25 posts categorized "Marketing"

Sustaining a launch/campaign - the Attention Wave is just the spark...

A few weeks back, Bryan Person replied to my Attention Wave case study with this comment (my emphasis added):
I like the "attention ripples" expression, and it feels like a more sensible way to steadily build awareness and momentum around new products and services. You *can* still drop multiple blog posts, for example, on "launch day," but why not also have an editorial plan to publish content across multiple social channels over several days and weeks?


The last part is the critical point to me. Packaging your initial content into an "Attention Wave" should just be the spark that ignites your campaign/launch/etc. The goal of that first package of content is to:

  • tell your story from multiple points-of-view
  • provide the resources to help others tell your story (ex. provide an embeddable video people can use)
  • get as much initial visibility as possible

But if there's no plan to continue the content creation, then your nice Attention Wave package of content becomes simply a spark that may light a small fire but soon runs out of fuel.

To Bryan's point, you should have an editorial calendar that continues to build on your launch package and that streams out in the days, weeks and months after your launch. You want to feed fuel to the fire and keep the flames burning.

The Attention Wave is just the spark...

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Visualizing an "Attention Wave" - What does it look like?

What does an "Attention Wave" look like? Building on my last two posts of:

I thought I'd share a quick sketch of one way of visualizing what you are trying to create (click the image for a larger image):


There are undoubtedly other ways you could picture this, but hopefully this provides one view.

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Creating an Attention Wave - Building a Package Around Your News Release

So you have some news you want to get out there. You are thinking of issuing the standard old news release... Yet in the era of the "real-time web", when new stories are found through services like Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed; when the ranks of formal journalists are shrinking and the ranks of online writers are growing - and the pressure to publish is greater than ever; when there are thousands upon thousands of stories coming out each day... in all of that mess...
how do you get people to pay attention to your news?

Today, in late 2009, I've seen many of us in the PR and marketing space sending out more than a news release... creating a "package" of related stories in multiple media. As I've tried to explain this method to other people, I have recently found it useful to talk about this in terms of aiming to create an "Attention Wave". Let me explain - and I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether this framework helps in explaining what it is we aim to do.


Ultimately, of course, you want customers to read about your news and buy more of your services, products, widgets, etc. or promote your cause, goal, etc. Naturally for them to read about your news, you need to get people to write about your news.

Can you do this with a single news release?

Unless you are Apple announcing their latest sexy gadget - or Google announcing their latest free service, the answer is almost certainly... no. The reality is that journalists, bloggers and everyone else writing online are inundated with a zillion stories every hour of every day. And they are scanning those endless headlines through Twitter, FriendFeed, RSS readers, email inboxes, search results and other aggregation means.

You have one... maybe two seconds to get their attention and have them open your content.

That's it.

Naturally, you need solid headlines that catch their attention and make them want to follow the link to read your content... but that's the subject of another post.

What I am talking about here is assembling a "package" of content centered around your news release that hits the web in one wave... multiple stories, some from you and some from others, cascading through the "real-time web", followed ideally by retweets and other redistribution / re-posting so that journalists and those writing online have multiple opportunities to see your content - and potentially will investigate for no other reason than that they are seeing many mentions of it.

The goal is to lengthen the time of exposure of your story to journalists, bloggers and anyone else writing.

Instead of 1 or 2 seconds while a writer is scanning new headlines, maybe you get 10 or 20 seconds... maybe a couple of minutes as stories appear and are redistributed... maybe more... maybe significantly more.


Nothing I've said so far is really different from "PR 101". It's always been the goal of PR to earn coverage of your news. We've always done pre-announcement briefings with the goal of getting people to cover you and come out with stories around the time of your news release.

The difference in our new world of social media is this:

The opportunity has never been greater to tell your story in your own words.

I'm talking about more than just the social media release, although that may be one of the communication tools you use in your overall package.

I'm NOT talking about creating a series of Twitter accounts to spam Twitter... or generating bogus stories on bogus web sites linking to your content. Those are games played by people who usually lack a story to tell - and in this world of transparency you will probably be called out on doing that. I'm also NOT talking about getting listed on TechMeme, Digg, or whatever the major news aggregation site may be for your industry - that may be an outcome of your work... but I'm talking about before you get to that.

You. Sitting at your computer. Putting together a package around your news. Aiming to generate a wave of attention focused on your news.


First, before I go further, there is of course one major caveat:


No amount of packaging can really help a worthless story. People now have a pretty high B.S.-detector. You might succeed in getting your story a bit more attention - but the backlash might also not be to your liking.

Let's assume you have a decent story to tell...


