Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Beyond PR 2.0 -- Event Recap

A few weeks ago I attended an event in New York called “Beyond PR 2.0” hosted by Google and The Council of PR firms. I’ve included a brief report below and have included the links to online content discussed during the presentation. If you have a moment, I encourage you to visit the links as your read through the report; it’ll help put the discussion into context. The event was nearly 5 hours of panel discussions and lectures – needless to say, I’ve had to condense my notes.

Peanut Butter Recall

The event kicked off with a welcome from two employees from Google, Kevin Kills and Jen Bradburn. They both stressed the importance of utilizing Web 2.0 search and tracking tools. We’ve all preached the value of subscribing to RSS feeds to our clients, but the Google team shed light on this idea in a new way, specifically within the field of crisis communications.

The recent recall of Peter Pan peanut butter served as a great example. As the story broke, consumers flocked to search engines looking for more information. Almost instantaneously, companies looking to capitalize on the mass panic began targeting relevant keywords. As a result, users entering in “peanut butter lawsuit” in Google’s search engine found not only the results they were looking for, but also a variety of sponsored links from lawyers offering representation for those sickened by the product.

This example surely falls more into the category of advertising than public relations, but it’s an important tactic to understand. It stresses the importance that public relations pros utilize search engines not only as a means to monitor breaking news, but also to communicate with consumers directly. The Google team encouraged public relations practitioners to target press releases, CEO statements, interviews clips, etc, directly to consumers by linking those company materials to key search terms. If lawyers are able to instantaneously connect with people reading about tainted peanut butter, then so too should the very brand in question. For more on how, technically, companies are achieving this check out Jen’s recent post here.

The peanut butter case above and a number of the other case studies presented all seemed to flirt with advertising. I think as we continue to sharpen these web 2.0 skills, much of what’s considered advertising will begin to blur with line with public relations since most user generated platforms are free.

Dove Evolution

Later in the lecture, we discussed the Dove Evolution campaign as another example of how the line between advertising and pr has begun to blur, especially as organizations utilize user generated platforms to share their story. First, if you haven't yet seen the video, it's fascinating...

Is it public relations, or is it advertising? Whatever you call it, the panelists used this example to stress the importance of research as a means to better understand audiences and how a video on a user generated site can be taken “on the road” and placed in a variety of more traditional channels such as TV and print.

What does all this mean for us? The future of all public relations campaigns will utilize new channels to tell compelling stories. Video, webcasts, podcasts – these aren’t simply items on a media monitoring report, but rather opportunities.

The Jet Blue crisis served as the example of how video is changing public relations. We watched two videos. The first was created by a Jet Blue passenger as he and friends waited nearly two days to leave JFK....

The second is from David Neeleman, CEO, responding to angry customers.

We then had a lengthy discussion on the merits of using youtube video as a means to commute directly with customers. After much feedback from PR pros in the audience we finally concluded that online video can be one useful channel within a broader outreach campaign, but if done poorly, a company video on youtube can backfire.

Wrap Up

Ultimately, the message from all panelists was that the value of collaboration and transparency is even higher when working with the new online media . As the panelist opened up to questions from audience we seemed to get back to the basis: use blogging search engines and RSS feeds to listen to what’s being said about your brand; when you post content online do so for the benefit of the audience, not the organization; create compelling and honest content, not PR speak.

More Links

Finally, I’ve included a list of useful links to explore. As you can imagine, the majority of the tools discussed were Google products. Description copy from Google:

Hot Trends, you can see a snapshot of what's on the public's collective mind by viewing the fastest-rising searches for different points of time. You can see a list of today’s top 100 fastest-rising search queries in the U.S. You can also select a recent date in history to see what the top rising searches were and what the search activity looked like over the course of that day.

Website Optimizer, Google's free multivariate testing application, helps online marketers increase visitor conversion rates and overall visitor satisfaction by continually testing different combinations of site content (text and images).

Rather than sitting in a room and arguing over what will work better, you can save time and eliminate the guesswork by simply letting your visitors tell you what works best. We'll guide you through the process of designing and implementing your first experiment. Start optimizing your most important web pages and see detailed reports within hours.

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Its main highlight is that a webmaster can optimize their AdWords advertisement and marketing campaigns through the use of GA's analysis of where the visitors came from, how long they stayed on the website and their geographical position.

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