A response (an @, not a ‘d’)

A day and a half ago I’m sitting at my work PC, working on some client nonsense or such when I received a direct message which read, “OMFG we are being so rude according to shankman – we @ reply each other WAY too much.” [This was during Tuesday’s HARO call with @skydiver and@chrisbrogan — BTW, if you’re not following them, follow them – what’s wrong w/ you? They give great info and are certainly worth the follow].
Anyone who follows me knows this is at least partially true — I tweet (and @ reply) a lot. Tons — I’ve been on twitter for about a year and as of this writing have 14K tweets. My last thousand tweets averaged out to nearly 150 tweets per day (not bragging, just making sure everyone saw the unit of time). I tweet about everything – client/journalist pet peeves; what I’m listening to; reading; blogs I’m commenting on; and yes even occasionally what I’m eating.

Of course my initial response was, “You and I got called out specifically on a HARO call?” I was a bit impressed. Of course this wasn’t the case. Before commenting I waited to get the mp3 and listened…it wasn’t as inflammatory as I had originally thought, the full conversation (which followed a discussion of follower loyalty vs. number of followers) was this (Peter speaking in this quote):

[some sentence fragments removed for readability]

“…they [someone commenting on twitter I believe] disagree, it’s about answering, talking and answering your followers and having conversations on twitter. And Chris you might argue with me on this. I don’t believe that you should respond to every single person who responds to you in the public using an @ reply. I tend to direct message anyone who sends me an @ reply unless it’s something of value to the bigger audience. In my opinion, if you send me a question and I reply to you and it’s a personal question or it’s not of interest to everyone I’m being rude to 50,000 of my followers who might not care so I’m very very big on the dm not so big on the @ reply in a public forum. There are other people who disagree with that, there are companies who will @ reply every single person with the most trivial facts, if that works for them great – I just don’t believe once you hit a critical mass on twitter that that’s worth it…Chris what do you think about that?” [Chris’s Skype connection conked out. When he returned he agreed with Peter and the conversation tangented to a quick discussion of multiple accounts.]

I’m one of those who disagree.

First, a few notes:

a) I appreciate that Peter notes it might work for some people,
b) I’m not Peter and don’t have anywhere (and likely never will have anywhere) near his following.
c) I certainly don’t know what the critical mass is, but it’s presumably somewhere between my 1,800 followers and his 49,000.

Here’s what I do know:
a) off ALL of my off topic, sometimes nonsensical, double entendre laden tweets never have I been told I’m tweeting too much. Have I been unfollowed — sure. Do I know why — of course not.
b) some of the best conversations I’ve had with people would not have happened if I wasn’t tweeting nearly everything publicly.

More re: b) — when you do follow a decent number of people, individual tweets become blurred. If you only tweet once about a subject it’s very likely to get caught in the larger stream of those watching and very potentially never seen. If you’re having a good, interactive conversation you’ve got a better chance of being heard and others joining the conversation.

IMHO this leads back to the greatest question of the twitter-age — Why are you using twitter? I, personally use it as my own water cooler not soap box. A place to have conversations with others on the topics of the day and our lives.

When asked about twitter by Luddites I compare it to a cocktail party — you walk in, may know a few people there and can join or initiate any conversation without it being rude or intrusive. At the same time you can pull someone to the side and have a private conversation with them. But if we begin conversations and immediately pull the person we’re speaking with aside and talk only to them about it we’re losing the possibility that someone else in the group may have something of value to contribute to the conversation.

Simply put, IMHO (and compared to these two giants in the industry it is my own humble opinion) — until you ask, or allow for the possibility, there is no way to know what will and what won’t interest any number of your followers and to block that from happening by moving to directs immediately isn’t what twitter’s about (for me at least).

Of course asking everyone about their interests, keeping a record of it, and then somehow involving them in certain conversations is impractical if not impossible (remember, no multi-directs) on twitter. That leaves allowing for it to happen naturally — i.e responding publicly, the way the question was asked and see who pipes up. You never know what hidden gems you’ve got in your following until you let them know what you’re talking about and who else may be able to participate.

Proof of this came to me a few weeks back at Masquertweet, and I fully expect it to happen again at #MNH

I had a few, personally great moments at the event. The first of course being able to help 12for12K raise money for their July charity Eye Care for Kids.

