Some solid lessons for students in “New Rules of Marketing and PR”

I didn’t pay close attention to David Meerman Scott’s “New Rules of PR and Marketing” until he published the 2nd edition sometime last year. In 2006, when the book came out, I was still getting a grip on newrulesofmarketingsocial media, and I spent way more time writing than reading in those days. Blame it on new-blogger’s ego.

By 2009, when the 2nd edition of New Rules arrived, I was knee deep in SM books, and more than a little jaded over their marginal content. But this one I like, enough to require my students in the “Media Relations” class to read it.

While “New Rules” isn’t really about media relations, it offers practical advice for redesigning traditional media-relations efforts to reach consumers directly. It suggests that marketers and PR professionals adopt a new perspective that reaches beyond media gatekeepers, so it’s similar to a mantra I’ve been preaching for 25 years: Go directly to the audience whenever possible.

What I don’t like about the book is the singular emphasis on “consumer” publics. “New Rules” is a book about marketing that touches PR only as it relates to publicity. “New Rules” gets into symmetrical relationships, as all SM books do, but Scott frames those relationships in terms of how they support sales.

If you’re a marketer, or a PR person working in the marketing realm, this book is useful. It won’t help you much in areas such as internal communication, investor relations, or public affairs, where marketing has little sway.

Seasoned marketers and PR professionals may find “New Rules” a bit elementary. But that happens with books that present nuts-and-bolts tactics. This isn’t the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Some stuff I like:

The relationship of quality content to web traffic and SEO is a lesson we all must learn. Scott takes it further, showing how to convert Web traffic to sales. Scott explains the “Long Tail” concept to readers and shows — in one chapter — how the Web and the search engines (properly fed) can drive business to small and niche companies. He shows how to apply online tactics to the Long Tail idea, and that’s useful information.

Other topics covered well in “New Rules” include participation in forums and wikis and the role of viral campaigns in marketing. Scott also presents a good discussion of writing for online audiences, most useful for students still honing their writing. But judging by what I see online each day, it will be useful to many veterans, too.

My concerns:

Scott advises PR professionals to write and publish news releases almost daily. His point: Consumer audiences are hungry for the content, and that content — along with the traffic it generates — fuels search engine optimization, which brings even more traffic to your site. Handle the traffic properly and you can boost sales.

Fair enough. But if we post content so frequently, and mainstream media subscribe to that content, we’ll wear out our welcome with journalists inside of a week. I emailed David asking him to clarify my concern, and he responded quickly. In that reply, he recommended using dual channels — one that pushes the more legitimate news story to mainstream media, another that makes available by subscription a wide range of stories that interest enthusiastic consumers.

The dual channel approach makes sense, but it presents a HUGE resource question. Who will produce all this content?  The channels of transmission cost little or nothing, but quality content requires professional writers, photographers and videographers. Most people simply can’t do it.

Scott is a marketer who says, “PR used to be exclusively about the media.” That’s a pervasive view among social-media marketers, but it’s simply not accurate. Publicity is all about the media — and it still is.  And publicity is often the one public relations tool that marketers understood prior to Web 2.0. Public relations is more than publicity.

Scott does acknowledge the importance of traditional media  and the need for PR programs to include independent 3rd-party endorsement. But the “old” model of PR espoused in this book is asymmetrical.

“New Rules” is well written, something I can’t say about many of the SM books that come across my desk. It’s easy to read, easy to comprehend. By taking the time to edit his material and to include useful examples and anecdotes, Scott shows respect for readers that’s too rare among the popular books in this field.

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7 Responses to Some solid lessons for students in “New Rules of Marketing and PR”

  1. Chuck Hemann says:

    Thanks for the review, Bill. Just another book to check out. You’re checking ones off your list and we’re all adding to ours. Excellent. Thank God for long winters, I guess.

  2. Hey Bill.

    Many thanks for this. I appreciate the thoughtful review. (I was lurking during some of your reviews of other SM books and chose not to comment).

    The hardcover version of New Rules was published in June 2007 (not 2006). This new paperback edition came out in late 2008. The paperback edition is lightly revised to include information on Twitter (did not exist when I was writing 1st ed.) and Facebook (only open to .edu email addys when I was writing 1st ed.). But the paperback edition was not a complete revision.

    I have to agree with you on the “write press releases every day” part. I’ve just completed a complete and total overhaul of the book for a true second edition due out in early 2010. Every word was scrutinized and about 40 percent revised with many new case examples to replace some of the dated ones.

    When I was writing the book back in 2006, this stuff was really new. My book was arguably the first to articulate why marketing and PR on the web is different. WHen I was writing, the term social media was not popular.

    My main point in all of this is that public relations and marketing now includes organizations publishing their own content (blogs, YouTube vids, photos, press releases, etc.) online. This idea was (and to a certain extent still is) foreign to PR people who work in corporations. PR people (perhaps you would call them “publicists”) feel their job is exclusively to work through the media. That important takeaway will not change in the new edition.

    My lumping of both PR and Marketing in the book really comes from my background as VP of corporate communications and marketing at two different public companies.

    Many thanks for using the book in class. I appreciate it.

    Best, David

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Glad you stopped by, David. And I appreciate the clarification on the dates. Release dates (as in the case of your second printing) don’t always coincide with the year of copyright. Thus my confusion.

    I’ll look forward to the “true” second edition in 2010. Good luck keeping up with all this!

  4. Ace Landon says:

    Thank you for the review Bill. I had been wondering about this book, and if it was worth it, and i guess i’ll check it out.
    Thanks

  5. Allison says:

    I’ve been reading his blog lately, especially interested in his GM visit.

  6. Pete Codella says:

    This summer I developed a course for the University of California, Irvine Extension titled: Using Social Media as a Tool for Public Relations. I too, have read many social media books and felt David Meerman Scott’s book, New Rules…, was the best choice for the class. My students this fall overwhelmingly agreed with me and appreciated having had the opportunity to dive into the book’s concepts coupled with my online instruction. I’m pleased to read David’s comments above about a true second edition of the book and will plan on using that for my class in May 2010 (providing it’s available). Thank you for the blog post and thoughtful comments.

  7. Hello Pete!

    Many thanks for using my book. I appreciate it.

    The true second edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR is at the printer and is expected to ship in mid-January 2010 (a month from now).

    I say “true second edition” because the paperback that released very late 2008 was a light update. This new version has about 40% new content including many new case examples. The social media sections are completely re-done.

    However what has not changed is the format, the style of my writing, and the philosophy that I preach — that marketing & PR on the web is about publishing great content first.

    My publisher will gladly provide review copies of the second edition for professors and instructors. Shoot me an email and I can organize.

    Best,

    David

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