Pundits, alarmed at media pillars toppling like dominos (Forbes having to sell $100M of Faberge eggs and even its building, and failing Business Week offloaded to Bloomberg), are searching for reasons such as the rise of “social media.”
Joshua Karpf, (pictured) the company’s senior manager of digital media communications, told the Business Development Institute social media seminar Jan. 13 (link, sub req'd) that he believes “mass communications” are now being supplemented by social media, meaning “personal relationships with consumers.”
This is the dream of marketers—direct, one-on-one pitching of products and ideas to “targets” without any “middlemen” such as media, reporters or interference of any kind.
“Social media” are being clasped to their bosoms as the direct royal road to consumers’ hearts.
Tech journalist Paul Gillin estimates that U.S. newsroom employment is about half of what it was in 2001 and we agree with that estimate.
Marketers are the five-star generals of business. They seem to have an “Alexander the Great” complex—lording over everything around them and “driving” programs. Unlike some PR pros, they know exactly what they want--measurable impact. A clue to their attitude is the name of the website of the American Marketing Association: “MarketingPower.com.” Another favorite word of theirs is “target.” We’re all targets and not really conversational partners.
Marketers Want Sales
Marketers usually spurn traditional space and time ads. They prefer to be “sponsors” rather than advertisers. “Sponsor” means they are responsible for the news medium or program—no them, no you.
Marketers who approach us want use of our subscription lists so they can pitch subscribers directly. We don’t allow that nor do most media.
They’re great data collectors and if they could, they would also get from us the purchasing records of all our subscribers so they could concentrate on those who would most likely buy their products.
There would almost be no end to the data they would want.
Marketing is data-driven and research-driven. They demand proof that an ad resulted in sales or at least inquiries.
Nearly half the show, by our actual measurement, is advertising or plugs of one sort or another.
We found a five-minute segment devoted to ads last week including two minutes on a service to help people quit smoking. It gave the phone number seven times (followed by a dot-com web address).
Almost every Imus ad has phone numbers at least three times and web addresses so that marketers can measure the responses. Imus himself is forced to give many of the ads and personally recommend the products.
This is what marketers want: editors personally endorsing products and with enthusiasm.
Inserted in the middle of the Imus weather and traffic reports are commercial plugs. A blast of ads surrounds the top of the hour.
Expecting a five-minute news report, listeners instead get one minute and 45 seconds of news and then more ads.
The dominance of marketers in advertising and PR spells doom for many a news medium. We don’t think marketers give a hoot about whether media live or die, only whether their messages are delivered directly to “targets” and how the targets responded.
Coca-Cola also has a huge campaign on to promote itself as a public-spirited citizen. It had three successive full-pages in the New York Times (and probably many other papers) Jan. 14 touting its contributions to Boys & Girls Clubs, scholarships and conservation.
We give Coke ($30B in sales) credit for taking ads in media. But if Coke and Pepsi ($46B in sales) really want to do something for the U.S., they should attack one of its biggest health problems (obesity) by halting all sales of sugar-laden products.
Trying to reach press contacts via the Coke and Pepsi websites illustrated much about today’s institutional PR: names, phone numbers and e-mails are almost totally lacking. E-mails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave DeCecco explained that too many consumers contacted the press dept., interfering with legitimate press. We reached former NANA (i.e., the PR Society) board member Ray Crockett of Coke and gave him several questions. We’re still awaiting answers.
Pepsi in the 1960s and '70s had one of the most aggressive PR outreach programs. PR pros Bob Windt, John Frango and Mike Yuro regularly visited media offices, chatting with editors at their desks or taking them to lunch or nights on the town with spouses present.
Frango invited editors to his home for parties and went on picnics with their families. Long after Frango and Yuro left Pepsi we were still socializing with them.
Dozens of corporations had similar programs including W.R. Grace, ITT, ATT, American Can, Monsanto, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and the big New York banks, to name a few of them. The big ad agencies and PR firms all had full time PR people who built personal relationships with reporters. They had their own group of about 35 called The PR Roundtable.
Marketers not only don’t want their PR people fraternizing with PR pros from other companies or the trade press, they don’t even like them reading the trade press which is one reason for the disappearance or diminution of so many ad/PR publications.
Waggener Edstrom, one of the three major sponsors of the BDI social media seminar Jan. 13, has a severe attitude towards the press. It orders media not to use names of employees who may contact the media (link, sub req'd).
WaggEd, which reported 2008 fees of $119 million and 843 employees, has never had more than two O'Dwyer subscriptions. We believe WaggEd has this policy for other PR media ,which is one reason PR Quarterly died last year after 50 years.
Wagged and other marketing-driven firms keep their distance from the press. Although it has a New York office, we have never met in person anyone from Wagged. Attempts to set up such a meeting are rebuffed.
Another major sponsor of the BDI seminar is PR Newswire. Although PRN generates about $300M in revenues, has more than a dozen offices, and has hundreds of employees, it has only three O'Dwyer NL subscriptions. We believe it has similar policies towards other ad/PR trade press.
The move now is to replace unsupervised personal interaction with electronic interaction that can be tracked. Big Brother is watching everything that goes on in social media. The security-conscious ad/marketing/financial world does not like rank-and-file employees “shooting the breeze” with each other which was common practice in the '60s and '70s.
Nearly 400 New York PR pros met monthly for lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria in those decades to “catch up on the news and trade notes.” Holiday parties, some of them put on by a combination of all the groups, attracted hundreds.
Such unstructured gatherings ended in the 80s and would strike horror in the minds of control-oriented marketers who closely monitor social media.
The Waldorf lunches stopped because the big companies and agencies stopped buying tables. The group that held the lunches is what we call NANA—National Assn. of Not Availables. We don’t think the name they claim—PR Society—is living up to the promise in “PR.” The New York chapter of this group has not had a “general membership meeting” for many years. Its major sponsors frown on such gatherings.
PR pros, if they want personal interaction with other PR pros, have to shell out lots of money for high-priced seminars. There are currently at least four scheduled on the topic of social media: the $999 NANA meeting Jan. 27-28 in D.C.; the $1,195 Coke/Ragan meeting in Atlanta Feb. 22-24; the $1,900 Social Media World Forum in London March 15-16, and the $1,495 Social Media event of the Newcomm Forum April 20-23 at the San Mateo Marriott.
There are many other such seminars and quite a few have high price tags on them. Most of those attending are no doubt management-level.
Another speaker at the BDI seminar Jan. 13 was Michael Mendenhall of Hewlett-Packard ($115B in sales and 321,000 employees) who characterized social media as “amplified word-of-mouth” and stressed HP’s role as a good corporate citizen (trying to reduce energy consumption).
The printers come with free cartridges. Digg’s tech page had sparked this discussion.
Ink cartridges are so complex that there’s no way around buying them at $15 or more. The O’Dwyer Co., with five printers, is paying about $3,000 yearly for ink. Our Dell printer only cost $150.
What is consumer-loving HP doing about this?
Tech companies such as HP are hyper about security and any leaks. Its efforts to find the source of a leak resulted in criminal charges and arrest warrants being filed in 2006 against HP chair Patricia Dunn, chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, and three outside investigators.
The investigators impersonated HP directors and nine journalists in order to obtain their phone records. The charges were dismissed against Dunn but Hunsaker and two investigators pleaded no contest to wire fraud charges.
The Coke website warns employees using social media that anything on the internet is "permanent" and any deviation from the company’s social media principles could lead to "disciplinary review."