Tag Archives: PR

A private note to PR people

Instead of cleaning up their industry and getting rid of all the people who send me bad pitches, the industry has gone on attack. Shel Holtz has one of the kinder versions of this attack.

This is why I got out of the news business and why I don’t care anymore about getting on Digg or Techmeme. Many PR people have an entitlement attitude. “We will get you to cover our products one way or another.”

Shel: of course journalists want you to pitch them on email. Out of 1000 pitches 995 are crappy. I sure wouldn’t want to get 995 crappy pitches on my phone. Or 995 crappy pitches face-to-face. Email is the most efficient place to get crappy pitches. Actually that’s not true. Twitter is a far better place for crappy pitches. Why? Because they are limited to 140 characters (which actually greatly improves your chances — only 237 out of 1,000 pitches on Twitter are crappy).

I was wrong, though, to paint every PR person with the “PR sucks” brush. There are good ones. I do read every PR pitch, even the crappy ones. Of course I was being obstinate. This is blowback because I get so many crappy pitches for so many things I don’t care about.

I am not the first to ask PR people to both send me better pitches and to not do it in email. Dan Gillmor, a real professional journalist (who worked for the San Jose Mercury News and who was instrumental in getting the DOJ to go after Microsoft) said that long before I did. Back when he did that I didn’t pay attention because the PR industry hadn’t yet started sending me lots of lame pitches. I should have paid more attention. Today Gillmor is no longer a journalist. Note what his contact page says “don’t pitch me.” After being a blogger or journalist many people feel the same way. I have lots of meetings with journalists and they always gripe about the PR pitches they get. Why? Because this industry won’t clean itself up and won’t look at what it’s doing as being caustic. Even good ones like Shel Holtz won’t look internally.

Why is this a private note? Well, my readers don’t care so I wanted to let them know they can just skip this one. They just want me to find the coolest stuff in the industry to hear about and get my video camera in front of them. They don’t care about the private hell that has become my email inbox.

Yesterday I got videos of friendfeed’s press conference. Notice that they did pitch me in email, but pitched me to come to that event. Also note that friendfeed doesn’t have a PR person, they already have my attention so no need to pay $10,000 a month to get more of it. See, if your company is good it’ll probably get my attention anyway. Heck, Zappos has never pitched me (that’s a shoe company) but I am interested in that company because so many of the people I follow praise them. That’s also how I found Feedly and Evernote, two companies I like a lot.

So, how do good PR people pitch me? They do send me email. But they build a relationship with me first and find out what I like to write about. One example? Jeremy Toeman. He tells me all the time that he has clients he doesn’t pitch to me because they aren’t going to be interesting to me or my readers. He protects his relationship with me from crappy pitches.

Because Jeremy both knows me as a person and doesn’t send me tons of crappy PR pitches, when he sends me email I listen. He doesn’t just send me pitches for his own company, either. If I’ve missed something interesting he calls me and says “did you see this?” He regularly tweets the same and blogs things that I need to be aware of (sometimes even calling me on the carpet when I’m off base).

But the other interesting thing is he rarely pitches his company in email. His best pitches come when we’re walking around Golden Gate park with our kids. Or, like when he launched his new company recently, when we’re just sitting around his house (that’s why I almost always am carrying a video camera).

So, Shel, and all the other PR people, keep sending me your crappy (and good) pitches to scobleizer@gmail.com. If you think you really have something awesome, don’t email me. Call me. My phone number is on my blog. +1-425-205-1921 It’s been there for four years now. I don’t mind getting calls from people who really have something great to show me.

What do I care about now? People and companies who are fanatical about building a better Internet.

If I can’t take your call (today I’m in meetings all day, for instance). I’ll call you back when I can. Thanks and sorry if you felt attacked by my broad brushes. If you have a blog and a Twitter account you probably aren’t among the bad ones anyway so don’t stick up so much for the bad ones because that tarnishes the good work you do.

