XMen Origins – Wolverine & 20th Century Fox Miss The Online Marketing Buzz

This past weekend the internet was buzzing. What were they buzzing about? The movie trailer for the new Wolverine movie coming out. It wasn’t on main stream news, where it was buzzing was on social networks, social news sites, video shares and forums as well as social communication channels like Twitter.

The trailer hit theaters as a lead in to the Keanu Reeves’ movie, a re-adaptation of “The Day The Earth Stood Still“. The first real big buzz coming Friday night. A smaller bit of buzz about the Wolverine movie came during Comic Con this year where they showed a slightly different trailer.

So how did 20th Century Fox stumble out of the gate on this one? There’s several ways, and as a marketer who’s well versed in online media, it just frustrated me to no end that these big movie houses still just do not get online marketing in any sense of the form.

What Happens When You Can’t Find The Website?

Let’s start with their website. Think you can find the official Wolverine website by typing in Wolverine Movie? How about Wolverine Movie Trailer? How about using it’s official movie title “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”? Nada – Zippo – Zilch. All through out the weekend I tried, today I took screen caps – no where in the top 10, take a look below (click the thumbnails to get a larger view).

Wolverine Movie Google Search   Wolverine Movie Trailer Google Search   X-Men Origins Wolverine Google Search

X-Men Origins Wolverine Official Site Google SearchTheir website is in flash, totally absolutely in flash with absolutely no content a search engine’s spider can read. The only thing it can read is the title tag for this site. Talk about being invisible to the search engines, and to the rabid Wolverine fans! It wasn’t until I typed in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine Official Site” did I get the movie site to come up in Google. Now tell me who the heck is going to type that in, other than me who was bound and determined to find the official site?

Video, Video, Video… It’s Where the People Are At

Now lets go to the subject of the trailer. Talk about needing to loosen control! 20th Century Fox definitely needs to loosen their death grip if they aren’t going to put their trailer out on their site the same day they release it in a movie theater. They also need to realize that when they don’t come up for “Wolverine Trailer” for their own site, they need to have it ranking else where, or someone else will. On Friday, Saturday and early Sunday there was still no Wolverine trailer on the official site, what in the world is wrong with their marketing team? Granted today when I went out to look the trailer is now there.

People were clamoring to see this trailer who didn’t want to go see this movie. Let me tell you, as a comic book gal, and a XMen fan from my childhood years, I was clamoring to see this trailer. I’ve been waiting like the rest of the XMen fans since the last movie to get more. We all scour the internet for clues, tidbits and the slightest bit of information we can glean to satisfy our need.

Thus why looking for this trailer became an obsessions with not just me, but others as well over the weekend. According to Groundswell, the author Charlene Li, points out that 29% of the people in social media are watching videos other people have made. Google was pulling down more trailers of Wolverine this weekend than you can imagine. But people were still searching for this trailer on YouTube and any other video share they could find.

Wolverine Trailer Search on YouTube

The Fans Take Action…. 20th Century Fox Misses Out

I did find it on another video share, I’m not going to say where, because I don’t want to see it taken down. I found another trailer from Comic Con too – and what’s amazing about that video, it captures people cheering during the trailer, talk about fandom! Cheering during a trailer – now that speaks volumes.

People were videoing the trailer from their phones while in the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. They uploaded it to video shares and blogged about it. Why did they do this? 1) they love XMen, Wolverine in particular 2) they recognized that 20th Century Fox wasn’t filling their need or the need of others.

No where on YouTube is there an official Wolverine, 20th Century Fox, or Marvel Channel for the movie. What 20th Century Fox doesn’t realize is that there is real buzz going on about this movie. One look at Google Insights tells the story. Just over this weekend searches for Wolverine skyrocketed, several terms are break out terms with searches increasing over 1000% (I don’t get the big surge in Michigan though). None of these terms are pushing traffic towards the official XMen site either, and if you notice, none of these terms use the long arduous title that 20th Century Fox Does.

click images for a larger view
Google Insights - Wolverine - Trend and Map Data  Google Insights - Wolverine - Search Trend Data

So this leads to showing you the audience, a lesson in strategy in combining both SEO and Social Media strategies together when you are launching something big. When you understand online media, and aren’t having such a death grip on control of your brand, you can reap huge rewards. Unfortunately for 20th Century Fox, they are just making their fans of XMen and Wolverine not like them very much.