The pieces of your overall "package" will obviously vary according to your industry, your specific announcement, etc., but would typically include items such as:

  • a formal news release, including components targeted at making it easier for people to tell your story:
    • company/organization logos
    • pictures of the executives or others quoted in the news release
    • pictures of the product, or visually interesting screenshots
    • links to a video and other components of your package

  • a post on your corporate blog (you have one, right?), "humanizing" the more formal language of your news release and explaining the release in a more conversational tone

  • one or more embeddable videos, posted to your blog site or YouTube channel, providing a video interview, a demonstration, or other content. This could be multiple videos... perhaps one an interview with someone quoted in the news release going into more detail and a second providing more of a demo of the product. They need to have "embed codes" that allow writers to embed the video directly into their blog or news site.

  • a "deeper dive" post that goes into more detail around whatever was announced. Ideally with some interesting diagrams or other images that could be incorporated into other posts. Potentially, depending upon your industry, some sample apps or source code or items that others can try out.

  • companion posts on company/employee blogs: if you have other blogs for your company, perhaps targeted at specific audiences, can you plan a post related to your news that is relevant to that audience or vertical? can you ask employees to post on the topic of your news on their own blogs (assuming it is relevant to do so)?

  • companion posts on external/friendly blogs: do you know of people in the community around your company (you have one, right?) who might be eager to write about your new product or service?

  • posts on media/blog sites, resulting from pre-announcement briefing of appropriate media outlets.

Note that I am advocating for use of a formal news release. Multiple reasons, including the fact that news releases through wire services reach people who might not otherwise see the news - and also appear in news aggregation sites. They also serve as a formal statement of public record for many companies. The act of creating a news release also ideally has the effect of helping you tune your message and get it down to the essentials. (Or not, given some of the lousy news releases I've seen come through my inbox.)

Keep in mind, too, that my list is just a guideline. Maybe you want to include an audio podcast - or a slide presentation posted to your SlideShare account - or a supporting white paper. Whatever works for you... the point is that you are just creating multiple pieces surrounding and complementing your news release.


Beyond the obvious effect of having multiple pieces go out at the same time and create the wave of headlines, there are some other reasons for creating the package:

  • Reaching different subscriber bases - Some people will want to read your news in Twitter. Some will in RSS. Some in email. Some in dedicated sites like YouTube. Some will be interested in a particular aspect of how your news applies. In some cases you might be able to distribute pointers to your news release in all those channels. In some cases you may want to create channel-specific content.

  • Addressing different learning/consuming styles - Some people want just short, brief summaries. Some people want detailed technical info. Some people will prefer to watch a video or a screencast rather than read an article. You can address these audiences through different pieces. Have the formal news release... then put the concise summary on your corporate blog, or perhaps a "news summary" page. Post a technical deep dive on a developer blog. Put a video up on YouTube. Create a summary post somewhere linking all of this together.

  • Enabling others to tell your story - You want to make it easy for other people to tell your story to their audiences. If it's a compelling story that people will want to share, make it easy for them to do so. Provide the pictures, the screenshots... make the video embeddable (and please don't make it "auto-play"!)... make this all easy and "self-service" so that people who want to write about your story can do so.

Creating the "package" of pieces lets you do all of this.


An advantage of building a package like this, too, is that you can also try out different headlines in the different components of the package. The main news release can have the more formal headline:

The main corporate blog post can say:
Our Product YYYYY cures cancer, solves world hunger and more

while another post on a targeted blog can say:

How Product YYYYY Delivers 6-Month ROI to the Financial Industry


Man, check out how Product YYYYY smokes the competition

You get the idea... multiple headlines, each of which appears then in those various tools and searches monitored by media/bloggers/others. You have a chance to see what will work.


Obviously, putting together all the pieces like this can take a good deal of effort... and time. Generally the process will be something like this:

  1. Finalize the news release in advance of the launch date. Depending upon your capacity to produce online content (i.e. how quickly you can do so), you'll need that news release some amount of time in advance... 24 hours? 48 hours? 72 hours? More? You need the news release signed off on for your final messaging - and also to get to those who will prepare companion pieces.

  2. Determine the URL of the news release. If you can know the URL where your news release will be when it goes live, you can pass this along to those writing companion pieces so that they will link back to the release on your site.

  3. Determine the launch time and date. (And remember timezones when relaying the info) This is important for communicating to those who will write supporting pieces. Ideally you would like the various pieces to hit in the same general timeframe. This is also incredibly important with regard to who will see your stories. If you are in the US, do you want to go live in the early morning US Eastern time? (probably) Or for a European audience?

  4. Develop your companion pieces. Some of the companion pieces can be developed in advance and tweaked with final messaging - others may need final messaging before you start them. (For instance, video may involve too much post-production to re-do, and so you may want to wait for final messaging.)

  5. Deliver pre-announcement briefings. To anyone writing companion pieces, internally or externally, as well as to media sites interested in writing about your news.

And so on... most of this at this point is "PR 101" in how you gear up for an announcement.