Seagate learns important PR lesson: keep the customers happy!

First, a disclaimer. Seagate is one of the sponsors of FastCompanyTV (the video network I manage) and has been a great partner of mine for two years.

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Seagate (maker of hard drives and storage devices) has been getting slammed on forums and blogs the past couple of days. Partly because they had a bad batch of hard drives and didn’t properly recognize or fix the problem quickly. Partly because they removed a few anti-Seagate threads from its forums.

I wasn’t asked my opinion about either of these things, but if I had I would have recommended that they jump on the problems and take care of customers quickly and I’d never recommend removing nasty posts unless they explicitly broke some rule like using nasty language or being racist or something like that. Why? A happy customer will tell maybe a handful of people. If you are really lucky, like Apple, they’ll blog about it.

But an angry customer? They’ll tell 30 times more people. And, because negative news gets more attention, it’ll spread much, much faster.

And an angry customer that had a post deleted? They’ll find 20 other places to spread their anger and get you to pay attention to them. At Microsoft I called this “throwing a brick through the window to get your attention.” Incoming!

A great reputation can go down in flames in a weekend. Which is what was going on. Bricks were flying through the window and, like usually happens when bricks fly, that gets people to start seeing the implications to the business and paying attention to customers again and making sure they are happy.

Which is what Seagate was working this weekend.

One thing, if you have troubles with your Seagate drives, let me know. I’ll find out what’s up, as I did in this case. It might take a day or two but we’ll get you taken care of. This is one reason I love Seagate. They’ve always taken care of problems for me and I love their products and we use them all over the place (and I’ve bought most of my own Seagate drives too, both before and after they’ve been a sponsor).

The folks I talked with at Seagate apologized for not taking care of this issue faster and better.

Here’s the details they just sent me (Engadget also covered this news):

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Seagate has isolated a potential firmware issue in certain products, including some Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives and related drive families based on this product platform, manufactured through December 2008. In some circumstances, the data on the hard drives may become inaccessible to the user when the host system is powered on*.

As part of our commitment to customer satisfaction, we are offering a free firmware upgrade to those with affected products. To determine whether your product is affected, please visit the Seagate Support web site at http://seagate.custkb.com/seagate/crm/selfservice/search.jsp?DocId=207931.

Support is also available through Seagate’s call center: 1-800-SEAGATE (1 800 732-4283)

Customers can expedite assistance by sending an email to Seagate (discsupport@seagate.com). Please include the following disk drive information: model number, serial number and current firmware revision. We will respond, promptly, to your email request with appropriate instructions. There is no data loss associated with this issue, and the data still resides on the drive. But if you are unable to access your data due to this issue, Seagate will provide free data recovery services. Seagate will work with you to expedite a remedy to minimize any disruption to you or your business.

For a list of international telephone numbers to Seagate Support and alternative methods of contact, please access http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/about/contact_us/
*There is no safety issue with these products.

More on Microsoft and not going to PDC

Frank Shaw answers back. He’s the head of Microsoft’s account at Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s main PR firm (and has been for years). Frank’s one of the smartest guys in the PR business, so it’s good for him to step in here. He basically has a finger lashing for everyone involved in yesterday’s incident, including me. I just saw his post in Google Reader, and added this note to it when I put it on my shared items blog:

Frank runs PR for Microsoft for Waggener Edstrom. He takes me to task. Fair enough. I over reacted a bit, mostly because employees were saying that what they said on blogs and on Twitter doesn’t reflect back on their companies, even if they try to disclaim that it’s their opinions. Sorry, that’s just not true. I didn’t make that point well, though, and over reacted. I’m still not going to PDC, it just isn’t high enough value for me. Same reason I’m not going to Apple’s PR thing in the morning. Engadget will beat me all over the place and I don’t have a team to tackle the event. At conferences I rarely get video that fits FastCompany.tv’s style — this year I’ve been to dozens of conferences. How many have you seen video from? Very few.”

