Facebook was only available to people with a .edu web address, Twitter was barely a twinkle, and YouTube though bubbling up, hadn’t truly blasted off.
All three sites are now social media stars. They’re changing ways we communicate amongst ourselves, and with companies.
Those changes are so dramatic Meerman figured his book needed substantial revision to stay current, hence the recently issued The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition.
The release of this second edition seems like an ideal time to check in with Meerman. He was kind enough to offer a phone interview. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Interview with David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR
I’ve heard it said the foundation of marketing and PR is same as it ever was; which is to reach out to your public and persuade people to buy your goods, and that the only thing different now with social media and web 2.0, is the tools. Do you agree?
David: I think it’s changing in a profound way and we’re going through a revolution. Prior to the web, we as communications people, PR people, marketers, whatever you want to call it, we had these three ways to reach people. You could do it with paid media advertising… another way was to try and convince someone from the media to write about you… and the third way was you could hire a sales force. Those three ways still exist. I’m not suggesting those old rules are wrong, or bad, but we are going through a revolution in that someone can publish content on the web for free, and that’s new and different. There was not that tool 16 years ago. I use 1995 as a line in the sand [in terms of influence of the web].
The reasons I feel there’s a fundamental shift is, people who want to use that channel can’t be thinking in the way they used in those old ways… Now the way to reach people is, an organization has to think like a publisher and adopt the skills to tell a story in text or in video, or whatever it is, but to literally become brand journalists and to create content and get it out there. That is a fundamental change. And a lot of companies are resistant to that change.
I think what they’re getting at, when saying the foundation is the same, is the ultimate goal hasn’t changed, just to tools for accomplishing that goal.
David: The ultimate goal is to generate attention and that’s not changing. But the ways we get people to do that has radically changed.
You pay a fair amount of attention to search, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Yet that’s an area a lot of PR people resist, because SEO strategy may not follow AP style.
David: Right. There is a lot of truth in that. Fundamentally, every person on the planet who has an internet connection is using search. And the last number I heard is two billion people are connected to the web. So being visible in search engines is critically important.
But one of the things I like to point out is search engine marketing, at its core, is about creating the content that people want to find…. It’s understanding your buyers really well and creating content that allows them to solve problems in the words and phrases they would use.
That’s more important in my mind than worrying about the nuances of meta tags and where the text should be placed. Granted those are important, but in my experience a lot of search engine experts will focus way too much on those technology aspects of search and not that much on understanding that people are trying to reach amazing stuff that will then be indexed by search engines.
Let’s talk about your suggestion to create an online media room, but for buyers rather than just the press. From my own experience, this is a tough sell with many PR people. You can explain how when a release is on the web anyone can see it, and while they understand this as a concept, they can’t make the shift. What is your most persuasive pitch for this one?
David: I think the biggest stumbling block is that many public relations people who I know mistake the superset of public relations with the subset of media relations.
In other words, public relations is really just about reaching your public, and there’s tons of different ways to do that. Going through the media is not the only way.
But I think what a lot of public relations people want is for the world to be the way is way 20 years ago, They just want to be able to have lunch with reporters and send out press releases. It’s just a nice comfortable little world and the web is kinda screwing things up.
I think if our job is to reach our publics, it’s essential to understand there’s multiple ways to do so.
For example you hit on the online media room. When they first came out about 15 years ago it was basically an online version of a press kit… and well, guess what? It’s not just going to the media. Everyone can look at that stuff. So are you only interested in 200 journalists, or are you interested in 200,000 potential customers? And I think, without being rude, if you think your job is to only reach 200 journalists, then you shouldn’t have a role in the website. Let other people get on with the work of the media room.
I do think this job of media relations is still a critical job… that will be their specialty. But I hope people start to realize it’s not the only way.
You also write about how the media itself has changed. When you consider bloggers, for instance. Then you say you’re surprised, when at speaking engagements and you ask PR and marketing pros if they write or read blogs, only a small percentage are doing so. You would think at this stage more people would realize we’ve gotten past the point where it’s just the cranky blogger out there.
David: The other point that’s critical to know is that when a journalist is working on a story guess where they go? They go to Google, They go to your website. And if you have a blog, a journalist is more likely to read that then your press release.
I think it’s important to recognize the way journalists are doing their research is changing because of the web as well.
In the book you get into how to generate viral marketing. Yet sometimes when a company sets out to create a viral video it seems like they’re trying to hard, and it feels false.
David: Well most of the time it doesn’t work. The way to create great viral content is to do 10 things and assume nine of them will fail. And that’s a different way of doing marketing than most people are used to. Most people are used to creating one campaign and you expect that it will be successful.
You believe people should experiment with marketing. Nowadays you can do that with video, because the costs are so much lower than in the past.
David: That’s part of it. The other part is a failure isn’t visible. If you do a TV commercial and it’s terrible lots of people will see it. If you post a video on YouTube and it’s, terrible few people will see it, No one will spread it. So it’s not, “Oh they failed. Look at that.” You know, you just quietly delete it.