Kel Kelly

Hey, thanks for swinging by my blog.

Whether it's topical news, internet happenings, social media, public relations, marketing, start-ups, mobile shiz or whatever, I promise to wade through the bullshit and give you my unbuffered perspective.

You'll note I never take on a "corporate tone" — whether I'm chatting you up at a party or speaking to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, my voice never changes. I say what's on my mind and I'm often the champion of the underdog.

I'm a social media junkie and smoke Google Analytics in a crack pipe to get my day going. I hope my immersed insight and offbeat view make you laugh. More importantly, I hope you take a second and share your thoughts by posting a comment. If you have any ideas on how to make my blog better, shoot an email to [email protected].

Peace out.

Archive for November, 2007

Question #11

Nov. 27th 2007

On 11.13.07, I published a posting on this blog entitled “The 10 Questions A PR Agency Doesn’t Want A Client To Ask and The ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ (DLS) They Don’t Want You To Know.”  I received a lot of positive and sometimes humorous responses from people on the client side. Many were eager to share their “gotcha” stories when grilling a PR agency.  

I think it would be fun to keep adding to this list over time. On that note, here is the eleventh question a PR agency doesn’t want a client to ask: 


11. I know you said you have 100+ people in your agency and your competitors are smaller, but if that’s the case why are you still securing less media coverage for your clients than a smaller agency? 


DLS: In this case, size doesn’t matter. Remember, at the end of the day all the client cares about is positive media coverage. If a PR agency with 100+ people still only secures a fraction of the coverage compared to a smaller agency, something is seriously wrong. As cited in DLS #10 from previous posting, an agency that isn’t highlighting recent client media coverage on their website probably has something to hide. Clients care about results, not the length of an agency’s employee list.

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Perception Rules

Nov. 21st 2007

At the end of the day, people buy products and services based on perception not the “best product.” This applies to both B2B and B2C environments. I hear a lot of pushback on this premise all the time, particularly in technology markets. It’s quite funny. Yesterday I met with someone who spent ninety minutes going on and on about how he doesn’t need marketing because he is developing a superior product to anything out there. This was particularly interesting since he called me to see how we could help him with marketing.

The simple secret is that when you market to the mind of a human being, the mind makes decisions based on perception. Whether I am buying a router for my network (B2B) or clothes to wear (B2C) my decisions are made based on the perception I have regarding certain brands. Perception is formed based on marketing messages and experiences. This is very difficult for some people to accept. People like to think they can’t be fooled by marketing and that they are way too smart for such frivolous tactics.

The truth can be a harsh reality. Let’s look at Cisco. Way back when (10+ years ago), Cisco built its brand by becoming synonymous with a new category of product called “router.” If you said router, nine out of ten people would say Cisco. The fact of the matter was that Cisco didn’t have the “best router” – at the time, a company called Wellfleet did. However, through great marketing, Cisco captured the minds of everyone — customers, media, Wall Street, etc. — and became the leader in the category. Moreover, they went on to leverage the positive attributes, loyalty and association they had in the router category to do phenomenal brand expansion work. Now they are synonymous with “infrastructure for the internet” or “the human network” or whatever. The point is they took the positive perception built around a single category and leveraged it to expand into something bigger.

Another fun example occurred repeatedly when I taught “Marketing for Entrepreneurs” for five years in Babson College’s MBA program. US News and World Report consistently ranks Babson #1 in the country for Entrepreneurship. Suffice it to say the students are very bright. In spite of their academic standing and outstanding professional achievements, I was always stunned, semester after semester, at how little people knew (or refused to accept) about marketing.

In the first class of every semester I had the same experience. I would start the class by talking about how people make purchase decisions for products and services based on perceptions that were formed as a result of marketing. Every semester without exception, some “wicked smaht” (as we say in Boston) student would loudly disagree with my premise. “I always buy the best product,” he would exclaim with a bit of disdain for what he viewed as a lack of intelligence on my part and a superior intelligence on his part. “Really,” I would chuckle. “Where did you buy that bottle of Poland Spring?” I would ask. “At Seven Eleven,” he would respond with obvious pride in anticipation that he was going to be able to prove his professor wrong in the first class. You could almost see him wallowing in his self-glory. “So when you opened the refrigerator door at Seven Eleven and didn’t pick out the Seven Eleven brand of water which was twenty-five cents less, why did you choose the Poland Spring?” I asked with obvious bait to my tone. There was never a response, but a lot of squirming in seats. “I hate to be the one to tell you, but bottled water is the most homogeneous product on the planet…it’s water…there is no such thing as best water.” Silence usually followed.