To other Microsoft employees, I apologize. Glad to see that Frank addressed this in public.

My feelings got stirred up quite a bit by being on Gillmor Gang and hearing the other participants in the call saying they thought it affected their perception of Microsoft in a negative way, so I figured I’d make a point to get a discussion going. It did that, for sure, and for doing that I’ve done myself some harm. I’ll lick my wounds and come back at it tomorrow.

What do the freaking tech bloggers want?

UPDATE: if you are a PR person and you are reading this blog, any vitriol aimed at the PR industry is NOT aimed at you. Probably. :-)

I remember working at a small tech startup back in the mid 1990s. Winnov. We made video capture cards and videoconferencing solutions. I was the director of marketing and I used to think that if only Walt Mossberg or Dan Gillmor (who back then was the tech journalist at the San Jose Mercury News) or some other big-name journalist would pay attention to us that we’d have it made.

Eventually I realized that wasn’t going to happen, for a whole lot of reasons, but that it didn’t matter. We still had a lot of very happy customers and they seemed to find us through word-of-mouth and other efforts (we had booths at the big trade shows and I hung out in forums and Usenet newsgroups and went on radio shows, and built relationships with people who did video streaming and stuff like that). Not getting their attention made me focus and come up with innovative ways to get the word out about our products. Same thing I did at NEC, which is what led to me selling Vic Gundotra hundreds of Tablet PCs at Microsoft (and later getting a job there). Vic didn’t find me in the Wall Street Journal, he found me in an obscure newsgroup online.

Over the past few days there’s been a consternation about the future of PR. Mostly based on my rant about PR the other day and how it’s so refreshing to hear about a new company from its users first, especially when those users are very excited about the product.

Here’s just a small selection of the blogs I’ve seen talking about PR and bloggers in the past day or two:

Steve Rubel (Vice President at Edelman, which is the largest private PR firm in the world) talks about how dismayed he’s been at the PR industry lately.

Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, talks about how dismayed he’s been at the PR industry lately.

Brian Solis, who is one of the few PR people who builds relationships first with everyone in the industry (it’s hard to remember the last industry event where Brian wasn’t holding court and if you’re a tech blogger and you haven’t yet met Brian you probably haven’t been blogging for more than a week or two), stands up for the PR industry (and links to pretty much everyone who is writing about this today).

Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, in Mashable, says Rubel is onto something.

Jeremy Toeman, who I don’t think of as a PR guy, but rather something else (he’s the only guy that I know of who has gotten other people in the industry to work in a food bank, for instance) also stood up for PR in the comment section of the blog post I wrote the other day.

Jeremy Pepper writes “STFU” to bloggers in his headline, which also sticks up for the PR industry.

There’s a few others talking about this topic that are linked to here on TechMeme.

Why so much noise, both pro and con, about the current state of PR?

I’ve been blogging very little over the past month. I wanted to get off of the Techmeme bandwagon and take a fresh look at what I, and FastCompanyTV are doing. This latest blowup also got me to look at which PR practicioners I find are good for the industry and which ones are bad.

Why so much negativity on PR lately? A few reasons:

