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 social 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.
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.