Twitter Snapshot – A Random Sampling of Recommended Reading

July 15, 2009

In a departure from normal pontificating, today I am making Twitter work for me by allowing the social networking service to write my blog post. All of these “tweets” were copied from my feed of followers on July 15 between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. It would be a lie to say I thoroughly read all of  articles or posts linked below but I still think it’s an interesting snapshot.

The tweeps I follow are an assortment of PR 2.0 mavens, brand managers, social media gurus (hate that term), foodies and various tech/consumer media. That said, I can’t confirm the profundity of items listed below so if you have a beef with what’s written, take it up with the person whose feed is listed at the beginning. The only rule is that the person must be linking to an article or post of some sort and not selling a service or hawking something they’ve created.

@rvabusiness – RT @LaniAR: 1 click & Kraft donates 10 boxes of mac to Feeding America

@swoodruff  – Face-to-Face Still Tops for Purchase Decisions – MarketingVOX

@socialMedia411 – Hundreds Of Confidential Twitter Documents Hacked Via Google Apps Hole And Sent To TechCrunch:

@Sirjohn_writer – RT @charbrown: “Lethal Generosity” – The Coin of the Realm in Social Networking  Please retweet.

@wbaustin – If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse.  – Naomi, 15 Advice from Kids

@GuyKawasaki – How to be a great panelist:

@SteelyDaniel – Virgin w/Down syndrome rejecting offers to get laid #digg

@briansolis – Reading: Advice for Graduating PR Students by @nicolejordan

@HighTechDad – Consumerist – Unruly Teen Charges $23 Quadrillion At Drugstore – Visa buxx (me: one way to jump start the economy!)

@RobMcNealy – Can wellness programs save companies money?

@SiliconVllyNews – SFGate: United Air Lines learns the power of viral revenge Full

While this blog effort reeks of laziness, the bigger goal here is to show non-twitter users the type of on-demand information available, compelling or not. Whether it’s professional development, instant news updates, crappy one-liners, virginity or even local traffic reports, chances are you’ll find someone doling it out on Twitter.

Posted by: Nick


Traditional Press Release Making a Comeback, Rules are Changing

May 20, 2009

If you do nothing else as a PR professional today, read Brian Solis’ blog post, “Reviving the Traditional Press Release.” It teaches history, preaches PR 2.0, offers astute analysis and is loaded with helpful links and examples of how press releases are being utilized in the new media game. A wholly thorough and inestimable resource.

A few weeks ago I was pondering whether SMRs could be accepted as a fullscale replacement for traditional press releases. While direct access to multimedia content is alluring, it seems SMRs aim to distract attention from written words since the format communicates messages on a multi-sensory level.  True, SMRs offer advantages, but proficient prose provides a proportionately powerful tool in the the game of bait and write.   

One of my favorite quotes about writing is as enlightenening as it is concise and comes from Martian hoaxster (among many other things) George Orwell, “Good writing is like a windowpane.”

Well said G-man, I will eternally stare into that statement with my mind’s eye.

If you’re too shamefully lazy to read Brian’s post, a couple brief quotes on press releases from the author:

“Sometimes in order to embrace innovation we need to blend it with existing methodologies and processes (what we know and how we do it) to eventually propel change, technology and comprehension across the bell curve of adoption.”

“We usually don’t speak the way a press release reads. In fact, I’d argue that we’d never speak to a customer in that language or tenor in real life, so why are press releases less informational and more self-serving…What if we empathized with the customers we wished to inspire and adapted the story to their channels influence based on the preferences and focus of the authoritative voices that reach them?”

“Press releases represent a privilege to share our story with others of absolute consequence. They might serve as a required form of communication and disclosure, but releases do not fundamentally guarantee an audience, coverage, nor sharing. It’s our job and our obligation to amplify, extend, and connect our stories to the communities who can benefit from the advancements and innovation that define our business.”

Posted by: Nick


Keeping the Relations in Public Relations

April 22, 2009

Last month, PR 2.0 pundits Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge launched a new book titled, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. In summarizing the book, Mr. Solis states on his website:

What we’ve learned and what we know (about PR) are quickly fading into irrelevance and obscurity. Reporters and analysts are now sharing the stage with a new generation of influencers. In addition to a still relevant process of media relations, we now need to expand our scope of participation and outreach by also identifying, understanding, and engaging the everyday people who have plugged-in to a powerful and democratized online platform for creating and distributing information, insight, and opinions – effectively gaining authority in the process.”

While it’s true the PR game is changing half-hourly with new communication tools, media resources and most importantly, the emergence of social media “influencers” whose reach often exceeds that of any major journalist, it’s imperative to maintain and build off core PR values and practices.

So before I plunge into Mr. Solis and Ms. Breakenridge’s pert publication (I ordered it), offered is a list of traditional PR actions and behaviors  to make you more likable and fortuitous as you shape your part of the social and traditional media galaxies.