And btw the way, yes I did a fan girl squeal when I saw Gambit. 😉 ahhh Remmy LeBeau makes me weak!

emetrics: Reputation Management & Social Media

Katie Paine at eMetricsI first heard Katie Delahaye Paine speak at Blog Potomac this summer (thanks to Geoff Livingston for bringing her in to that event) and she just amazed me. Few speakers really enthrall me into what they are speaking about, but at that event Katie sure did. When I saw Katie listed as speaking here at eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington DC, I circled that session in red as a must attend and report on.

Katie’s got a wonderful, straight forward, and to the point way of telling an audience “how it is”. Not in a rude way, but in a way that everyone sitting in those seats understood, what’s worth your time to look at and what’s a waste of your time. She’s got an amazing way to relate to audiences and it was certainly reflected in the questions asked when it was time for Q&A.

Katie started out her discussion talking about “reputation”. “The world ‘reputation’ is so 1999,” Katie began. The term that should be used today is ‘conversation’ and / or ‘having a conversation’. Trying to manage your reputation in a social media environment of today, is just plain silly (and futile), you just can’t.

Both PR Coverage and Social Media (it’s better when they are working together) have a big affect on how companies are perceived and in the end a big on affect on what they are doing. They key though, is to measure both what’s work and what’s not working. Companies also need to understand that people are talking online, they are saying and doing things with brands, products & services, whether you are active in the conversation or not.

Katie then presented the audience with some instances where companies were successfully using social media:

  • BestBuy measures 85% lower turnover as a result of its “Blue Shirt” community. 65k of their 85k employees are part of the community, the community has helped retain employees
  • State Farm measures it internal blog by the improvement in morale, they put tent cards on tables in cafeteria, re-branded their blog “ask your CEO” morale scores have gone through the roof – they feel “listened too”. Prior to this, it was just their CEO “talking to himself”, no one read the blog.
  • ASPCA and MADD can track online donations and increased membership back to its pr efforts and social media efforts
  • -Dell measures ROI based on the number of usable ideas generated in Ideastorm
  • -On Twitter a start up company got 100 great marketing ideas for free, a woman raised over 6k in day [I believe this might be Beth Canter, but Katie didn’t elaborate, Katie has a session I’ll have a wrap up of on SMG] and a wooden toy maker in NH got a nationwide contract
  • -$0 budget YouTube videos about Barack Obama were seen by 120 time the audience than Hilary Clinton’s video

So how do you know what caused the sale, conversion, registration, watching a video, etc.? As it is you don’t, how can you measure your success?

PR & Social Media – The Laws & The Myths

Katie then presented “The Immutable Laws of 21st Century PR Measurement”:

  • Banner ad & Popups are not the reason people buy stuff!
  • Its not about how many eyeballs, its the right eyeballs
  • Its not the media, its the conversation
  • Size doesn’t matte so stop screaming, start listening
  • “HTS” – How Idiots Track Success [this made me laugh out loud!]
    • (we’re use to big big numbers, but its about how you interpret the data)
  • -Be who you are and see who is pleased
  • -ROI doesn’t mean what you think it does because you can’t divide by zero

Along with the “Laws”, there’s also some “Myths of Measuring””

  • You can measure after the program is over
  • -Measuring reputation in expensive – if you think measurement is expensive, what’s the cost of ignorance?
  • Measurement is complicated
  • You can’t measure relationships
  • You can measure reputation

Reputation vs. Relationships

Katie Pain talks about social media & PR at eMetricsReputation = experience + actions + history + people
Katie stressed to the audience, you can manage relationships, you can’t manage reputation, to try and do so, especially in social media is pretty much a dead end. Relationships = trust, commitment, satisfaction, control mutuality, exchange / control. Katie explained that most relationship start with exchange, such as money for a product, but the important relationship to create is the communal relationship because its about loyalty.