1. PR people had gotten wise to how to get their stories onto Techmeme, which made us all look like sheep. We not only were writing the same stories everyone else was, because that’s how you get onto Techmeme, but the PR people were figuring out how to work us into that circle jerk, so they could get their messages out to the world. That is opposite to how life was four years ago back when I worked at Microsoft. Back then most PR people couldn’t spell blog and didn’t know what they were. I’m to blame for helping them figure it out, because we wrote a book about corporate blogging that a lot of them have read. I’ll burn in hell for doing that, I think, if we can’t find a new way to serve the industry better than we are currently.
2. Company after company came to us who weren’t building sustainable businesses that cared about real customers. They only cared about whether they could get onto Techmeme or whether bloggers or “social media experts” would write about them. I feel like I’m just a new social media press release conduit and, while that’s building pretty sustainable businesses over at some other tech blogs, it isn’t what I started writing a blog for. More on that in a second.
3. Bloggers are being commoditized. If we just go to press conferences, or only deal with embargoed news, and report on the same news everyone else is reporting on, well, then, just what reason is there for our business to exist? How will we build an audience that’s any different, than, say, TechCrunch or Fortune’s or ZDNet’s efforts? How will we justify to our sponsors that they should sponsor us as we are doing the same thing as everyone else? Especially if we have a smaller audience? Yeah, advertisers really love getting THOSE kinds of sales pitches. Imagine walking into a big company and putting up a Powerpoint that says “we’re the same as Techcrunch, but smaller.” What’s the chances you’ll walk out with a sponsorship?
4. We aren’t having fun (as Rubel says, discovering new stuff is fun, getting new stuff fed to you at conferences and press conferences where everyone else learns the same news at the same time isn’t nearly as fun) while fun isn’t a good reason to do much, following my heart got me here and if you aren’t having fun as a blogger your writing, reporting, etc will suffer and you’ll start generally just being a jerk. Not to mention if you want to compete with people who do love what they are doing you’ll need to be keeping up at 2 a.m. and if you aren’t loving what you are doing you’ll turn on the Olympics instead and not get the job done. Most tech bloggers love being able to tell you about something cool that you don’t yet know about. Read Engadget, for instance. Their best writing is when they are showing you a new gadget that they found on their own. Yes we all read them for their coverage of Apple Press Conferences but I can tell you that isn’t nearly as fun as walking around with some product designer and getting a first look at a really new product (I was there when Ryan Block got his first look at Bug Labs’ prototypes).
5. We’re all looking for a breakthrough idea or product and they are just very rare. Look at Microsoft’s latest photographic technologies as an example. Now, look at my “to blog” folder, which has 5,000 items in it. How many get close to something as cool? Not many. If we only wrote about Photosynth, though, our blogs would be pretty damn sparse. So we’re faced with writing about stuff that doesn’t come up to that bar. It makes us anxious, because we want to tell our friends (er, you, about cool stuff). Like, have I shown you the Shazam iPhone app yet? It’s very cool, it lets you identify music you hear in a shopping mall or on the radio and it works pretty darn well. But for every Shazam, or Evernote, or Twinkle, there are tons of really stupid apps and if we want to tell you about more than 20 apps we’re going to have to dig into some really lame apps.

“Scoble, you’re rambling, why did you get into blogging?”

Oh, sorry. I got into blogging to celebrate the people who are improving our lives through technology and to hear their stories about how they developed it, so that we’d encourage other developers to bring us even more useful technologies.

Scratch that. I got into blogging because Dori Smith and Dave Winer wanted to know what was happening behind the scenes while working at a computer magazine/conference company.

Back when I started blogging I was helping plan a conference for programmers. I just told stories about what I was seeing and hearing and who was doing cool stuff. No one in PR told me about stuff, I just talked about what I was seeing. As my audience grew, more and more PR people started pitching me stuff. They started seeing me as a gatekeeper. The way I looked at those old-school journalists like Mossberg and Pogue and others.

I remember being flattered by the first wave of PR. When Munjal Shah, CEO of Like.com, told me he’d rather have me write about his company than have Walt Mossberg write about it, I was flattered but remembered telling him that Mossberg was still more important (and still is, in my view).

But that was flattering because only a few CEOs were like Munjal and I think he was pulling a little flattery on me to get me to pay attention. And, he knew that doing a different style of PR would get him noticed. It did, too. He now has millions of users and has been on MSNBC and CNN (he told me later that those brought huge numbers of users to his service).

“Scoble, you’re rambling again, get to the point. What is it that tech bloggers want?”

In the early days of blogging I wanted to do a few things:

1. Impress Dave Winer and Dori Smith.
2. Get stuff into Google so I could pull it out later.
3. Share what I was seeing because I had access to unique people and technology that the mainstream press wasn’t writing about.

