Shut Up and Listen

I have had a lot of conversations about PR over the years with prospects, clients and partners. Some of my favorite stories are when they share their other PR experiences. In fact, inquiring about experiences with other agencies – both good and bad – is one of the first questions we ask any prospect. We can learn so much by the answer to just that one question.

More often than not, it seems that PR executives make the mistake of talking too much and listening too little. I noticed this from the very beginning of my career. I would slump in embarrassment during client meetings when two account executives would not only talk over each other – as though the one who talked the most demanded the most importance – but they would consistently interrupt the client as well. It’s something I have never forgotten.

One of the most effective ways to connect with any audience is to show them that you care. One of the easiest ways to show someone that you care is to listen. One of the best ways to listen is to actively participate in the conversation – by both asking questions and repeating what you’ve heard. It’s also a fantastic way to learn new things.

I see the same mistake happening in a lot of the social media marketing taking place across social networks. It’s bad enough that so many companies are using Twitter and Facebook as a glorified news stream rather than a give and take community, but the so-called social media experts and “social marketing gurus” are making matters worse by constantly streaming their own thoughts but rarely replying, conversing or engaging their followers – often because they consider themselves newbie-Internet celebrities and can’t be bothered. To make matters worse, these type of marketers and PR hounds are using the latest “auto follower” services – a pyramid-like scheme that can increase your followers “by up to 300 per day!” Again, this has nothing to do with engaging or listening and it certainly doesn’t mean that these “gurus” know how to get other people – the RIGHT people – to listen to you or your brand value proposition.


I also see so many PR professionals who don’t want to ask questions in meetings because they feel – especially in a pitch – that they are supposed to have all the answers already. (Or, sometimes, their egos rival everyone’s in the room.) This is a classic problem with marketers and PR executives – they think asking questions shows weakness. I highly disagree – I think it shows interest, intelligence and strategic thinking.

If you’re not asking questions, you are subtly saying that you don’t care. How else will you learn about what your customers want? How do you ensure that you are headed in the right direction with your products or services? How will you uncover additional nuggets of information that might not seem obvious in a one-sided conversation?

The  next time you find yourself in a conversation or – better yet – a sales pitch – think about what questions you can ask about the person or company to whom you are speaking. Ask them questions about themselves or what they offer and get them talking about what they’re passionate about. Really listen to the answers. Repeat them and ask more. I guarantee that the other party will walk away thinking you were an extremely interesting person and brilliant conversationalist.

Pssst, We’re Recruiting, Spread the Word

I’m happy to say that we’re on the hunt for some new, innovative employees. I wanted to spread the word as much as possible, so in addition to updating our careers page on the web site, I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging to share the following details. Thanks in advance for passing it along.

Are you a PR 2.0 expert with proven experience in both traditional programs and new media? PerkettPR is recruiting!

PerkettPR is seeking Account Strategists who can demonstrate the proven ability to run traditional PR programs such as media relations, customer/partner programs, speaking engagements, events initiatives and grassroots campaigns, as well as new media and digital production: social media campaigns, video, podcasts, etc.

Specifically, you must:

  • have a minimum of five years related experience
  • demonstrate results or case studies in PR and new media as well as client service
  • be comfortable – experience preferred – working from a home office
  • have experience in technology but demonstrate a willingness to work in industries such as healthcare, fashion, travel, entertainment. If you have specific experience to bring to the table, please highlight it
  • have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • show us why you are a standout – what will you teach us?
  • do your homework – communicate your understanding of who we are, our culture and how we are unique in the industry

Ideally, you will:

  • have a sense of humor – for fun and for sanity!
  • be in or near Boston, NYC, San Francisco or Detroit
  • not lead with “why I want to work from home”
  • have PR agency experience or client service experience
  • be creative in how and where you apply/show us your work
  • understand the bigger picture and give us an idea of how you will not only help deliver the best client service but help our organization grow and innovate

BIG HINT: if you follow @PerkettPR on Twitter and DM us that you have sent a resume, it will be more noticeable…

Submit your details to careers(at)perkettpr(dot)com and in the subject line, please indicate the position (Account Strategist) and location, (Boston, NY, Detroit or San Francisco). Visit our website for more details. Thanks for reading.

Beating a Dead Social Media Horse

I’ve been suffering a bit of blogger’s block lately – finding a motivational topic difficult to come by and even harder, something everyone’s not already talking about. So I reached out to my Twitter community and asked for ideas. I received some interesting feedback but one that caught me by surprise was from @Britrock, who suggested I write “about topics that are beaten to death and why the subject is so popular?”

So here I am and the subject is of course, social media. It’s absolutely beaten to death – yet unsolved – and it’s so popular because no one can quite agree on its definition, its impact, its value, its future or even its present. Not everyone is bought into the “concept” and even when businesses are, they are unsure who to trust – who really “gets it” from a business value perspective and understands that it’s more strategic than creating a Facebook fan page and some cool videos?

We do know that it’s currently the hot buzzword in business. Oh, and it’s supposedly killing off entire industries such as PR, advertising and traditional media.

Social media is such a broad term, subject to the individual definition of everyone who mentions it. Some people think it means digital production, others think it means blogger relations and currently, Wikipedia defines it as “online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies.”

Businesses are trying to define its value, executives/celebrities/political figures are trying to understand how to use it, and “experts” galore are casting the FUD factor all over in hopes of capitalizing on the currently-hot trend. It’s talked about so much but in the end, I think it’s simple.