7 Steps of Reputational ROI
1. Define the”R” – define the expected results
2. Define the “I” – what’s the investment
3. Understand your audiences and what motivates them
4. Define the metrics
5. Determine what you are benchmarking
6. Pick a tool to analyze the data
7. Then to do the “so what”

Listening to the Customers

Traditional PR drove and can still drive conversations on social media forums – its been going on since 1994, nothing new there. What is new, is the blogs and forums are now starting influence the conversations, for example Techcrunch, etc. But what businesses are finding is that these places were not big influencers on the consumers. What influenced the most – was other consumers reviewing products and services. People who actually bought and used the products and placing their thoughts, as opposed to an “expert” espousing “how great/bad” something was.

In a case study that Katie did for a client, their “traditional media” coverage was all bad press about a product, but yet this was one of their most successful products, when they filtered it down to find out why it was successful despite the bad press coverage, it was in the structured customer reviews of the product. The reviews of customers actually using the product were all positive.

Stop Doing Stupid Things, Your Reputation Changes

If you can change the conversation, you can improve your reputation. You can also improve your reputation by first listening and then responding. Negative coverage tends to come from companies, or company representative doing stupid things. This type of negative coverage can harm your reputation, because the web and social media allow things to travel at a fast rate.

Positive issue discussion over time, share of exposure, favorable position can all have an impact on engagement. Katie presented the case of the ASPCA. Rather than just “letting it happen”, they got everyone involved – analytics, marketing, social, etc. They did every possible known way to communicate except advertising. They utilized their online community, blog, myspace friends, youtube channel views, facebooks fans / causes …. but “So what”. None of this is a difference unless its put into context.

The big “Ah-Ha” was “what’s going on with online donations?” Her example of the ASPCA not really being “ahead” of the Michael Vick issue, and just letting legal handle it – they saw no increase in online donations. However, when the news broke about the ASPCA rehabbing the dogs Michael Vick had, they were ahead of the curve in promoting it through all those changes and their online donations grew.

Katie left the audience with this final thought, web analytics is not the tool for everything, media content analysis could be good, or relationship surveys. You need to match the analytical tool to the objective.

Can Businesses Combat the Constant, Experienced Complainer?

By Liana “Li” Evans

As a business, no doubt you will have your run in with an upset customer or two. But what happens when that customer turns into a troll? Or what happens when you are subjected to the “experienced complainer”?

Santa with the Reindeer ComplainerWhat’s an experienced complainer? Well those are the people who know how to “troll” the system. Knowing that if they complain enough, they’ll be placated with discounts, coupons, certificates, and special things all to “soothe” their complaints. They then figure out they can do this just about anywhere they go. All of a sudden, seemingly or magically they get free trips, special discounts, and the like, all because they threaten to write a letter of complaint. These days, even more damaging, they threaten to write a negative review on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Epinions, or even possibly more damaging – write a blog post with a scathing review, with links to your website that are nofollowed.

As customers, I’m sure we’ve seen these types of people. Nothing ever makes them happy, not even free things (undoubtedly they’ll find something wrong with that, too). So what’s a company to do? How can they fight back? Can they takes steps to protect their good name and reputation from these types of complainers, scammers and trolls?

Seems helpless doesn’t it? Well take heart, people in these social communities are smart. Especially if you are making an honest effort to communicate with your audience and reaching out to them. They can smell a “troll” a mile away. They can peg a constant complainer usually within 2-5 posts on a forum or a blog, and they can certainly use their own voice to “out” them as the scammer they seem to be.

Is there anything else you can do? Well in this day and age of digital photos, videos and instant reviews by bloggers and review sites, you do need to do your do diligence before taking extreme actions against the constant complainers. Research and documentation into them is probably the best course of action, to proove that the complainer has a history of “never being happy”.

Take the case of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and a couple from Cleveland. I wrote about them on SearchMarketingGurus. This couple has done nothing but complain for years and were “soothed” with discounts, special packages and percentages off – all because they were Diamond Club members. I did a little poking around in forums, and the wife seems to leave a wide path of complaints all over the place. The communities even call her a whiner.

Royal Caribbean seems to have done a bit of homework here, and felt they’d never be able to make this couple happy. Guess what they did? They banned the couple from taking cruises on their cruise line for life. Drastic? Perhaps, but it does alleviate the issue dealing with a customer who seems more out to take advantage of your business than anything else.