At the designated time and date, ideally your news release goes out over the wire... your own blog posts appear... your video is live on YouTube... and the stories start appearing.

Some of this you can prepare in advance. Most blogging platforms let you schedule posts. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube and set to be private (which then also gives you the URL you can add into the wire service when setting your news release to go). Other content can be ready in offline editors for posting. Regardless, there will be work to do to make it all start flowing.

Once it starts, you need to make sure you have a tweet (or several) going out in Twitter, a message going out on your Facebook fan page, in Friendfeed and any other services you use.

After that, it's engaging in the conversation in the real-time media, responding to comments, retweeting other stories you see appearing, and all the other things we do these days.


It should go without saying that if you are going to put this much work into preparing for a release, you need to understand in advance how you are going to measure the results. What kind of web analytics do you have available to you? Can you include custom (and therefore trackable) URLs in your pieces? Can you use URL shorteners like bit.ly that can track usage?

At a higher level... do you have an idea of what constitutes success?

Entire blogs and blog posts are written on the subject of measurement - be sure you have a plan.


What happens if someone runs with the story before you are ready? What happens if your video doesn't work? Or your web site goes down? Or one of the companion web sites? All the usual concerns you need to think about...


If you do this right... with a compelling story... an solid "package" of complementary materials... good headlines, etc., the opportunity is there to see this "attention wave" pass through the real-time aspects of the web today and generate some coverage. If it works well, you may indeed see the wave grow for a while.

There are no guarantees, of course. You may do all of this and at the time you go live there is some major disaster... or some celebrity action... (or Apple product release)... or something to divert attention away from you. But your odds of getting attention are way better than when you were thinking of just issuing that one news release.


This way of thinking about what we are aiming to do as an "attention wave" works for me... but I am curious to hear your thoughts, feedback, criticism and opinions.

What do you think of all this? Do you think this is realistic? Unrealistic? A good way to think about the process? Or just the same basic stuff PR has been aiming for but given a slightly different spin? Any pieces I'm missing above?

Have you used a process similar to this in the past? How did it work for you? What problems did you run into?

Have you seen particular companies, organizations or brands that have stood out in your mind for using a process like this? Anyone specific - or any specific announcement - stand out in your mind? Pointers to examples left in the comments would be greatly appreciated.

Any other comments or feedback?

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Video of my FIR interview of Eric Schwartzman (and briefly Christopher Penn)

fir_100x100.gifListeners to For Immediate Release episode 460 last Thursday, June 25th, will have heard that I interviewed Eric Schwartzman and then briefly spoke with Christopher Penn as well. Although FIR is only audio, there was actually a video component to my report last week. You see, I didn't have my audio recorder with me at the event where Eric and I met, so I simply recorded the video using my small JVC Everio hard disk video camera. I then imported the movie into iMovie '09 on my MacBook Pro. Next I opened the resulting movie in GarageBand, where I deleted the video track and exported the remaining audio track as an MP3 file that I sent to Shel and Neville for the FIR episode.

But... since I did have video, I decided to upload the video of Eric (and briefly Chris) to YouTube where you can watch it now:

You can find out more about Eric at ontherecordpodcast.com (sans beard and mustache :-) or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ontherecord. Christopher Penn can be found at marketingovercoffee.com or twitter.com/cspenn

The For Immediate Release podcast can as always be found at forimmediaterelease.biz


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Does the scary "cell phone popcorn" viral marketing hoax video go too far?

Having had several people send me links to various postings of the "cell phone popcorn" video (like this one) where it purports to show several people simultaneously ringing cell phones and thereby popping corn through the microwave transmissions coming from the phones, I admit to having wondered how real this risk was or whether this was some clever trick.

Turns out... no risk whatsoever. It was a hoax done in the name of "viral marketing".

The perpetrator? None other than the maker of a Bluetooth headset.

As shown here in the embedded video (at least until CNN requests YouTube to take it down), the CEO of the company responsible is very happy with how well the video has "succeeded":

Essentially they dropped popcorn into the scene and then digitally removed the existing kernels. They do this in several scenes with different people speaking different languages.

Now the CEO claims that it was all meant to be "hilarious" and that "people found it to be funny" and that it wasn't at all meant to be "scary".


So if I understand correctly, the central premise is NOT "Cell phones can fry your brain like they do this popcorn if you hold them up to your head - so buy our headset and stay safe" but that it's just a "joke"?

I'm sorry, but knowing the kinds of forwarded email messages that I keep receiving from people over the years, I think there WILL be a lot of folks out there who will be scared by this and will promptly forward this to all of their friends. (And after having been online for 20+ years, I've pretty much given up trying to point the forwarders to sites like Snopes.com. It doesn't seem to matter... people just hit "Forward" without really thinking about it.) And like most of these hoax emails that get forwarded, the person forwarding it will usually NOT go back and send out a message to everyone receiving it saying that is a hoax if they figure it out... and so the original email gets forwarded on to others who forward it on...

