Archive by Author

Jun 17

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Stage Two

Stage Two Names Jim Schaff Managing Partner

I am pleased to announce that starting today Jim Schaff is the new Managing Partner of Stage Two. Jim will oversee all of the firm’s day-to-day operations and work output going forward as Adam and I transition into an advisory role with the company we founded almost five years ago. Jim is one of the most knowledgeable marketing executives I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I am proud to hand him the keys to the Stage Two kingdom.

It’s a very, very challenging thing to do, to be honest.  We’ve had an amazing run since the company was founded, and have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented entrepreneurs and executives from around the world.  With Jim on board we’ve put some very cool companies and products on the map, including Boxee, Bug Labs, Pogoplug, Sphero, Face.com, TuneUp Media, Splashtop, and more.  We’ve also had the chance to work for amazing companies like Clicker.com (now part of CBS), Electronic Arts, VUDU (acquired by Wal-Mart), BOKU, Worldmate, and others.  I know it’s a rarity to have your cake and eat it too, but we’ve been doing it for almost five years now.  And that’s a lot of cake.

I’ve affectionately joked about Jim’s long history in marketing and technology. He was a key person to help launch the typewriter, and his crisis PR management for black and white TV when “full color” became all the rage is legendary. In reality Jim has over two decades of experience in marketing, advertising, consumer technology and managing marketing teams. He is a branding expert with deep knowledge of launching consumer technology products. On a more personal level, he is also an incredible human being. He loves hockey (go Sharks Habs), poker (although “Poker Jim” is not welcome at all tables), scuba diving and his dog. I’ve learned many things from Jim over the past few years, and have respect for him as a person and as a businessman.

As for Adam and me?  Yes we are leaving day-to-day roles, but let’s face it, even when your baby grows up, goes to college, then moves abroad, you still follow him on Twitter and do his laundry sometimes, right?  We will remain connected to the firm and several clients in a strategic advisory capacity, though we have every bit of confidence that things are being left in extremely capable hands.  Regarding what we’ll be spending our time on moving forward?  Well, the first rule of show business is, ” . . .”

Oct 06

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Gadgets, UI/UX

What the Sony/Google TV Remote Coulda Shoulda Been

Hello readers.  Look at this remote.  Now at your hands.  Now back to the remote.  Now back to your hands.

Maybe it’s a joke.  Maybe it’s a clever ruse.  Maybe it’s a prototype.  Maybe it’s clever CGI like they used for Gollum.  I have no idea.  But the picture here (sourced from Engadget) is supposedly the remote control shipping with Sony’s TVs that have Google TV integrated inside.  It is, in a word, a monstrosity (my friend MG said it best, “My God, it’s full of buttons!”).

Here are all the things wrong with it, in a nutshell:

  • Big and ugly – the current era of product design is about sleekness, not low quality plastic.  Even the Xbox controller looks like it’s better made.
  • Requires two hands to operate at all times - should be one, with the option to go to two when necessary.  You should never go full handed, always stay half handed.
  • All keyboard buttons appear the same size - this thing has to be usable in the dark, which means physical cues are needed.  The “tab” button is where the “Q” should’ve been, so the user can anchor themselves around the keyboard without looking, every time.
  • All control buttons appear the same size – volume and channel change are the same, as are all playback buttons.  Buttons which are used most frequently should be physically differentiated.
  • Two identical joysticks – while I’ll go out on a limb and assume the extra joystick is actually useful/functional, it should be mildly different to the user’s touch.
  • Too many buttons – just like notes, there is such a thing as too many buttons.  And this has too many.

