Tag Archives: featured

On My Healthy Obsession with Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces

17 Nov

I seem to go through annual cycles of Internet obsessions.

In 2008, it was social communication platforms, like Twitter. In 2009, it was services that make microblogging easier, like Hootsuite and Ping.fm. In 2010, it was location-based mobile apps, like Foursquare and Gowalla. And this year, it’s social marketplaces.

The concept of “collaborative consumption,” also know as the “sharing economy,” completely enthralls me. The fact that I don’t need to book a hotel, buy a car or invest in a drill is amazing — instead, I can just borrow these things from regular people from my neighborhood or from around the globe for a small fee. Now, that’s something worth getting excited about.

So, what types of things can you collaboratively consume? The list goes on and on, but here’s a snapshot of some of the most interesting things you can find on social marketplaces:

Even more exciting is the potential for meeting awesome people via social marketplaces. You don’t get that experience with traditional marketplaces — Zipcar, I love you, but it’s just the truth.

I’ve hosted a number of guests on Airbnb (and have stayed in quite a few places as well); I teach a class on “PR for Startups” on Skillshare, and I’ve learned how to knit (see video above) and live rent-free in NYC; and I catsit for the fun of it via Sittercity.

Along the way, I’ve met some amazing people (Stefania in Catania, I’m talking to you!) and cats (Darcy, Yuki, Ernie and Sabi, you know you’re all the cat’s meow). What’s not to love?

The social economy is where it’s at for me this year, and I have a feeling it’s going to spill over into 2012. So, what was your tech obsession this year? Let me know in the comments below!

My New Infographic Resume

12 Aug

I’ve written a few times about infographic resumes on Mashable, and each time, I feel like a hypocrite, because I don’t have an infographic resume. Well, folks, not anymore!

Freelance designer Snow White Powers designed my new infographic resume (embedded below). I enlisted her help, because she did an amazing job redesigning my business cards last year. I asked her to maintain my business card theme in the new resume template, and I’m really pleased with it.

Use the zoom buttons to see it more clearly. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re looking to create a more interesting resume, check out these resources:

- HOW TO: Spruce up a Boring Resume
HOW TO: Set Up an Online Resume

Top 5 PR Pitches That Rocked My Socks Off

3 Apr

Many of the pitches that I receive from PR professionals are irrelevant to my work, but every now and then, a gem of a pitch will surface in my inbox. Great PR people know how to put together a fitting pitch. Some of the essential elements of a great pitch include:

  • Relevancy: Nobody wants to read an email that doesn’t apply to them. Instead of sending blanket pitches to everyone in your address book, make an effort to understand the coverage area of each journalist you contact. That way, you’ll be more likely to strike a positive chord when you send out related news.
  • Succinctness: We’ve all heard of the elevator pitch. If you can sell your product or idea in just a few sentences, you’re armed to pitch it anywhere, even in only 15 seconds or so. Use that same philosophy with emails. Keep the pitch under three or four sentences, and you’ll save yourself and your reader a lot of time.
  • Directness: Assume that your reader knows nothing about the product or service you are pitching. Furthermore, explicitly state why the product is a fit for coverage on his or her site. When you clearly explain why his or her readers would be interested in the news, you make it easier tp visualize why it is (or isn’t) a fit.

Below are five examples of great pitches that I’ve received over the past year as a journalist at Mashable, a social and digital news site. The pitches are listed with the subject lines of the emails and include a few pointers about what made them so effective.

If you’re interested in what doesn’t work, check out my recent piece on the “Top 8 PR Pitch Phrases I Hate.”


1. I Loves Exclusives: “Exclusive for Tues – Social Breakup research”


The sexiest word in PR language is “exclusive.” When I receive an email with the word “exclusive” in the subject line, my eyes light up and I click with glee to see what could be in store for my next piece.

Not every “exclusive” pitch is a fit, but it is always impressive when a PR professional takes the time to choose one media outlet to give the honor of reporting first on a piece of news. My day gets a little brighter when I am the reporter on the other end of an exclusive pitch, whether it’s a fit or not.

Cybele Diamandopoulos of FOLIO Communications Group recently sent an exclusive pitch regarding a recent social media study. The pitch was actually addressed to another Mashable editor, but it was forwarded my way, as it was a better fit for my coverage area (business and marketing).

The pitch was a perfect fit for Mashable as it outlined the top reasons why consumers unsubscribe via email, Facebook and Twitter. Naturally, I read on.