And the reality is that with the long memory of Google, such hoaxes will live basically forever - and long after the original video may be taken down, it will by that point have been reposted and remixed onto other sites.

Do we really need more urban legends floating around out there?

Do we really need more people scared? [1]

I'm all for viral videos that are fun or amusing, but there's a line somewhere in there that this video seems to cross. It kind of reminds me of the Turner Broadcasting hoax two years ago where there were devices under bridges that looked like bombs... again, it wound up scaring a lot of folks. Now, granted, that was something completely different in that it was a physical advertising gimmick versus an online video. Still, there's a line there between what is a good marketing campaign and what sows unnecessary fear.

Did this video go too far? Will it cause people to be unnecessarily scared? Or do I simply not have enough of a sense of humor to appreciate it?

[1] And yes, I do realize that there are multiple different studies out there weighing in on the different sides of the debate about whether there are in fact serious concerns about radiation impacts from having your phone next to your head. But do we really need videos like this out there scaring people more?

Want to work in marketing/social media? In Montreal? Mitch Joel wants you...

If you are interested in getting a new job in marketing/social media, my friend to the north of me, Mitch Joel, is looking for you:
I rarely use this Six Pixels of Separation Blog to talk about the comings and goings at Twist Image, but we have had an incredible year of growth (great clients and fun projects). We had done our projections for 2008, but stuff happens (in a good way) and we're looking for a slew of additional people and talent who want to try their hand in the Digital Marketing space on the agency side.
All the relevant information (including the desire that you be bilingual) is found in Mitch's blog post. Mitch is a great guy... TwistImage is doing some great work... and Montreal is a beautiful city! Check it out!

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Jeremiah Owyang demonstrates why Forrester hired him - "Applying a Social Computing Strategy to the entire Product Lifecycle"

Jeremiah Owyang continues to demonstrate today why Forrester hired him with a great (and lengthy) post called "Web Strategy (Advanced): Applying a Social Computing Strategy to the entire Product Lifecycle".  Excerpting from the post doesn't do it justice, so I'll just point you over to the post.  I will include his warning and his intended audience:

Warning: For Advanced Strategists only
This is for the advanced only, not a company that is still trying to answer “what or why”. To gauge the sophistication of your organization,
see this chart. Deploying this strategy without grasping the foundations of social media, the cultural changes it implies or testing trial programs will likely lead to failure.

You: A Social Media Strategist
You’re responsible for the direction of your online strategies for your company or organization, specifically using social media and computing tools to reach, connect, and build communities around your brand. Most folks at your company know this space is important, but don’t know how to do it, they are relying on your expertise to think holistically, integrated, and strategically.

It's a great post... thanks to Jeremiah for putting it together - and for sharing it with all of us.

Congrats to Jeremiah Owyang for joining Forrester

image I have never met Jeremiah Owyang, but I've been a regular reader of his "Web Strategy" blog for ages. He writes extremely well and many (but not all) of the topics he covers intersect with many of the topics I cover here.   Since reading his blog, I've also connected with him via Twitter and Facebook as well, adding yet more dimensions to our connection.  I've come to know a bit more about him and appreciate/respect his knowledge and interest.

So I was thrilled to read that he will be joining Forrester Research as an analyst in October.  As he indicates, a lot of the writing and information gathering he's been doing on his web site are really akin to what goes on within the analyst world... so it's a natural step for him.  Personally, I think it's great for Forrester to gain someone with the amount of experience and connections that Jeremiah has.  I would have to think he'll definitely be an asset to Forrester's clients.

Congrats, Jeremiah!

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Marketing Pilgrim: 26 Free Tools for Buzz Monitoring

image Over on the Marketing Pilgrim site, Andy Beal put up a good post yesterday "26 Free Tools for Buzz Monitoring". Definitely well worth a read if you are in the need to be monitoring what's happening online related to your company, brand, name, whatever.... I knew of most of the sites, but there were a few new ones.  Nice job on Andy's part to put together this list.

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Mitch Joel: "Burn the ships!" - linking social media to the 1400's...

Getting caught up one some blogging, I just had to comment that I loved Mitch Joel's "Burn the ships!" motif in his talk at the Canadian Marketing Association conference back in May.  He started this with a post back in September, "It's Time For Marketers to Burn the Ships" but this was that motif given form in a presentation.  Now, I wasn't there at the CMA to hear it, but I did read the reports and I've consistently heard great things about Mitch's presentations. I'm sure it was fun.

I just like the slogan... "burn the ships!"  What a great way to express the need to plunge into the new world and dive deeply.

Anyway, kudos to Mitch for coming up with a memorable way to frame the whole discussion.  (And yes, Mitch, given that we're only about 1.5 hours apart, one of these days I will have to finally hear you present!)

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