When did you pitch a friend lately?


I really dislike the word “pitch” in the context of PR. To such a degree that I might soon escape from the the entire PR business. And I’ve got almost the same feeling for the phrase “target group”. But – still – this is precisely the phrases that are some of the most frequently used in this business. And I’m truly shocked about that.


According to Wikipedia – the pitch is a part of “selling technique”; it is “a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something, with a planned sales presentation strategy of a product or service designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service.” In the PR business we’re seldom dealing with products and services but the more information.

Oh, yes, I do understand we all would like to tell boastful stories that’s important for us, to the people that are valuable for us as influential people. Therefore we’re trying to “pitch” our story to these people we use to call “target group”.

But – hey – PR’s is all about relations, because excellent relations will give us great outcome, right? And I thought we’ve learned that it’s quite impossible to establish good relations with your audience by persuading? I thought PR was all about listening, understanding and serving? Focus shouldn’t be what we would like to say, but what we think they would like to hear.

And, from my point of view, it doesn’t matter if your audience is your customers or journalists. They need more or less the same approach in this matter. Everybody does.

I had a small chat with a marketer recently. She asked me: “What would you do with these new people that recently started to follow us (our business, news stream) as followers?

I said: “I think you should treat them in the same way in the virtual space as you would do in the physical space: Get to know them better! Try to figure out their needs and wants. Imagine you have a breakfast seminar and a guy showed up as a registered participant. What would you say to this guy? I would say: “Welcome! I’m so glad you could come. You’re journalist, right? (Listen to his answer) Interesting… What can I do for you? (Listen to his answer)… And so on. When you come to know him better, treat him as a friend. Serve him. Because I don’t think you look at your friends as “target groups” and I don’t think you’re trying to pitch them either?”

It makes me think of when I use to ask communicators who did visit their newsrooms. Guess what? They don’t know! They don’t even know how many they are. Think about that for awhile. If your newsroom was your breakfast seminar, you might would have a great breakfast, excellent speakers, informative whitepapers, etc – but you wouldn’t know who’s been there, and how many they were. You was not even there yourself!

But – as mentioned – pitching and target groups talk, is still hot topic in many discussions in different kind of PR groups in various of social networks. Within a couple of PR professional groups on LinkedIn, there are questions like:

“E-MAIL PITCHING: Given journalists’ overcrowded inboxes, does e-mail pitching work anymore? What are your secrets to achieving success with e-mail pitches?” and “Age-old PR dilemma … contact media by phone first or by email first….”

These discussions is all about how to pitch, not if you should pitch at all.

As an answer on the second question above; most of the members did say they use to pitch journalist by phone, or at least follow up their email pitches by phone. Only one of the answers came from a journalist, who said: “Email please…And don’t call to see if the writer got the email. If every pr person called to followup on every news release we would never have time to write a story!”

A couple of days after I’ve been following these discussions, I read an article (in swedish) by a journalist and friend of mine, who said:

“I have come to hate the phone. Not its functions, but it’s ringing and disturbing features.”

Jerry Silfwer, a PR consultant, but also a blogger, just wrote a post: “How not to pitch”. He says:

“Don’t be afraid to pitch me. Please do, I don’t mind. But make sure you email me as an individual and make sure that you’re not blasting me as a part of some obscure list somewhere.”

He gives us some examples what a pitcher forgot regarding av really bad pitch he got earlier:

  • What’s in it for me as a PR blogger? I need to be told that clearly.
  • Browsing your case studies is not a reward for anyone but your company.
  • Clarity. Why pitch me to participate (note: the pitch was regarding a survey) but not to blog about it?
  • How did you get hold of my address? In what email list am I in right now?
  • I have hundreds of other emails calling out for my attention. Why should I bother about this, when it isn’t even a personal email?
  • Don’t be so sure that 5-10 minutes is short for me and don’t thank me for participating before I’ve participated (note: the pitch said: “It only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete…”)

Honestly – I don’t think Jerry would like pitches as he says; I think he would like to be understood, treated with respect and served with great ideas for stories, but not as one of the target group. And from my point of view – that’s not a pitch.

