Generating PR: The Trouble with Blogs

If you are an entrepreneur, there will come a day when you need to generate PR (that’s public relations, not PageRank). At 2ndSite, I’m working on this now and my effort led me to place a call to a man named Mister X.

Last week I called Mister X. He is an up and comer in the field of Search Marketing. I have read articles by him over the past couple of years and have always appreciated his point of view and his ambition. I called Mister X and pitched him the idea of writing an article on useful tools that can help you run a search engine optimization firm – the goal was to assist people who were just getting started in search marketing. I suggested the article should incorporate tools like Word Tracker for keyword research and Digital Point’s Keyword Tracker for keyword tracking. I suggested that 2ndSite could be a third tool as SEO’s need to track time and billing and after all I’m an SEO who designed the service to serve SEO’s.

Why target SEO’s? There are vertical within the Web designer market. Many web designers use 2ndSite already, and I am familiar with SEO’s. I know their key information hubs and I know word travels fast within this community. I also know who the influencers are so I figured it would be best to start with a market segment I know. Furthermore, we have some established SEO firms as clients already: firms whose principals speak at SES conferences around the world.

Articles like the one I proposed to Mister X are a dime a dozen. You can find them in every field – from law to masonry – there are articles about useful tools to help get you started. My thinking was he could write an article like this and we could submit it to various SEO resources as I’d seen him do in the past. Generating PR in this way (ie. pitching it to a “freelancer” who gets it placed in periodicals) is an age old PR generation technique. Here’s what happened.

I concluded my call to Mister X by saying “you can’t write this kind of article unless you can get behind the product, so I’ll send you a link that is not publicly available” (it was a screenshot tour) so that he could tour the product. I also pointed out that he could create a free account to test the product first hand. Here my email follow up to our phone conversation:

—–Original Message—–
From: Michael McDerment ***********
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 12:41 PM
To: **********
Subject: 2ndSite follow up

Hi Mister X,

Great speaking with you today. Here is a link to the invoicing screenshots: http://www.secondsite.biz/tour-invoicing.php (this is not publicly available so the design is incomplete).

From there you can access links to the rest of the website and find a place where you can create your own account. If you have any questions, please contact me directly at (416) 481-6946 or by replying to this address.

Best,

- Michael

Re: USING THE TIMESHEET
From an SEO’s perspective if you were to use the timesheet in conjunction with the invoicing I recommend setting your clients up as PROJECTS (client A, client B, client C…) and your activities as TASKS (keyword research, link building, copywriting…).

Mister X replied with this email:

From: Mister X ***************
Sent: July 12, 2005 5:01 PM
To: *****************
Subject: RE: 2ndSite follow up

Michael,

I took a look at your site and the features. I think it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to promote directly through an article, but I will write a blog entry on it tomorrow and send you over some visitors and increase awareness. Good luck!

Best,

Mister X

I grew concerned there may have been some broken telephone in the works so I replied to Mister X and thanked him for his offer to blog about the service. I was a little confused about why he thought 2ndSite would not be worthwhile in the sort of article I had outlined. I replied with this email:

From: Michael McDerment [***************]
Sent: July 12, 2005 5:35 PM
To: ‘Mister X’
Subject: RE: 2ndSite follow up

Thanks Mister X.

I’ll read the blog posting tomorrow and send you a report regarding visitors and what they did on the site.

Best,

- Michael

That was the last of our correspondence. I shut down for the day and looked forward to reading his blog.

***SLEEP***
***WORK***
***READ***
***HOLY @&$#!***

Alas faithful reader, I was shocked by the blog posting. I am not going to comment on his review of the product; that is what I contacted him for and I respect his thoughts on it. What I want to comment on is the trouble with blogs:

- no fact checking
- no quality control
- no real responsibility for the content of your postings

Allow me to address what I found contentious about the blog post:

It’s better to be blogged about naturally than it is to “push” your product to bloggers. Make some extraordinary content – a great walkthrough of your product or some valuable articles and let the bloggers come to you. If you have to push it, I’d recommend posting in forum sections that have review requests or sending an e-mail to previously established industry contacts.

I found this remark astounding because it’s not true! As you can see from the emails, this was his idea. I wanted to do an article – in fact commission it. A blog was just a “sure why not” to me. Regarding bloggers blogging about 2ndSite, go here to read one of many unsolicited reviews of the product, or here to read several. I have no idea why these people blogged about 2ndSite, but they did. Regarding review requests, I’ve taken Mister X’s advice and tried that here and here. The truth is 2ndSite (the business) is at a stage where we are a little beyond strategies like these. It is a good recommendation, but we need more effective strategies. 3rd party reviews of the service by influencers and journalists are useful. Getting them into trade press is necessary. That is what I was going for with Mister X; we’ll get it elsewhere.

So why the lengthy post? I am an SEO just like Mister X. I’ve been practicing SEO since 2000 and I’ve been teaching SEO at Humber College since 2001. I have watched Mister X in the SEO community for years. I am one of the lurkers in SEO forums. I have read his articles and his postings. Given all of this I had thought I had selected a voice and a mind that would understand my approach and why I called. I think I missed the mark, but I have learned from this.

To be fair, I think I caught Mister X off guard. One reason was we had never spoken before, and another was he is not a journalist and I treated him as if he were one. I will factor these things in as I approach new market segment contacts in hopes of generating PR. In fact I am having success in other segments already…more on that later.

My First Appearance in Print

Backbone Mag published my letter to the editor. Go here to read the article.

On a side note it was published yesterday and I received a phone call (that’s how I found out about it). It was the second time in one day I heard from an owner who was frustrated because of the services of a third rate SEO company. Apparently the quality SEO’s like Anicon are hard to find. I know at Anicon we make no outbound sales calls. I am considering an article on “red flags” for SEO providers. Sales calls are usually red flag #1.

Getting the Ball Rolling… 1st Post

My name is Michael McDerment and this is my blog. I am an entrepreneur and internet marketing consultant.  Since 1999 I have been consulting with companies to help them get more from the Internet.  Since late 2000 I have been teaching people how to make web sites at Humber College and the Learning Annex. Since 2003 my primary focus has been building 2ndSite.

Why am I writing a blog? Who knows. I have founded two start ups, Anicon (Internet Marketing Consultants) and 2ndSite (online invoicing, customer help desk and timesheet service). But why blog? For kicks I guess. That said, some might say I have worthwhile prospective on many things Internet related. It is a fascinating space and I see opportunities everywhere. In fact, there are a hundred things I would do on the Internet if I had the time, and perhaps those hundred things will make for interesting future reading…