Force Multipliers, Facebook and PR – How to influence everything

2200 words, 8 minute read.

A hammer, a machine gun, social media – using force multipliers for good and bad

The below is a Facebook Ad I ran to a subset of Irish TDs. It cost me €1.65 for 39 of them to see it. €0.04 per TD. I would think most didn’t even know it was an ad.

Irish TDs Facebook Ad

(When Facebook advertising started it was for the U.S. only so I created a U.S. account and this is why my prices are in dollars)

Wikipedia definition of Force Multipliers

factor or a combination of factors that dramatically increases (hence “multiplies”) the effectiveness of an item or group, giving a given number of troops (or other personnel) or weapons (or other hardware) the ability to accomplish greater things than without it

Using digital tools for PR tactics, common enough

Years and years ago a client’s friend had a communications crisis with their firm and asked me how they could solve it. Sadly their board took the advice of a traditional PR company who said shut everything down, say nothing and it will blow over. When you Googled about this issue, the first two pages were mostly negative news articles about it and their website was at the bottom of Page 1. When you Googled their name you got their website and the next 8 results were negative results. You mostly can’t get articles with bad coverage removed from Google. Instead you have to make positive or neutral articles to rank higher than these. Working with bloggers and pumping out PR over the next few months was the solution that worked in this case.

Using Wikipedia to push an agenda

Nowadays if you google that issue, the first result for it is a Wikipedia article of the company with a section about that crisis. Page 2 has some of the original bad news articles but nobody reads Page 2 of Google. That Wikipedia article was created by someone not connected to the company but who did it to aid the company. The article had some basic company history and a section on the crisis. Wikipedia articles always rank well. The Wiki article has been slowly changed over time to add more company facts so the crisis section is one of many sections on the Wiki article. The facts on the Wiki are all true verified facts but the narrative is positive towards them. Years back I did a talk on Crisis Communications that covered some of these areas, I need to update this as I’ve learned so much since.

With media people being under huge pressure to produce quantity over quality and despite media articles shitting on Wikipedia so much, the media copies and pastes from Wikipedia the whole time. Now look at the start of this article … who came up with that definition of Force Multipliers? I didn’t check, how many check where their Wikipedia information came from?

Influencing the influencers with digital

For another gig I researched how teens decided what colleges to apply for. For Leaving Cert students, one factor that actually influenced them moving away from home to college was their mothers. Mammy Power. Mammy could veto a move to some college based on her perception. So to keep Mammy happy we sent Facebook ads to Mammy. The kids don’t use Facebook but their parents and Grannies do (and those that think they can market to Leaving Cert students on Facebook). We also boosted articles about how great the college was to those Mammies. “Don’t take our word for it, look at what the Irish Times have said.” Was there a PR pitch to that paper with that Mammy angle you ask? Hmmm.

A State body a while back asked me to research how an American startup built up their media profile so quickly. At that stage they had been in the Wall Street Journal, Techcrunch and all over “the blogs”. Lots of research later and we had a plan on how Irish companies could build up their media profile like they did. What was lovely about what they did was that they started building relationships with specific bloggers that wrote about that industry area. The startup was small but they gave advanced access to the smaller bloggers who never get exclusives and spend most of their time reporting what was already covered and rewriting Mashable type sites. Uncritical coverage in fairness. Then the company started doing PR with larger blogs, who when they Googled their name (as media always do) and they saw positive coverage and also “seemed” to copy and paste these opinions. And then the company went up higher again to the big media sites and eventually to “traditional” media types. All iterations. Influencing the influencers who influence the Influencers. Boy does this work well. See Mark Ecko on “swag bombs”.

