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Engadget EIC: “The Value of a Press Release is Conversation”

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PRNewser was present at this morning’s BusinessWire event, “A Social Media Conversation: How PR, IR & Marketing Professionals Can Engage and Participate in the Social Web.”

Publicity Club of New York President and Flatiron Communications Founder Peter Himler moderated a panel that included Rob Key, CEO & Founder, Converseon, Jim Neil, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, TNS/Cymfony, Ryan Block, Editor-in-Chief, Engadget, Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager, Google News, Peter Hershberg, Managing Partner, Reprise Media and Melissa Bauer, Senior Public Relations Manager, The Knot.

As usual with “new media” events, there was the irony of no wi-fi available, despite being smack in the middle of Manhattan. Nonetheless, we welcomed the hospitality and ambience present at the 3 West Club.

When room for questions appeared, we asked Block what he thought about news aggregators such as Techmeme posting direct links to press releases and company blogs.


He responded, “The value of a press release is conversation, anyone can put out a press release. But people go to Techmeme for the conversation below the release.”

During his five minute presentation, Block offered three simple tips for PR pros:

1) Know who you are pitching to (before during and after)

2) Know why you’re pitching (alternatively, know when to pitch)

3) Be mindful of time (we’re in this together)

Given the nature of the presenters, there was a lot of talk about tools, to which Block stated, “There are amazing tools, but the thing I see that get people results are not the best SEO, it’s really, for me, knowledgeable people connecting in a very real way. That is true not with just new media, but all media.”

He elaborated, “When it comes to interfacing, I think it’s best to keep things open. I’d like to hear what people think about moving away from all these amazing tools that people are using to get the message out.”

The crowd responded in silence.

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[Converseon CEO Rob Key and Reprise Media Managing Partner Peter Hershberg]

Converseon CEO Rob Key likened the role of PR practitioner to that of cultural anthropologist, saying, “These [online] communities are not democracies, they are oligarchies. Think about running into a tribe in the rainforest, you won’t first try to sell them a watch, but rather you’ll listen and try to understand the tribe.”

Key also provided some good soundbites when stating, “all media is going to become social at some point,” and “lawyers hate social media.”

Regardless of how fast things are moving, we’re still in the early days. Jim Neil of TNS/Cymfony cited a company study that found 40% of companies are only at an experimentation stage, while almost 25% are starting to integrate social media strategies regularly.

Asked about when companies should invest in a tool, versus using free tools, Neil said, “When you see silos happening. You can’t have four different groups spending time monitoring. You need to centralize.”

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[Publicity Club of New York President and Flatiron Communications Founder Peter Himler, Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager, Google News and Melissa Bauer, Senior Public Relations Manager, The Knot]

Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager of Google News stressed a company mantra, stating, “We don’t see ourselves as content leaders. We are really trying to help people find information, we’re not trying to own it. We try to remain as un-affiliated as possible with news sources.”

When asked about whether Google News sees SEO experts as “gaming” the system, Cohen responded, “At the end of the day, we don’t want the best SEO site to win, we want the best, most relevant content to win. What we try do is make as much information available as possible.”

Peter Hershberg, Managing Partner at Reprise Media reminded us, “80% of internet traffic begins at search engines,” while comparing the search strategy of McDonald’s to Hunts during the recent tomato scare. Hunts had promintent links in search results to their website with info, McDonald’s didn’t.

Tools are increasingly important, of course, but content will always be king. As Engadget’s Block stated, “SEO is really interesting to us. We have pretty good SEO. When you search for iPhone review, my iPhone review is the first result. We’ve never spent a single penny on SEO, an SEO expert or optimizing for SEO. The best SEO is creating good content. Don’t design your content for search engines, design it for people, the search engines will follow.”

[All images courtesy Sarah Shepard, BusinessWire]

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