Now, since it’s so easy to complain, I’ll take this a step further with the XX things I’d have done with this remote:

  • Combo buttons + touchscreen – the 2nd gen Sonos controller is a simple version of a hybrid remote, I think this is a perfect time for it.  The physical buttons should control the basic navigation, especially playback controls, and volume.  The touchscreen could do the keyboard, advanced options, setup options, etc.  Even if it’d end up the same physical size as the one pictured here, it would be slicker and better received.
  • Glowing buttons - for advanced products that are going to work in a dark room, back-lit, glowing, light-up, etc buttons are a must-have.
  • Single handed operation – without a doubt I’d have the basic configuration work in a single hand, held in a traditional manner.  If the user has to tilt it to make the screen work, or some other kind of touchscreen is needed to make this happen, it’s worth it.
  • High quality materials - this is supposed to be la creme de la creme of TV products.  Whether it’s a single piece of aluminium or carbon fiber or any other “really nice” materials, I’d spare no expense on the first generation remote.
  • OR… dual remote + phone interfaces - first and foremost, I am *not* a fan of the vision that the smartphone makes a great remote control – it doesn’t.  BUT, if you could ship a really nice, simple, easy to use, high quality remote that offers 80-90% of the functionality, then let the user go to their phone for more advanced features when they want to, I’d call that a viable option.  Remember, you could do keyboard input with a 10-key, it’s worked on feature phones for years.

I’m still in the “shock and awe” phase of watching everything related to Google TV roll out the way it is.  Our post on “taste” applies quite a bit here, as I’ve yet to see an ounce of it related to these products, strategies, or efforts.  And I’m disappointed – this is exactly how we burn consumers on technology.  Too hard, not elegant, etc.

Mar 22

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Marketing

10 Essential Tips for Marketing Your Brand on Chatroulette

Chatroulette is the biggest new thing to hit the Internet, and with over 20,000 active users at any given time, it’s a surefire bet for the future of social media marketing.  Here’s some important tips for how to get the most out of Chatroulette for your product, service, or brand.

  1. Listen before you talk.
    This is the most common advice across social media marketing, but it’s especially true for Chatroulette.  If you talk first, you might alienate a potential influencer for your brand.  Wait to see what they have to say.  Also, there’s a lot of international users, so you may need to have a localized chatter (or even a distributed team) available.
  2. Enable your camera/microphone!
    Not having your camera on is like having a blog with no comments, it’s just going to create negative backlash.  You must have it on before you are truly engaging with the audience.
  3. Engage your audience
    If someone’s typing something, be ready to type back.  If you see a dancer, consider dancing yourself.  You want to make your brand seem very accessible to your new partner, and showing you are ready to engage is huge.  Definitely don’t ignore/mock whatever activities they are doing.  You also might want to have several masks/outfits available in case the occasion arises.
  4. Don’t worry if you get “nexted”
    Studies have shown the average user gets nexted several times per minute!  Don’t fret if it’s happening a lot, and don’t take it as a reflection on your brand.  That said, consider finding a more attractive person (male or female – both work), or funny outfit/mask (as mentioned above), to be your primary CR spokesperson.
  5. Never next first!
    You should always let the chatter “next” you first. Nexting is often taken as a form of rejection, and it’s a good way to build a bad impression to your potential community.  It’d be better to sit there quietly, as long as it might take, than next someone.  Note – if it appears the other person is not present, it is okay to next them, but you should write a note so they know it wasn’t personal.
  6. Cultivate your community
    Ultimately you want to empower others to market your brand, and in a positive way.  If you can turn random Chatroulette encounters into new brand ambassadors, it’s a huge win.  This is why you should think of each encounter as an opportunity to increase the positive image of your product, service, or company.
  7. Remember it’s a “conversation”
    Key to your effective social media engagement is having a conversation, not simply spouting facts or ads about your company.  Nobody wants to start a chat only to see some huge brand endorsement with no way to interact.  Show the human side of your organization and really get to know the people you talk to.
  8. Generously “thumbs up”
    As with any new community, there’s new lingo and culture to get used to.  By now we’re assuming you are familiar with nexting, but make sure you know about the “thumbs up”.  In Chatroulette, people might give you a thumbs up if they think you are being interesting, clever, funny, or doing any kind of activity they “like” in some way.  If you see someone doing something that seems like it’s got some effort, give em a thumbs up.
  9. Be transparent
    If you are chatting on your brand’s behalf, you really want to make sure people know it.  You can’t start some conversation then all of a sudden reveal that you are really doing it for marketing purposes.  Start open, and stay open, otherwise you’ll end up with backlash and it’ll be another example of social media gone wrong.
  10. Expect, and embrace, nudity
    You’re going to get some nudity, possibly a lot of it.  That’s okay.  In fact, if you really want to be open and engaging, you won’t next someone just because they are revealing themself.  Besides, if you can connect with someone while they are so vulnerable, it’ll really show how your company “gets” social media in a very community-oriented way.