(Aside: In the Digital Strategy Workshops I do, we always find the satellites of influence of your clients, same idea, not at all new to marketing people and PR people have done this since they did a great PR job of getting propaganda changed to PR post World War I)

Ryan Holiday talks about this in Trust Me I’m Lying where he had Wikipedia articles created that referenced facts he seeded on smaller blogs that then got copied into articles from bigger media orgs. Then he edited the Wikipedia pages to reference the new media coverage. Wiki article says “according to Xblog Company Z made 10 million dollars”. Later the New York Times copies this fact in an article. Then changed Wiki article to “according to New York Times Company Z made 10 million dollars” and removed the old blog reference.

So far this is slight use of digital for what are traditional PR tactics…

Along Comes Facebook

Facebook is a political tool or a political weapon, mostly a weapon

One of the biggest protests ever in State history was the water charges protest and the Irish Times didn’t even assign someone to cover it as it wasn’t in their bubble. FF, Sinn Fein, FG, Labour all misjudged this issue yet everyone on Facebook saw the updates before, during and after. Millions on Facebook saw the size of the crowd and the videos.

A hammer is a tool, is a weapon, is a negotiating tactic, is a precise instrument. She who holds it, decides what it is. Back to that Facebook Ad to TDs.

Irish TDs Facebook Ad

For €0.04 each I got a positive news story about Ireland into their timelines. And one clicked it.

I did the same with a bunch of Cork politicians with a ‘local kid does well” story into their timelines:

Cork Councillors Facebook Ad

What was great about that is while I paid next to nothing for them to see it (€1.55) just €0.036 each, some of them shared the story to their connections and so I got an extra 178 free views from this. (you only see the paid views above)

Cork Councillor Ad Stats

So the cost per view was actually €0.007 – 0.7 of 1 cent! This is what makes Facebook so utterly scary. The ads to reach people are cheap but when they interact with your ad you get a lot more people to see it and the politician or whoever it is spreads the story on your behalf.

Changing election results with your pocket money?

I have also run tests where some of the Advisors to TDs and Ministers saw an ad from a Facebook Page of mine that shared a news article. This was a much smaller list but we are getting “news” into the timeline of people that have strong influence over Ministers and TDs.

Facebook Ad Government Advisors

And yeah I ran some tests where I got news stories into the timelines of political correspondents. These tests as you can see are single digit euro budgets.

So basically you can get stories into the face of a large number of national politicians, local politicians, their advisors and those who write about these people and who these people read, for mere pennies. Fucking! pennies! get! you! this! influence! Now, consider multiple Facebook Pages with slightly different takes on things going into timelines of this bubble = “oh my God everyone is talking about this, what are we doing about this?”

What it really means is = Look at all the ads in my bubble who are targeting me. Again, none of this is new for people that work in PR and marketing. Just like you run ads in the Farmers Journal if you sell to farmers.

This is what some of the Brexit campaigners did. Business People for Brexit, Muslims for Brexit, Catholics for Brexit, Racists pretending to be Patriots for Brexit, Doctors for Brexit. Each one of these groups had a set of talking points specific to them and for their audience and off they jaunted with them. Decentralized but with the talking points decided by 1 person.

Read “All Out War” to understand the not-rocket-science stuff that the Leave Campaigns did. We’re seeing this in Ireland around Repeal the 8th. 10 people or less seem to represent 20 different groups but all seem to have the same mailing list. And they always get into the media.

Targeting a constituency
€67 – the cost to me if I want 16,000 people in a constituency to see a news story in the next 24 hours about their TD who barely got in at the last election.

Target a TD's Constituency

Force multiply that article about your local FF TD who voted against the Repeal Referendum, for example. If 500 less people gave them their number 1 and left them off the ballot paper or put them way down the line, would that be enough to lose their seat? €67 spent by someone else could cost you €90k a year, outside of expenses. 0.07% of your salary. That’s a force multiplier.

(Light entertainment break)
And this is a force multiplier:

Force Multipliers for Media Coverage

Just like you can use Facebook to send updates into timelines of politicians and political media you can do the same for many different media types. A client recently got themselves on television. A follow up press release was sent out to the media “as seen on T.V.) which got them a little more coverage, here the media came to them after the release with new angles for their publication. Great! Then a promoted update from them was also sent out on Facebook to media types and that got them more media coverage too. Being in the media can get you into more of the media and doing this with a proper strategy can get you into it on a regular basis.