Court of newspapers – condemn before acquit – too bad


It’s pretty hard to be famous when the media has found indication of criminal act of that person. I of course refer to Ola Lindholm and that he eventually has been taken cocaine. I feel sorry for Ola. I’ve got no idea if he has taken cocaine or not, but even if he had, I still think Expressens behavior is beneath contempt.
Oh, yes, I know, Expressens mission and duty is to present what really has happened. The truth and nothing but the truth. And I appreciate and do respect that. But I dislike when these kind of newspapers angle their stories to such a degree that even if they stick to the truth, you don’t interpret them that way. You would probably got the wrong picture in the bitter end. The sensational picture.
If these media tried to really really understand what has happened, and describe that, instead of just chase sensations, they would have sold less copies, but we would have a much more human and interesting world.

Our court of law use to acquit before condemn, but for these media is the other way round, and that’s too bad.

Please read Ola’s post, the article of Expressen and Expressens editor in chief’s comments to Ola’s posting (all of them in swedish though). What do you think?

Facebook vs Twitter as journalistic tool?


Since I wrote the posting below partly about the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on facebook” and finished that part with the sentence: “I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work.” There’s been a lot of buzz regarding Facebook vs Twitter as a journalistic tool.

Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, says that the page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories. And that “the Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I believe he’s spot on, but… I do respect the critics. Among other I got an e-mail from Daniel at Newsy.com who recommended me to see the video about the topic Facebook vs Twitter as a journalist tool.

The news anchor Jim Flink at Newsy, says:
“So, could Facebook challenge Twitter in the battle for reporters’ hearts? One blogger says – probably not:
“Twitter allows you to order the account you follow into lists so you can have all the information about one subject on the same feed while Facebook imposes on you the feed of every journalists you will follow, no matter the subject they are working on or they are specialized in.”

Gigom’s Mathew Ingram suggests the company might have to alter its image a bit to make this work.
“…many users still likely think of Facebook as a place to socialize rather than be informed — a place to play games … not necessarily a place where journalists are active. Those things may not be mutually exclusive, but it’s going to take some work to make them feel like they belong together.”

I do agree. But my point of view is that both services has some left to prove to be kick ass tools for journalists, and their audience in particular.

I would say that the biggest headache right now for both this services, within this matter, is that most people has only one newsstream (or wall) for all their interests, topics, networks, etc (discussion in groups excluded). And most of the people is as a matter of fact interested in several topics and member of many communities. Do you really want the latest news from the revolution in Egypt on the same wall as where my cousins birthday party shows up? I don’t. And these lists feature is too… time-consuming. The same applies for Twitter. Ranking system, like Facebook Edgerank, might make the updates more relevant, but doesn’t solve this problem.

Personally, I love my Google RSS Reader with an extensive but careful selection of sources (social networks included)  in combination with Flipboard.

B t w – what happened to the service “LinkedIn for Journalists”? What I can see is pretty much no more… Or it ended up as a tiny group.  And LinkedIn Today…? Well – we won’t start our days with that kind of news aggregator, do we?

To be continued.

First radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder


Journalism has truly turned up side down. And I think that’s just great. I just ran into a few great examples of that:

First of all check out the WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein, who has replaced his heavy radio equipment on an iPhone. He’s writing about this interesting change in MediaShift. And it’s truly inspiring. In particular for those who want to go out on the field to cover, create, and distribute remarkable stories direct to their audience. It hasn’t been easier than now.

Neal describes himself in his Twitter bio as follows:
“Believe I’m first major market radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder.”

And he says:
“Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.”

“With the VC Audio Pro app from VeriCorder, I can quickly pull cuts, edit and assemble audio wraps, and adjust volumes on a three-track screen similar to the popular Adobe Audition used in many newsrooms. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been my single greatest workflow improvement. The finished report that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10.

This is a rundown of all the key ways he’s using on and with his iPhone.