Today I still write for these reasons, but I’d add on some more:

4. Get more people access to interesting experiences. It’s impossible to have 100,000 people visit Facebook’s headquarters and have a tour, for instance, but it’s very possible to have that many participate in a live cell phone tour.
5. Help us get more out of the technology that we’re all seeing. There are about 800 services on the Office 2.0 database. How many of those have you actually used? For most people? None. For most of my readers? I’d guess about five. Out of 800. So, can I increase that to seven? By showing you a demo of something that would improve your life (and mine?) I know I’m using Evernote now because of a demo I got a few weeks ago, for instance.
6. Learn from thought leaders on how to improve our lives. That’s why I’ve had people like David Allen and Tim Ferriss and why I want to get Gina Trapani from Lifehacker onto my shows. They show you a different way to live and how to deal with our changing lives.

“So, Scoble, what do these things have to do with PR?”

Well, the smart PR people (like Solis and Toeman) bring me into experiences like these. I still remember when Toeman hosted a dinner for a small group of us, including Dave Winer, where he and a guy I didn’t know showed me a prototype of what became Bug Labs. That was PR. But it was personal, small, and wasn’t aimed at getting 60 journalists to tell the same story to each of their audiences. At that point he didn’t care if he got Bug Labs onto Techmeme. Just wanted to talk about where the product might go and wanted to get feedback.

Hey, PR 2.0 includes listening!

Now I’m getting to where I’m getting fed up with a large swath of PR and why you’re seeing such vitriol aimed toward PR people.

See, some of them (er, most of them) are treating bloggers as just “channels of message distribution.” We’re there to take the news they are pitching and regurgitate it and spit it at all of you.

That exercise it totally not interesting. For all the reasons I’ve gone over here. It doesn’t let me figure out my own take on the story. It doesn’t let me hear from customers who are wildly happy. It doesn’t let me even figure out if the product works (many of those kinds of stories are pitched to bloggers who don’t even have any expertise in what they are pitching). Here, do another exercise. Let’s assume that StackOverflow was pitched to me by a PR company in an email. Would it have gotten coverage here? No. It doesn’t let me really find my own voice, or build an audience that’s any different than anyone else on Google Reader or TechMeme.

First off, why would I write about yet another Digg copycat? Second of all, how would I know that the community there really is good and has some unique aspects? Third of all, how would I really know that it solves real pain, the way that StackOverflow does?

“OK, Scoble, wrap it up. What are some things that you tech blogger types want from PR?”

1. What we really want is an exclusive interview with Steve Jobs. Oh, OK, we’re not going to get that. So, can we get an exclusive with Jonathan Ives? Oh, OK, we’re not going to get that either. :-) (PR teams tell me that handing out an exclusive like that will only be done for journalists with the largest audiences). Well, OK, but let’s see if we can find a different angle on the same topic. When I traveled to Israel with Sarah Lacy I noticed she made plans to interview the same people I did, but she interviewed them alone so she got a different story than I did. Now compare to what you see on TechMeme. How many people get the same story about the same thing. PR people are doing themselves a disservice when they just treat journalists and bloggers like cattle. Every time I get an email pitch it reminds me that I’m being treated like cattle. Especially when I get together with Arrington and Malik and Lacy and other bloggers and we see that we got the same pitch. Moooooo!

2. I want to see some passion about building a great service for customers that solves their pain. I don’t want to hear about how they are hoping I write about them. That turns me (and others) off. I still remember when my brother asked Dave Winer for a link and Dave got very angry at him. Why is that? Because Dave wanted my brother to give him a reason to link without having to beg for the link. Bring me a customer that says “XYZ product solved this need and transformed my life” and that’ll get my attention. It’ll get even more attention when that customer calls me and wants to talk about you and your service. Why? Because it tells me that the company is focused on the right thing. Watch what Don MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug does. I remember the first time I met him because he didn’t want me to write about his company. He just started talking about customers and why he loved doing what he’s doing. I later learned that he had more than 100,000 people who paid for his service when his competitors, like Flickr, are free. THAT got my attention and it made me want to learn more about the company and the service.