Using all this media coverage, you then do a promoted update to the type of client they wanted with a “As seen on T.V. and in the Times and Indo”. The Sunday Times got crap recently for boosting Facebook posts. I like this idea. Up to now I’ve only seen media boosting posts that are editorial so they can hoodwink sponsors and say “10,000 people on Facebook saw our editorial about you”. Getting into the media is not the end of that PR cycle, it can just be the start.

Force Multipliers for stakeholders

Getting companies into the Irish Times or Sunday Business Post despite their potential clients not being readers still makes sense if you look at who their stakeholders are. Potential investors, existing investors, business partners and media types will be reading it. Investors seeing coverage of their investment will appeased them and give them golf course bragging rights. It’s amazing that you may be burning through cash but an investor seeing their name in a paper can keep them at bay for another while. A positive side-effect is that traditional media coverage gets you nice Google results too as media orgs have really good Google rankings. So when your name is Google, a front page of positive views.

If you’re a B2B organisation then marketing on Facebook at first doesn’t make sense. There are better places to do marketing but if you want to build your reputation then targeted ads to the decision makers in organisations can work. Be nice if a CEO came in on a Monday and said “I keep hearing about this CRM company, look in to whether we should be using them.”

Whoever your stakeholders are, you can get into their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter timelines directly or indirectly. You can use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter to influence people even when they are not using these places because those who do influence them are in these spaces. You’re really only two hops away from both online and offline people on social media.

And all of this within “the rules”.

And you don’t need the liars in Cambridge Analytica to do this (like they had the brains to do it)

And all of this is adhering to data protection and is legal. You don’t need to hack Facebook and download data to do this and that is not how they won the election in America or how Brexit was won. However a be-bubbled media really want to unlose the Vietnam War of their generation – Trump and Brexit.

Online PR – Working with bloggers

This is another section of the Online PR Course. So why work with bloggers at all? Well it can be difficult to get your message across in some media nowadays unless you can offer something that contains money or jobs and just a product launch might not cut it unless it has mass appeal. While a print publication might not be able to cater for a niche audience, take that niche online and it can be massive.

Connecting and working with bloggers who passionately write about subjects they’re interested in and who energise an audience can be very beneficial. Good quality feedback of your products, a potential large pool of customers and people focused on your subject area. A lot of people online now get their news and facts from non professional media sources. There are many ways you can work with bloggers but you need to respect and understand what they do.

Research Bloggers in Advance
Sites like Irishblogs.ie and FoodFight.ie aggregate content from Irish Bloggers. These can be good places to start. You can also use the blogger ligger list from Mulley Communications (contact Damien to get access) which is a list of bloggers in Ireland who put their names down to get contacted from companies/agencies who want to offer them promotional material/trials etc. Look at longlisted/shortlisted bloggers that were nominated for the Irish Blog Awards and are broken down by categories such as Food, Music, Business, Arts and Culture etc.

Read them, don’t fake it:
Subscribe to a cross-section of these bloggers using Google Reader so you’re not in the dark as to what they regularly blog about. If you don’t use Google Reader or don’t know how to then bookmark them and put them all in a folder called Irish Bloggers or something like that. Leave comments on their blog if there is a post of theirs you genuinely like so they’ll see you’re paying attention to them.

Evaluating a blog:
Do they write well on the blog, are they engaging? Probably the best metric, if a bit fluffy is quality and engaging writing. There are more sterile mechanical metrics though:
Use Yahoo! Site Explorer to measure inbound links.
Use Google Reader to get a rough estimate of readership.
Evaluate the last 10 blog posts for style and number of comments left under each post.

When emailing bloggers:
Be aware that the bloggers are probably connected to each other via Instant Messaging or Twitter and may discuss your email that you sent.
With that in mind, line up all the emails to go around the same time so they’ll all get them at the same time. This can actually be of benefit as if they are discussed on Twitter there can be a burst of chatter about the emails instead of start/stop mails. It also doesn’t make it seem that you are playing favourites.

Don’t send a purely generic email. Counter to that, don’t try and dress up the email to make it seem you are sending a nice compliment to them “love your blog, latest blog post made me think, you’re my favourite blogger”. Create the generic section of the email that contains details of the offering/event/product and then do an individual intro with each email.

Just like journalists, some bloggers like exclusives, so do not send an email making it appear that you are giving them something exclusively when you are not. Go niche when you can. It’s pointless plugging a new band to those who blog about sports or blog about news and current affairs. Twenty Major won’t be interested in your press release about a new single from a singer songwriter.

Mailing Lists:
Do not add bloggers to mailing lists, point out when contacting them that you do have a press release mailing list if they want to be added but just because their email is on their blog does not mean you can add them to a mail database.

Exclusive content/tailored content:
Give something of value to the blogger. Value = can be new content for their blog such as survey results, a funny video that they get to blog about first, an interview (email Q&A) with your client etc.

Recycle content – Your press release to print media might have gotten coverage but maybe not all the point were covered or all questions of the survey were mentioned. Why not take what wasn’t covered and point it out to a blogger if you think it was of interest?

Consider when doing surveys to have bloggers tipped in advance and have them contribute questions to ask, then give them the answers as exclusive content

Competitions:
If you have the resources, run competitions with the bloggers for their readers. You are far better on giving them something to give away on their blog than giving them something to use for themselves. Why not give them cinema tickets and have them give some of them away on their blog to their readers? There are a lot of things you can do competitions-wise. Cookbook giveaways, cinema tickets etc. Try and run competitions that reward interactivity and creativity – instead of “leave a comment” type entries, have criteria where entrants they have to leave a comment and point to a youtube video or a photo online of something or link to their favourite clip from another movie Al Pacino was in.

Spread the love
There are plenty of bloggers out there. While one blog might have gotten you some great coverage, spread your wings and work with other blogs too, move around the blogging community. The bloggers you worked with previously should be happy to link to the blogger running the current competition

Embargoes are honoured
Bloggers will honour embargoes, if they don’t, they’ll know they won’t be trusted again.

Disclosures:
To ensure fair game, strongly encourage bloggers to disclose in any review that they got a device from you, you gave them a review copy of a book etc. In terms of payola, hopefully bloggers in Ireland will not ask you for money to blog or tweet about them. If they charge to write what they and you class as an advertorial then that should be disclosed too. Not doing so will end up with being found out eventually and damaging your rep.

Online PR Course – May 2010

After getting some feedback from folks (thank you) I’ve rejigged the Online PR Course I gave back in January and will now be doing a premium course based on it. It will be on May 4th in the Camden Court Hotel, start at 9.30am. 210 euros for a day, inc lunch. Max places = 14. If interested email damien mulley.ie with subjectline: May Online PR

Online PR course breakdown

  • 0. Basics of Online Comms
  • 1. Developing a Communications Bible
  • 2. Developing a Comms Philosophy
  • 3. Working with: Bloggers, Running blogger events, Forums, Twitter etc.
  • 4. Finding Tools – Who is talking about you online?
  • 5. Crisis Communications

    Update: More details
    * 0. Basics of Online Comms

    How people are communicating online. The numbers, the tools and sites they use and the language they use

    * 1. Developing a Communications Bible

    Using techniques used by TV show writers to create a working document on how a company communicates with itself and the outside world and the prescribed methods and content to be used when communicating.

    * 2. Developing a Comms Philosophy

    Working with your staff to create guidelines on communicating with the outside world both when as an official representative of the company as well as when in a personal capacity.

    * 3. Working with: Blogs, Forums, Twitter etc.

    How to use online media to spread your company message and how working with bloggers, Twitterers and Facebook users can create digital word of mouth campaigns

    * 4. Finding Tools – Who is talking about you online?

    We go through a list of tools you can use (both free and premium) to see what people are saying about you and your competitors and where they’re saying it

    * 5. Crisis Communications

    With the best of intentions, things can go wrong and go wrong quite quickly. We go through how best to respond to a crsis and how to turn any negative fallout into neutral or positive sentiment. We’ll use Irish and UK examples of good ways to address a crisis online.

Thanks Online PR peeps

About three weeks ago I ran the Online PR course/workshop. The dealio with it was that those attending didn’t pay with money but accepted that they had a task to blog/Tweet something they found useful from the course. Thanks for the 35 people who came along and the below folks who have so far blogged about it.

Martina.

Steph.

Marc.

Jennifer.

JBBC.

Dena.

Dave Davis.

Derry O’Donnell.

Leo Fogarty. Includes a video too!

Vanessa.

Online PR – Crisis Communications

This post/document has been created from a few years now of working online and helping people and organisations communicate online including times when unexpected things happen and they need to respond to events that blew up. I’d appreciate feedback on this and please do link and pass it along as I think it will benefit a lot of organisations. This is one of the modules in the Online PR Course.

During the week we read of the Boards.ie hack and how they reacted to it and did it quickly. I was asked to give some input (it was quite minor) on how to communicate to their members and the general public. I was hugely impressed that they had given themselves a very short deadline to go public about it and to inform as many as they could and backed their announcement up with an FAQ. It was a near perfect example of crisis communications.

Online PR and communications needs to be handled differently in some regards. The audience online is different but being online also means search rankings and findability are crucial. Do a Google search for “Irish Pork” and 13 months later all you read is bad news:
Irish pork results on Google

Click here for bigger pic.

How to react to a crisis using online communications tools

You’re already listening, right?

Firstly and it might be obvious but all organisations should be at minimum be listening to what people are saying about them online. Tools like Google Alerts, Twitter search, Boardtracker etc. should be in daily use. Ideally though an organisation should be in various communities so they know about any crisis before an alert pops up to let them know a volume of outraged messages. This could be official presences there or their staff using these spaces for personal use. See! It pays to have staff using these places.

Call in experts

When a crisis happens and is public or is going to be made public then you need to call in experts. This helps you reduce the workload when dealing with this, calms you down a bit, gives you perspectives you haven’t spotted perhaps cos you’re bricking it but it also adds credibility. Boards.ie for example called on Brian Honan for advice, being a well-known computer security expert.

All hands on with staff

Don’t let the staff know by some formal email or have them learn of this via an external source. Bring them together, fully inform them about what’s happening and get their take. Tell them your response plans and see if they can help. Ensure though that they will not go gung ho and reply without prior approval. It will sometimes be best to have your staff be the ones to reply if they are respected members of some online communities.

Go public ASAP, create a response page

A public response should be as rapid and transparent as possible. Create a page on your website for the crisis. If an online storm is happening or is expected to happen then you need to create a central and trusted source of information. Don’t let the main source of news on this crisis be some place totally out of your control. This first response could be as simple as “We’re responding” but it’s a reponse. If you have more detailed information put it on this page. Relay on the page that this will be the central place for all updates, more updates are on the way and ask people to reference this page as the source of information. Let people know that you will answer all questions and this page will be the place where they get answered first but you will get around to answering questions in other places too.

Inform the world of your reponse and continuing responses

Inform the press, bloggers, Twitterers, Facebook Fans of your response page and ask them to reference this to everyone. Ask them to link to it. Ask your staff to link to the response page using their Facebook, Twitter accounts but direct people to an agreed company rep to get answers from or else have they relay information requests in to the crisis team. Brief some news organisations in advance of a widely sent press release so they can be ready to interview you as soon as this breaks. Use language that makes you look competent, assuring and in control.

Keep listening and react to incorrect information first

After getting the public announce out the gap start looking around. See what people are saying. Respond to incorrect or totally false information at the source and on your reponse page. Sometimes the person making the false claims might not let you respond which is why your page can react to it.

