Readers Vote on PR Pitches They Want Reporters to Cover

30 07 2008

We sometimes open media pitches by saying something about believing it will be interesting for that outlet’s readers/viewers/listeners. FastCompany.com is taking PR people up on that in a new way that turns the assumption of what readers want covered into the reality of what they want covered.

Now, PR folks can submit their pitches publicly to Fast Company’s “The Killer Pitch” blog and readers vote the pitches up or down based on what they’d like to read about. If you’re trying to get an idea of it in your head without clicking on that link, think Digg.

This is the first I’ve heard of this, but I could see other media outlets doing it moving forward. Why wouldn’t they?

Why it’s Great for Media
1. It involves readers in the editorial decision-making process. Giving your audience some ownership in the finished product helps make for more loyal readers.
2. It ensures that Fast Company covers topics its subscribers want to read about in its pages and online.
3. It could cut back on the number of pitches individual reporters receive and reserve more of their time for researching, interviewing and writing.

Why it’s Great for PR
1. Whether the story is written or not, readers who participate in the process see your pitch and learn a bit about your new product, service, etc.
2. It requires more time spent crafting the pitch to as close to near perfection as possible, since it will be made public.

What do you think about this move? Does it provide a great opportunity for media relations? Do you think others will follow?

*Thanks to my friend Mark Tosczak for the tip-off.





Brand Rehab Award: Microsoft

25 06 2008

The Brand Rehab award is given weekly to the brand most deserving of assistance based on current events and ‘popular opinion’, determined by Sarah Trafford, an Account Executive with Mullen PR.

A recent Fast Company cover story on Microsoft’s re-brand caught my attention, and not just because I work in the communications industry. The author says this about the recent unwinding of the powerful brand:

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft’s already problematic reputation in some circles — as the soulless, power-hungry purveyor of lackluster products — has suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds. It spent two years and $500 million on the media blitz around the long-delayed Windows Vista launch, only to see the January 2007 “Wow” campaign, which likened Microsoft’s new operating system to Woodstock and the fall of the Berlin Wall, derided as arrogant and creatively void. Vista itself sold poorly, leading to price cuts of up to 40%. Worst of all, the flop bred a new generation of Microsoft haters. “Microsoft has really lost control of its image,” says Rob Enderle, an influential advisory analyst for tech companies including Dell, HP, and Microsoft.

One of the reasons this article caught my eye was not because it highlighted an unusual brand or even a personal interest (I’m not particularly charmed by terms like operating system and motherboard)– but because this is one of the first times I have seen significant coverage of the ailing brand. (Significant coverage in this definition is outside of industry rags). Although many will say that the problem isn’t the brand but the product–and that Microsoft’s recent Vista failure has hurt it more than the Mac vs. PC ads– Microsoft would benefit greatly from some positive non-traditional PR right about now. My suggestions for that are threefold.

1) Band together your loyalists. Find the tech-ies who swear by Microsoft over Apple (and there are many) and gather them together for a PR stunt of some sort–on a large scale. Maybe a sit-in for better operating systems? If Microsoft is the brand of the pocket protector, while Apple is beauty over substance, use that to the advantage of the brand! People love nerds when they are right about something (think the “mathletes” from Mean Girls, not Revenge of the Nerds).

2) Get the whispers going. Leak new brand strategy “accidentally” . Make it all about niche subjects that niche media will pick up– celebrities, pets, meta media, and everything in-between, to reach as many touch points as possible– but all in a sneak-attack/ rumor-mill manner. People love to the be the first to know. Make Microsoft the subject of gossip, and people will take ownership of it. Intertwine their lives with the brand before the rebrand is even launched.

3) Make it pretty. When you finally DO launch the re-brand of Microsoft (or maybe launch an arm of Microsoft named for some sort of fruit, strategically the reverse of the Mac launch in 1984), make it pretty. Make it pretty enough to be easily placed on the covers of all the national magazines, and make it prettier and better and more user-friendly than a Mac. If something is visually appealing, it’s naturally going to get more airtime–and Microsoft hasn’t been pretty since its “Start me up!” Windows 95 campaign.