Hopefully these tips will help you really extend your brand in a dynamic way.  Depending on the scale and preparedness of your organization, you may need to enlist expertise to help guide you.  We’d recommend looking for anyone who calls themself a “social media guru” – they’ll know what to do.

ps: this entire post is a joke.

pps: but while writing this post we actually came up with a a really fun idea for a brand to try something inventive on Chatroulette – if you are game, let us know and we can experiment together.

Feb 04

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Marketing

12 Essential Strategies for Marketing in Real-Time

In the time it’s taken you to read this sentence, an approximate 1500-2000 people wrote a Tweet (more on this here), almost double that number of Facebook status updates occurred, and an hour of video was uploaded to YouTube. And many would argue we’re still in the early days of “update mania” and content creation.  Now I don’t have any stats on the nature of those updates, but it’s fair to guesstimate that a decent chunk of them are people praising or lamenting about companies, products, and services. We’ve blogged before on how complex the modern era is for anyone in a company’s marketing department, and are following up with some specific strategies and advice for companies and other agencies to use.

  1. Decide on your overall real-time focus
    Not *every* company need pay attention the same way to real-time content the same way. If you are a consumer-facing brand, you probably care a lot about how consumers talk about, use, and think about your product. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to use Twitter to vocalize their sentiment, further it’s entirely likely (and probable) that the cross-section of people who use Twitter to discuss your brand are not representative of the masses who use your brand.  Facebook and MySpace, for example, might not be as hype-driven with regards to media coverage, but together boast over half a billion users.  So before you jump into “real-time”, think about exactly what you want to accomplish, what you need to pay attention to/learn, and then identify the right strategy for those goals.
  2. Think long-term before thinking about the instantaneous term
    They don’t call it real-time for nothing!  There are new tools and services cropping up literally every day that let you participate, monitor, interact, engage, observe, and otherwise pay attention to the real-time Web.  If you attempt to use them all, you will inevitably fail in many, which will do more harm than good.  I highly recommend you watch new hype-driven trends with caution until you see where they are going.  This is doubly-true in Silicon Valley, where, as Chris Rock once said, “here today, gone to-day!” I recall back in the “getting hot” days of FriendFeed when Pepsi showed up and created a “Pepsi Room” – as an early adopter of FriendFeed, I was completely skeptical as to their purpose and intent of being there.  They soon after abandoned their room, which made me feel even more like the company was trying to “buy their way in” to where technology influencers were spending their time online.  Google Wave is another example of a new real-time service, this time from the hugeness that is Google, launched with much flair and hype, yet now in a bit of an idle state (from a media perspective). I’m not saying to ignore new technologies or trends, but to be aware of the simple reality that many technologies fail to yield the results often anticipated/associated with them.
  3. Staff up accordingly
    You can’t take the same PR/Marcom team you’ve been employing for eons and now tell them they also have to monitor a dozen new services, and be ready to respond in real-time. Further, there are different skills required for different mediums, and the reactions to deal with real-time issues are different from those who might plan out a longer term strategy.  My strongest advice is to have someone on the team (or outsourced to a third party, if well-affiliated) who is a good “crisis-mode” kind of person.  I’d suggest having your overall marketing planning/strategy get built with input from the combination of Team Planned Activity and Team Real-Time.  Which leads me to…
  4. Listen and React.
    The classic line of social media marketers is “engage” (also known as “join the conversation”).  This is nice and all, but it’s also about the how, when, and why you react.  First, make sure you have built infrastructure and culture for absorbing feedback – I still meet many companies who have literally one person in charge of product strategy, and virtually no mechanisms of delivering customer feedback to that person.  Real time content and sentiment monitoring is something that should be added to outreach programs, with a focus both on the media and consumers.  It’s vastly different to watch Tweets and blog posts gauging the media’s reaction to your new product than it is to read your actual customers’ opinions after a feature update or new service addition.  Make sure you are appropriately filtering this type of content to the right people. But…
  5. Don’t (always) react in real-time!
