The Science of the #TwitPitch

October 30, 2009

There are those of us (not me) who are excellent artists – like those people on cop shows that can draw a perfect rendition of the face of someone they have never met based on a description given by someone who was standing 100 yards away (“he had a nose… hair, it might have been brown – or black – maybe dark blonde.  Glasses, I think – but definitely eyes”).   There are those that are great writers – Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Perez Hilton (ok – maybe not so much with Perez – but he’s funny… usually).  And now, there is a new breed of greatness developing.   Those who are social-media mavens.  They can use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to do ridiculously amazing things, whereas I can only use them for what they were initially designed for – a way to keep in touch with friends and family.  There are those among us who are making a huge impact on the world we live in with 140 characters and the click of a button… comparatively, by the end of this sentence it will have taken me 196 words to get to the main point of this blog – and so, without further ado – I bring to you… the #TWITPITCH!

Kind of.  But first – a history lesson.

About a year ago, a journalist named Stowe Boyd decided that he no longer wanted to be pitched stories through the traditional means of e-mail and phone calls.  He preferred the 140 character method of Twitter.  By being able to pitch an idea in 140 characters (or less!) a PR professional should, ideally, be able to convey their entire message quickly and concisely.  According to the article from PR Daily, at least 2  other journalists have picked up on the trend, and encourage PR professionals to pitch them only via Twitter.

Taking a different approach – many companies are now turning to social-media to promote their brands; many companies are posting YouTube demonstrations of their products, almost every company has a Facebook “fan” page ( apparently I am a “fan” of a lot of things – including some things that have no relevance to my life what-so-ever), and lots of companies are taking up residence in the Twitterverse (which I tried to link to a definition, but apparently it doesn’t have an official one).  By using Twitter, companies are essentially able to pitch their new products and announcements directly to consumers, rather than just to reporters and editors.

And now, some real life application.

I had already started writing this blog when I was assigned the task of creating “10-15” twitpitches for one of our clients.  This particular client has one of their products in use in a very public place,  the plan is to blast a couple tweets out to the Twitterverse saying basically “hey if you’re here, check it out!”.   Perfect, I thought.  I am already “researching” twitpitches –  I’ll use this for my blog!  I figured that the assignment couldn’t be too hard – a couple quick short announcements of a fact.  EASY! Orrr not.

Here is what I have found (… well, decided).

Coming up with 140 characters of information is hard.  140 characters of “Hey I bought new shoes” is simple – see, I just did it!  But actually getting a message across takes some skill.  It took me about an hour to come up with 8 very different, but still informative and (hopefully) attention-grabbing tweets all focused around the same thing.  When you’re limited to 140 characters and you have to use the same basic words at least once in each tweet (obviously I had to mention the product and location each time, so those took up at least 20 of my characters) being creative is tough.

In theory, the twitpitch is great.  In practice – it’s astounding.  It costs nothing and assuming you’ve got a lot of followers, which a lot of companies do, you’re able to get your message out to lots of people.  Efficiency is key, however.  Telling the Twitterverse you’ve got a new product is cool, but linking to it is essential – and those links take up characters.  Making sure people know where they can find a product is important, but don’t forget to include the hashtags (ex: “#caster” – hashtags make words easily searchable through twitter).  Being able to tweet your product in 140 characters or less and have it be memorable and informative is practically an art form.  Do not take twitpitching lightly.  If you’re doing a great job of it, and using it sparingly – they could prove to be invaluable to your company.  If you are just bombarding your followers with links and “buy this now!” types of messages, you may find that you’re “unfollowed” pretty quickly.

Just for reference, below is an example of how long a 140 character tweet it.

DogWiggles has just released their most innovative dog leash yet and its only $40.  Buy it now at and have a happy pup.

(The link is fake – I made up a webaddress [I think] to show a shortened Twitter link, which people tend to use, rather than lengthy URLs.)

Notice that I didn’t include any hashtags, and it isnt exactly interesting.  But it’s all I could come up with in 140 characters and a fake product/company.