Social media is talking with – not at – those who matter to you, your brand, your business. It’s such a simple concept but it’s difficult for businesses to embrace because we’ve spent so many years just pushing messages out one way. Brands didn’t necessarily want to listen – they just wanted to dictate thought and influence opinions. Ad agencies would create sleek – and sometimes stupid – ads that people would mostly chat about the day after each year’s Super Bowl. If brands got lucky they’d hit a word-of-mouth winner like “Where’s the Beef” or “Aflac.” PR teams wrote press releases full of fluffy words that real people would never say, and no one really cared as long as it grabbed some attention and resulted in media coverage.

But now, things are different. With “social media,” consumers can not only post, dissect and analyze your words, they can create their own commercials about your product. They can write full blog posts about your press release and how silly it sounds and encourage others to create their own “fluffy words list” underneath it. They can create and promote “I hate your product” fan pages on Facebook and in just seconds, tell 25,000 people with 140 words how frustrated they are.

Or, how happy they are.

And here’s the thing – because they’re not actually trying to sell anything, they’re probably going to get more people to listen to them than a big brand standing on its own soap box. (Hence the illusion that PR and ad industries will suffer – rather, they will evolve – but that’s another blog post.) So what can you as a brand or a business do?

This brings me back to my definition of social media – talking with and not at. Clients very often come to us when something negative is said about them in a blog or on a social site like Twitter. Of course we analyze each instance but very often we encourage clients to engage with the naysayer – and this is a very difficult thing for businesses to get comfortable with. They don’t want to stir the pot or seem disingenuous. But when you have an issue with someone in your life, don’t you address the situation? Communicate? Discuss? That’s what social media is allowing us businesses to do in a way never before possible. You can fight or ignore it, or you can embrace and benefit from it.

Social media allows you to communicate directly with your customers and prospects. It gives you a platform to spark discussions that showcase your thought leadership or tell a customer story in a more visual and interactive way than ever before. It gives you a chance to share content among a community that you can see is relevant based on the discussions already taking place.

No, you can’t control it – but you can participate in, and positively influence, discussions. And if having happy customers tell others about you is valuable to you, (or showing prospects that you care about their opinion, or fixing a problem someone is having with your product, or lowering attrition, or showcasing your thought leadership, or winning a new client because they see so many other influencers engaging with you, etc.) then there’s your answer to social media ROI.

Tom Foremski Takes a Closer Look at the Changing PR Industry

A while ago we wrote a post asking readers what they thought the PR industry could be doing better. I’ll be honest, I was a little dissapointed with the return – only a few readers commented. So I’m hoping now that Tom Foremski – veteran business journalist, author of Silicon Valley Watcher and host of Fridays with Foremski – is asking, more business, tech and marketing industry executives will pay attention and speak up.

Tom regularly writes on business, technology and media – including many posts about what the PR industry is doing – both right and wrong. One of his most recent PR musings, “The New Rules in PR – The Old Model is Dead,” reflects on how “the PR industry has run out of road.” This particular post caught my eye because he talks about social media – “there is no such thing as social media” – and what PR agencies are seeing change as a result.

Tom is turning this post into a series over the next couple of weeks, where he’ll taking a closer look at these changes. He says “I’m particularly interested in the extent of ‘social media’ expertise among the PR agencies. I’ll be looking to see who in the agencies is active in blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, etc. Is it the senior people or is it junior staff? How often do they update, how much traffic do they get? What’s the quality of their content?”

So please, clients, prospects, partners, readers, industry colleagues – speak up. Let Tom know your opinion and thoughts on the changing PR industry and whether you think these types of activities are important. Are PR firms delivering good content? Do they understand how and where to promote it?  What do you expect from your agency these days? What’s going well, what’s missing? What keeps you up at night when you think about your own PR campaigns?

I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you – and smart agencies will heed his findings. I know I’ll be paying close attention.

Your Turn: What Can We Do Better in Public Relations?

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent Tweet about a question he was asked during a briefing – “What can we do better?” – made me think this is a question we should be asking the industry more often. Of course, we have regular discussions with our clients about what we, as an agency, can be doing better. But as rumors of the PR industry dying continue (by the way, that’s been tossed around for years now), we thought we’d ask you, readers. PR isn’t dying – rather, it’s changing. But change is good – and we want to hear your thoughts on how PR should evolve and improve.

It seems there are a lot of opinions out there about what PR is doing wrong or failing at, but very often these complaints are hollow – there aren’t specifics around what companies would like to see more of other than “media coverage.” So how can we as an industry improve? What do you think PR professionals could do better or differently? If you’ve got an opinion on the subject, here’s what we’d love to hear from you:

– What do you think PR professionals most need to improve or change? (We’d love to hear perspective from journalists, business owners, CMOs and VPs, branding and social media experts, etc.)

– In what areas would you like to see improvement? Media relations? Social media? Messaging? Strategy? Crisis Communications? Pitches? Writing? Thought leadership? Other?

– What is PR doing right these days?

– If you work with a PR agency, have they delivered what they promised when you hired them?

We’d love for you to leave your comments here or, if you’ve got a lot to say but want to keep it private, feel free to email me at chris[at] or fill out our online questionnaire. If interest is high, we’ll gather and analyze the feedback and share some additional insights on how we think PR can improve the problem areas. In any event, let’s stop saying PR is dying. Let’s talk about how it’s evolving.

Thank you in advance!