Thursday, April 30, 2015

BWB6: Your Pitch Is Futile

I'm in Chicago for Blogs With Balls 6 and taking plenty of notes. I'll be posting my notes from each panel here for the use of anyone who wants to check them out. Keep in mind that these are highlights, not complete transcripts. Every effort is given to be as accurate as possible; apologies for any transcription mistakes. Here are my notes from the very interesting "Your Pitch Is Futile" panel, a discussion about PR and the media. 
Mitch Germann (@mcg5)
Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport)
Robert Littal (@bso)
Dayn Perry (@daynperry)
Moderator: Zack Smith (@sportsflackzack)

The panel started with panelists asked to define storytelling and then describe either media (if they're from the PR side) or PR (if they're from the media side).

RL: Storytelling is about his own unique take. PR people : Agenda.
MG: "Storytelling is something that creates a connection with the audience." Media: resourceful, busy
RG: "[Storytelling is] informative, entertaining, and or funny." PR "Under the delusion that the product they're trying to sell is in and of itself intrinsically interesting. A lot of the time, I disagree." DP: "The visual element is important as the written word." PR: Involved, helpful, follow-uppy.

Zack asked the media guys about PR horror stories.
RL: PR pitch on Viagra. "They also gave me a sample. They wanted me to use the sample."
"The part where they say erections may last more than four hours, that is factual. I had to go to the ER."
RG on Stone Cold Steve Austin shilling a Wendy's sandwich: "Literally every answer was about the stupid fucking sandwich."

ZS: What are the benefits to PR?
RL: Does things for PR with expectation of them helping later "If you deal with the silliness and some of the dumb things, when something important comes up, they'll take care of you." Mayweather/Pacquiao example: he's helped firms, they've helped him gain access now
RG: "We're looking for somebody to be interesting and honest with us. Access in the absence of candour isn't that valuable."

ZS: What's important for PR firms to do in a pitch?
MG: Encourages brevity, personalization, creative assets (visual or video)
 RL: "A lot of bloggers' audience, they can smell BS. They can smell when you're shilling something. They expect that from mainstream media, they don't expect that from us."
Pacquiao: RL has to make fun of him to get people to read. PR needs to understand that.
"Everyone's not Whitlock with a playbook."
RG on PR expecting stories for free. "We have paid advertisers." "Why would anyone do that if they can just make something that triggers emotions that everyone will run for free?"
For RG to run something PR-based, it needs to be unique, something that could generate pickup from elsewhere

MG said there are two main ways for PR firms to get bloggers excited about their stuff: "Invite someone to come along and be part of the process that generates that content [or] create such good content that it drives the news cycle even without having to pitch it."
He cites a Madden spot with James Franco and Kevin Hart as an example; it got pickup without pitches.

 DP: Artistic content can help: "It can serve the advertising purpose and be artistic."
ZS: Athletes/products: "Our hope is that there is that authentic connection."
RL: Tug-of-war between what PR wants, what audience wants "I think that's the biggest challenge." RL on interviews with athletes set up by PR: "Really take it seriously and have a plan when you're talking to the athlete." "The best way to be taken seriously is to ask serious questions."

MG: "Our expectations when it comes to athlete spokespeople are very low." Avoid complicated corporate statements "Athletes are a lot more protective of their brand than they have been in the past." "The expectation is just one mention." Buster Posey as example: "Just start it with esurance, go into baseball and we're good." "Hopefully it's a win-win." "We try to set really realistic expectations with people we work with on both sides."

DP: "There needs to be a clear obligation on the part of the athlete to be candid." Matt Harvey/Dan Patrick interview: example where that didn't happen

ZS asked about The Players' Tribune: are they bypassing media?
RL: "It's an extension of [athletes'] social media." "It's good for fans, it's good for consumers to have as much information as they possibly can." Players Tribune can provide media/blogs with more content "I'm a proponent of multiple opinions and multiple outlets."
MG: It gives more credibility to regular media
RG: We have inflated sense of TPT thanks to being in media, seeing it in feeds
"It's not necessarily as influential as some might think."
DP: "It's not a new phenomenon." Jackie Robinson ghostwrote columns. As told to autobiographies also common.

I thought this was a really well-done panel. It had the potential to be dry, but Smith did a great job of moderating, asking interesting questions that were relevant to both PR people and media types and exploring some interesting parts of the issue (such as just what PR wants from bloggers and athletes). Great job by BWB on this one.

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