The other joy, mostly unnoticed by others thanks to my mask, was seeing people I had been talking to for months and had introduced to each other online finally meet each other in person, and have real conversations about work, play and everything in between — without me doing any sort of weird twitter-matchmaker handholding. Some of them even making individual plans to get together and continue their conversations following the event. These were connections that may not have happened but for my introduction and I have no doubt that I was able to make those introductions because I chat up everyone publicly and allow the possibility that my followers will find each other interesting separate and apart from me.

This even took place NOT at an event — by leaving the door open for the possibility of a natural friendship to develop between two agencies I knew individually and had introduced to each other a new, hopefully life-long bond, has been forged. A connection (among many others) which fills me with joy each time I see any of them @, RT or #FF the other.

I’m not a big believer in #Followfriday, but each time I’m included in a #FF grouping and every other name I see is one I know, and I recognize introductions I’ve made, I glow a little bit. If these two (or more) random people have connected and like each other enough to now pay attention to each other (and become friends), and I was in some small way a part of that process it’s makes my Friday and my twitter life just that bit better.
Just my own $0.02.

#Masquertweet behaviour

Apparently I’ve become the poster child of anonymous tweeters (at least in our own little circle). Over the last few days I’ve heard a few concerns from the other anonymous tweeters about maintaining their security and keeping their (lack of) identity at the event.

I thought this went without saying….but just in case…..

Any kind of misconduct, harassing behavior or motions to un-mask (literally or figuratively) someone at #Masquertweet simply will not be tolerated. I’m all about a good joke and having a fun time (and if you’re not then why in the world would you be following my feed), but we all know the stakes in this little game we call life and should all know where the lines are drawn.

If anyone is unclear on this – lemme know. I’m happy to discuss it – you know where to find me.

The case for anonymity

As anyone bothering to read this post knows I had the sheer and absolute pleasure of hanging with @rachelakay earlier this week.

For those of you who are curious – she’s an a complete delight!  I could go into all the ways she’s great but I don’t think I have enough room.  In brief – personally she’s great – interesting, fun & funny and truly a joy to hang with.  Professionally – she certainly knows her stuff, doesn’t pull punches and has real opinions.  If you’re not following her yet – go now…I’ll wait…
No really…go…
Once the hours of Guinness and wine faded I pretty much had to again consider my position.  Not that I really could easily change it, but if we ‘don’t learn from history’ and all that good stuff.  Also, I was left with a different post-meet mood than from #1.  I admit, could’ve been the Guinness.
While I’m still constantly mystified at how I ended up here (I do know how it happened chronologically, just looking at the end point it makes little sense (I will cover this in a later post)) it really struck me that without this persona I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet with those of you I have, those of you I intend to, work with the half-dozen or so who have stepped up to help out with Masquertweet, or party with a hundred or so of my favorite people I’ve never met.
And so, while in the grand scheme it makes things more difficult overall since everything’s a bit cloak & dagger in anything I do it is well worth it to have this opportunity.
Tangent alert: And in case anyone missed it – I’m now on FB.  Since I have virtually none of your email addies I’ll need you to start – http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Cognoscenti/1818394291.
And in case anyone’s curious…yes I do have an ‘exit strategy’ that should keep PRCog alive & active, but allow a bit of collar loosening in the coming months….That’ll have to wait for another post tho…

Dear Journalist … (Part 2)

(Please see Part 1 for the intro to this post).

PS – There is one more reason we won’t stop — it works.

We (Flacks) have all gotten an undeserving hit at some point or another in our careers.

  • the story was so great the reporter didn’t care that we called when they’ve only asked for emails, or
  • it was such a slow news day in Miami that a story about something in Minnesota made it into the local section

we’ve all had a great hit from the combination of dumb luck and a hastily built list.

If there’s even the slightest chance of a random hit, what’s it hurt to increase my list by another 50-500 reporters. Costs me nothing but a hit could be out there, just waiting for the right time. Would you waste the chance?


Dear Journalists … (Part 1)

Dear Journalists (and bloggers) –

Gina is right. So is Chris. We (flacks) as a group, generally suck. As a whole it took us a long time to catch on to the whole blog thing and we’re still a little terrified about it. Generally there’s no publisher to threaten appeal to and your commenting readers are of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo nest kind of nuts.

But this is really directed to mainstream press…

Here’s the thing – and I’m sure most of you realize this, you’re mostly pretty smart folk – we do what we do (including overmailing and blind-mailing) because we have to. We’re hired guns – the client comes to us and the conversation goes something like this –

“Hey Flacks – we want a story in The Metropolitan Moon about our widget.”