Neal Augenstein hasn’t a journalist page – yet. But Nicholas D. Kristof has. He’s one of the top journalists that might got inspired of the possibilities that Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, talking about on the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on Facebook”. The page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories.”

Justin says that “The Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I was actually one of the first to like that page, now one day later, they are ten thousands of journalists. And all of them are now asked to create professional pages on Facebook, for both reach and interact with their audience, listen to them, work with them, get ideas for articles of them, and so on. Some of them might already have done that, like Nicholas D. Kristof, that already has more than 200.000 “fans”. And some of them also bring their page to their newspapers bylines like Robert Fisk at The Independent. Why not?

I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work. Some of them will be CNN journalists if they haven’t already joined “the Facebook revolution”. And the media itself is no exception… Look at NPR or the very small local news blog Rockville Central.

When I talked to Nick Wrenn, vice president of digital services for CNN International, during the conference Social Media World Forum, in London, he said that Facebook is an equally obvious that common source of information and meeting point. But he would rather emphasize CNN’s iReport and Open Stories as the public Forum for meeting, collaboration, and sharing, between CNN journalists and their audience.

Communication a huge and confusing melting pot


Everybody in communication business talks about it everywhere! The new and ever-changing communication landscape has turned the media industry on its head. The confusion is now complete. Much of what we have learned and become accustomed to is no longer valid. This applies particularly to media, journalism, public relations, marketing, and sales. The professionals within each of these fields are either desperately holding on to their old identities, or are groping around for new ones.

The role of journalists is questioned. Previously clear concepts such as “journalist” and “journalism” have become blurred. The same goes for “media”. What is a media today? And “PR” … what is PR? It’s obviously something else today than it was yesterday. And what about “marketing”…

“Markets (and marketing) are conversations” as the Cluetrain Manifesto puts it. Conversations are based on relationships. Just like PR. Because PR’s is all about relationships, right? It’s all about relationships with both the market and those who influence it, including journalists. However, since all consumers now have access to almost exactly the same “tools” and methods as traditional journalists, it seems like the market has in some way also become the journalists. The market represents a long tail of new journalism and new media that perhaps has the greatest influence on a company’s market and might perhaps be their key opinion leaders. “Put the public back to public relations!” as Brian Solis put it long ago.

People have started to talk to each other in social media at the expense of, or sometimes in tune with, traditional media. They’re no longer writing letters to editors. They would rather publish their news ideas directly on the Web. Media consumption, and production, publishing, packaging and distribution in particular, have rapidly moved in to the social web. And both the PR and Marketing communicators are following, or are at least gradually beginning to do so.

As the market moved to the web, and the web has become social, marketing communication has become “social” too. Companies have started to talk directly with their market. And I mean “talk”, not pushing out information. Campaigns with no social component become fewer and fewer. “Monologue” ad banners, with decreasing CTR and increasing CPC, are becoming less acceptable. Google revolutionized with Adwords, Adsense and PPC. Press releases written by former journalists synchronized with Adwords and presented as text ads, turned things upside down.

Aftonbladet has been very successful with advertorials where only a small ad-mark distinguishes the ad from an article produced by journalists. This method is about as successful – and deceptive – as “product placement” in TV and film. That method has gone from small product elements in parts of a program to a complete sellout of the entire series or film. (In Sweden, think Channel 5’s Room Service and TV4’s Sick Sack.) But what can the television business do when the consumer just fast-forwards past the commercials, or worse still, prefers looking at user-generated TV like YouTube?

What will newspapers do when consumers ignore their banners? They will convert advertising into editorials. Or vice versa: they will charge for editorial features and charge companies to publish content on their platform, without involving any “investigative” journalism.

IDG calls their version of this “Vendor’s Voice”, a medium where companies publish their “editorial material” (it used to be called press information) directly on IDG.se and its related websites. The service is conceived and hosted by Mynewsdesk. It works pretty much like the Apple App Store; it is possible for any media to set up their “channel” (the media) on Mynewsdesk, promote it, and put a price on its use.