3. If you really have a killer product and a killer service I don’t care how you get ahold of me. Call me day or night at +1-425-205-1921. Email me at scobleizer@gmail.com. Or camp out on my front lawn. It doesn’t matter. If you are as good as SmugMug, I’ll make time for you. If you are a me too product, though, that doesn’t solve a real problem or doesn’t thrill its customers, I’ll see through that and I’ll be less likely to call. Some exceptions? I hate Facebook and Twitter direct messages. I can’t answer those, so don’t even try.

4. Don’t call us (especially me) if you want to get on TechMeme and that’s your main goal. First of all, my TechMeme juice is going down because I’m writing less and less. So if that’s your goal I can already tell you haven’t done your homework (Mike Arrington is the first guy I’d call if that was my goal). But what do other tech bloggers want? Well, even Arrington (who does like getting on TechMeme) tells me he’d rather get there because he found a kick ass company or product before anyone else.

5. For those of us who are on the TechMeme game we MUST be in the first group. That’s how this game works. That’s why Arrington won’t cover you if you don’t let him be in the first set of people to talk about you. But don’t assume that we’re all playing the TechMeme game. I’m a video guy. I want to have an intimate look at your company/product/people. We can do that days, weeks, or even months after you ship. My Evernote video, for instance, was done long after they first launched. I still got excited because the people I hang out with were praising it on blogs and twitters and I wanted to get a good look for myself (I’m a visual learner, I don’t often get the point of a product just by reading about it on TechCrunch).

6. Don’t just pitch the product. When I first heard about FriendFeed I thought “so what, Jaiku and Social Thing do the same thing.” But then I found out that two of the founders were the guys who ran the Gmail and Google Maps teams. Now my expectations went way up (and, sure enough, that service has delivered huge value to me). If you have an interesting person working for you, let me know.

7. Video bloggers need different things than text bloggers. When I do a text blog often times I can just sit on a conference call, pull out a quote, and write up the news. But if you want to get me to put you on video it really helps if you think a little bit about the visual. Don’t shove me into a conference room with 40 other bloggers. I probably won’t even unpack my video cameras. Nothing is more boring visually. But bring me into a someone’s office and magic happens.

8. Why don’t you get a ton of FriendFeed’ers to vote up your own blog? That’d guarantee I’d see it, and I’d see that people are happy about what you’re doing. I’m far more likely to cover you if that’s the case. I follow more than 3,000 FriendFeeders. I even keep track of all the things I like there. It’s quite an interesting feed to watch.

9. Build experiences where we can get to know you. Microsoft recently held a Digital Photo Summit. That was really great because there wasn’t any pressure to report on anything, just a chance to get to know you, your team, and see some of the things you are working on. Same thing at EA last week. By providing experiences where we can get our hands on your products, meet your team, etc, we’ll discover new story ideas together. I found a few at EA that I would never have known about if they didn’t have an event where we could hang out for a day.

Anyway, I’m sorry for generalizing the PR industry. The good ones are invaluable to my mission. They know who they are. The bad ones probably aren’t even reading my blog anyway, so that’s why I shouldn’t piss and moan about the PR industry. I’ll just piss off the good ones and the bad ones won’t care. Just chalk it up to letting off a little steam.

Back to answering email and setting up interviews…

Cuil: Why I’m trying to get off of the PR bandwagon…

Sarah Lacy, tech journalist for Business Week, has a post that demonstrates well why I am really trying to get off of the PR bandwagon.

See, on Sunday night a ton of blog posts all went up. Most of which were pretty congratulatory and hopeful that there was a “Google competitor.” Tech journalists desperately want there to be a competitor to Google. Why? Monopolies are boring to cover. The best tool a story teller has is when there’s conflict. I like to tell people this world is just like high school. Think back to high school.

