questions on Branding, Messaging & Positioning, Social Media, and Public Relations. You’ll hear real-time experience and sage advice from these experts in digital and social media, advertising, PR and technology. Rejoice: there’s something here for anyone managing or promoting a company, product or service.

Read Mashable’s report on the panel, CK’s post and Matt Dickman’s post.

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My Reality Check: Backlash Against PR

20709252Over the past year, several prominent tech journalists and bloggers have complained against PR people who would appear to spam them with irrelevant pitches.

Tech blogger Stowe Boyd wrote a post titled, “The Growing Backlash Against PR Spam, And The Rationale For MicroPR.” He writes, “The root cause here is the delusion on the part of the clients that this sort of PR carpet bombing works, that mass media messages embedded in a press release or press release-ish email work, and that we, the bloggers, actually react positively to this junk.”

Wired editor Chris Anderson wrote a post at The Long Tail titled, “Sorry PR people: you’re blocked” and listed the emails of PR spammers who were on his email blacklist. Several prominent San Francisco PR firms were included.

My reaction to this is a comment added at Stowe’s blog and already posted as a comment at PROpenMic:

Move outside the early adopter, Bay Area-centric community of inventors, innovators and thought leaders, and dive into the information eco-system of a few other billion-dollar marketplaces (food processing, biotechnology, manufacturing, etc.), and the reality check is this: Few thought leaders have heard of Stowe Boyd and bloggers who write for Tech Crunch, Mashable, and GigaOm, because they could care less about technology’s leading edge. They’re already making tons of money selling meat, poultry, drugs, toys and paper goods, and the last thing they’re doing is Twittering with their community of friends. They’re out there enjoying life and that does not include 24/7 commentaries on the evolution of social media tools and tactics.

I happen to live in both worlds. My clients span tech unsophisticates who’ve never heard of Michael Arrington, as well as tech innovators like Webshots, Jaiku and Jaduka, who’ve helped drive tech’s leading edge. So I try to approach PR being sensitive to how my audiences (writers and bloggers) want to be approached with information. Every media relationship is important and I’d like to believe I’m trying to build friendships based on conversation, intelligence and respect.

Years ago when I headed technology at Middleberg, we published a State of the Media report, and tracked how technology was changing how PR people were communicating with the media. Back in 1999-2000 email was the rage, replacing snail mail and kitchy press kits. Half a decade later, we have social media and a new group of influencers, especially in tech and music. Bloggers and blogs have emerged as the new tastemakers. We read popular blogs because their writers are smart. And their blogs have caught on because of several other factors: right place, right time, good brand personality, etc.

A few are monetizing their blogs and selling ads, organizing conferences and raising capital needed to grow into giant media empires. So surprise, surprise: PR people are looking for ways to build influence with bloggers.

What I enjoy about the tech community here in the Bay Area (I am a recent transplant from NY) is that bloggers are not just writing about tech. They are helping us think through the future. They are passionate about the subject areas they cover, and their currency is often sheer intelligence, because chances are they’re not making tons of money writing. And so what they are really looking for from PR people is something to write about that’s new, interesting, and relevant. And maybe a conversation about your client that helps inform them…and one devoid of the crap that fills their in-boxes day after day.

The problem is they are being inundated with crap and it’s getting worse. So I agree with Stowe, Brian Solis, and others: we need to change the premise, approach and the tools. The press release as a tool for driving stories is essentially dead and has been for sometime. Yet there is a place for the press release as a placeholder for a company’s story, and it does have some life in slow-adopter industries. Pitch letters need to be informational, and not promotional. In other words, let the recipient of your pitch decide whether or not your client’s product/service is relevant. That’s their call. Make a case, offer an opinion, suggest other thought leaders who might inform your case, and then get out of the way.

I also believe that there’s something to be said for honesty. You’re being hired to elevate a client’s products and services. It might help if you actually believed in what you were selling and showed passion. My advice to PR folks out there: if you are selling crap, drop the client and save your reputation. If you cannot make a convincing case for your client, don’t bother. Instead, work for another client.

In 1998, my client Xing was pitching their digital video encoding technology. Only problem was, the Internet was still virtually dial-up. So I said in all good faith and in spite of their nice retainer, I cannot sell this; what else are you doing? They said a few of their developers/interns had written an MP3 encoder/decoder software. I thought …hmmm, that’s new. It might work, and it took a few hours to realize we were talking massive changes in how music was shared and sold. By end of the year, I was working with the five leading companies in the MP3 space riding the Wave that became digital music. Lesson: promote stuff that is relevant and leave the rest to the hacks.

A few years ago I pitched a NY Times reporter on a telecommunications story, and he blew me off. I replied with a powerful, passionate argument and he ended up running a story that was good for the client. He later told me I’d won him over with a logical case. Now he reads my emails. Lesson is… sell smart. Make smart your leading edge and the currency that drives sustainable relationships.

Lets move away from “BS” and share info on products/services in ways that respect the intelligence of bloggers and press. If they want a pitch at news@mytechblog.com, then send it there. If they want you to use the Force, then lets go intuitive. I’m a longtime meditator; I might have an edge.

And rather than pitch and sell, simply provide information. When I was talking to a reporter at the Wall Street Journal last year about Jaiku, we found our way to a story on page B1. The conversation was simply, take a look at Jaiku, here are the players in the microblogging space, here are the comments of analysts and bloggers who feel Jaiku is relevant, and here is where I think the sector is going. After that, the reporter did his thing.