Diamandopoulos’s email was enhanced by the fact that she outlined a few key findings from the research and noted that the full release would come packed with infographics, which would add visual appeal to the story.

Resulting piece:Top Reasons Why Consumers Unsubscribe Via E-Mail, Facebook & Twitter


2. Embargoes Welcome: “EMBARGOED GOWALLA INFO – SUNDANCE”


When an exclusive on a story isn’t possible, the next best thing is an embargo.

A news embargo is a request from a source that a particular piece of news not be published until a certain date and time, or under certain specified circumstances. Embargoes enable a journalist to reduce reporting errors by giving him or her enough time to research a news item before the agreed upon publishing time.

The downside to an embargo is that other news outlets are also given the heads up on the news. On the positive side, though, if the embargo is kept by all outlets, no one has the advantage of “getting the scoop first.” Sadly, there are a number of media companies out there that don’t honor embargo times and decide to publish prior to agreed times. In a perfect world, that type of behavior would be punished by PR professionals, who would then withhold future news from perpetrators. It appears that PR pros aren’t cracking down the whip, though, as the same publications continue to break embargoes.

I always look forward to receiving pitches from Frank Filiatrault of Allison & Partners. I have never received a pitch from him that wasn’t a fit for our site. This is a huge accomplishment, as most of the pitches I receive are irrelevant to our site’s core topics.

Filiatrault usually sends embargoed press releases complete with related images and a personalized email about why he’s sending the news to Mashable.

When he pitched an embargoed piece about a recent partnership between Gowalla and Sundance, he included a bullet point list of the key details. When I took on the piece, he was quick to send along the full press release and answer all of my clarifying questions.

Resulting piece:Gowalla Teams Up With Sundance Film Festival


3. Readers Come First: “Lot18 Funding Announcement (w/ Mashable invites)”


Mashable readers are the most important factor in all decisions that I make when choosing stories, writing and editing. I constantly ask myself, “Is this what our readers want/need?”

As a result, it is imperative for PR professionals to directly call out why a particular story is of value to our publication’s readers. In some cases, that means simply stating why the story is a fit for our audience. In other cases, it can mean offering our readers a perk that they won’t find elsewhere.

When Snooth Media‘s Engagement Manager Jesse Chemtob pitched me on the launch of Lot18, a sample sale site for wine, he offered up 1,000 invitations for Mashable readers. Being that Lot18 is exclusive and requires that hopefuls be invited by existing members, Chemtob’s offer was a pretty sweet deal for our readers.

Even better, Chemtob’s email was a total of five sentences in length to make it easy to digest. He attached the press release for further details.

I was happy to write the piece, as it was a fit for our site and had added value for our readers. Apparently it was a hit — within a few hours, all 1,000 invites were gone.

Resulting piece:New Private Sale Site Targets Wine Enthusiasts [INVITES]


4. Multimedia Resources Appreciated: “eBay and Facebook collide for eBay Group Gifts!”


Stephanie Luu, formerly of Edelman Digital and currently with Ogilvy’s 360° Digital Influence Group, pitched me on the day that eBay’s Group Gifts product launched.

While the pitch wasn’t an exclusive or embargoed, it was relevant to Mashable‘s coverage and was very succinct. Luu explained the implications of the launch and outlined key details about the product, while also including a YouTube video which explained the product thoroughly. The video was a critical piece in answering some of the questions that I had about the product.

Extra resources, such as videos or product screenshots, are usually quite useful. I recommend sending them alongside a pitch, as long as they help showcase a product’s offerings and don’t clutter up the email.

Resulting piece:eBay + Paypal + Facebook Connect = Group Gift-Buying


5. Straight From the Source: “Mashable and Altimeter’s Upcoming Report”


In a four-sentence email, Altimeter Group‘s Industry Analyst Jeremiah Owyang piqued my interest in covering an upcoming report. His email began, “Are you interested in having a sneak preview of Altimeter’s next report (next week)? I’m open to letting Mashable have the exclusive if it makes sense.” The following two sentences explained the premise of the report. Easy peasy.

Key words: next report, sneak preview, exclusive

Not only was this a highly targeted exclusive pitch, but it came directly from Owyang, one of the analysts working on the report. Granted, not everyone has time to pitch his or her projects — that’s where PR professionals come in. But when an analyst has the time to contact a journalist directly, it makes communications easier, as there isn’t a middleman (or woman) to communicate through.

Owyang sent me the report in its drafted form and we set up an interview to go over any remaining questions I had. It’s as easy as that, folks.

