Two to Tango: HowToPitch.me and Pitching Notes Want to Match Them

Dancers doing the tango in ArgentinaThe dance between public relations professionals and journalists has always been a bit of a tango – the two are linked in a close embrace, share a common axis and it can be rather volatile.

Recently two new services crossed my radar that attempt to help fill the dance cards of each of these groups with partners matched to their appropriate skills.

First was Pitching Notes, a U.S.-based, free service where members can share their reporter experiences with other PR professionals. Reporters are also encouraged to join so they can tell members how they prefer to be pitched, and what will most likely get a response from them.

In an Orlando Sentinel story last month, co-founder Jeannie Clary said it can be a challenge to convince public relations pros it’s ok to give negative feedback about a reporter, as well as the positive.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Clary said. “We sometimes have a fear of upsetting reporters in the industry with a bad review. But including those types of comments, without insulting anyone, helps keep reviews honest and everyone accountable.”

At the time that article was published, Clary’s team was still trying looking for ways to actually make money from the site. According to an email to members last week, however, they’ve begun experimenting with special levels of membership to address this.

Pitching Notes has created two classes of membership: “General” and “Club.” Only Club members will be able to access the pitching notes and reviews for each media professional. In addition to creating revenue, they hope that the change will help spark the growth of the database – limiting who has access and encouraging more people to submit notes, including those potentially negative ones.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, HowToPitch.me has launched with a very similar goal. Billing itself as a personal space for journalists and bloggers to state what they’re interested in and what they aren’t.

The creator of HowToPitch.me, Nicholas Holmes, told Journalism.co.uk:

“So much ink has been spilled on PR spam and how to stop it. Part of the problem is that access to journalists is still a bit of a walled garden. You have to pay for media databases – and I don’t see why that should be the case.”

A freelance travel writer himself, Holmes’ own profile provides a peek into the type of content he’s hoping more journos will provide.

Screenshot of HowToPitch.me Profile

I wish both services all the best because their shared goals can only help improve the dance.

Tango image via Creative Commons courtesy Bernardo Lopez

Israel and Palestine Bring Evolution, not Revolution, to Propaganda with Social Media

As the roar of the shells has died down, so too has all the talk of social media’s role in the most recent Israel-Palestine conflict. A WIRED UK headline earlier this month exclaimed Israel “loses social media war to Hamas,” but that’s about all I’ve seen on the topic since the new year started.

I actually began writing this post back in November, and my original headline was “Everything Old is New Again.”  Not because the conflict between these two is ancient – it is – but, because the use of propaganda is also ancient. Leveraging the new tools of social media is simply keeping up with the times, rather than revolutionizing the process.

Just how old is propaganda? Well, you could say it’s as old as the existence of stone monuments that described kings and even a female Pharaoh.

According to the Oxford Reference, the word propaganda is derived from the Vatican’s establishment of the Sacre Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in 1622. “Before 1914, propaganda was usually associated with religion and the implanting of ideas to be cultivated in support of existing beliefs and ‘faith’. Its wartime applications, in the Napoleonic or the American independence wars, were confined largely to calls to arms, lampooning the enemy, glorifying victory, and sustaining morale,” it notes.

Cover of the book Comic Art Propaganda  - by Fredrik Strömberg Munitions of the Mind traces propaganda back to even earlier times of warfare. From those stone monuments I mentioned to paintings, print, radio, television and computers, the scholarly book points out that “throughout history, propaganda has had access to ever more complex and versatile media.”

And, that’s all that happened when the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas’ Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades took to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr and just about every other major social network to make their case to the world for why their side was right. Propaganda simply moved to the media of the current times.

Tweet of Hamas Comic ImageToday’s infographics are simply an electronic version of yesterday’s comics, rather than the “disconnect between that messaging and the bombing taking place in real life” that Alex Kantrowitz talked about in his Forbes piece that called the use of social media both “groundbreaking” and “bizarre.”

Spanish Civil Ware Propaganda FlyerAre hashtags really that much more radical than small leaflets in packets of cigarette paper sent by rocket over enemy lines during the Spanish Civil War in late 1938? Sure, the potential audience is larger, but then we get into the whole debate about broadcast messages versus targeted messages and which has the greater response rate or drives actual action and change.

What is new in this evolution of propaganda is the ability to know who the individual is behind it. It’s possible that the stone carvers, painters and comic artists creating monuments, murals and booklets were known by a small circle for their work, but it was much easier (and probably safer) to hide that involvement from most.

In today’s connected environment, the creator can become equally as known as what they create.

One Jewish publication, Tablet, highlighted “The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media” opening the curtain on what had to happen behind the scenes to convince military leadership that social media was indeed a powerful tool to be leveraged. It sounds very similar to the challenge anyone in a large corporation faces when seeking budget for new initiatives.

But, there is also the less-flattering side of being responsible for an organization’s presence in social media. Many have lost face, or even lost jobs, for their snafus. Military propagandists are not immune.