While banning customers from your business might not be the first option you want to take, it is there if you have the need to do so, but prepare for backlash, undoubtedly the customer will play the victim in the end. In the case of Royal Caribbean, the local news interviewed the wife about the distressing news RC banned them, and a website or two came to her defense, saying complaining to much got them banned. But looking at other sites, the wife has been outted as a “constant whiner” – so who’s right? I guess that’s up to Royal Caribbean’s customers and online community to make their decision with their wallets.

If you are active with your audience, talking to them, interacting with them in social media, believe it or not a lot of times your customers will take up your defense. So the lesson to be learned here is hold an honest conversation with your customers or audience, as they say, the best defense, is a great offense.

Relationship Building – 6 Tips For Working in Social Media

By Liana Evans

Building RelationshipsAs much as social media is about starting conversations, its equally as much about building relationships. Once you start getting involved with social media, it becomes very apparent that it takes time and resources to build those relationships within your community that creates the brand loyalists and promoters, not to mention converting the skeptics.

It certainly doesn’t happen over night, or with one Social News site submission. Rather, it takes dedicated resources, as in real human beings, that represent your company or your brand to communicate one on one with individuals who are active in the social circles within your industry space. Shortcuts are few and far between, and in the end, only manage to “cheapen” or even destroy the trust you’ve built up in a relationship.

Take for example, outsourcing a blogger outreach program. A lot of companies out there will spout out how many emails they can send out to bloggers pitching your product, service or brand. If they do that, you should stop, pack up your things and walk out the door. That’s not how you are going to build relationships with bloggers, that’s only going to get them pissed off at you.

So what’s a company to do? Well here’s some simple tips to get your started on building relationships in the social media space.

  • Dedicate Resources
    Building relationships in social media requires resources, both time and bodies. You need to have a dedicated person or team that fields the responsibility of communicating on a one on one level with your audience. That means that this team of people needs to read blogs, manage friend lists, write comments, join groups, upload photos, participate in forums, be active on sites like Twitter or Plurk, write blogs posts for your blog and so on. Depending on your industry, you might need to even dedicate an expert to your team that can field questions with the right answers.

  • Be Real
    Building relationships in social media requires trust. That means, be real – be who you are. Let your employees be who they are, representatives of your brand. Building fake profiles, writing fake reviews, concocting fake blogs, lying about who you really are will all eventually bite you in the ass, so don’t even bother. Don’t ever underestimate the audience’s intelligence, they can smell a fake a mile away and will crucify you when you are found out.

  • Communicate Early & Often
    Whether its through newsletters, blogs or even forum posts, get out there and communicate! By communicating “early” you have the opportunity to head off those “storms” that can arise, but not only that, you can also get a jump start on topics that are hot in your industry and respond to them a lot earlier than your competition. Communicating often helps to build that relationship with your audience that they can trust you will be there, informing them of the valuable information they are looking for or need.

  • Get Involved
    Don’t just post links to your blog posts, or press releases in Twitter or Plurk, or posts on forums. That’s just going to make people ignore you, because it’s not a two way conversation. Actually get involved with your community. If people are looking for assistance, point them in the right direction, even if its not to your site, that’ll gain you much more respect rather than slapping a link to your product that isn’t related to what they asked.

    One of the best examples of this “getting involved” point I’m making is Tim Jackson the Brand Manager of Masi Bicycles. This man is deeply involved in the Plurk community and it’s benefiting Masi by leaps and bounds. Why? Because Tim’s done the first 3 bullet points here and has also gotten involved.

  • Reward Your Audience
    One thing to always keep in mind, as much as you are involved in building relationships in social media, so is everyone in your community. It’s not just you spending the time and effort, but your audience is as well. They take the time to post reviews, type up comments, write blog posts, do research to answer questions, test out new products or services. Make sure you remember to reward your community for the efforts, time and resources they are putting in. Last but not least, always remember to personally thank those community members who put forth the extra effort.