In your high school, did anyone talk about the geeky kid who stayed after school to build a science fair project? In my school, which had lots of geeky kids, no, not usually. But if there was a fight in the quad would everyone talk about the fight for days afterward? Yes.

Journalists thrive off of conflict. That’s why we want a competitor to Google so badly and why we play up every startup that comes along that even attempts to compete with Google.

The problem is that competiting head on with Google is not something that a startup can do.

Let’s say someone really comes out with a breakthrough idea in search (which would be a feat all on its own, since Microsoft and Yahoo are spending tons of engineering time trying to find something breakthrough too). If they got all the hype that Cuil did (NPR and CNN played it up, not just tech bloggers) and people really liked it, they would spread it around like wild fire.

Do you have any clue about the infrastructure that Google has in place to handle the kind of scale that it sees? Try half a million servers. Half a million!!!

Think about that. How much money does that take to build out? Hint: a lot more than $30 million that was invested in Cuil.

So, Cuil set itself up for a bad PR result in the end. Either it wouldn’t meet the expections (which is what happened after people started testing it) or it would fall over and fail whale like Twitter has been for the past few months (because it wasn’t built to handle the scale).

Notice that other search companies don’t build up their PR like that. Mahalo never says it’s going to be a Google Killer, just that it’s going to do some number of searches better. In fact, Mahalo uses Google on its own pages.

Why PR works and why I want off

Note that Lacy said she wasn’t pre-briefed on Cuil (Techcrunch says that the company briefed every tech blogger and kept them from trying the service before release). That’s not true: I wasn’t briefed, either. But now, go back and look at the TechMeme rankings. Were either my post (which was harsh, but fair, but published several hours after the original wave of PR-briefed bloggers and journalists) or Lacy’s on there? No.

See, if you want to earn links and attention in this world you’ve got to be first, or at least among the first articles to go out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I call it the Techmeme game.

But it affects Digg and Reddit and FriendFeed, too. The stories that got discussed the most on those were usually among the first crowd.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m going back to what makes me passionate. I don’t get passionate when reading a press release, or listening ot some executive on a conference call (I was dragged onto one of those the other day and I stopped it mid-stream, saying, “can I come and see you face-to-face?”)

I also find that I’m getting back to reading my Google Reader feeds, looking for other people who are truly passionate about technology or business and who are looking for innovative approaches to either.

There’s a TON of interesting blogs there that never will get to Digg or Techmeme. Same thing over on FriendFeed. Lots of interesting stuff being discussed on the Internet that never will get the “Cuil” treatment, but is worth your checking out.

For instance, I’m just over the top about Evernote. How did I miss that for so long? Funny that a PR team brought me that, too. So, sometimes this game DOES work out, but note that I didn’t try to be first to get Evernote, I just kept seeing it getting praise from the bloggers I read.

Anyway, help us all get off the PR bandwagon. What are you passionate about? If you could go anywhere in the world and meet with any geek, executive, or company, who would it be?

What are you finding is bringing real value to your life? Hey, even go outside the tech industry. Is there something we should all be checking out and giving as much attention to as we’re giving to Cuil?

Brian Solis’ and Loic Le Meur’s real “PR” secrets

Brian Solis just wrote a guest post for TechCrunch in which he gave away many of the secrets of the PR industry. Every entrepreneur and even every product manager inside a big company should read it and understand the tactics discussed there. Don’t miss the additional video by Seesmic’s CEO/founder, Loic Le Meur in that same post’s comments. Loic is the best at this in the business.

While I was writing this post Loic Le Meur wrote a new blog post calling “bulls++t” on Brian’s post. You should read that as well and that started an interesting discussion on FriendFeed.