At SxSW, I sat down for lunch with Stowe Boyd and a client to discuss their technology. Frankly, I wanted Stowe to help influence the company as much as I wanted him to find something to write about among that company’s products and services. Then two weeks ago, one of my people re-pitched Stowe about the same client. I apologized to Stowe. Unfortunately, shit happens even in my shop, and it’s gonna take time for us to fix a PR methodology that is broken, as Stowe, Brian and others suggest.

Funny things is, my guy who wrote to Stowe is incredibly effective in PR and he readily delivers stories that land in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, US News and CNN. And he does this as easily as someone in SF can place a story in Mashable or Tech Crunch. In the transformative Bay area PR tech world, my guy might be dead meat. And I’m not sure he is tech savvy enough to understand that he is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Patience is needed here on all sides. It’s going to take time before PR practitioners find an approach that satisfies Chris Anderson and Stowe Boyd. But, let the complaints continue. Because that’s the only way to drive change.

At the same time, if we think the rest of the world is ready for the new social media release format, sorry. It’s going to take time for the slow adopters to catch up to the brilliance emerging in the PR space out here in SF. And so my NY guy still has a long life.

I’ve been in this business for two decades. Yet, more than ever, I consider myself a student of PR and believe me, I’m listening, learning and adjusting my own game so that the conversation that comes from myself and colleagues from my agency, is intelligent, considerate, honest and respectful. If we start there, we can find the means for delivering on the promise.

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The Collision of Technology and PR, Music

19178163For a tech geek like me, rarely does a search for information, sharing of ideas, and conversation take place without technology – a laptop, desktop, iPhone, or desk phone – as an intermediary. And through social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, AIM, Twitter and Jaiku, I’m in a virtual and constant presence with hundreds of key influencers and friends operating in my areas of interest. For technology — computers, software, the Internet and social networking — has touched my life and penetrated my consciousness.

I enjoy it. It’s good for my business, and it satisfies my need to grow and know. But it’s mere technology, not Nirvana. And I go elsewhere for peace of mind. I ride my bike, feel and appreciate nature, embrace a healthful diet and explore Spirit. I also play and write music that expresses my heart. And I meditate daily and seek my Soul. The latter comprise my personal satisfaction and make it possible for me to handle the former.

But make no mistake about it – technology has changed me and the industries I play in – like public relations and music, especially. This week, the San Francisco MusicTech Summit, organized by my friend, Brian Zisk, brought together the best and brightest developers in the Music/Technology Space, along with the musicians, entrepreneurial business people, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. They met to discuss the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem in a proactive, conducive to dealmaking environment.

What was interesting about the conversation was the apparent gap between technology affecting the music industry and the ability of most traditional musicians to use it to their advantage. Social media expert Brian Solis talked about the collision between technology and public relations suggesting that new tech tools are changing the practice of PR and practitioners need to evolve their social media toolset. I agree. I think there’s been a similar collision between technology and music.

Technology has been creeping into the music business for decades. It really gained speed in the late 90s with the advent of digitized music, and, for better or worse, I helped make it happen — working with pioneers of the MP3 movement to help them elevate awareness of their technology and drive adoption. Today, MP3 is the dominant digital music technology, thanks largely to startups like MP3.com, eMusic and MusicMatch. Add to that the power of Steve Jobs and Apple who changed the face of music distribution and sales, with iTunes and iPods.

Brian’s summit brought together hundreds of people and I especially enjoyed the panel that explored the collision of tech and music, led by my friend David Katznelson, of the Birdman Recording Group. Music has taken a back seat to the technology, record companies are no longer the intermediaries between the artist and audience, and if you want to succeed, you better know how to work the tech tools and social networks to your advantage.

Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, was also on site connecting with the digital side of the music business as his brilliant and popular blog is expanding beyond coverage of social web apps coverage into music and other diverse areas of interest.

Some folks at the intersection of music and tech have it down, like my friends, Jonny Kaps and Nat Hays, at +1. They tap the power of technology to their advantage. They have a strong social media methodology for promoting their bands like The Kooks, The Heavy, Kate Nash, and others. They’ve avoided the collision and monetized the tools.

Others are still trying to figure it out, hence a great opportunity for Brian to expand his conference in SF and in major markets across the country.

Ah, the weekend is almost here, and through the chaos I can hear the faint sound of seagulls down at the Marina calling me to take a bike ride, perhaps over the Golden Gate Bridge. Gotta leave tech and engage my soul. See you Monday.

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Blogger Social Rocked

collage_march_5_lowWhat happens when 80 bloggers — all experts digital media, marketing and public relations realms — gather from across the country and far away places like Belgium, Oman, and Australia? You get Blogger Social, and I enjoyed every minute of last night’s gathering. The room was full of brilliant and talented people I will collaborate with and know more deeply.

What is cool about this is all the people came together because they blog, through reading and commenting on each other’s marketing blogs, and a close community has formed. Most of the people in the room, and myself, also collaborated in the book, The Age of Conversation, essays by 103 bloggers on marketing and communications in a digital world. I blogged about that book last year.

So last night, the online community came together offline, and it was a beautiful thing. Eyeballs on computer screens became heart to heart connections that will last a lifetime. Thanks to all the wonderful people I met last night, and especially, to key organizers CK and Drew McClellan and the host of 20 volunteers who made the evening possible. That special gift from the City of New York was particularly cute!

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