But it’s the MetroMoon – they don’t generally cover Widgets, or anything similar.”

“They wrote something up 10 weeks ago.” (Produces trend story).

“Yeah, that was in the lifestyle section on new, modern, widgets. It’s a trend piece – this was before you hired us, they aren’t going to redo the story now. Most people never have a reason for a widget in their life – 2 stories in a year, much less 3 months just isn’t going to happen.”

“Well we want in. If you can’t or won’t pitch it we’ll find another agency that will.” (May not be stated, but is always implied).

“Oh. Ok, we’ll pitch it”

And then the thought process begins – how can I pitch this to a great pub., that just isn’t going to care. Inevitably one of the following pitches will be produced, sent and perhaps follow-up pitched –
  • To the energy editor – “Just wanted you to know that some widgets by widget co are produced with clean/wind/horse/nuclear energy”
  • To the religion writer – “You may not have known this but the factory workers at widget factory have a religion”
  • To the kids/family writer – “We wanted to remind you (and your readers) that widgets are totally appropriate toys and not at all a choke hazard”
  • To the W. Coast bureau chief – “We wanted to let your office know that widgets are really popular out there and may merit a story.”

You see where this is going.

It isn’t that we don’t care – we do, we’re just trying to do what our client wants even if it’s not best for them because (and I know you understand this) they won’t end our contracts if we do what they say even we advise against it and sometimes it takes a phenomenal failure (under their instruction) to be given a bit more rope to do it right. And potentially worse for all of us, if we do pushback and they go to another, less reputable agency you’ll get the same crap, but worse since the new agency is likely disinclined to push back even a little against their newest client.

Then again, sometimes we don’t know better. Here’s the other, not uncommon, scenario….

New client – sells Tidgets wants press. He opens the first meeting with ….

“So, we’re launching a new Tidget the day after tomorrow, 8a eastern time. This launch can’t fail, we’ve spent nearly 7 figures on the R&D so we need everyone to cover this. No it can’t be moved – we’re ringing the bell at the NYSE that day.”

Forget whether or not the MetroMoon even covers Tidgets – we’ve got to learn the Tidget trade mag scene intimately in about 24 hours, craft a strategy, implement it and measure it.

After stopping all other projects, calling all-hands meetings and figuring out WTF a Tidget is, much less what could cost nearly 7-figures in making one, do you really think the first things we’re going to do is dissect each issue of:
  • TidgetWeek
  • Month of Tidgets
  • Tidgets & Widgets
  • Tidgets Worldwide
  • Widgets International, with a quarterly Tidgets International supplement

to see who the exact proper beat reporter is?

No, we’re going to our database and searching for Tidget beat and Tidget ‘pitching notes’…even if the pitching note says “Not interested in Tidgets, I think they’re the scourge of the Earth.”

Yeah, you’ve got a blog called “Tidgets Today” that doesn’t cover Tidgets for some reason — tough, you’re getting the release and the follow-up call. Heck we may even be a bit drunk to get the nerve to actually make these calls (ok, not really, but we’ll wish we were).

And this doesn’t just apply on coverage topics, it’s also a geographic issue.

Imagine if you will, the days before the popularization of the internet – the midsize shop in NYC knew the regional press and the trade press. If a project fell outside that parameter they found a colleague in another small shop in the proper part of the country/world. So when NYC Co. opens LA Office small shop in LA gets directed to handle the LA press under NYC’s guidance.

Now we’re all national (if not international) agencies because we can see every paper on the planet every day and most for free online. Of course all the small-medium NYC agencies don’t read the LAT everyday, we’ve got enough NY papers to keep up with, but you can bet if a client walks in and asks can we handle an LA project the answer will be yes. Why? Why not just farm it out to the LA agency?

Two big reasons – dollars and cents.

This year in particular we’re all trying to bring in as much as possible now. We’ll worry about later when later happens. The other big issue – even if our client loves us, the second we look at them and say “we can’t do that” (even if there’s a good reason why not) we run the risk of losing the client altogether, not just for that one project – either to a larger agency (which always poses a threat) or to a similar agency that is willing to lie and/or blindmail everyone possibly interested.

So we pick the lesser of the two evils – staying in business and keeping the client and doing our darndest to not bother too many people or hit outside the interest area. Do we succeed? Certainly not all of the time…

Oh, and PS …. (see part 2)