  • Cold Call – It’s often best to start with, “Do you have a minute?” and proceed accordingly. The key is a complimentary or germane statement about something they’ve written and you have read followed immediately by the pitch. 87% of time you’ll get a voicemail so be concise in a positive, upbeat tone and send a follow-up email to let them know they can respond either way. Very few people will find it intrusive if you’ve absorbed their work.
  • Ask Questions –  It’s a two-way street and learning from the press or influencers (including certain gossip) will help enhance relationships. Information fed to a client can be as valuable as any media.
  • Challenge a Viewpoint – Do so respectfully and only if there is sound reasoning to support your argument. If it is a factual error, wield saber and mace until the offending party relents and offers a correction.
  • Offer Guest Editorials – The challenge to satisfy a 24-hour news cycle has created more opportunities to control the whole message in a non-promotional(ish) way. The story idea is the key and having a C-level “by line” doesn’t hurt, especially if “the writer” has presentable background knowledge on the topic. The topic should be compelling while relevant to your client in the present or near future. It also works for guest blog entries.
  • Make a Funny – This is more appropriate when a contact has been established and you want to register more on their radar. Humor can’t be forced but most people in any profession enjoy a hearty guffaw and it’s more about being opportunistic. The best approach is often a brief, self-deprecating anecdote or comment about something work-related and it must be kept squeaky clean. It’s not for everyone but if you can make someone laugh, they are more likely to stay engaged or engage more often. 
  • Practice Listening – People on the other side have pets that get sick too, and sometimes, you’re the only one that’s available to hear about it. Embrace these opportunities, it’s therapy and relationship building.
  • Poll an Idea Without Pitching – Gather opinions on a topic or concept without expecting or asking for anything in return. Use the knowledge gained and go forth into the world with a higher level of enlightenment. Facebook and Twitter make this really easy too. Darn you 2.0!
  • Write a Thank You Note – I know, paper = murder but you can always buy cards made from recycled materials. A simple, personal, hand-written note is more tangible than a “props tweet” any day and has the greatest effect when completely unexpected. The cards make the most sense after a dinner or face to face engagement.
  • Trade Lascivious Favors for Editorial – I’M KIDDING! Sheesh, lighten up a bit. While potentially effective, such an act is a depraved means of getting media coverage and is certainly not condoned by this agency.

PR and social media are part of an ever-changing landscape and PRos must have the ability to reinvent themselves while maintaining what has proven successful in the past. Fluent writing and communication skills will always be stalwarts of PR, but companies now have to respect the power of viral videos and influencers who can start a tempest or craze in two-and-a-half minutes or under 140 characters.

While popular opinion suggests the world begins and ends with social media, it’s valuable to have a grasp of the basics along with a memorable sense of style and personality to support all the compelling ideas and useful support you provide media and influencers.

Posted by: Nick B.

Writing Effective Social Media Releases (SMRs) – It’s PR101, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!

April 15, 2009

It’s a little embarassing to admit my failure to jump aboard the social media release (SMR) bandwagon. The combination of well-written press releases distributed to relevant, qualified media and the relentless pursuit of new contacts has always been a recipe for success. However, our jobs as PR professionals are evolving and it’s no longer just curmudgeonly editors  we need to compel. The stakeholders now include everyone with a computer and a Twitter account since it is now possible for a single Mommy blogger to inflict Walt Mossbergian-like damage to a product or company with a simple tweet. Just ask the folks at Motrin.

In educating myself, I turned to one of the preminent minds in PR, Brian Solis, whose musings on PR 2.0 are practically scripture. Mr. Solis offers this high-level description of an SMR in a blog post from last year, “The SMR is not a miracle pill to cure the ills of poorly written press releases. It is merely a tool that is most effective when combined with a strategic arsenal of relevant company blog posts, traditional releases, relationships, and an emerging category of press releases that tell a story (written by people for people using SEO to reach them).”


Any PR professional worth their weight in hyperbole will tell you that knowing the audience is the first step towards any effective PR initiative. It’s no different with SMRs. Identifying the “infleuncers” who care about your new widget or service and socializing your news in such a way that compels them to write is the key to making SMRs effective. For example, maybe you’re a company launching a new multi-vitamin that’s ideal for either gender at any age. Would you tout it’s osteoperosis-fighting effects with a video of spry, rhythmically-challenged seniors getting their Barry Manilow freak on  to influencers within the children’s hobby community? That’s rhetorical (hopefully).


Mr. Solis goes on to say, New media releases represent the opportunity to share news in way that reaches people with the information that matters to them, in the ways that they use to digest and in turn share with others through text, links, images, video, bookmarks, tags, etc., while also giving them the ability interact with you directly or indirectly.”


So what have we learned? When shared with the right influencers, SMRs can offer a multimedia experience that allows readers to understand and re-tell a  story with virtually no background knowlegde since everything they need to know is presented in a single package.  To be most effective, the flak must remove their publicity fedora and and slide on an enthusiast  cap. Once you understand what the real audience for your product or service cares about, you can start socializing your media to satisfy their desires.



PR people are givers by nature and we at Caster are no different. In the spirit of giving, below are the two most prominent SMR templates available for marketers.  



SMR Templates – blog for Shift Communications, one of the savviest social media/marketing engines around and inventor of the original SMR template – Account required but free and super-easy to use


 With a new client that is ripe for SMR loving onboard, I’m looking forward to putting this knowledge into action and will have a post coming soon that discusses my experience. Please excuse me while I go set the type for the printing press and feed my carrier pigeons for the long, cross-country flight.






Completely off topic but in the same vein as Esquire’s, “Context-free highlight from a letter we won’t be running,” I’ve decided to include a few Context-free excerpts from work-related emails I sent over the past week. Enjoy.



“Maybe you listen to a lot of John Tesh in your house? It would stand to reason that the animal would get some sort of comfort by listening to John Tesh away from home as well.”


“It’s like my old friend Fozzy Bear from the Muppet’s used to say, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Besides, I’d probably have a loss of appetite too if I had to smell you all day.”


“You and he will be glad to know it’s getting framed and hung on my wall next to the likes of Johnny Unitas, Jerry Springer, Greg Allman and a pair of New England Patriots cheerleaders.”


“Hmmm, I guess sarcasm doesn’t translate well through email :).  But seriously, you sound like a young Angela Lansbury.”


“The plebeians have had their say so if you want to take one more look, I’ll submit this afternoon.”


Posted by: Nick