Essentially, when companies publish their information in their own newsrooms via Mynewsdesk, they can also easily select any relevant channels for the information in question. The service still has the internal working title “Sponsored Stories”, which today may seem a little funny when that is the exact same name Facebook uses for its new advertising program, where a company pays for people in its network to share information about that company with their own friends.

Isn’t that pretty much what PR communicators strive for? It’s in the form of an ad, but this type of advertising is simply bought communication – just like some PR seems to be – with the purpose to “create attention around ideas, goods and services, as well as affect and change people’s opinions, values or actions…”

But the press release… That’s information for the press, right? Or is it information that is now a commodity, often published in the media, directly and unabridged, much like the “sponsored stories”? Maybe it is information that can reach anyone that might find this information relevant. They might not be the press, but they are at least some kind of journalist, in the sense that they publish their own stories, often in same media as “real” journalists, in platforms created for user-generated content.

Everything goes round and round: side by side are readers, companies and journalists. All collaborate and compete for space and reach.

The causal relationship is as simple as it is complicated. People are social. People are using the Web. The Web has become social. People meet online. The exchange is rich and extensive. The crowd has forced the creation of great services for production, packaging, processing and distribution. These are exactly the same building blocks that have always been the foundation for traditional journalists and the media’s right to exist. Strong competition has emerged, but there is also some  interaction and collaboration.

People have opted in to social media at the expense of the traditional media. They rely on their own networks more and more, which has forced advertisers to find a place in social media too. Traditional ads are replaced by social and editorial versions that are designed to engage or become “friends” with your audience, talking to them as you would talk to friends.

The media are in the same boat and are becoming more social and advertorial. Users are invited to become part of both the ads and the editorials. UGC (user-generated content) is melded with CGC (company-generated content) and even JGC (journalist-generated content). Journalism goes from being a product to being a process characterized by “crowd-sourcing”, before ringing up the curtain on a particular report or story. As the newspaper Accent writes on their site:

“This is a collection of automated news monitoring that we use as editors. The idea is that even you, the reader, will see and have access to the unsorted stream of news that passes us on the editorial board. Please let us know if you find something important or interesting that you think we should pick up in our reporting. ”

This is similar to how companies today present their increasingly transparent and authentic communication in their own social media newsrooms, where the audience is invited to contribute their own experiences and opinions, and partly acts as a source of story ideas for journalists.

All in all, it’s a wonderful, fruitful, but oh-so-confusing melting pot.

People 2.0 shot Mubarak down


I had a speech yesterday for Svenska PR-företagen in Stockholm, Sweden. I talked about the ever-changing media landscape and what that means for the PR industry. I told the audience it’s not about web 2.0, it’s all about people 2.0, which is a powerful combination of the the social web and people. Exactly what we now see in #Egypt.

“Yesterday, after 17 days of protests, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak gave a speech to the Egyptian government that made it seem like he would not be stepping down.” says Techcrunch. And like Alexia Tsotsis, I do think the fall of Mubarak was the combination of these to factors; people and the social web.

Alexia Tsotsis, Techcrunch, says:

“Pulling a country of 82 million people, around 17 million Internet users, 60 million cellphone subscribers, 7 million home phones, and 5 million Facebook users offline essentially created the largest flashmob ever, with around 8 million protesters in the streets across Egypt today according to reports. Says Zohairy, “Shutting down the Internet was the most stupid move this regime has taken. It gave the revolution huge media attention that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.””

But, indeed, most of all it’s about people and their call to action. As Devin Coldewey wrote in Techcrunch aswell:

“Twitter and Facebook are indeed useful tools, but they are not tools of revolution — at least, no more than Paul Revere’s horse was. People are the tools of revolution, whether their dissent is spread by whisper, by letter, by Facebook, or by some means we haven’t yet imagined.”

But unlike Devin, I do think that the social web is a tool of revolution, even if tons of revolutions did appear without that, for an example the fall of the Berlin wall in German.

Take a few minutes to take part of that moment of history and compare that to what happened with Mubarak: