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Google Taps The Crowd To Demo Its Products

Google is now sourcing the crowd to help market its products. Google’s new Demo Slam taps the free creative resources of the crowd, pitting user submitted videos against each other. Demo Slam visitors vote on which video of a random pair showcases Google products in the most creative and entertaining way.

Though the Slam was originally conceived in a video battle between Google vice president of engineering Udi Manber and CFO Patrick Pichette, the company quickly saw the potential in turning this into a user-driven contest. It looks like most of the videos posted early on are Google-produced, considering the production values. So it’ll be interesting to see some authentic user submissions.

If it succeeds, the benefits of this campaign will go far beyond scoring a few creative demos. To start, fans are a company’s best salespeople and the excitement for Google products in these videos is contagious. Easy for viewers to relate because they’re watching their peers enjoy the products in very imaginative ways.

Undoubtedly, Google is designing the campaign to build traffic. Not only do users have to submit their videos through YouTube (a Google service), but their friends and followers are directed to the Demo Slam site to vote. Judging by the considerable view counts on some of the posted videos, visitors who stop by the site to vote end up browsing other Slam videos.

If this catches on, not only will Google save on the cost of putting the Google staff to the task, but the content is free. Some would say you get what you pay for. But that’s the larger debate as to the value of crowd-sourcing in general.

So You’re Going to be On Air: Interview Tips

Don't let silence intimidate you.
Don’t let silence intimidate you.

Polished oratory is great, but what you say isn’t as important as how you say it. Be caring, personable and human. Smile. Don’t talk in generalities or simply say that yours is a good product or service. Say why. Tell brief, interesting personal stories. Think of pictures that communicate your story. The media must reduce complex issues into simple stories. Help them do their job. Remember, a typical TV sound bite is only nine seconds. That’s time for one complete thought.

Determine your key message.

Always make important points first. Anticipate questions and practice your answers. Bridge if necessary to get out your key points.

Be brief and concise.

Never say, “No comment.”
Feel free to say, “I don’t know” or “Let me get back to you.”
Avoid industry jargon or acronyms.

Summarize your position.

Rephrase questions positively.
Think out your answer before responding.
Avoid commenting about a competitor.

Look at the interviewer, not the camera.

Wear conservative, solid-color clothes.
Check your appearance in a mirror or monitor.
Don’t place a desk between you and the interviewer.

Be open, relaxed and honest.

Deal in facts, not hypotheticals.
Insist reporters “source” any allegations.
Understand the ground rules before starting the interview.

Don’t let silence intimidate you.

Say what you have to say, then stop.
If you blow an answer, stop and restate it.
Consider everything you say as on the record.

Know reporters’ deadlines.

Call back, if needed, to clarify points.
Protect a reporter’s exclusivity rights to a story.
Practice the “sundown rule.” Call back by day’s end.

Media Relations 101

(image credit RedSky1)

As the newsgathering industry realigns and re-engineers itself, PR practitioners are following suit. Integrating new digital tools. Leveraging the use of social networks. Engaging target audiences with a specificity never before possible.

Some have said that Twitter and other microblogs like it will soon put an end to the traditional press release – and PR as we know it. They may be right. Or not. When stories need to get out fast, there’s still nothing quicker for a reporter or editor than to repurpose a timely, well-written, thorough press release or video from a PR professional known to be accurate and ethical.

If your media-relations efforts need a boost, here’s some back-to-basics guidance to keep in mind.

Media matters

  • Media provides an invaluable third-party endorsement. What is said in an unbiased news story carries more weight than a paid advertisement.
  • Good press rarely just happens. Especially in any kind of sustained way. Someone is usually behind the effort, advancing the story with additional information, angles and activities.
  • A good media relations program prepares a company for proactively dealing with situations that might arise (i.e. crisis management), as well as working to promote the issues and messages that are important to the company.
  • Organizations or individuals who are sought out by – or who want the attention of – the media need a plan to maximize outcomes.

Seeking assistance

  • Working with a PR professional offers a business proven strategies for handling media inquiries and telling your side of the story.
  • Begin by recognizing that the media has a job to do. Reporters will do that job with or without your help, but don’t you want to tell your own story? You can if you deliver timely information they can trust.

What to expect

  • If reporters are doing their job correctly, they should be thorough and unbiased in their reporting. Expect hard questions. Be respectful of their efforts.
  • A company must communicate real information – not just corporate gobbledygook. If you only talk around an issue, reporters will have to get the true scoop elsewhere.
  • In developing a public message, think through all angles: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
  • For on-air interviews, role play possible questions and answers beforehand so you’ll feel more confident and prepared. Yes, do this in front of a mirror or another person.

Potential tactics

  • Press releases: Normally one and no more than three pages, these must relay specific, newsworthy information and be disseminated to the appropriate media. (Don’t be the guy who sends an ag-related release to an entertainment reporter.) They should include follow-up contact information and links for downloadable images.
  • Press conferences: Use these to make an important announcement or to provide more detail on a controversial or time-sensitive subject. They give the media visual opportunities. Provide a media kit with relevant press releases, logos, photos/graphics, information about the company/product/issue, and additional contact information.
  • Editorial pages and on-air commentary: Whenever possible, personally visit editors and editorial boards. Offer useful facts and context. State your position and answer any questions they might have. The goal isn’t to see an editorial the next day. It’s to provide better understanding and perhaps a different frame of reference if and when they do write something that concerns you.
  • Letters to the editor: Put forth an opinion – with a name attached. Consider who would be the best author for the letter.
  • Pitching story ideas: Usually done through a phone call or email, and followed up by pertinent written material.

Media tips

  • Get to know the media you work with regularly. Learn beats/topics of interest so you can pitch story ideas to reporters who want to hear what you have to say.
  • Let reporters know that you will act as a resource anytime needed.
  • Do your homework and comment on the work they do. It builds relationships.
  • Keep in touch on a regular basis. Not just when you need something.
  • Always be forthright and honest in your interactions.
  • Return reporters’ phone calls as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t know the answer to their question, call and let them know you are working on it.
  • Be respectful of their deadlines and constraints.

The Kansas State Fair 2010 A Record Year, Baby!

Sheep Thrills; lots of 'em!
Sheep Thrills; lots of ’em!

Ten days of sunshine, beautiful weather and a killer campaign helped bring long lines at vendors’ booths, busy buildings and a packed midway. Attendance was 354,184 — the best since 1998. Teen Disney star Selena Gomez brought thousands of young fans to the fairgrounds, which resulted in a $20,000 increase. And it was a great year for the midway overall as it experienced its highest gross sales at the Kansas State Fair this year. Yee haw!

Congratulations to our friends at the Kansas State Fair. Here’s to 2011!

Ads That Are Tweets, Tweets That Are Ads

A promoted tweet as seen in the main feed of the HootSuite App.
A promoted tweet as seen in the main feed of the HootSuite App.

An article that was recently posted on AdvertisingAge announced the expansion of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets into the main-stream. Until now, the feed of tweets found on and in third-party applications has remained wholly untouched by anything but user-to-user tweets.

How Promoted Tweets Is Expanding and Targeting Twitter Users

It used to be that short, 140 character advertisements from a select group of advertisers (Starbucks, Red Bull and Virgin to name a few) only appeared at the top search results on Now, users will start to see targeted “tweets” appearing in their streams, not only on, but across popular Twitter desktop/mobile applications like HootSuite and TweetDeck.

How This Advances the Digital Advertising Game

Online advertisers are always looking for a way to fight “advertisement blindness.” This has resulted in the implementation of some pretty disruptive tactics: pop-up windows, animations, pre-roll video commercials and the like. With Promoted Tweets, not only will the advertising be placed in the same space as content, but Twitter will be attempting to pass the ads themselves, as content. They will be “tweets” that Twitter thinks you should be reading and “retweeting.”

Much in the style of Facebook’s highly targeted sidebar display advertising, Twitter will be using algorithms to analyze the tweets and “following” lists of users to determine who the Promoted Tweets will be served to.

How Effective Will Promoted Tweets Be?

Promoted Tweets will only be as effective as the targeting mechanism will let them be. If Twitter is able to successfully pick out coffee fanatics from the crowd and serve Starbucks tweets to them, they’ve done their job. People who are big fans of coffee will be more likely to click on an ad about the latest caffeinated deal.

However, if these Promoted Tweets turn into a veritable “carpet bombing” of the Twitterverse, we’ll surely see ad performance suffer. While a person who’s so-so on coffee might still click on a Promoted Tweet from Starbucks, they’re going to be less likely to take action in any way that will bring value to the advertiser (making a purchase or downloading a coupon).

This is all without mentioning the fact that Promoted Tweets will only be as rich and effective as the community in which they exist. Some tech pundits are making noise about Promoted Tweets detracting so much from the whole Twitter experience that the ineffable micro-blogging social network will inadvertently drive away its user base (and therefore its income potential).

Learning From a Master

Rachel with Governor Parkinson.
Rachel with Governor Parkinson.

In a world of boring, bland speeches, good ones stand out. I recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Kansas’s always-eloquent governor, Mark Parkinson. His keynote speech for the Wichita State University Alumni Association’s annual Shocker Honor Scholar Banquet enthralled the 550 high-school juniors and parents in attendance. I’ve been thinking about both what he had to say – and how he said it.

Governor Parkinson certainly makes use of years on the WSU debate team. He is fast on his feet. No written notes or PowerPoint slides for this pro. Instead, this native Wichitan speaks from his heart. He connects with his audience. The Governor spoke about the joy that comes from choosing a career based on passion rather than the hope of future wealth or fame.

More than just a speaker

The Governor took a personal interest in the students honored at the banquet. While the rest of the room was enticed by dinner, the Governor left his plate to make the rounds and congratulate students individually. Stopping for a picture. Pausing for a hug. He also listened to what they had to say. He used that recent, relevant knowledge to tailor his speech and make it even more interesting. He peppered his comments with anecdotes: “A student I just met is majoring in such-and-such,” or “So-and-so plans to make a difference by tackling this issue.” Governor Parkinson reminded me that what makes a good presenter, is the same thing that makes a good friend. Or a good leader. Someone who listens and learns.