Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author Of The New Rules Of Marketing & PR

The web makes it easy for companies to communicate directly with consumers. A good thing, so long as you know how to work that angle.

Yet for a while, there weren’t any best practices on how to do it.

Then along came David Meerman Scott — veteran marketer, popular blogger, and author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Overflowing with sage advice on how to leverage the web with new-style press releases, blogs, podcasts and other emerging media, the book became a bestseller.

New tools mean even more new rules

In the three years since that first edition social media exploded. Prompting Meerman to write a revised version, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition, covering even more tools, plus a fresh batch of case studies.

I thought it would be nice to have Meerman share some pearls of wisdom with readers of this blog. He was kind enough to agree and we enjoyed a lively phone chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Interview with David Meerman Scott: Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR

It seems one of the things you’re getting at with The New Rules is you have to understand how people find things, and be aware of what they do online, period. Then you fit your marketing and PR into that. But if you don’t get how the web works, you’re lost. Is that accurate?

David: The technology is a solvable problem. But the aspect that you can’t get wrong or you won’t succeed, has to do with the way that we have traditionally talked up our company, which is to hype our products and services. In the 4 P’s of marketing — one of the fundamental tenets of marketing — the first “P” is product. But people don’t really care about products and services, what they care about are themselves.

What happens is, a company will say, “Oh, I’ve got to start a Twitter feed,” or a blog, or whatever. And the first thing they do is exactly what they’re doing already to market their company. They build a blog and the blog is about their products.

There are some products that you can do that for. If you’re Apple and you start a blog about the iPhone, that can work. But for 99.9% of the companies out there, talking about your products won’t work. What you need to do is understand your buyers really well. Understand what their problems are and then create something interesting on the web that will appeal to them and that will help them solve problems. That’s the part that most people get wrong. You have to understand your buyer’s persona.

You pay a fair amount of attention to search, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Yet that’s an area a lot of PR people resist, because SEO strategy may not follow AP style.

David: Right. There is a lot of truth in that. Fundamentally, every person on the planet who has an internet connection is using search. And the last number I heard is two billion people are connected to the web. So being visible in search engines is critically important.

But one of the things I like to point out is search engine marketing, at its core, is about creating the content that people want to find. And that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about. It’s understanding your buyers really well and creating content that allows them to solve problems in the words and phrases they would use.

That’s more important in my mind than worrying about the nuances of meta tags and where the text should be placed. Granted those are important, but in my experience a lot of search engine experts will focus way too much on those technology aspects of search and not that much on understanding that people are trying to reach amazing stuff that will then be indexed by search engines.

A lot of those highly search engine optimized pages that you see in the rankings at the top of the page; excuse my language, but they suck. They’re poorly written and the images are no good. Then conversely, you come across something and you go, “Wow, look at this. It’s exactly what I’m looking for.” In my mind, that’s what search engine marketing is. It’s creating amazing content that makes people go “Holy cow, that’s great.” That’s not really about the technology; it’s about the information.

Let’s talk about your suggestion to create an online media room — but for buyers rather than just the press. From my own experience this is a tough sell with many PR people. You can explain how when a release is on the web anyone can see it, and although they understand this as a concept, they can’t make the shift. So what is your most persuasive pitch for this one?

David: I think the biggest stumbling block is that many public relations people who I know mistake the superset of public relations with the subset of media relations.

In other words, public relations is really just about reaching your public and there’s tons of different ways to do that. Going through the media is not the only way.

But I think what a lot of public relations people want is for the world to be the way is way 20 years ago, They just want to be able to have lunch with reporters and send out press releases. It’s just a nice comfortable little world and the web is kinda screwing things up.

I think if our job is to reach our publics, it’s essential to understand there’s multiple ways to do so.

For example you hit on the online media room. When they first came out about 15 years ago it was basically an online version of a press kit… and well, guess what? It’s not just going to the media. Everyone can look at that stuff. So are you only interested in 200 journalists, or are you interested in 200,000 potential customers? And I think, without being rude, if you think your job is to only reach 200 journalists, then you shouldn’t have a role in the website. Let other people get on with the work of the media room.

I do think this job of media relations is still a critical job… that will be their specialty. But I hope people start to realize it’s not the only way.

You write about how the media itself has changed. When you consider bloggers, for instance. Yet you’re surprised when at speaking engagements and you ask PR and marketing pros if they write or read blogs, only a small percentage are doing so. You’d think at this stage more people would realize we’ve gotten past the point where it’s just the cranky blogger out there.

David: The other point that’s critical to know is that when a journalist is working on a story guess where they go? They go to Google, They go to your website. And if you have a blog, a journalist is more likely to read that then your press release.

I think it’s important to recognize the way journalists are doing their research is changing because of the web as well.

I can’t tell you, in my own case, how many times I’ve gotten amazing placement in a magazine, newspaper or radio, because somebody went to Google and typed in the phrase viral marketing. My content comes up on the first page. It’s number four or five, and I’ll get the call. Or they’ll type in online media room, and I’ll get the call. That’s not because I sent out a press release. It’s not because I hired an agency to pitch the media. It’s because the journalist went to Google and found me.

You believe people should experiment with marketing. Nowadays you can do that with video, because the costs are so much lower than in the past.

David: That’s part of it. The other part is a failure isn’t visible. If you do a TV commercial and it’s terrible, lots of people will see it. If you post a video on YouTube and its terrible few people will see it. No one will spread it. So it’s not, “Oh they failed, look at that” You know, you just quietly delete it.

You also suggest experimenting on a company website. I think there’s a hurdle there. People think they can’t put something up if they’re not sure if it will work.

David: They’re coming at that statement with the print mentality. It has to be perfect before it goes to print. Because if you print it and there’s a mistake, you have to throw the entire thing away and start over again. But the web is iterative. You can constantly tweak and change it.

–  Deni Kasrel

So what do YOU think of Meerman’s thoughts on the new world order of marketing and PR? Have you read his book, too? What’s your take on it? Please share. Comments welcome.

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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  1. Hi Deni, It was great to speak with you. Many thanks for taking the time to create this post, I appreciate it. All the best, David

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      David,

      It was my pleasure to speak with you, too. And I am elated we were able to have a real conversation.

      As mentioned in our chat, I have now read your book twice, once with the first edition, and another for your new revised version. Both are marked up nicely with yellow highlighter, which I use so I can easily pick out golden nuggets when researching topics that you cover.

  2. I think his book is brilliant, I have the audio version and the book, it is my bible! I am setting up a business from home with a restricted budget, I have come from a PR background, had some time out to have three kids and now my learning is vertical, new world, so exciting learning and testing these techniques. thanks

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      Theresa,

      You’re right — it is a new world for marketing and PR, and we are lucky David is such a good navigator. The audio version of New Rules sounds like a good way to go with three kids in the house 🙂

      You are certainly not the first person to refer to David’s book as a bible — it really is The Word on its subject matter, no?

      Good luck with the new business. Sounds like you’ve got an excellent start by using New Rules techniques for guidance. And you’re doing exactly as he says, by testing techniques. Good for you!

  3. I love seeing books with highlighter marks, underlines, coffee stains, dog-ears, and all that. Makes my day whenever someone shows me a well used copy of my work!

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