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23 Is Media Manipulation the New Media Relations

Media Manipulation – fact or fiction – a frank conversation with Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday), author of Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator and Peter Shankman (@petershankman), VP, Small Business Evangelist at Vocus.

But, now the rest of the story.

Trust MeEarlier this month a relatively unknown media strategist by the name of Ryan Holiday released a book titled Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

The book has received a tremendous amount of coverage due in part to the provocative title and due largely to Holiday’s own perfectly timed manipulation stunt.

Here’s just a bit of the coverage if you want a dive deep into this topic:

In an effort to bring attention to the topic of the book Holiday abused the media service Help A Reporter Out (HARO) by pretending to be a credible source for a number of journalists looking to write stories on specific topics.

Holiday responded to hundreds of queries and lied about who he was and what he knew in an effort to get press to prove his point about the state of online journalism.

Holiday said of his tricks in an interview with Forbes:

“I knew that bloggers would print anything, so I thought, what if, as an experiment, I tried to prove that they will literally print anything? Instead of trying to get press to benefit myself, I just wanted to get any press for any reason as a joke.”

Holiday successfully duped journalists at some of the highest profile publications over a series of several months.

On Reuters, he became the poster child for “Generation Yikes.” On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs. At CBS, he made up an embarrassing office story, at MSNBC he pretended someone sneezed on him while working at Burger King. At Manitouboats.com, he offered helpful tips for winterizing your boat. The capstone came in the form of a New York Times piece on vinyl records.

So, was this merely a stunt put together by someone pretty good at media manipulation or does it really prove anything about otherwise ethical PR professionals and smart journalists?

“From a reporter’s perspective, it’s not hard to see how it happens,” wrote Thier. “I used HARO once, for this story. Tools like this streamline the hectic process that is blogging — were the situation different, I could see easily myself swindled by someone like Holiday.”

The predictable firestorm that ensued between Holiday and HARO founder Peter Shankman erupted in somewhat spectacular fashion with Holiday going as far as claiming that services such as HARO should be shut down, while Shankman defended the valuable service HARO provides for journalists, PR professionals and small businesses.

Holiday – Peter Shankman seems a little defensive doesn’t he? (Especially the part where he threatens to punch me in the face.) I suppose I can’t blame him. This week, I exposed HARO, the service he founded, for what it is: a cesspool of media manipulation and enabler of bad journalism.

Shankman – Let’s be clear: This idiot (Ryan Holiday, the liar,) did this for one reason, and it wasn’t anywhere NEAR as altruistic as “an experiment.” He wrote a book on how to lie and get in the media, and he was promoting it. End of story. Want more proof? You know what this guy did before he wrote this book? HE WORKED FOR TUCKER MAX, the man who’s written multiple books on how to lie to get laid. Enough said.

Okay so maybe not enough said!

Join me live today at 1:30pm ET as I moderate the first face to face discussion between Peter Shankman and Ryan Holiday since this controversy erupted.

Media Manipulation – fact or fiction – a frank conversation with Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday), author of Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator and Peter Shankman (@petershankman), VP, Small Business Evangelist at Vocus.

The live Google+Hangout will also feature guest commentary from David Meerman Scott (@dmscott), author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy), Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur magazine and Shel Holtz (@shelholtz), Principal, Holtz Communication + Technology – Live – August 1st, 1:30pm ET (GMT-4)

The event moderator is John Jantsch (@ducttape) of Duct Tape Marketing. The event will be available live on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/ducttapemarketing

The Google+Hangout Live to YouTube is still pretty shaky technology so let’s hope we pull it off. The YouTube stream will also be recorded for later viewing.

4 7 Competition Crushing Value Propositions

Page one of Warby Parker's infographic laden annual report

One of the biggest challenges that any small business faces in the area of marketing is standing out from everyone else that say it’s doing what you’re doing.

Until you can firmly offer a solid reason for why you should buy from or hire us over everyone else, you’ll compete on price.

As you develop a marketing strategy for your business you must proactively create the value proposition of “why us” and build all of your marketing messages, products, services, processes and follow-up communication around supporting that proposition.

This is how you use strategy to dominate your market. This is how you define value in terms that matter to those you are trying to attract.

Below are seven ways to think about defining and refining your core value proposition.

1) We know you – So many companies try to serve mass audiences. This is tough for any organization, but can be next to impossible for a small business just getting started. One very powerful way to create a point of differentiation is to carve out a narrow segment of a market and explain through every communication that you are the experts in serving that market.

Divorce attorneys that specialize in representing men are an example of this type of approach. Obviously, you won’t attract female clients, but a man going through a divorce might feel you have specialized knowledge and experience that other, more generic divorce attorneys, don’t possess.

2) A better way – Creating a product, service or approach that clearly offers a better way to get a result, particularly a result I desperately need to get, is another strong way to demonstrate value and promote a business.

Pretty much everyone struggles with processing too much information. Many have developed all kinds of systems to remember things, track things and keep to do lists under control. Evernote created a better way to do this and made the process simple, accessible and manageable on the devices that millions already used, so it’s value proposition offered a very recognizable way to do something better and the company has grown measurably because of it.

3) One of a kind – Some segment of just about every market craves things that are custom made. The more markets are inundated with mass produced items, the more opportunity exists for things that are made to order or made by hand.

I believe the popularity of a platform like Etsy is due in part to this need for some to find and possess things that are one of a kind or made just for them.

If you can find a segment of your market that values this approach it can be a highly profitable proposition. I asked the owner of a men’s clothing shop I frequent about the market for suits these days and he said there are really only two segments left. The low end off the rack suit and the very high end custom tailored suit.

4) Access – Another interesting value proposition is to take a market or demand that already exists and disrupt it by creating access that isn’t generally available.

