Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bridging blogs & advertisers.

Consumers used to be only on the receiving end, taking in whatever information advertisers wants to let out. But online media has opened a new path that allows consumers to be the source of information, to judge and decide what to say. We call this people, bloggers.

I stumbled upon http://blog2u.sg/ today, and out of interest, signed up as a member. However, I am rather skeptical about the system that goes in there. I would say there's both sides of the coin to this portal. What it does, is that it links bloggers and advertisers together. The advertiser will have to pay (in monetary of course) to put a banner ad, a sponsored post or a sponsored review on the blogger's site. It can also come in the form of an invitation to a product launch, event or link to partner's sites etc.

Somehow, I'm just thinking, is this the best and most appropriate method to execute social PR? The primary objective of reaching target audience through social PR is to bypass advertising. But isn't "banner ad" or a "sponsored post", simply just advertising end of the day? And "paying" someone to write something simply won't give you an honest posting. Hence, that defies the evolution of social media and its realiability in the long term.

PR is all about building relationships. The relationship should be transparent, honest and sincere. When identifying suitable bloggers to talk about a product, we should first be sure that these are trustworthy people who are not simply living off posted advertisements. And who are the people reading the blogs? Does the product simply want mass awareness? Or targeted awareness? We should remember that no one medium can reach out to everyone. This is especially evident on the internet, where freedom of choice rules the cyberworld. Hence, we should take into consideration power of multiplication. Is this target group we have chosen the best people to spread the word? How many tiers can it lead to? Which is more effective? Selling the technical specification of a product/event or selling the experience of a product/event?
I think http://blog2u.sg/ will be useful for many direct advertisers, who wish to save the dollars from a good digital PR agency. But I would still suggest, the internet has a long memory. Campaigns and good word can go a long way if the appropriate method is being explored by professionals. A hundred thousand dollars is money well-spent if objectives are met. But a dollar spent could be a dollar too much if it does not work at all.

Of course, I am not indicating that this site does not work. It probably does to a certain extend. Most of those bloggers link their posts to twitter and facebook and plurk etc. So there's still some form of extension there. However, do also remember it's probably the same people, the same links on all these different platforms.
Ask around your office, how many people (who are non-avid bloggers) uses twitter and plurk? Or even digsby? As far as I am concern, I only know of one other person who does apart from me.

Who's reading?

There'll always be a neverending debate on who's reading what on the internet. Tell a client to use twitter as a marketing tool and they will response with a bang on the table as they give their money to a newspaper instead. True, it is hard to determine the returns, the risks and you can't really control your demographics. But for goodness sake, I wonder who invented technology, it is capable of anything.

Found this blog from Guy Kawasaki's tweets. The Brand Builder, written by Olivier Blanchard. It's enjoyable to realise the wealth of knowledge one can find from these folks if you really take time to read them.

There's a new article on social media stats and demos for 2008. It's interesting to see who ranks the top 40 tweetcities in the world and at what a rate this tool is growing intensively. I can't find Singapore on the list though, for plenty of reasons. One, we have a population too small, two we don't exactly have a tweeting population. We are just too small for comfort.

Digital marketing is not likely to take off in Singapore or Hong Kong in a big way because people are sitting too close to each other. There are many modes of communications and traditional media still ranks the most popular way to reach out to target audience. Well, I have to admit even for me, I still read newspapers and watch the TV. Digital marketing takes up only 3% of the total media spending in 2007. Where about 1.6million people are online everyday on this island. The newspaper only circulates about 250,000. So that doesn't really reaches a population of 4 million, does it. (Please refer to digital media report in my earlier posts). However, due to managable distance from home to town, people usually stay out instead of staying in. Hence outdoor media is the one channel that has been growing increasing popular in the past few years. More creative means are being explored from billboards to installations. Government rules have laxed to allow more room for advertising on public property.

However, that also means trying to get attention becomes harder. Many a times, marketeers tend to be successful in executing the "eye-catching" element but may not necesarily be achieving the objective on the movement, whatever that may be. Of course, clients should be realistic about the targets and how will the marketing effort translate into it. No matter it's sales or awareness. As I am religiously repeating, pick the right channels to the right people.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hill & Knowlton and me

I am subscribed to Social Media Today although I admit I don't read it very religiously unless something interesting catches my eye. Well, something did today. The blogger of the week featured Mr. Niall Cook, who is Worldwide Director of Marketing Technology in Hill & Knowlton. I don't know Mr. Cook. But H&K caught my eye.

Sometime not too long ago, earlier this year, I was offered an interview opportunity with H&K. And although the result was negative, but this series of interviews were one of the most valuable lessons in my life. I had the pleasure of meeting the Managing Director of H&K China in Singapore. And I flew to both Beijing and Shanghai to meet with 13 business directors in all. I was also fortunate enough to be invited to an internal workshop on digital PR. The entire process opened a new perspective and worldview for me. It was quite an exciting and mind-blowing process. Although I've always knew PR is a niche by itself, but only then did I began to understand how in depth and what kind of expertise is required to be a successful PR person. It is all a very different ballgame from where I came from. And although the interviews lasted almost 3 months (it continued when I returned Singapore) but I must say it was a time and money well-spent. I couldn't explain how rewarding it was, but I sincerely appreciated the opportunity.

H&K is somewhat very different from some other PR companies I know. I have friends who work for renown PR firms in Singapore and although I don't know much about PR but the values they hold are very different. H&K has very strong integrity about their business and they strongly encourage their clients to anticipate and practice the same transparency. They also understands the importance of constant innovation and finding a new niche in PR with the everchanging technologies. And that the lines between advertising, marketing and PR are constantly getting blured and it no longer is about "traditional" or "digital" anymore. It is essential that each is integrated into one another to provide a complete solution for businesses. Every business director has a clear idea on the kind of team they want to groom and the vision of the company is very clear. Which is something I value alot because I find it impossible to contribute too much to a company I can't seem to see the vision. Getting lost is simple in a mundane office life. Vision, values and positive culture in a company are some of the things I consider the most important when seeking a potential employment.

Someday, I still look forward to be a part of H&K. I think there is a wealth of knowledge and new worldview for me to apprehend from there. It is an organisation I will want to work for.

And here's to share with everyone, the blog of Mr. Niall Cook.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More social marketing tips in the mid of recession?

This talk about marketing in recession seems to be going on forever since the credit crunch began in Europe. There are more and more marketeers discussing the topic and suggesting ways to keep business viable and marketing dollars make more sense in these hard times.

Perhaps sometimes, downturns are a good thing as it forces us to think harder, put in more effort and accept higher challenges. When times are good, all of us just turns into couch potatoes. So there is always both sides of the coin to every situation. Even when everything just seem bad.

Anyway, I'm here today to share Harry's latest whitepaper on the Positive Side of Recession with you. There is always a way out of every sticky situation. It isn't the first time in the history of mankind that we are dealt with such financial crisis. Hence, there will always be a solution to every problem. Whether or not you decide to venture in social media, or decide to stick with traditional advertising, or simply spend more time on creating your brand value, or cut your costs and lie low, everyone may have a different solution. Choose the one that works best for you, there isn't just one solution.

Download the Positive SIde of Recession Here