See what questions are being asked, don’t wait for them to come to you. Answer as many of the questions as you can on your response page first. Then go out to where they are being asked, answer them there but always link back to your page which you will point out answers that question and many others. An unanswered question is a dangerous thing. Make sure the void is filled by you and not someone speculating.

Has the horse bolted?

If news broke and now the controversy is being called something you don’t like such as “Disgusting Dominos People” or Eurostarfail then use that term and even put it in your page title. Don’t ignore it. If that’s how the conversation is going and it becomes the most used phrase for the crisis then get in there and fight for your right to reply. People will Google that phrase and you want to be found to it so you can give your side. Dominos did that with their CEO responding to those awful videos by replying in his own video, with the same wording as the original videos and he did it in the same space where it happened – YouTube. Stupidly now, Dominos pulled their video and instead the original videos can be found again. Leave it up!

Dominos reply

Don’t stop

Remember that the web will remember forever. As Dominos should have remembered. For a while you need to keep going even if tiring and be on top of it all. Like Arnold Vinick in the West Wing when a nuclear powerplant has a meltdown and he holds a press conference and keeps answering questions until the press gets tired and go home. The story ends at that news cycle.
Arnold Vinick answers questions

Aftermath

Going back and looking at the results for Irish Pork:
Irish pork results on Google

You can see that the first few results. Even without clicking through people will have a negative sentiment from the headlines and the snippets. So use traditional PR to send out good news after the event. Use the same phrases so that the more recent news that appears on the websites of these news organisations will push down the older news. See what other online spaces are still

The Asshole rule

There’s always going to be one. No matter how harmless the crisis is, some people will use it to attack your organisation or sometimes you get used as a proxy for a grudge over someone else. If people put something up on a website and they do not give you a right of reply then reply on your own space and reply in other spaces too. That way if people find a negative post they’ll see references in other spaces around it where your take is expressed.

Online Communications guidelines/philosophy

As part of the Online PR course today we covered guidelines for online communications. So here’s this part of the course.

Communications guidelines or a comms philosophy is better than a set of rules in my view because the wannbe lawyers will try and argue every word of a ruleset. It’s much hard to argue with a cloud or something as fluffy as “please don’t do anything that makes people unhappy”. These guidelines that are created by a company should be a group activity, not written by one person and enforced. The group (generally) will be more switched on than one person. If your staff contribute to this it also means they know what this is about and don’t get surprised with a new memo dictating what this is.

If there is only one thing to remember:
Everything that can be copied or pasted or photographed with a mobile is one step from being seen by the whole world. This goes for internal and external communications.

Companies that take part in a conversation (even when they get dragged in) will be far better than companies that refuse to take part. With online being a core part of every life, both business and personal, every mention of you in a conversation can be found and can be added to. Both positive and negative opinions can spread and build more.

A few truths:

  • People will talk about you online.
  • People will talk about you online and sometimes this will be negative. This is ok.
  • No matter who you are and no matter if you are a living saint, someone will say a negative thing about you or your company.
  • Conversations cannot be stopped and should not be. Those who try to stop them will actually end up adding the wrong type of energy to the conversations and create further ones.
  • Everyone, including you, has a right of reply. Sometimes it might not be where you want to place it but you still ought to exercise that right.
  • A staff that are schooled in communicating is better than a staff that are told they can’t communicate.
  • Good external communications can only happen with good internal communications.

Communications Guidelines for online interactions:

When either representing the company or when in a personal capacity and talking about the business area:

0. Don’t be alone
Point out the conversation to others in the company if you are at work. They may also be looking at the same content and about to respond. Others may also have a different and reaction to the piece. Other opinions from within your organisation should be welcomed.