Peter Shankman founded a service called HARO or Help a Reporter Out, based on this proposition. PR professionals and marketers had long paid thousands of dollars a year to gain access to a pool of journalists looking for sources to specific stories.

HARO built a database and service based on this concept and made it available to anyone that wished to subscribe for no cost. The service became so popular that it began to attract significant ad revenue and Shankman later sold it to another industry disruptor Vocus.

5) Savings – Offering a market ways to save money or lower risk will always be a strong way to differentiate a business. Now, understand this is not the same thing as offering a lower price. The key to this proposition is to demonstrate how your product or service will clearly allow them to save money through the use of what you are offering. A version of this proposition is to show them how they can lower the risk of losing money as well.

Many of the cloud based Software as a Service offerings such as Dropbox do this very well. Dropbox allows many people to more easily share and store files without the need for server hardware and eliminates the risk of losing data by automatically offering backups.

6) Convenience – Come up with a product, service of business that makes it more convenient to do something that people are already used to doing and you’ve got the makings of a winning value proposition.

I read a lot a books and the Kindle device for me is flat out the most convenient way to find, buy, read, store and carry lots of books around.

7) Design – Great design is actually very hard to do, but when you invest in it as a core value proposition, it can actually be a tremendous way to stand out and attract a market segment for whom form and function are equally important.

Apple has entered and dominated several markets in which they had no history, mp3 players and phones, using their design value proposition.

Building a business model and marketing strategy based firmly on any one of these proven proposition will allow you carve our your place in the market. However, if you can combine several of these propositions you’ve got the foundation for something downright disruptive.

A collaboration between four close friends, eyewear maker Warby Parker was conceived as an alternative to what the founders felt was the overpriced and bland eyewear available today.

According to Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO, “We just didn’t think a pair of glasses should cost more than an iPhone.”

Warby Parker’s obvious innovation was to go direct in an industry full of middlemen, big name designers and licensed brand names.

The company designs their line of glasses, works directly with the manufactures and sells it’s line of prescription and sunglasses directly to the end consumer.

In an effort to take on an entrenched $16B industry, they created a fixed price of $95 for all styles, ship out up to 5 pairs for no cost test drives prior to purchase and donate a pair of glasses to those in need for every pair sold.

The company was featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times in 2011, sold over 100,000 pair of glasses and grew to over 50 employees according to its 2011 annual report – another innovation as it was delivered in a series of infographics rather than the typical dry corporate report.

Savings, access, convenience, design and a better way all rolled into one value proposition.

3 Has Social Media Changed Customer Service?

Marketing podcast with Peter Shankman (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Custom ServiceMy guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Peter Shankman. Many of you may know him for his great Help A Reporter Out, (HARO) tool, which he sold recently to Vocus.

In addition to HARO, Peter is the founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm located in New York City, and author of several books, including Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World

The adoption of social media on every level of business has certainly changed how we serve customers and created opportunities for those that choose to take advantage.

In this session we talk about ways to:

  • Choose online media that make the most sense for you
  • Avoid wasting time with platforms that won’t help you
  • Earn your customer’s loyalty, trust, and credibility
  • Learn from other companies’ viral “disasters”
  • Rebuild your credibility after you’ve taken a public “hit” online

So, how has social media changed customer service as a customer and a business?

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or

8 Content as a Referral Source

(HARO)I wrote recently about a great new service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – this service, founded by PR Geek Peter Shankman, matches journalists on a story with expert sources. Anyone can sign up to get the three daily emails full of stories just waiting for you to contribute to.

Peter’s enthusiasm and New York pace shine through on this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. (Although admittedly I had a microphone issue on this recording and Peter’s voice is a bit muffled) This is a great free tool and every small business should subscribe.

And, here’s a killer referral and networking tip. Subscribe to and read the HARO emails with two hats on. One, look for stories you could add to and two, scan through the queries thinking about any of your customers, partners, suppliers or prospects that could be offered up as resources to a journalist. If you would take 5 minutes a day sending off appropriate story ideas to your network, the referral tap will open in your direction in a matter of a few short weeks.

Remember, referrals are about trust and relationship building and nothing does that faster than showing you are thinking of others and trying to find ways to help them get what they want to succeed.

AT&TThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by att.com/onwardsmallbiz. Resources for the small business owner.

16 Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

The title of this post is the name of a great free service. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is the brain-child of East Coast PR pro Peter Shankman. (I did a podcast with Peter that I will publish shortly, but I wanted you to know about this resource right away.)

HARO started out as a Facebook group as a way to keep track of journalist’s looking for a particular expert for a story. The free service, that essentially hooks journalists up with credible sources to interview, grew rapidly and needed a home off Facebook to manage the size. As of this writing HARO is approaching 20,000 members. Hey, it’s free and its works, no surprise it grew.

Journalists go online fill out a form and their request gets added to the three time daily email distribution to members. As a member, If you see a story that you could contribute to, your simply reply directly to the query. A word to the wise, replying off topic may get you kicked off the list. Quality over quantity is what works here.

So, If your looking to promote your business sign up here. Get in the habit of scanning the daily emails quickly and see if any stories jump out at you. Keep your replies brief and to the point. Journalists love trends and ideas backed up with data, so add that as well as a pre-written paragraph of what makes you an exert.

If you’re a journalist and want to start putting your story ideas out for comment, experts or even research, sign up here. Keep in mind this includes podcasters looking for guests, bloggers doing research for a post, authors needing experts and case studies for a book, as well as journalists writing a story for a major daily.

Many people may be familiar with a similar service from industry giant PRNewswire called ProfNet. ProfNet offers a good service, but is simply too expensive for the typical small business to justify.

This may end up with a little David vs. Goliath story line as I’ve been told some folks at ProNet aren’t too happy with HARO.