Posted by Courtney | Follow me on Twitter

Social media: You’re not notable by your absence

July 1, 2009

Lots of companies, especially smaller ones, are a little freaked out by social media. They might not fully comprehend the purpose. They may feel it is a risky, uncontrollable venture. They may view it as the domain of the young and those with too much time on their hands. They may consider it a potential time-waster, or they may not see the value in devoting money and human resources to it, especially when they can still invest money in the tried and true marketing methods they have employed for years and, in some cases, decades.

It is time for businesses of every size to throw all of these caveats out the window. A lack of participation in social media at this point is akin to a lack of a web site or e-mail. Social media offers a terrific, relatively low-cost opportunity for every sort of business that wants to build stronger, more interactive relationships with its customers and spread the good word about its products and services.

Still, admittedly, social media can be a little overwhelming. Where to start?

Read the rest of this entry »

PR in Transition

June 11, 2009

One of the more interesting articles I have read on the present and future of public relations ran today on the San Francisco Business Times site. The article is largely based on a thought-provoking post by another journalist on his blog SiliconValleyWatcher.

Now let’s ignore the typos that tell you something about the present and future of journalism and focus on what these posts have to say about PR, because the insights are rather dead on. I’m paraphrasing here, but here are the points that really resonated with me:

Point #1: The PR industry (like the media industry) is in a severe state of disruption in the face of Web 2.0.

Point #2: Journalists receive far too many uninformed, inappropriate, misdirected and even insulting pitches from inexperienced, junior-level PR people. With journalists and bloggers drowning in a sea of information, these pitches are more irrelevant than ever.

Point #3: PR pros (and many clients) still focus far too much on print media and not enough on internet media.

Point #4: Monthly PR retainers will vanish, replaced by a project-based model. (See my thoughts on this below.)

Point #5: PR people need to embrace and master social media.

Point #6: PR needs to focus on outcomes, not outputs. Clients need to understand this, too. Clients who measure the effectiveness of PR based on how many press releases the agency pumps out are kidding themselves.

Point #7: As in any good relationship, PR pros need to say “no” to clients who have lame ideas. It’s a fiduciary duty, really.

What does all of this tell me? Now, more than ever, it’s about quality, not quantity. That is something I fully embrace. It’s how I live, and it’s how I want to work.

Now some people might be scared about this stuff. But for me, individually, I fully embrace all of these changes. They make sense. They reflect how media is now generated, presented and consumed. They reflect how I and everyone I know get news and information. They reflect how I’d prefer to deal with my clients.

I feel that these changes ultimately will make for better, more effective PR. The issue is how to quantify and report it to clients… not to mention, how to charge and bill for it. This is where things are likely to get dicey in many cases. For their part, clients need to understand these changes as well. It’s going to be a long process, but it’s going to make all of us better on the other side.

The problem right now is making this transition. We’ve all got the legacy of old-school thinking dragging us down too much. We don’t need to reject all that we know, but we need to incorporate it into a whole new way of doing business. We must embrace change and lead.

The PR firms (and the talented, thoughtful people who work for them) who get all of this will survive. The ones who keep on keepin’ on as if its still the 80s or 90s or, heck, the early 00s, are likely going to be left to the dustbin of history.

Now, as far as Point #4, retainers vs. project-based work, this speaks to our very livelihoods as PR professionals. This hopefully won’t happen overnight, and for many clients, retainers will still make more sense. But PR firms must embrace project work. It’s a less secure way to operate, but it will enhance our value as a profession in the end. Think of it like the legal industry. Some lawyers work on retainer, others take work on a case-by-case basis. The fact is, we provide expertise. We provide a valuable service. We need to be available to share that expertise with companies who need it, at a moment’s notice. A side benefit is that our mission becomes much clearer when we work on a project with a beginning and an end. I believe it will inspire us to work harder and work smarter.