  • Remember to Listen
    Building a relationship requires that you listen more and talk less. That means, as much as your PR department wants you to be promoting, promoting and promoting, that’s the last thing you should be doing in social media. Social media offers a unique opportunity for you to get real reactions, learn about real issues or problems as well as successes straight from your customers’ perspectives. All of this is not hindered by the stigma of a focus group, where people might think then need to “give the right answers”. It’s amazing the things you can learn just by listening to what your customers or your audience is saying, take the time to read their posts in forums, comments to your blog posts, their tweets or plurks and even what they say in reviews. It can be well worth its weight in gold.

It’s Not the A-List Bloggers You Should Worry About

By Li Evans

What do Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama have in common? It is a woman. However, its not the woman that was taking the spotlight Saturday afternoon. No this time its not Hillary, so you need to guess again. Give up?

Mayhill Fowler, Photo Credit Thor Swift of Washington PostMayhill Fowler

WHO?! Yep, that’s right Mayhill Fowler, someone you probably never heard of until today. Both of these polished and charismatic politicians were rocked by this unsuspecting amateur blogger, who is among 2,500 bloggers that write on Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post. The 61 year old, mother of two and Tennessee native, caught both of these high profile people in rather unflattering situations.

Fowler, back in April, caught Barack Obama’s “Bitter” comments on tape and set loose a firestorm for his campaign efforts in my state of Pennsylvania. This was literally non-stop for 2 weeks prior to my state’s primary.

Last week, Fowler was in South Dakota and caught Bill Clinton in what seems to be an unguarded moment when he let loose on his thoughts about Vanity Fair and their article about him.

Fowler, has no journalistic training. Fowler has no online marketing training. Fowler is a citizen journalist who describes herself as a person who “just discovered that I’m impelled to get out there and get the truth of the matter” to Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Armed with her tape recorder (not even an iPod!), Fowler won’t even read her own posts, since the editors tend to change her lead-ins so more people will “click in” to read her pieces.

There’s a lesson here for businesses, public relations specialists and online marketers. It isn’t the A-listers like TechCrunch, Scoble or Rubel that are gettting the scoops these days and they should not be the sole focus of your online marketing efforts to get noticed or “picked up by”. Passionate bloggers who are in your industry writing about what they love best are who you should be paying attention, too.

As someone at one of my WOMMU breakout sessions said “A-Listers” at times can be like echo-chambers.

I couldn’t agree more. Be cognizant of the B,C and even D list bloggers. If those bloggers have any type of SEO training, their blog posts could start to rank right up there with the A-Listers. What’s more important to note, is that these “smaller” bloggers probably have a more passionate reader base, and a “scoop” on an “amateur” bloggers blog, can be just as damaging or beneficial, than the echo-chambers of the A-Listers.

Just ask Barack Obama and Bill Clinton about Mayhill Fowler, that should be enough to convince you.

*photo credit, Thor Swift of the Washington Post.

Hanes ‘Wedgie Free’ Campaign Misses Out on Online Marketing

By Li Evans

Madison Avenue advertising agencies may be good at TV commercials, and highly paid PR Firms may know how to write a press release, but when it comes to translating that across to an online medium (i.e. the internet), the majority of them have a lot to learn. I came across a post on AdFreak about Hanes’ new ad campaign for their new product “Wedgie Free” underwear, which features actress Sarah Chalke of Scrubs fame. The commercials really hit the mark by capturing Sarah’s comedic timing and her all around good looks. It can appeal to women by them thinking “wow, ‘She Gets Wedgies Too?'”, yes I know kind of corny, but all of us have been in that situation at least once in our lives.

While the commercials are catchy, and even premiered on American Idol (trying to capture that ‘young adult female’ demographic), I stopped and wondered how this was translating online. To any online marketer, it’s probably not a surprise that it hasn’t translated yet. If you’re a major online brand, maybe even Hanes, you are probably wondering “what is she talking about?” Well lets take a look at this a little closer.

Hanes PR people sent out a press release. It’s nice, contains images of Sarah Chalke from the commercials and also includes the ability to play the videos on PR Newswire. Great! Hanes’ PR company has at least managed to figure out how to get the videos and images into the press release, but that’s where it seems to have stopped. The PR Release isn’t optimized for search – at least the way normal people search – especially if the aim is “Wedgie Free”, “Wedgies”. I’m sorry, but not many women refer to their underwear crawling up their backsides as “no ride up”, its a “wedgie” plain and simple. It make work in a commercial, but that’s not how people search.

