Category Archives: WOM

Obama to Announce VP Choice via Email and SMS :: Maybe, We’ll See

Obama VP announcementAccording to an email I just received, Barack Obama is going to give his supporters the news of his pick for Vice President via email and SMS, before anyone else.

Hmm? Well, it would be a first. I must admit to a wee bit (OK, a lot) of skepticism on this one. All the news organizations are signed up for all of his mailing lists, after all. They also see mailing lists we never see. So, will his supporters really be the first to know? Continue reading

Advertisements :: Proof Positive That Online Viral Marketing Doesn’t Always Work

It especially won’t work if you have a bad product.

I can feel Jen O’Meara’s pain. We likely all can. She has a project she loves and it isn’t going anywhere. Frustration. We’ve all felt it, right?

David Meerman Scott shares A viral marketing story suitable for bedtime. It is a story of disappointment and sadness. But, at least the author, YOBI CIO Jen O’Meara, tries to tell it with a tongue-in-cheek spin.

Jen’s no dummy – you’d think. A Ph.D. under her belt, no less, she’s struggling to get her startup site off the ground. claims to be a “unique blend of social networking, reality show contests, and user-generated content (that) will revolutionize the world of online entertainment.” Well, it’s good to have a dream. Continue reading

Facebook Word-of-Mouth Campaign :: ASCCA Trying Something New

Facebook is an interesting social media community. For ASCCA’s interests of connecting with college students, it seems like the natural community to engage. ASCCA wants college students to work as counselors, program staff and for internships. So, we’re trying something new to reach themcamper and counselor.

ASCCA is going to run approximately 50,000 flyers a day, for three days, targeted at students from the following universities: University of Georgia, University of Florida, Troy State University, Montevallo, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of North Alabama, University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) and Auburn University (Auburn).

This will give us over 150K impressions. Now, realistically, we’d like to run more – and target many more universities. But, the Facebook flyer program does have some limitations. I’ll discuss those. And, just so you’ll know, Camp ASCCA is not paying for this. A new tactic in our strategy of reaching students, I felt it best to cover this myself as a test. We’ll see how well it goes. The cost of this program equals about 1/2 of a week long campership. So, I thought it best to test the process, first. Still, that cost would be a small fraction of what we’d usually spend to advertise in college campus newspapers. More on that in a bit.

sample ASCCA facebook flyerThe image to your left is an example of one of the flyers. That is what students at UGA will see on Sunday through Tuesday when they log in to Facebook. It appears just below their lefthand menu. A nice placement, I think. Click the image and you’ll see all of our flyers. On Facebook, when students click the image, they are sent to a purpose built page on our site that offers greater detail. See ASCCA Public Relations Internships. In the future, I’d actually like to target the top 25 universities with PR programs. Maybe we will, still.

So, what are the limitations of the Facebook flyer program, as I see them? Well, currently you cannot target students beyond simply choosing a specific school, or schools. I find this a bit strange, since Facebook does have the demographic and lifestyle (interests) information of their audience. Ideally, I’d like to use that information to specifically target the students most likely to be interested in what ASCCA has to offer.

For instance, if we wanted to seek male counselors, I should be able to target a specific school, reach only males, and reach only those that have listed interests like: recreation, education, or even special education. Facebook is still relatively young and their flyers and advertising programs are still maturing. Right now, Facebook flyers are more of a broadcast tactic than a targeted one.

You might be wondering, “How effective is the Web for accomplishing ASCCA’s marketing and hiring needs?”

Today, Matt Rickman told me that he has yet to run a single ad in college newspapers during his counselor recruiting process for Summer ’07. That’s remarkable. Even more remarkable, Matt shared that he is ahead of his annual hiring targets. He would usually start college newspaper ads in April. This year, he may not run any of them. So, why is that? What is different this year?

Although we have sketchy data upon which to base this claim, so far the difference seems to be our Web site. Yep, apparently the site is accomplishing the goal of reaching potential counselors – just as we hoped it would. We’ll poll the counselors and program staff this summer to see exactly how many actually found us online.

I’ll report back in a week or so to let you know how our experiment with Facebook went this time around. For now, let me hear from you. What do you think about this tactic? Do you have any suggestions about other processes we may undertake to reach potential interns?

