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.