1. When interacting, be upfront.
State who you are from the start. Use your real name in full or at least first name. State you are from your organisation. State what area you work in or what your role is if this is needed. Making up names, pretending to not be from your organisation can be seen as dishonest (it is!) and even when you think you are doing good and your intentions are good it can be used against you and your organisation. Also, your IP address is probably going to be logged and can be traced back.

2. Respect the right to give an opinion.
Some people might be over-the-top hostile to your company and even you. Respect their right to have an opinion and to share it. You might not like their viewpoint and disagree with it but having an open mind when it comes to opinions makes you a better communicator. You can disagree and still be respectful. Always remember you are not just reply to someone but replying to someone in front of potential dozens or hundreds of others.

3. Be helpful.
Try and provide as much information as you and the organisation are able to give. If there is information you can’t provide, say so. Support all points by linking to information sources, both your organisation’s sources and others.

4. Be positive.
Joing discussions about competitors or adding to a thread that is not constructive doesn’t help your organisation and the community in general. Try and make every interaction one that provides value. Standing on its own, does this blog post, blog comment, forum thread, Twitter reply represent your organisation well? Does it typify your organisation’s Spirit? Positivity is also infectious and is reciprocated. If people add an opinion to a blog post, Twitter message or forum thread you started, thank them since they’ve taken time out to contribute and help.

5. Be concise
This might sound like the opposite to providing as much information as you can (No. 3) but it is not. Depending on the interaction, it might be a case of correcting incorrect information or giving the take of your organisation. In hostile environments, nitpickers will examine every word you use. Get to the point quickly, provide the information in the first few sentences to ensure clarity. In a world of speed reading and scanning, if you can provide information in the first 3 lines compared to the first 30, the scanners and those who take their time will read you more.

6. Be playful
These are guidelines, not rules, not laws. Over time as you interact your language and style may change. Find what works for you.

7. Give feedback
Make these guidelines ones that adapt to the world. Give internal and external feedback. Revisit them on a regular basis.

Online PR Training Course breakdown

An email will be sent out in the next few minutes (check your spam filters) to all those who put their name down for the first Online PR Course on January 23rd and who reached the cutoff. We are massively oversubscribed with about 80 requests and spaces for just 30 people. It was first come first served so apologies to all those that wanted to attend and were not offered a place. There may be another course in the future and if it’s a free event you will be invited along. Those names after the cutoff for course one will get first refusal for the next one.

The documentation for the course will be put on this site for everyone to download and share.

Here’s what the breakdown of the course is looking like now. This may change before the course starts though.

Online PR course breakdown

Online PR Course/Workshop – January 23rd 2009 in Dublin

So finally a venue has been booked and a new date for this Online PR Course I’ve been promising for too long.

Details: It’s now Saturday January 23rd in The Radisson Blue Golden Lane in Dublin. Swift Suite No. 2.
Go right and up the stairs as you walk in. We’ll start around 1030am, break for lunch and see can we finish around 4pm.

Please note this course is not free, as such. Those that take part in the course will have to make public some of what they learned on it. Or pay a fee of a billion dollars! Be it via a post on a blog, a few takeaways on Twitter, Facebook Note, a powerpoint presentation they upload to Slideshare etc. This course is going to be used by me naturally to bugfix sections in order for me to launch a commercial Online PR course but I want to spread good information as far as possible so I’d like those taking part to inform as many people as possible about best practices.

There are about 30 spaces on this course. Those from this initial list have first refusal. If they leave their name in the comment here as a confirm I’ll add them to the list. Those who left comments on this other post (in order of timing) will have second refusal of the remaining places. For those that don’t make the cutoff, the notes will be available to everyone.

I’ll do another post in a bit on what the course will cover. Feel free to blog and tweet and telegram this to your friends.

That free Online PR Workshop (maybe more than one)

Ages and ages and ages ago, in a Galaxy far far away I committed to do an Online PR Workshop and then time ran out for me and time is still not back. Instead of doing this in August 09 I’ve not got time to do it until January 2010 instead. Saturday January 9th to be exact. At least I’ve stuck the date in the diary. Whoever signed up for this workshop can still avail. If anyone else wants to come along if someone gives up their space or for a second workshop then leave their name here or on the Facebook Page for Online PR in Ireland.