We can still make a living. But we must understand that the economic rules, as well as the media world, are changing permanently, and we must change with them.

Posted by Joe Paone

Truly Competing for a Job

June 4, 2009

I’ve always been of a mind to “try before you buy.” Why commit to something before you really know what you’re getting? It’s why many people wisely live together before they make the arrangement legally binding. It’s why people take test drives in cars. Now, in this competitive economy, the concept is even extending to employment.

A Florida public relations agency is taking inspiration from the TV show The Apprentice to find a new hire. Four interns get a chance to prove themselves this summer in an ongoing contest, with the winner gaining a paying job with the agency. The company gets to see which intern performs the best over time, as well as how each intern fits into the company culture, and will be better able to determine who would be the best, merit-based fit.

Now of course, many already in the working world don’t have the ability to work for free for several months. But wouldn’t it be cool to have the opportunity to come to work for a prospective employer for a few days, get a chance to prove yourself beyond an interview, and give each party a chance to see if it’s a good fit? This would also blessedly take some emphasis off of the interview process as a determining factor in a hire.

Best of luck to the contestants!

Posted by Joe Paone

PR via Micro-Scandal

May 28, 2009

The always-awesome Gawker Media and advertiser HBO get major attention and ROI by blurring the lines.

You can complain all you want, but this is where the world’s headed. And honestly, micro-scandal can be fun.

Posted by Joe Paone

Vince McMahon Punks the NBA

May 21, 2009

Recently, my colleague Nick Brown wrote about P.T. Barnum, one of the legends of public relations. Vince McMahon, head of the absurd and absurdly popular World Wrestling Entertainment empire (and erstwhile founder of the collosally hyped epic fail that was the XFL), is a modern-day Barnum if there ever was one. This week, he has taken on another modern if somewhat battered behemoth of spin (the National Basketball Association) and, from all appearances, has scored an admirable PR coup for his organization.

WWE honcho Vince McMahon: Gross, but an undisputed genius of PR.

WWE honcho Vince McMahon: Gross, but an undisputed genius of PR.

A WWE television event had been scheduled for Denver’s Pepsi Center this upcoming Monday. The NBA’s Denver Nuggets, however, advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the interim, and the schedule called for the team to take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center the same night. McMahon, knowing full well that the NBA would eventually win the battle for the arena (and knowing that he could easily reroute the event to another available arena), immediately and brilliantly turned the scheduling snafu into a storyline for his TV show.

McMahon is painting the NBA and particularly Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke as greedy Goliaths who don’t care about the wrestling fans of Colorado, and to further his self-protrayal as “David”, he said he would hold his card in a parking lot if need be. In an ingenious twist, he announced yesterday that he is moving his show to Los Angeles’ Staples Center (not so ironically, the home of the Lakers), where it will now air on the USA network head-to-head against the Nuggets-Lakers tilt on ESPN.

And he hasn’t stopped there: according to the AP report, his show on Monday will now include a 5-on-5 match pitting “Lakers” against “Nuggets”, and his character will likely battle a character of Kroenke in the ring. (We must mention that McMahon has transformed himself over the decades from a skinny play-by-play announcer into a roided-up, egomaniacal wrestling league “commissioner” who occasionally steps into the ring and plays the bad-guy role to the hilt. Talk about commitment.)

You’d never catch me watching professional wrestling (well, I do have an affection for the lo-fi, barnstorming version you might see at your local armory or high-school gym), especially against an NBA playoff game, but I’ll be tuning into McMahon’s televised event on Monday just to see what lunacy he has concocted, and I suspect a lot of other NBA fans will, as well.

Who knows? Maybe the NBA and the Nuggets are in on this on the down-low, too (it’s interesting that the NBA even has the AP story posted on its own site). In that case, what a joint PR success that would be!

Posted by Joe Paone

Journalist honors PR professional

May 7, 2009

2701252967_d061dcbea51I hope someone will say nice things like this about me at some point in my relatively new career.

Posted by Joe Paone