When they launched this campaign, they probably didn’t even stop to think about an online strategy. I’m pretty certain it was more of an after thought. Why? Well because if you look at the search results, you’ll see they (meaning Hanes’ website) doesn’t rank for the main phrase “Wedgie Free”, nor “Wedgie Free” Hanes. They could own this term but they don’t and they are missing out – especially with their PR people contacting blogs like AdFreak.

Google Search “Wedgie Free”

Wedgie Free Search Results in Google

Google Search “Wedgie Free Hanes”

Search for Wedgie Free Hanes in Google

Google Blog Search “Wedgie Free Hanes”

Search for Wedgie Free in Google's Blog Search

You can see the results (in both regular search and blog search) brought back are minimal, and probably until this point, not a lot of search were conducted on “wedgie free”. However, if you launch a campaign on American Idol touting “Wedgie Free” underwear, what do you think will happen? Hello – the audience of American Idol is the demographic that uses the internet the most, they are going to go on and search for videos, images and information on “Wedgie Free”. With as little competition as there is for the key phrases around this campaign, they could have really hit the mark online with this campaign without a lot of effort. Instead their Press Release on PR Newswire gets the search results as does AdFreak, who points to the PR NewsWire and Wall Street Journal pieces, not even to the Hanes website.

Multi-Media wise Hanes is sorrily missing out too. They could really capitalize on this campaign if they only took the time to contact an online marketing agency to help them “get more bang for the buck” when it comes to their online efforts. In taking a closer look, I’ll show you some examples of where they are really missing out. First we’ll look at images and then go to video.

A search in Google Image Search shows the screen capture below for “Hanes Wedgie Free”. I also did a search on “Sarach Chalke”. Granted the search for Sarah might be a bit more competitive, but had Hanes optimized their images on their site and in their press release for theses terms, they could be capturing another segment of search, and it’s quite possible they could invoke that these images produce “blended” search results in the search engines (where the images will appear in the search results).

Google Image Search “Hanes Wedge Free”

Results for Hanes Wedgie Free in Google Image Search

Google Image Search “Sarah Chalke”

Search for Sarah Chalke in Google Image Search

Now lets go to video. Here’s another chance that Hanes could quite possibly get “blended” search results to start appearing for these phrases that undoubtedly people are looking for after the appearance of the commercials on American Idol, however, again they are missing out. Google now incorporates relevant YouTube videos into their search results, Yahoo incorporates Yahoo, YouTube, Metacafe and a few others – Hanes is really missing out here!

Hanes doesn’t have a YouTube channel (as of this writing!), and they don’t have any of their videos/commercials out there. Instead other users on YouTube do. This actually does say a lot for their commercials – they are clever and witty, and Cuba Gooding, Jr is just hilarious in those commercials with Michael Jordan. People really LIKE them. It’s too bad Hanes isn’t taking advantage of this, people would subscribe to the channel and it could be another channel to disseminate their message in a quick and easy manner. Instead, with these new commercials, only one video is out there and it’s put up by a division of a PR Company. Plus the video isn’t even optimized for what it should be, it just has that “PR Spin” in the description.

YouTube Search for “Hanes”

YouTube Search Results for Hanes

YouTube Search for “Hanes Wedgie Free”

YouTube Search Results for Hanes Wedgie Free

YouTube Search for “Hanes Wedgie”

YouTube Search Results for Hanes Wedgie

YouTube Video of Wedgie Free Commercial Uploaded By Another Company

Hane's Wedgie Free Sarah Chalke Commercial / Video Uploaded in Another Users Account

The point here is that this ad campaign is clever, it hits its mark in speaking to its target audience, and it’s got a likable spokesperson, but wow, is it missing out on taking this to the next level. The video of how the commercials were made that’s included in the press release on PR Newswire is great but only included there, why they haven’t put together an online marketing strategy to take advantage of this is really befuddling!