Please do note that this is a test/beta workshop. You’re the guinea pigs!

Online PR: Companies inviting bloggers and Twitterers to events – Some experiences

I’ve run a good few blogger events (apart from the Blog Awards and Web Awards) including Collision Course, the Bord Gais meets the bloggers event, Show and Tell and a few others where bloggers meet companies. A few more events are on the way.

The line to the dance was long and crowded...
Photo owned by AndYaDontStop (cc)

Some personal experiences, your mileage may vary:

Invite interested bloggers, not bloggers who have “readerships”
The numbers game is poison. If you are inviting people because they are read by x hundred people instead of them writing well informed blog posts then you might get an uninformed message out to x hundred people. Go for quality, not quantity. Quality travels further. Invite bloggers or Twitterers who you think would be interested in what you are doing and have people who read or follow them that would like to be informed about what you are doing. This means you have to do research and find out who writes about what. Ask other bloggers to help you with this if you don’t know. Also, open the event up to those not on your list if you have spaces. Meet people you don’t know anything about. Saying that, I’ve seen some bloggers who have come along to an event and professed they have zero interest in the event, despite them approaching me or the company to come along.

Personally invite bloggers
Don’t send a mass email with everyone BCCd in. If you think bloggers will find value in the event, start as you mean to go on. Know something about them already, isn’t this why they are being invited? Send an email to each one and for the love of god don’t do a mailshot or copy and paste the same email to each of them. Bloggers and Twitterers are also on IM to each other and ask each other if “so and so PR company” emailed them about an event. You know what’s really nice these days? Personally written notes or cards. Not enough do that. Despite the digital world, many bloggers treasure the analog items.

Give them something of value, as in content
Freebies, yeah, great. Not a lot you can blog about if you get something for free. Give bloggers something they can give to their readers. New, interesting content. An interview, a video of a new drinks cocktail, facts about the company’s new product about to be released. The CEO asked questions that were sent in via their readers.

Give them more control than you’re comfortable with
Don’t suggest a hashtag for the event, let them suggest it. If you are going to run a competition with bloggers or Twitters, get them to use their creativity. They know their audience more than you. They’ll know what will work best in terms of quizzes or the like. Even ask bloggers privately about the way to structure their event. Collaboration works best.

Give more then was expected
Steve Jobs does his one more thing. Do the same. Bill 4/5ths of what will happen at the event. Something not known is nice when presented. A staffer they were not expecting, news before anyone else, test kit for a new product.

Don’t ask when they will blog about this
This is probably obvious but you now and then get “I’m sorry to ask this but my boss wants to know when you’ll be doing a blog post on this” from someone. I once got asked when writing for the Sunday Tribune could I let them know the word count of an article I’d be writing after coming to their event. If bloggers don’t find it interesting they won’t blog it. If you push someone to write then you’re commissioning an advertorial and you’ll get some half-assed job too.

Meet more people for each event, not the same people
They’ll get sick of you, you’ll get sick of them, they’ll get sick of each other. There are plenty of bloggers, invite new ones to your next event. The circuit is starting to happen where the “usuals” are at every event. Spice it up.

It only starts after the event
This is all about relationships being built. It’s not a marketing thing in the traditional form nor is it traditional PR. It also has customer relations thrown in. Use each event to learn more about those coming along. See can you use your contacts to help them out. Know a friend in another company that can get them access to a musician, have you got a sports star you use for events that they’d love to interview? Just even add them to Facebook, Twitter or leave genuine encouraging comments on their blog. See what they come back to you with as well and accept their feedback and suggestions, which leads us to…

Listen and act
You’re get some good feedback at your event and suggestions about things you might want to try. If you can, act on them. You’re bringing people together who are good at expressing opinions. See what you can do to show the bloggers that you are doing more than listening.