Did you know that Camp ASCCA is in Facebook? If you are too, please go on over and “Friend” Camp ASCCA. This way you may keep up with what we’re doing all the time. Join the Camp ASCCA Facebook group, too.

Super Bowl Ads :: Integrated Marketing Communications

Many of my students have enjoyed Jeremy Pepper’s post about Super Bowl ads and PR. If you haven’t read it yet, please visit Jeremy Pepper’s post about Ramping up for the Super Bowl.

For a class exercise, we’ll be following the use of YouTube, iFilm, Revver, Google Video, (social video sharing sites) in the promotion of products/programming or pretty much anything else. We are looking for specific instances where social networks, CGM and/or PR played a role.

We’ll also look at marketing communication campaigns like GM’s igotshotgun – Blog and their “I Got Shotgun!” sites. Heavy use of video there. Emily Melton, our lovable and quirky Auburn PR alum, is working with the campaign. Cheers for Emily! Hey, it took her to the Super Bowl. Read Emily’s latest igotshotgun post. You’ll note, on the MySpace site, the personal info on the person that set up the site reads: “Female, 21 years old, NEW YORK (where she’s headquartered), Alabama (where she’s from), United States.” Well, that’s Emily. She initially set up the site, I imagine.

As for ads, one example this year is the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser promotion of upcoming 2007 Super Bowl ads. We saw them all last night, right? If not, there is a full catalog of them at iFilm – Super Bowl Ads 2007.

This strategy essentially turned YouTube into a serial cliff-hanger delivery medium. (Oh, how the social media purists will hate that “medium” remark. So, let’s call it a “space” for them.)

Unless you’re my age, or older, you likely don’t know about the Saturday morning movies that we attended with glee. Back then the movie was actually a long series of several cartoons and short films, called serials. The end of each serial usually had a car flying off a cliff, or some such catastrophic event. The freeze frame ending always brought us back.

They also ran trailers, or promotions, for future films/serials and those did the same thing. Trailers, I’m sure you’re familiar with, but now it is different. Movie trailers have been uploaded in several social video sharing sites before. But, have you ever seen a promo for an upcoming commercial before?

Previously, it was a bit of a scoop if someone was able to get a clip. Today, they are being given away in the hopes they’ll be written about, talked about and even posted in blogs. This is a new twist.

Budweiser’s tactic this year seems to have had the same effect. Some of you watched the Super Bowl, not only for the game, but also to see what the little Budweiser dog finally found. Why? Because you were teased at YouTube.


First, just to establish what kinds of ads are considered great and effective, let’s start with the ad widely considered to be the best Super Bowl ad of all time. Later, we’ll see what AdAge’s Bob Garfield thought of this year’s ads. Then, you may visit the Super Bowl ad min-site at iFilm. For more on ads … Continue reading

SEC Chairman Says Blog Away :: SEC Adopts XBRL

A former student of mine, Diana, sends along this link to an AP news story – SEC chief suggests blogs for disclosures.

Diana was (is) a great student and I’m not surprised that she is following news about social media in the corporate world. I thank Diana for sharing the news and continuing to keep me up to date on her experiences in NYC. (More on that, later.)

Add to this SEC/Sun news the recent news that the SEC is backing XBRLSEC backs XBRL – are you ready? (September 26, 2006) How will this affect the SMPR / hRelease?

…A 2000 rule known as Regulation FD, for Fair Disclosure, ended a long-standing practice by forbidding companies from providing significant information to stock analysts and other Wall Street insiders ahead of the public….

So, what is the story here and what can it mean for public relations?

First, the AP story:

SEC chief suggests blogs for disclosures
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer Tue Nov 7, 1:58 AM ET

WASHINGTON – In the first official communication posted to a blog by a chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Christopher Cox said he was intrigued by the idea of letting companies use Weblogs to disseminate important corporate information.

Cox has invited the chief executive of Sun Microsystems Inc., avid blogger Jonathan Schwartz, to talk to the agency about the idea of allowing companies to disclose significant financial information through blogs.

The SEC chief showed interest in Schwartz’s recent request for blogs to be used as a way to expand investors’ access to information. His response to Schwartz, posted on Sun’s Web site on Friday, caught the attention of the online world and even sparked envy from a Wall Street Journal blog.