Resulting piece:HOW TO: Optimize Your Social Media Budget


Conclusion


There are a lot of mediocre PR pros out there, but I’ve been lucky to work with a handful of talented individuals who truly do make my job easier. Their pitches are always targeted, succinct and clearly written.

The above five examples represent some of the best pitches I’ve received over the past year.

Let me know which pitching tips you’d add in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Sarah G…

Top 8 PR Pitch Phrases I Hate

22 Mar

As a writer, I’m blessed to have PR peeps contacting me 24-7 about the latest, greatest news. Quite frequently, however, their pitches are bland and unrelated to my work. Many of the pitches I receive fall under one of the following categories:

  • Irrelevant: Mashable is a tech and digital news site, why do I get pitched by health insurance providers and car dealers?
  • Poorly Written: Typos are passable (not really), but please do not ramble. It’s confusing. Get to the point.
  • Too Lengthy: If all pitches could be less than four sentences, the world would be a better (more productive) place.
  • Boring: ENTERTAIN ME, PEOPLE! I stare at two computer screens for a living. Give me some action; don’t put me to sleep.
  • Annoying: If your pitch sounds like this (“Buzz word. Buzz word. Buzz word. Buzz word.”), I will delete it immediately.

After nearly a year at Mashable, I’ve accumulated a hefty load of email and tweet pitches and have developed a keen hate for a few overused phrases. Please help out the world and never use the following phrases in pitches to your favorite reporters. (Note: actual examples included below.)


1. & 2. “Circle Back” / “Follow Up”


Example: “I wanted to circle back with you and see if you had a chance to review the details below regarding our latest initiative.”

When a PR rep emails a reporter and doesn’t get a timely response, usually he or she assumes the reporter’s “email may not be working” or that perhaps the “email was caught by spam.” Usually this isn’t the case. Most likely, the pitch was dry, confusing or lengthy, and the writer didn’t have time yet to contemplate what in the world the message was.

In any case, hasty reps usually resend the email, in an attempt to “circle back.” Circling back (or following up) usually entails back tracking, though. You’ve just put yourself on my “annoying” list, lady.


3. “Put Out Some Feelers”


Example: “Just putting out some feelers to see if you’re interested in covering our startup.”

Gag. Are you a lobster? An ant? A slug? Ick. Please keep your feelers to yourself, creeper. Feel free to get back to me when you’re a human again.


4. “Gauge/Re-Gauge Your Interest”


Example: “Following up with you regarding our email exchange below to re-gauge you’re interest in speaking with [Company X].”

Much like putting out those good ol’ feelers, PR professionals often like to “gauge” a reporter’s interest on a particular topic. If the reporter doesn’t happen to respond, a follow-up email may ensue, in which the PR rep attempts to “re-gauge” the writer’s interest.

Yes, we’re glad that you’ve got our best interests in mind, but if we were truly interested, we’d probably be knocking at your door first.


5., 6. & 7. “Industry Leading” / “Revolutionary” / “Groundbreaking”


Example: “Our startup is revolutionizing mobile video delivery to make it easy, fast and fun.” (From a little known startup that was founded in 2007.)

PR peeps love buzz words. “Hey! Let’s say our service is industry leading, revolutionary or groundbreaking! That will get ‘em to write about us!”

No. No, it won’t. That will get us to promptly delete your email or respond with a short “not interested.”

It’s especially saddening when a pitch is full of typos or requires me to read it thrice in order to understand it. Here’s one I received last winter: “This new line of Batteries are revolutionary that provide an opportunity for retailers to offer strong green stories and for consumers to do their part to help the environment without taxing their wallets to do so.” Yikes.


8. “Did you get my email?” / “I noticed you didn’t respond.”


Example: “How have you been? Did you get my email? I can resend it.”

If all other tactics fail, the average PR professional has one last option: resending… over. and. over. again. Usually, this method is accompanied by some amendment that asks if the reporter has received the email. Then, the PR rep tries to figure out what might have happened during the transmission process. Here are a few common excuses that PR pros use for resending pitches:

  • The PR rep fears that the reporter’s email provider might not be working correctly.
  • His or her crappy pitch might have fallen into the spam filter.
  • The reporter may have been too busy to read it, so they wanted to “put it back on her radar.”
  • The reporter might have accidentally deleted the email.

Message to all PR folks: email works. And when it doesn’t work, the email provider usually sends a message explaining the delivery error. It’s not the email provider, it’s you.