    Eons ago, when all you had to do to pay attention to social media was watch blogs, we often counseled folks to mostly ignore commentors.  This is a bit of a “dangerous” topic (there happened to be a big debate on it yesterday), so let me explain my position.  Ideally, comments allow anyone in the world to add a little, wait for it, commentary on a given blog post or topic they see.  And if that were exactly how it was used, it’d be great.  But this isn’t fiction, it’s reality, and in the real world, Internet commenting is just barely a notch more mature than the banter in Xbox Live gaming.  For every bit of constructive discussion or actually added-value commentary, there’s the inevitable troll, attacker, competitor, or a variety of comments that bring the conversation way down.  With the massive amounts of ways to “hear” people out there, you simply must assume there are people who you cannot appease.  Use experience and judgment to figure out when a response is warranted versus when the topic will disappear into the ether.  You cannot win them all, and you cannot possibly make everyone love you – I’m not advising not to try, but you do not need to correct every tweet, comment, status update, or other negative mention you find.  This truly is the time when experience helps.
  6. If you try something, give it a reasonable commitment
    This goes into the “must-do” category.  You are significantly worse off by jumping in to something new, playing around a teensy bit in a halfhearted manner, then bailing, than you are by never engaging in the first place.  I’ve seen companies “half-listen” on Twitter, which only causes more frustration around their brands.  Ditto for blog/commentor engagement and other real-time interactions.  Pick something, create the plan of how you will fully commit to it and for how long, and then evaluate at the end as to future engagements.  Further, you should communicate your policies – if you are only going to use Twitter to send out company updates, that’s fine (not really, but I understand), but then make sure you are clear about that policy.  To complicate this more…
  7. Try not to play favorites
    While it’s understandable (and recommended) to engage with known influencers whenever possible, it’s just as important to engage with “regular folks” as well.  In fact, if you ignore the random people and only pay attention to “named individuals” you are going to have the opposite effect you are seeking by interacting with these services.  You’ll be considered elitist and alienating to your actual customers.  This really ties back in with the aforementioned “staff up” comment – the bigger your brand and the wider your customer base, the more you open yourself up to a radically high quantity of people to engage with.  For organizations that deal with the wider masses of consumers, I recommend having a team in place for dealing with Twitter, Facebook, and any other service where you plan to engage in real-time, and have a system for how to make sure literally nobody falls through the cracks.
  8. Clearly communicate your policies
    If you can only monitor Twitter from 9-5 EST, tell people.  If you don’t plan to respond to comments, make that clear.  Whatever you are (or are not) going to do, your customers and the media should know.  Further, as I’ve stated a few times, whatever you commit to, stick to. Consistency is huge.
  9. Be personable
    Nobody wants to directly engage with “a brand”, they want to talk to “people at a brand.”  When I see companies having named individuals participate on twitter, communities, forums, or even in comment discussions, I see much more directly engaged users.  This is a major change in thinking for bigger brands, where there’s a “company-first” policy of virtually everything, but in the social media landscape, specifically true in the real-time Web, personalized engagement trumps bland company messaging everytime.  Oh, and this should go without saying, but just in case: don’t make up personas/fake people!
  10. Pick the right tools for the job
    Google alerts, even if delivered “as it happens” are slow in comparison with Twitter feeds, RSS, and virtually any monitoring software.  There are a lot of tools to pay attention to real-time activities.  I am not going to endorse nor recommend any specific company, since your needs will unlikely be the same as mine, or someone else’s.  I will say this much: try free stuff, but allocate some budget if you are going to take the space seriously.  Just like anything else, the more you put in, the more you get out.  That said, try not to get fleeced along the way!  Also, you should unquestionably get free trials of services prior to shelling out a dime.  And you should also make sure you’ve had the team who will be using the tools give their feedback – you don’t want to forcefeed technology on the wrong people.
  11. Feel free to experiment
    The real-time Web isn’t exactly the Wild West, but it is safe to say there’s so much in flux that there’s exactly a specific blueprint we can all follow.  Much of my advice here is on how to formulate your strategy.  The tools and services used today may be gone next year or next month, or may be growing like the weeds in my garden.  While you should have a sound plan in place to execute upon, it’s certainly okay to try new things and see how they go.  Maybe a Retweet contest will put your brand into the limelight, or maybe it’ll get ignored.  Learn from it, adapt, try again, etc.
  12. Beware false prophets
    The number of people who can honestly say they’ve mastered these skills is roughly zero.  The rules are changing far too fast, and there’s far too short a history to claim true expertise.  If you are hiring individuals, consultants, or agencies, ask very specific questions and look for very specific answers before making decisions.  Just because someone can advise you on how to create a Twitter account doesn’t mean they know what to do when a behind-the-scenes video leaks onto YouTube!  Community engagement is not the same as crisis management.  Blog writing and engaging on forums are different skills.  Sure, some people will be capable of managing all of this, but think through your needs deeply, and don’t accept glib responses, internet-famous people, nor shallow resumes to manage such critical work!