… and …

Said Cox: “Assuming that the (SEC) were to embrace your suggestion that the ‘widespread dissemination’ requirement of Regulation FD can be satisfied through Web disclosure, among the questions that would need to be addressed is whether there exist effective means to guarantee that a corporation uses its Web site in ways that assure broad non-exclusionary access …”

… and …

Thirty Fortune 500 companies are now publishing corporate blogs, nearly double the number in December 2005, according to the Fortune 500 Blogging Wiki, a collaborative tracking site. Technology companies such as Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. were early adopters, but senior executives at big industrial companies like Boeing Co. and General Motors Corp. also have embraced the trend.

Blogs with related posts:

Kayak Satirical Ads :: CGM and Ads May Sting

When I first saw the new TV ads, my first thought was how different they were from other launch ads. They were intended, I believe, to be funny – sort of like the “Roaming Gnome” ads from Travelocity. However, as I saw more and more of them, it became apparent that these are more edgy than anything anyone has done recenlty.

The Kayak site introduces the ads with this: “We hope you’ll agree that we are equal opportunity satirists and will enjoy the ads in the humorous tone in which they were created.” Well, it hasn’t quite gone that way – for everyone.

…risky business, launching your new site and business with satire that may inflame your potential customer base, but interesting to watch unfold…

Paul English, a co-founder of the site/company, has posted some of the more angry emails they’ve received about the ads. (Danger, Will Robinson! Some pretty vulgar angry stuff in there.) The Alaska / Big Oil ad seems to have touched a nerve. OK, more like jumped up and down on it – with an ice pick.

Another aspect that interested me, even more, is how Kayak is incorporating consumer generated ads / media (CGM) in the mix via YouTube. David Weinberger, one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto, has even joined in the fray with a Joho post about the ads and developing his own Joho Kayak ad.

You may see all of the Kayak produced ads here and all of the consumer generated Kayak ads here. As of this post, there are 132 CGM ads in there. That’s impressive. The viewing numbers are impressive, too. Many ads have more than 100 views.

My thoughts? It is a crap shoot. Be edgy, but risk hacking off a lot of people. So, contingency planning is key if this plan is going to be implemented. This is a perfect example of how a company might want to involve PR in their advertising campaign planning. Hey, if you’re going to run ads that will inevitably make people mad, then be ready with a planned response strategy and implement it real-time.

I searched Technorati for posts about the ads, but didn’t find any – other than Joho. The rest were about – gee, kayaking. There are not any posts tagged So, I don’t know if Kayak has such a planned response in action. The meme hasn’t developed (and may not), but better to be prepared than caught flat-footed.

Paul English’s transparent post of the email flames is a refreshing touch, in a way. He writes, “Our goal was to be funny, and controversial. We wanted to take some risks, we knew some people would be offended. The response has been huge with overall positive comments.” Well, where are the positive ones, Paul. I don’t doubt you have them – and some are available in YouTube – but how about sharing those, too. Some are posted to the CGM ads available in YouTube.

One of the comments on the YouTube Kayak Alaska / Big Oil ad actually claims that the Kayak site and ads are part of an astroturfing campaign. (That will fit nicely into my next post.) The comment, from TheOrioleGuy, claims:

Desire: I want to promote my liberal agenda about the environment, plus vilify the Bush administration and oil companies. Problem: I need to bypass the laws and limits that restrain political action committees. Solution: set up a simplistic “travel search site” as a front business, and use the television advertising for it to accomplish my goals… thus bypassing PAC guidelines. Pathetic.

So, do we really want our new company / site to be dragged into some wild “George Soros / Al Gore (kind of) conspiracy theory” meme online? Hey, stranger things have happened. And, TheOrioleGuy has just started it for Kayak.

This will be interesting to watch. I’ve written to Paul English to ask about the campaign. Something tells me the guy is getting tons of email, so I won’t hold my breath for a reply.

PayForPlay, PayPerPost … The Bane of Online PR and Marketing – Link Fraud

Pay for play isn’t new. Think Armstrong Williams, VNR scandals, CEO vanity magazines, advertorials and more. Now, there is shock and horror about (PPP). It is a bane. It is a poison. But, it is as old as hemlock in digital years.

…as the web grows, more mature or less mature, aren’t these attempts to monetize blogs (for good or bad) inevitable?…

I’ve been waiting for some enterprising federal prosecutor to pump out a string of indictments for link fraud online. Is this the perfect opportunity? I’m not a lawyer, so maybe one will jump in here and help out with a definition.

Payola online? Hey, I imagine it has already happened too many times to count. Will Google and Yahoo! and others join with prosecutors to help keep their link rank / page rank algorithms free (or, as free as possible) of taint? Why not. They have a lot of advertising dollars at stake here. Link ads have been propping up Google from the beginning, haven’t they?

In a conspiracy charge, “a group of conspirators (have) banded together to achieve some harmful or illegal purpose” and if that purpose is fraud – well, do we have the open door to a trial? I imagine that intent plays a role here. If the company seeking the links can be proven to use blog posts knowing that the testimonial is insincere and the blogger can be shown to have made the post solely to make money, well we have a beginning. However, that’s not likely to be easy to determine from the willing participants – after the fact. So, what we can expect is a sting operation. Yes, just like the guy on NBC that has been phishing for perverts, some industrious blogger or reporter (TV or print) can at least make a pretty good expose out of all this. How long do you think it will take for that to happen?

as seen on has a pretty funny tagline on its header – “As seen in BusinessWeek.” That brings back some scary memories. Just check the logo to the right. Now, most people that see that logo, I believe, think of the product as schlock.

as seen on tvThe funny thing about the tagline at Jon Fine decries it – and the ensuing online meme about it – in BusinessWeek as “a rhetorical race to the bottom.” He’s probably right.

Wonder if PPP will be asked to take that tagline down. And, what hubris does it take to use a negative article to help promote your own product? You’ll notice that there is no link to the BW column so people can see what it is about. Makes sense from a company willing to foresake transparency in their own business model.

It isn’t as if this hasn’t been happening all along, is it? My feeling is that anyone believing that these types of scams haven’t been occuring – under the table – for a long time in blogs is quite naive. And, it is a scam if the intention is stated that disclosure may not occur. That’s fraud, no matter how you spin it.

Think about it. The link loving bloggers – linking in faux adoration circles – are just one such example. How so? Think of the many feigned adoration posts by bloggers about some a-lister (just praying for a link back) and think of the lil’ chunk of their soul given up for that link. Don’t think it happens? Wanna buy a bridge?

If that doesn’t do it for you, then think of all the splogs out there. They are playing the links, too. But this one (PPP), using blogs with heretofore legitimage page ranks, is particularly sleazy. I think the hubris of admitting that disclosure won’t necessarily happen is the sleaziest part of all. No, it isn’t transparency to admit you are not practicing transparency. OK, if you mean the people behind the endeavor are being transparently sleazy. Yep, that’s transparent – in so many meanings.

A poster in Adrants Soflow Network says it (PPP) “is going to destroy the credibility of all bloggers even the ethical ones like myself that have even forgone monetizing my traffic via advertising so as to maintain an independent perspective on the industry that I choose to cover.” Funny thing is, on his mobile blog (not his personal one) I found this ad among a plethora of ads.

FAKE Testimonials?
That’s what Your Visitors Think. Get the Seal and ProveThey’re REAL! (Ad by

You will note, I hope, that the Trusted Testimonials site and the Pay Per Post site both have the same “Secured by GeoTrust” logo on them. Wonder if that Adrants poster knows he is running an ad for what may be the same type of site he abhors?

That company – GeoTrust, like those blogger associations (honesty police), will no doubt fail in securing trust among readers of blogs. And, of course, given the relationship noted above I am curious as to whether any of them are legitimate.

Let’s face it. Blogs are a combination of facts (as they are interpreted by the author) and opinions of the blog’s author that you cannot – with any hope of universal accuracy – trust to be truthful. At least you cannot trust them until you have done a lot of your own research and fisking. And, who’s going to do that – really?

Take a lesson from journalism. Approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism – even traditional mainstream media. I trust blogs, in general, much less than I trust traditional media. The blogs I do trust are always as upfront as possible. They also only gain that trust after a great deal of time spent reading them and following links – researching what they write – to see if I agree. And then, even if I do agree, that’s just my own infopinion, too … isn’t it?

Gee, just look what social media has wrought. Anyone ready for another update to EPIC?