Conclusion


If you work in public relations, it a good idea not to completely annoy the reporters you work with. Try to limit the PR jargon and just be a human.

For some additional tips on pitching tech reporters in particular, check out this video from a panel I spoke on last winter about “Demystifying PR for Startups: Identifying Your Target Message and Your Reporter.”

Readers, let me know which PR pitch phrases you hate in the comments below!

Photos courtesy of Kalexanderson, Jenny Downing & Kevin H.

A Look at JetBlue’s “Blog and Social Networking Policy”

16 Nov

Ever wonder about what the social media policies for some of your favorite companies includes? (Me too.)

Morgan Johnston, Manager Corporate Communications at JetBlue, shared the company’s public 600-word “Blog and Social Networking Policy” with me. Check it out below and let me know what you think about it in the comments below. Is it what you expected? What didn’t you expect?

———————————

Blog and Social Networking Policy

JetBlue understands that some Crewmembers may wish to create and maintain personal web logs commonly referred to as “blogs” and/or social networks, such as web based discussion or conversation pages (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). While JetBlue respects your right to personal expression, JetBlue expects all Crewmembers to act professionally on the job, and to refrain from behavior, on and off the job, that could adversely impact the Company. Therefore, the following guidelines have been established for posting to blogs and social networking sites:

Personal Expression

Personal blogs contain the views of particular individuals, not JetBlue. If you choose to discuss your employment or identify yourself as a JetBlue Crewmember in any way, you must include a disclaimer clarifying that the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of JetBlue. Because customers, vendors, and business partners may nonetheless view you as a spokesperson for JetBlue it is imperative that you be clear and specify that a blog is not a company-sponsored source of communication. Crewmembers should assume at all time that they are representing the Company when engaging in any form of social networking.

Protect Confidential/Proprietary Information

As more fully described in JetBlue’s Confidentiality Policy, you are prohibited from disclosing confidential, proprietary, sensitive and/or trade secret information of JetBlue and other third parties. Such disclosures threaten JetBlue’s intellectual property rights, business relationships with third parties, and compliance with securities laws. Similarly, you may not provide a link from your personal blog to JetBlue’s website, nor use JetBlue trademarks including but not limited to logos or other proprietary images or information. Additionally, JetBlue may have certain rights in any inventions or concepts you create that relate to the Company’s business.

Be Respectful and Exercise Common Sense

JetBlue Crewmembers are a part of building and maintaining a respectful working environment. Blogs must not violate JetBlue’s conduct-related policies including Equal Employment Opportunity (harassment and sexual harassment), Values, etc. If posting to your blog or social networking site, be respectful of others; harassment of any Crewmembers or Business Partners will not be tolerated. Be aware that anyone including other Crewmembers, customers, vendors and business partners, can view your blog, facebook or twitter page while it is actively posted, and may even be able to view its contents after it has been deleted.

Company Time and Company Property

JetBlue’s Internet and Computer Use Policy governs all uses of company computer equipment. Consult this and other related policies in the Crewmember BlueBook before using company equipment for personal use. As described in the policy, JetBlue reserves the right to monitor use of Company-provided and company-owned computer equipment. Blogging must not occur during work hours or through the use of company-provided or company-owned computer equipment.

JetBlue in its sole discretion will determine whether a particular blog or social network posting violates JetBlue policies, Values, or operating procedures. As with all JetBlue policies, a violation of such policy may result in Progressive Guidance, up to and including termination. JetBlue further reserves the right to request Crewmembers refrain from commenting on topics related to JetBlue or if necessary, suspend the blog or social network site altogether if advisable for compliance with securities regulations or applicable laws. Failure to comply may result in Progressive Guidance up to and including termination.

Adherence to all JetBlue’s policies, guidelines, values, and operating procedures is required. Should you have any questions about this policy or how it may apply to your blog, please contact People Resources.

———————————

What are your thoughts on JetBlue’s social media policy? Add them in the comments!

Brands on Foursquare

26 Apr

The Foursquare homepage highlights 10 brand pages, but there are plenty more!

With all of the exciting Foursquare partnerships that have been popping up, I decided to start maintaining a list of all of the brands that are utilizing Foursquare to engage users and distribute content. Below is a full list of brands that currently have brand pages.