But Brian didn’t give away his real secret sauce: how does he get bloggers and journalists to write about the stuff he’s representing? I’ve known Brian for quite a while and here’s some of his secrets that I didn’t see him disclose on TechCrunch:

1. PR now stands for “Professional Relationships.” How can I tell a good PR person (like Brian) vs. a bad one (who sends me emails about stuff I’d never write about)? Easy: Brian builds relationships with me and every other blogger. He takes our pictures. He always welcomes us by name and with a smile (and often a hug, if he knows you well). He doesn’t just do this for the A-listers, either. I’ve watched him at parties and he always introduces me to someone I’ve never heard of before.

2. The new PR is about creating visually-rich experiences. Why? Because more and more bloggers and journalists are being forced to use cameras and video. Look at Kara Swisher. She carries her video camera everywhere. When I met the publisher of the Washington Post he said more and more of his journalists are carrying video cameras. So, no longer is it appropriate to show off a PowerPoint presentation. A simple demo works far better and the best PR people come ready with a USB key full of screen captures and stuff.

3. You don’t need PR at all if you have a great product. Remember how I found out about Qik.com? I was hanging out with Dave Winer and my son in an Apple store. A friend of the company (a beta tester) recognized me and said “you’re going to want to see this.” I was amazed and wrote a blog post WHILE IN THE STORE. Then my next item was to beg to get added to the beta, which they did and now I’ve done more than 700 videos with my cell phone and gotten more than 450,000 visits. I later learned that they weren’t ready for all this PR (they didn’t even have an official PR firm back then) but stayed up for two nights straight to get ready for all the people who were asking for access. I credit Michael Forston, lead developer for building a great community in those early days. Note how he’s on Twitter and keeping in touch with everyone even today.

4. You gotta go meet bloggers, journalists, and influentials. Often. Early. They won’t come to you, you’ve gotta go to them. Watch Upcoming.org’s tech event calendar and see where they’ll be (at least that’s where the tech bloggers/influentials/journalists will be) and go there and make sure you meet them and make a good impression. Lines that work on me? “I got something that might make you cry” or “if you think FriendFeed is cool, wait until you see this.” Using lines like these demonstrate you know a little bit about my blog and are looking to only bring me really impressive stuff. Be ready for me to turn on my Qik camera, though. I want to capture that first demo if it really is great. I remember when Stewart Butterfield, founder of the company that made Flickr, first showed it to me in the hallway at Tim O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference. Magical demo that still makes an impact on me when I think back on it and that was, what, five years ago now?

5. If you have a magical experience, invite influentials to share in. Laurent Haig invites me every year to his friend’s chalet in the Swiss mountains. A couple of years ago that led to a demo while sitting around drinking wine (he didn’t ask PR permission, which got him in a bit of trouble as they got nearly 100,000 requests in the next 24 hours, thanks to tons of blogging, including a post on TechCrunch. No PR people were involved, just an entrepreneur who understood the value of creating a fun experience for people who could tell other people about his product and company. Heck, he told me later he didn’t even have plans to show us CoComment and that it was a reward for speaking at his conference. That’ll teach Laurent a lesson about having some wine while hanging out with bloggers for a weekend. That said, Laurent is a guy I’d do anything for and this fall I’m going to Korea to help him with his conference there.

6. Create touch-points for influentials. Brian and other companies and PR professionals in the industry (including me and others at Fast Company) create events that attract bloggers and journalists and other influentials. We are creating another “social media event” at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show to do exactly that. How do you get bloggers to show up? Have famous bloggers like Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte, Ryan Block, Tim Ferriss, Scott Beale, etc show up. Give them a fun event, like a wine party, make sure there’s lots of bandwidth, wifi, etc., there. And now watch what happens. I bet someone will write about, photo, or video, your event like Scott Beale did.

7. But really, this only matters if you have a great product that people want to tell other people about. If Ansel Adams wasn’t the best landscape photographer that ever lived, would it have mattered that we got an invite to Yosemite? No. Gotta have the goods which will tell the story on their own.

How do you get people to cover your company’s products?

Added bonus: BusinessWeek just wrote about what has been happening in online content beyond blogs.