Is republishing The New York Times public relations?

April 7, 2011

follow the header sheepOh, those lazy PR agencies. You know the ones. They’re out there embarking on social media campaigns by tweeting and blogging articles and stories already published in the media. It makes me wonder if you think I don’t know how to read? Or maybe you just believe you’re the only one with an online subscription to The New York Times.

It’s ineffective and it’s sophomoric. If the digital revolution has taught us anything, it’s that authentic content — original work that addresses issues of importance to specific audiences — is the only real means of generating online visibility.

And yet it continues. Last week, it seems as if every PR agency in the country either retweeted or blogged about The New York Times paywall. I am proud that we reported the story nearly a year ago, direct from the mouth of the former New York Times Social Media Editor, Jennifer Preston, who attended our social media summit here in Philadelphia.

At the time, that news was original content, real information ahead of the headlines. Retweeting and blogging that same news a year later and a day or two after every other media outlet in the country reported it, is simply a waste of bandwidth and silicon.

To achieve an authentic social media footprint, for a client or yourself, you have to think like a publisher. And unfortunately, most PR professionals haven’t a clue what that means. See, they came of age through the ranks of agencies, cut off from the real world of media, unschooled in the nature, format, and flow of news and content.

To win the social media wars, most of them need to relearn the rules of engagement — thinking like the media, rather than the marketers the media love to hate.

With that, here’s a short primer on generating authentic content that resonates with online audiences:

1. Tell me something I don’t know. Too often, blogging and tweeting is a simple exercise of repeating all that’s been already reported and digested. Can’t happen. Shouldn’t happen, if you want to attract real eyeballs. As an example, look at my last few posts about Marcellus Shale. To create that content, we here at Gregory FCA went the extra yard. Conducted and constructed a first-of-its-kind public opinion study. Affirmed it through Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Released the findings in conjunction with an online publisher, And then marketed the heck out of it online. The result? TEN THOUSAND unique visitors to this blog in less than one week. Now that’s crafting the news, not regurgitating other people’s work.

2. Share your persona. If the content is great, people want to know about the writer. I love it when bloggers step out from in back of the curtain and share with their audiences a bit about their lives and passions. Then again, how many times have you gone to a blog and it doesn’t even identify the author? Rather, it’s presented as the VOICE of the organization, completely devoid of personality. Surprisingly, stepping out isn’t always easy for PR people like myself raised by the golden rule of PR and magazine article writing: “Thou shall never make oneself the story.” But I am going to try to do more personal reporting here on Gregarious in 2011 as a way of breathing even more humanity into this relationship I have built with you.

3. Invest the 10,000 hours. If you’re serious about a career in public relations and want to master social media, then here’s one surefire way to accomplish all that and more. Invest 10,000 hours to become an accomplished writer. By now, it’s trite that mastery of any higher-order skill requires a full-time investment of five years of sweat and toil. Malcolm Gladwell contends that’s what accounts for the success of everyone from The Beatles to Tiger Woods. I am extremely fortunate that early in my career I invested the 10,000 hours, writing books and articles, and mastering a skill that would come to rule the PR world. In the new digital realm, content is king, but it’s also killer if you can’t write, and write well. Write quickly and write in bold terms that connect with others.

So please, save your repurposing of news stories most of us have already read by 8 a.m. Instead, tell us something new and fresh. Give us your perspective. Share with your audiences the soul and passion of your company. Now that’s a story!

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