A photo posted by one member of the IDF new media team in September came back to haunt him months later as the military conflict and the social media propaganda heated up. An image of him at the Dead Sea’s mud baths with a controversial caption led to accusations of racism and led him to restrict public access to his Facebook profile.

It’s a good reminder to everyone, whether you work in social media communications or not, to not only check your privacy settings, but also always remember that anything you say or are photographed doing can and will be used against you.

“Its results may be beneficial or harmful. It can cause victory or death, and today it is a potent and highly influential instrument for the deliberate and purposeful leadership of peoples,“ a U.S. Navy publication said of the subject of its title: “Propaganda.”

The “today” they referred to was 1958, but it might as well be 2013.

 

Not Content with the Internet, Cats Move on to Prisons and Terrorism

LOL Cat - Today the dog. Tomorrow the world.We’ve long known that cats rule the Internet, even getting their own film festival this year at one of the nation’s most prominent institutions of contemporary art. But two incidents last week lead me to believe that video contests are just good PR and we all need to be even more prepared than ever to welcome our feline overlords.

First, I saw where a cat with a cell phone, drills, assorted batteries and two saws taped to its body was caught trying to enter a Brazilian prison. I think if he hadn’t gotten so ambitious – perhaps starting with just a saw, then the drill on another trip, you know – then he might have been more successful slipping past the guards. If you’ve seen the photo, the bulky package was a bit too obvious on his white fur.

But, then again, perhaps it was just a rookie mistake? A prison spokeswoman told the Estado de Sao Paulo: “It will be hard to figure out who is responsible, as the cat does not talk.”

Then later in the week, I saw where Japanese authorities captured a cat that was carrying computer code used to make terroristic threats such as potentially blowing up a shrine in Mia province and possibly bombing a passenger jet.

According to Kaspersky Lab’s Threat Post blog, “The chase began again in earnest last week when the hacker announced a ‘new game’ and sent a series of riddles that said the code used to commit the threats remotely was attached to a cat’s collar somewhere in a remote part of Tokyo.”

Ultimately, the hacker or group – or should I say clowder? – that issued the threats using remotely controlled computers in Japan remains at large despite a three million yen bounty.

But never fear, Google has trained a computer to spot cats; and probably not so that the computers can eliminate their main competition to take over the human race, right? Right?

 

[Update 6 Feb 13: Their march continues. The iron is out of Monopoly and a cat is in…]

Create Your Free Infographic Resume

Last July, I wrote about how I’ve been waiting since April 2011 for Visual.ly to provide me the ability to create cool infographics with little to no graphic design skills – and for free. Because I’m cheap budget-constrained.

Today, I finally got my wish!

I’d seen some email notices from them about their Marketplace where you can locate people you could pay to design infographics for you; but, if they told me before today that there were free plug-and-play ones out there, I missed it. That whole inbox zero thing never really worked for me.

Today, however, I actually opened the email from them and read “Check out our Visual Resume data visualization tool!” Which I did because that sounded like a cool addition to the visual CV/portfolio that I created on Pinterest.

Turns out this is one of handful of co-branded infographic templates now available on the site. Most are what I’d classify as just-for-fun like one tied to my Facebook stats and the Sherlock Holmes TV series called “Elementary.”  But, some more useful ones allow you to create a Venn Diagram (might try that one to update my Enjoli Woman post) or a visualization of Facebook Page statistics.

Then there is the newest one for creating a visual resume. You just choose one of their templates – sponsored by Kelly — then log in with your LinkedIn account and boom! There are currently five styles to choose from, but hopefully there will be more in the future because I was almost tempted not to share these for fear everyone would start to have one like mine. <wink>

create infographics with visual.ly

Buh-Buy 2012 – It’s All Forward From Here

As 2012 drew to a grey, cold, rainy close yesterday, I just kept thinking of this Saturday Night Live skit from the early nineties.

Why so ready to kick 2012 out the door? Well, it hadn’t exactly been a banner year for me. Let’s just say, as much as I share online – and if you follow me on Twitter, you know that can be a lot – there’s much more that you never hear about. While research into why people share so much personal information online indicates “people don’t really know how to value their own information,” I like to think that I do.

So, lets just say I don’t really want to repeat much of my experience last year.

Before I come off all bitter, though, I must admit I’ve been very blessed, too. I’ve got a great job that lets me support my family while doing things that I enjoy. I feel like I’ve got the smartest, most beautiful daughter in the world. My overall health is good.

These things I definitely want to take into the new year with me. And I want to make the most of them. For that reason, while I’ve never been much for making New Year’s resolutions, I think I will document a few here so that you can hold me accountable.

  1. I will hit the Bible app button before I hit the Facebook or Twitter app buttons on my phone each morning.
  2. I will get my yearly plan for work done before the first quarter starts and I will make time to report out regularly on progress.
  3. I will keep up my Bollywood dance classes, but also add one more hour of some sort of exercise to each week.

And, it wouldn’t be a resolutions list without something about weight loss, right? So, I will eat less. Not less of any particular thing, just less of everything. No poor starving children anywhere will benefit if I clean my plate.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.

No more looking back. It’s all forward from here.