987FM

Adobe

ARTINFO

AskMen.com

Bing

Bon Appetit Magazine

Bonnaroo

Bravo

C-Span

CNN

Crain’s Chicago

The Dew Tour

DonQ Rum

Dora the Explorer

The Expendables

Explore Chicago

Flavorpill

GOOD Magazine

Gossip Girl

Harvard University

Havaianas

Heavy Table

Helmut Lang

History Channel

How to Make it in America (HBO)

Huffington Post

IFC (Independent Film Channel)

Intel

The Learning Channel (TLC)

Live Nation

Louis Vuitton

Lucky Magazine

Manchester City Football Club

Marc Jacobs

Mashable

Metromix

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metro News (English) / Journal Metro (French)

MTV

National Wildlife Foundation

New York Magazine

The New York Times

The Real L Word

San Fran BART

The Seattle Times

SFGate.com

SF Giants

Six Flags

SPIN Magazine

Stanford University

Super Model Me

Syracuse University

Texas A&M University

The Tenth Inning (PBS documentary)

Thrillist

Time Out Chicago

Time Out New York

TODAY Show

TransLink

Valentine’s Day Movie (Warner Brothers)

VH1

VisitPA

Visit Bucks County PA

Visit Milwaukee

The Wall Street Journal

Zagat

If you know of any partnerships left off the list, please add them in the comments below, as the goal of this post is to keep the world informed of the great stuff that’s going on over at Foursquare! Cheers!

Invitation Codes for Online Sample Sales!

8 Sep

There are quite a few online sample sales out there, and I’m racking up memberships left and right! I’d like to share the wealth, as many of these sites are invitation-only websites. If you’d like an invitation code to any of the following sites, just click the link and sign up. If you find an error, just comment below, and I’ll email you the information!

Some of the sites are by email invite only — in that case, just leave a comment and don’t forget to include your email address in the form. :-)

BellezaBandida – Discounted beauty products.

Beyond the Rack – An online shopping club featuring designer fashions and accessories at up to 70% off retail.

Billion Dollar Babes – Luxury private sale shopping with prices up to 85% off retail.

Bloomspot – Exceptional offers for weekend getaways and unique local luxury experiences from top-rated merchants.

Bulx – The top brands for your home at up to 75% off.

DD Push – A private sample sale site offering designer goods at 40-80% off retail. (This is an email invite only. Leave a comment below and I will invite you!)

Editors’ Closet – A private sale site offering designer brands at highly discounted prices.

Exclusively.in – a private sale site for Indian-inspired fashion, jewelry and home decor at highly discounted prices.

Eziba – Exclusive deals on the latest home furnishings from leading brands.

Fancy Hands – Personal assistants for everyone.

The Foundary – Coveted home products at up to 70% off.

Gilt Groupe – Luxury designers and fashion brands at prices up to 70% off retail.

Glam List – Find your preferred brands at 40-70% off retail. (This is an email invite only. Leave a comment below and I will invite you!)

Gomatta Girls – A sample sales site offering women’s fashion apparel, shoes and accessories up to 90% off retail.

Hautelook – Limited-time sale events on your favorite designer brands at savings of up to 75% off.

HomeSav – Up to 80% off home decor, furniture and giftware.

ideeli – Exclusive luxury sales of up to 80% off on designer clothing and goods.

Juxzy – An online private sale hub where designer brands are sold at discounted prices. (This is an email invite only. Leave a comment below and I will invite you!)

Joss & Main – 25-70% of home goods and gifts.

Lot18 – a private sale site for wine and epicurean products from coveted producers at attractive discounts.

Modnique – Brand name and designer merchandise at up 50-85% off.

One Kings Lane – The world’s top home decor brands and designers at up to 70% off retail.

Rue La La – The most wanted brands at private sale prices.

ScoreBig – Save 10-60% on live events, including sports, music and the arts.

Secret Style – Up to 75% of on designer brands.

Snappy Tuna – Kitchen and tabletop goods at up to 70% off.

SniqueAway – Travel discounts galore.

The Top Secret – Top brands at sample sale prices.

TripAlertz – A private sale site for travel deals. As bookings go up, prices go down.

Vacationist – Luxury travel deals.

VillageVines – Up to 30% off food & drink bills at top NYC restaurants.

Vitis – Discover wines by the Masters and receive offers based on your preferences at 30-70% off.

Voyage Privé – Dream travel within reach, at prices of up to 75% off. By invitation only.

Click on the links above to become a member of any of these sites. For those sites that are email invite only, just leave a comment and I’ll invite you. After testing out the sites, report back on your experiences in the comments!

Image courtesy of Deucecities Henhouse

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