Hanes, if you listening, at least get your own YouTube channel! (That’s a little free advice!) :)

Why Most Public Relations Firms Aren’t Great Social Media & Blogging Experts

By Li Evans

As a online marketer with a public relations background I get pretty fired up about Public Relations companies who think that Social Media and Blogging are just something they can incorporate into their “publicity” offerings without any experience in the online world. I’ve done public relations before, and I know what goes into it, I know how to make the contacts, I know how to approach media outlets, and I know how to maintain the clients message. I’ve run successful public relations campaigns for clients that included press releases, media spots, events for the press and events for the community, so it isn’t like I come at this from an online marketer’s perspective that only online marketers should do this type of work.

There are some very experienced public relations companies out there that fully understand and grasp the effect that online media has on a company’s name, brand, products and reputation. They’ve been able to make the transition from working offline, to truly understanding and working with online media outlets, which has a very loose definition. However, these public relations firms are very few and far between, and usually swamped because there are so few of them.

Then you have Public Relations firms who “think” they get it. Who claim they understand bloggers. Who think because they just hired this college graduate who has a Facebook page, that they can spin that into being able to map out a social media strategy for a client. Who think that bloggers are just another place to mass email their client’s press release too.

The key here is “don’t believe the hype“. Public relations firms are great at “SPIN“! It’s their job, it’s what they do best. But, trusting in that spin, when it’s not really true can cost your dearly when it comes to your online reputation. This is the reason you really need to investigate a public relations company’s strategies’ when it comes to online marketing. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Look At Their Own Website: Is it all about them? Does it even work right? Is it all in Flash? How did you find them in the first place? All of this comes into play in a big way. If they cannot translate what they do offline into online success for themselves, why would you even want to deal with them? If all they can promote was that they won this PR award or that PR honor, and it has nothing to do with online marketing, what does that tell you? Here are some key things to look at.
    • Does the site work properly?
    • Are they optimized for the search engines?
    • Is their site done in all Flash?
    • Is there site image heavy?
    • Is it all about the awards they’ve won?
    • Do they even have a blog?
  • Look At Their Company Blog: This is one key indicator that a public relations company understands bloggers, the community and social media. If they don’t even have a blog, you might want to find another company to work with to handle your online marketing efforts in the blogging and social media space. If they do have a blog, look at it closely. A serious down deep look at their own blog.
    • How long as it been in existence?
    • What kind of content does it have?
    • Is the content just press releases?
    • How often do they blog?
    • How many subscribers does it have?
    • Do they allow comments?
    • Is there much discussion going on?
    • Do they use social media promotion (Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.)?
  • Ask To See How the Contact Bloggers: This could get a little tricky, however, a good public relations company just like in the above example, should have no problem with this. They should be showing you that they establish a relationship with a blogger first. If they start pulling out numbers of bloggers they can contact – run, run very far away. If they start spouting “we can contact XXX bloggers with your information”, or they even mutter, “we can distribute your press release…” when you mention blogging or bloggers to them, its time to close up that briefcase and end the meeting.
  • Ask To See Success Stories: Don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see SEVERAL successful results. Ask for general information about their strategy. A public relations company who knows they are successful and has a great strategy in place for working in this space will have no problem showing you exactly what they did for other clients. The key is to understanding that if their approach for each client is unique in social media and blogging. If the public relations company shows you the same strategy over and over again, it’s time to move on.
  • Ask About Their Strategy For You: If they start saying “We’ll take the standard approach” or “We’ve done this a thousand times before for other clients”, stop and hang up the phone. Every client is different when it comes to social media. If you are a textile company and they start talking about Digg, honestly, it’s time to start looking at a company who recognizes each client has to be dealt with individually, there’s no “mass marketing plan” for social media and blogging.
  • Ask for References & Do Research!: Ask for references from clients they’ve worked with in the past on online media promotions when using social media or blogging. Now, just don’t take that references word for it either! You can do the research, just go to any search engine, or look at that client’s website and you can likely see the results. The online results will speak for themselves as to how successful the public relations company is.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype that because they are a public relations company they can handle your online marketing. This is serious business, it’s your name or your brand. It’s something you cherish with pride. The last thing you need is a blogger being mass emailed about your event, when that blogger has asked several times to be taken off your public relations company’s mass spam list they send out every press release they write to. It really doesn’t bode well for your chances the blogger will ever pay attention – other than to write you and email letting you know your public relations company really doesn’t know what they are doing when it comes to online media. I know, I just did that this morning!