I hope this is helpful for any company seeking to engage with consumers in new, fun, interesting, and productive ways.  We feel like we’re still learning a lot of this here at Stage Two, and will start putting up some product/service reviews in the coming weeks.  Looking forward to comments on what areas we may have missed!

Jan 26

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Events, Stage Two

Come meetup after the 01/27 Apple press event!

I wanted to call this a tweetup, but if I’m blogging it I think that breaks the rules? Just kidding. Anyhow, a bunch of us mobile/gadget/convergence folks wanted to get together, chat about how the world just changed (or didn’t), and also talk in advance of Mobile World Congress (aka 3GSM).  We’ve teamed up with Lisa Whelan, from SocializeMobilize, to gather fun people and the great people at Jillian’s (at the Metreon, spitting distance from the event. literally) put aside a little space for us.

No RSVP needed, but all the details are available here.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

I’ll buy a drink for the first person to show up WITH whatever new thing got announced at the event. :)   Yes, multiple winners if there are multiple things.

BTW – you can visit my personal blog to see recent thoughts I’ve shared on the supposed tablet.

Jan 16

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Stage Two

Send a text, send some real help

No client updates, no social media marketing thoughts, nothing but a brief plea to send some help to those in need in Haiti.  Our friend Andru Edwards at gearlive.com has put together a great gift-matching program, and we’re supporting it.  The Red Cross has created an SMS-based donation plan, and we along with a few other groups and individuals will gift match to a certain dollar amount.  Details:

Starting now, if you send an SMS donation to either the Red Cross (by texting the word HAITI to 90999) or to YELE (by texting the word YELE to 501501) Gear Live will match it, up to $500. In addition, we have a bunch of our friends joining in as well:

  • David Geller of Eyejot and WhatCounts will match up to $2500
  • Leslie Camacho, President of EllisLab (which makes the fantastic ExpressionEngine CMS) will personally match up to $600
  • Nate True of Tap Tap Revenge and iPhone hacking fame will match up to $500
  • Jeremy, Adam, and the team at Stage Two will match up to $500
  • Dave Taylor, the man behind AskDaveTaylor.com, will match up to $250
  • Don McAllister of Screencasts Online will match up to $250
  • Robert Scoble, the face behind Building43, will match up to $200
  • Local Gear Live fan Shauna Causey will match up to $100
  • Parnassus Ventures, the folks behind 140: The Twitter Conference, will match up to $100
  • Jason Neudecker, a Gear Live Twitter follower, will match up to $100
  • TechieDiva.com will match up to $50

In total, so far, that’s $4500 $5400 $5650 in pledged matching donations! For each donation you make, each entity above will match it, until their limit is reached. In other words, with our current eight eleven twelve contributors, your $10 donation will actually be matched six nine eleven twelve times, resulting in a $70 $100 $120 $130 payment. So, what do you need to do? This is the easy part. Just scroll down and leave us a comment letting us know that you made a donation, and whether it was a $5 or $10 contribution. If you do it multiple times, let us know that too. Even better, if you want to be on our list as a person or company that will match donations, let us know!

