Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Changing Face of PR

I have been marketing companies since before the internet (can you even imagine what that was like?) But one of the most interesting evolutions has been the changing face of PR. I remember, in the old days, when you would do a product launch. Here is how it would go:
  1. Brief the analysts 
  2. Brief the monthly press 
  3. Brief the weekly press 
  4. Brief the daily press 
  5. Announce to your customers 
With that last little bit, your customers would be thrilled and start planning their upgrades. 
Wow, was that old-school or what?

My current company has never done a single press release. But since we now have more users than any of my previous companies, I started to think about how to announce our latest release in order to generate the most buzz.

My dear friend, Kaye McKinzie, who is always on top of all things PR, introduced me to PitchEngine. PitchEngine is so cool - you build your pitch with pictures and videos, set your announcement date, and hope you draw the crowds. I love this concept!

But back to reality for a minute. With hundreds of thousands of users and people that you don't even know teaching classes on your product every week, you just can't spring a release on them. I'm sorry, but analysts are no longer #1. In fact, I even wonder how important the press is at this point? We feel a need to let our customers know about the changes first. What if someone is teaching a class and the interface changes the next day? How will they feel about our company? What will they tweet about that experience? We spend so much time in our community and understanding their needs and desires. When we create something for them, shouldn't they be the first to know?

So shouldn't industry analysts and press just be following our customers? If they get the news from them, instead of us, isn't it in a more relevant context?  Our customers write amazing blog posts, create YouTube video commercials about us, and build on-line presentations that will knock your socks off.  They don't have the reach of the mainstream press but they have considerably more trust from their audience.

If I pay a PR agency tens of thousands of dollars a month, what will they bring us? I have worked with some fabulous PR agencies and I know the spikes in traffic that they can create, but is that how you build a sustainable business today? If I announce to our customer community first, instead of the movers and shakers, will the press eventually find us? Do I care if they do or don't when our fabulous community is growing exponentially just by word of mouth on Twitter and Facebook?

Share your thoughts with me. Let me know what you are doing for PR 2.0.

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