I just read a piece which claims that over 300,000 people are now homeless.  And this is a poor country with very little quality infrastructure – in other words, it’s not going to just “get better” without some serious help.

Huge kudos to the Red Cross, Andru Edwards, and the millions of people who will inevitably help.

As one side note, and not to distract from this, we at Stage Two have decided we’ll be making a monthly stop at the SF Food Bank.  If you feel moved to help the ONE in FIVE residents of San Francisco that live at or below the poverty line, please get in touch and you can join us!

Nov 05

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Clients

Client News: worlds collide as Blake Krikorian joins board of Clicker.com

Clicker_logoWe had a great announcement this morning from one of our newest clients, Clicker.com.  Blake Krikorian, the founder and former CEO of Sling Media (makers of the Slingbox) has agreed to join the board of directors at Clicker.  He’s also investing in the company personally. This has special significance to me as Blake was my old boss back in the day.

Blake KrikorianBlake joins CEO/founder Jim Lanzone (former CEO of Ask.com) on the board, along with Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital and Geoff Yang of Redpoint Ventures.  Clicker’s mission is to be the ultimate programming guide for television on the Internet, and they have the team to do it.  Of all the thing’s Blake could have done since leaving Sling (and that’s more or less whatever he wanted) he’s decided to make Clicker his first move.  That’s a heck of a vote of confidence – not to mention some personal financial investment.

I’ve known Blake since my Mediabolic days when he first saw me demo the “Digital Library” from Pioneer back in 2003. He then hired me as the first employee at Sling Media, where I worked my proverbial tail off to help bring his vision (the Slingbox) to the market.  Sling was a huge success, both by making great products and by the eventual acquisition by Echostar in 2007.  Now with Blake joining the Clicker team, he is yet in the position where he controls my fate (albeit to a slightly lesser extent than in the past).

The press release went out on the wire this morning.  Some of the coverage we’ve gotten is listed below – we’ll update the list as other coverage comes in.

Oct 12

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Stage Two

Now Hiring: Office Manager/Admin++

Stage Two Consulting, a self-proclaimed top-notch marketing agency in San Francisco, is in need of a diamond in the rough to join our team as a combination office manager/admin and double-junior-level marketing associate.  The job will be roughly a 60/40 split between office-related tasks and some hands-on entry level marketing work.  This is a great position for someone new to the job market who is organized and detail-oriented and capable of helping make a small office run better, and at the same time is interested in learning about marketing.

Qualifications:

  • Fast learner: you need to be able to take direction on something once, then repeat it again ever after
  • Self starter: some projects will be “high level” – we’re counting on you to figure out some of the details
  • Organized: you must be able to juggle many simultaneous projects, without letting a ball drop at any time
  • Communicator: you should be able to talk to us, our clients, our guests, our friends, our family, strangers walking down the street, people on the bus, etc
  • Detail-oriented: seriously, the little things are the ones that do matter & we care a lot about them.

Brownie points to gamers, bloggers, pop culture geeks (extra credit given for the subtle use of Arrested Development quotes)

Responsibilities:

  • Organizing lots of things – we have tons of documents (digital, not the paper stuff) that need to be better organized
  • Research – whether it’s poring through research reports or lots of Googling, we’ll need you to be able to find things out on the Internets
  • Basic typical office stuff – filing, copying, answering the phone, operating the coffee grinder, playing lead vocals on Rock Band, etc
  • Attend events – whether its our own clients or just industry events, you will be expected to attend some industry/networking activities (these typically occur in the evening, no travel will be required)

Details:

  • Full-time job based in our office
  • Compensation is $22-$28K plus benefits (possibly higher if you can make the case for it!)

Our office is in the amazing Jackson Square district of San Francisco.  We are close to several MUNI stops, great restaurants/bars, and fine entertainment establishments. If you’re interested, email us (yes, you’ll want to edit that email address):

  1. a link to an online resume (or Word doc if needed)
  2. a short bio
  3. why you think this is a perfect fit for you (we recommend you do not send us the same cover letter you use everywhere else)
  4. which of our clients excites you the most, and why

Any emails without all of the above will be ignored, and probably marked as spam.  Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. Otherwise, we look forward to hearing from you. If you read nothing else (you won’t get the job, but…) be sure to at least read this and this.

PLEASE NOTE: We are now in the process of screening applicants, and will no longer be accepting new resumes (though we may have some internships open in the late Fall if you’d like to get in touch for that). Thank you for your interest!

Sep 24

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Marketing, Press

A Vision of an Embargo-Free World

Embargoes suck, we know. But they also “work” when companies are trying to raise awareness about some new product, service, etc. There are cases where no PR is needed, because the news is so big it’ll get written about by the mere fact it happens. But these incidents are extremely rare. The specific purpose of the embargo is to maximize the potential coverage, both by quantity and quality of outlet. Why? It’s a simple equation – more coverage equals more awareness equals more potential customers equals more actual customers equals more healthy business.

Also, in order to put one topic to bed, there is unquestionably a need for a quantity of outlets. There is no single blog or news organization whose content reaches the entire potential audience a company would like to get in front of. Further, as the “business of news” has become ridiculously competitive, many news outlets will simply not cover a topic if they are not one of the absolute first to do so (which isn’t exactly great for their readers, but that’s a different story).

So let’s envision what the world of news and content distribution might look like without any embargoes whatsoever. In this world, there are NO pre-briefings done, ever. A company has news, it can choose how to disseminate it (blog, press release, twitter, video, etc). Journalists pick up on stories through the medium(s) of their choosing, and write stories as they see fit. Please note there are quite a few generalizations here, and as such there are always exceptions.

Scenario 1: HUGE BREAKING IMPORTANT STORY (e.g. Steve Jobs sick, Microsoft buys Yahoo, Twitter is down, etc)
In this case, it’s fairly likely that the news will propagate to a lot of outlets. When the content is “too big to ignore” it will get lots and lots of coverage. Note that these types of events rarely have embargoes today anyway, since it’s hard to contain/control something that’s quite so widespread.
This is a win for journalists, the company with the news, and readers all of whom get what they want out of the picture.

Scenario 2: Medium-sized news (e.g. new startup launches something interesting/innovative, new features added to existing popular site/service, Twitter is down, etc) – released by blog post (or press release). A list of selected media/journalists are also emailed about the news at the moment it is released.
Here we have a classic race situation. Those who can post fastest will do so (let’s assume 1-3 “newsbreakers” cover it), and likely with the least amount of added thought/perspective. As a result of the initial coverage, no other “newsbreaker” sites write it up (“it’s already on XXX, so we’re going to skip”). Later in the day a few more pieces are added, with some additional perspective or insight on the topic. Also, some of the initial sites’ stories are updated to include additional commentary. On rare occasion, the topic is interesting enough to get additional coverage, but for the most part it’s hit-and-run, and fades out of memory rapidly.

This is a loss for journalists (more on this in a second), the company with the news, and readers (who will be less likely to find out about new things because their news outlets of choice become less likely to cover it).

Incidentally, this is probably the primary area where embargoes are used today, as they effectively help get wider coverage for the same content, not to mention deeper thought/investigation into the topic. Due to the desire to be “first”, however, journalists simply don’t have the incentive to write more in-depth pieces (much to their chagrin, for the most part). I’d also assume that this world would create even MORE unwanted email flooding journalists’ inboxes, as the mass of PR people have virtually no other mechanism of bringing stories to their attention.

Scenario 3: Same as above, but nobody is emailed about the news, it’s only released via blog/PR/twitter/etc, and anyone who “wants to find it” can do so.
This is the ultimate “free for all” that many new media people seem to be in love with, at least in theory. Here the burden is now on the journalists to track companies they are interested in. The fundamental issue here is the natural bias (people write about content/companies they like) which develops. Further, startups who aren’t “connected” in some way have even more trouble of getting awareness about their new venture.

This is a major loss for everyone involved, other than those who are “in” and benefit even more from having connections.  Overall, less people write about less varied things, and less readers find out about less stuff.

Ultimately I keep hearing anecdotally how bloggers and other media would like to have things simply be open and freeform in this manner (get some sleep MG!!!), but in practice it seems utterly contradictory. It seems understated when I say there’s already a tremendous amount of noise out there, and I fundamentally believe that it’s the relationships built between media and quality PR folks that helps create signal out of noise.

Scenario 4: Minor news (e.g. unimportant hiring, minor technology improvement, Twitter is down, etc)
I see this playing out per #2/3 above, except with almost no coverage happening whatsoever. This is the area where I think getting rid of embargoes is probably beneficial, as it will help naturally weed out this kind of fluff and nonsense. Companies and their PR teams will have to stop with the old-school mentality of issuing press releases for the sake of issuing press releases.

This is a win mostly for readers, as journalists will still get spammed (in the short term), and companies will actually need to dig deeper into the strategy bucket than they have in the past (which is, of course, a long term good thing).

Other thought on the topic: The In Crowd gets In-ner
Let’s face it, there’s most certainly a “who do you know?” effect present in the high-tech industry, be it for deal-making, venture capital, press coverage, or all of the above. While it is very possible to insert new companies and people into these circles, it’s harder than ever to build something without some degree of connectivity. And as much as most of the people would very much like to meet new folks (I sincerely believe it is a set of extremely welcoming communities), the fact of the matter is people are just plain busy. If you aren’t lucky enough to bump into someone at a meetup or event or other random activity, it can be a big uphill battle to get any attention. By removing the ability for “new players” to work with connectors at PR firms efficiently,they will inherently have more trouble gaining any attention (and the “meh” startups from “connected” people will unfortunately gain far more attention than they truly merit). One of my greatest concerns over any concept of removing embargoes, PR teams, etc, is that I think it will ultimately hurt “the little guys” much more than anyone else.

I’m sure I’m missing a few scenarios and possibilities out there, but as far as I can see it, the relationship between companies (big and small), PR teams (internal or external), journalists, and readers is supposed to be a healthy one (we shouldn’t need Robert’s list of tricks!). Any time one of those groups makes moves to hurt the others, it ultimately hurts the system itself. And the system as we have it today could definitely use some improvement, but I’d rather see the energy spent on improving the checks & balances and accountability structure. It’s not specifically the embargo process that needs work, it’s a broader approach to how we think about the ethics and responsibility people throughout the industry should employ.  Whether it’s little blogs or huge outlets, PR firms or internal teams, everyone has a responsibility of playing by some system of rules.

Sep 16

Posted by Jeremy

Posted in Events, Marketing

Webinar this Friday: Blending Social Media with Traditional Marketing

We’ve talked about it for a while, but here’s the first official Webinar with yours truly at the helm, along with my colleague Ari Newman of Filtrbox.

When everyone’s a twitter about social media, how do companies adjust to the changing role of marketing in an era of social media vs. traditional marketing,  interactive vs. traditional media,  and real time consumer feedback?  Does your company need to have a presence on Facebook? Should you be hiring someone to Twitter instead of using direct mail – or should you use both?  Although some companies have embraced social media marketing very successfully many are still wondering where to even start, and how to integrate into existing programs.

Join us  on September 18th at 1 PM ET/ 10 AM PT for a complimentary webinar— as they discuss how social media marketing and traditional marketing integrate, how your company can leverage social media, along with best practices, how to listen, monitor, engage and interact, with highlights of specific case studies.
During our 60 minute seminar you will learn how to build a basic framework for social media activities within your organization, as well as:

·         The evolution of marketing
·         Traditional marketing vs. Social media marketing
·         Looking ahead – blending social and traditional marketing
·         How do we get there?
·         Listening, monitoring, engaging
·         Everyone doesn’t need a Facebook page
·         Opt in via Twitter: is Twitter the new Direct Mail?
·         Micro Blogs
·         Best practices
·         The case studies
·         Q&A

Please register here.

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