The message to marketers in all segments is to make marketing as much of a priority as product development. The “best product” rarely wins on merit alone and it’s no fun to be beat by something considered inferior. The company that does the best job capturing the mindshare will beat you every time. Perception rules.

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Digital Media Fear Factor

Nov. 12th 2007

It is absolutely fascinating to me the way traditional PR agencies leverage the Digital Media world — blogosphere, citizen’s journalism, viral marketing, social media, et. al. — as a means to invoke fear in clients. A few hard-to-believe approaches I have come across recently:

1. The Separate Digital Media Group – One traditional PR agency stakes a claim on having a separate Digital Media group within the agency. Allegedly the people in this group are the “Digital Media Gurus” who hold all the secrets on how to navigate the toxic world of the blogosphere. Huh? What does that mean? That the rest of the knuckleheads in the agency are ignorant and useless when it comes to Digital Media? Here’s an idea: have everyone in the agency become fluent and experienced with all mediums: TV, print, radio and the internet (including Digital Media). This approach enables the entire team to develop truly integrated media strategies that maximize client coverage across the board. At the end of the day, the only thing the client cares about is the coverage.

2. Today Digital Media Is The Only Thing That Matters In PR: Really? My guess is the PR agency that said this couldn’t get a top-tier TV hit to save their life. Let’s look at the numbers. With very few exceptions – like TechCrunch – at best, bloggers may garner hundreds of thousands of unique visitors/readers a month. Again, there are a few exceptions to this, but they are few and far between. This number still pales in comparison to the print readership and TV viewership of top media outlets. NBC Nightly News has 11 million viewers a night and Newsweek has 3.2 million readers a week! It is important clients hire an agency that has broad and deep success with coverage across all mediums. This point becomes exponentially more important when the client is consumer-focused. The blogosphere is really, really important and it is always a critical part of a successful PR strategy. However, few companies can build the kind of awareness and association they need solely through the blogosphere — just as they couldn’t through any single medium.

3. Our Guy Wrote a Book On Social Media: Really? Does he have a profile on Facebook? Gather? MySpace? Does he know what a wall posting is? Has he ever been friended or poked in the Digital World? If the answers to these questions are “no,” run to the nearest PR agency whose entire company is a bunch of Facebook addicts and they’re not afraid to admit it.

4. Sorry…We Charge Extra For Blogger Services: We were recently working with one of our clients on a joint announcement with a large consumer brand who used a New York PR agency. We kept asking the NY agency person what their strategy was for the blogosphere. We couldn’t get an answer to save our lives. After a bit more prodding, the woman said the “Blogger Group” inside the agency told her they “don’t like to reach out to the bloggers because they may write something bad and that wouldn’t be good.” She then went on to say, “the client isn’t paying us for blogger services – that would be an additional fee.” Huh? Let me get this straight. This NY PR agency has a “Blogger Group” but they don’t reach out to the bloggers…what the hell do they do?! And if they don’t reach out to the bloggers, how can they charge an additional fee for blogger services? Am I the only one that finds this disturbing yet completely hilarious?

The good news is traditional PR agencies will not survive over the long term taking the fear factor approach to Digital Media. Clients are too smart and results will speak for themselves.

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My Crack Addiction

Nov. 9th 2007

OK. I’m going to go out on a limb here and expose a dirty little secret about myself. PR is my crack addiction. It’s like doing a drug. The adrenalin rush that comes with securing a top-tier media hit for a client is better than any drug…not that I would know!

Seriously, many of our clients are early-stage, venture-backed companies based on a fantastic idea. Most have no revenue, no awareness, a handful of employees and they’re starved for clients/customers/members. For most PR agencies, these clients would be considered a nightmare. Not for Kel & Partners. We are obsessed with them. Moreover we are addicted to the high that comes from getting these companies top-tier media coverage — the kind of coverage that launches their brand into the stratosphere. The high that comes from that kind of media hit is euphoric and lasts for days.

As an example, we have a social media client that had no revenue, no members, and no awareness. We spun a story and pitched and secured a feature segment on The Today Show. At the same time, we secured an Associated Press hit that ran in hundreds of newspapers across the world. I was buzzed from these hits for days.

I’m sure if Freud had an opportunity to psychoanalyze me he would point to something that happened in my childhood that caused me to have such an addiction. I don’t care. I love it. It’s what drives me. The problem with addicts is that we surround ourselves with other addicts. Somehow I have managed to fill my agency with people who all share the same obsession. Good times. Good times.

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People Are People

Nov. 8th 2007

Recently, Chris Anderson, the executive editor of Wired magazine, posted an inflammatory story on his blog about PR people who bombard him with news releases without doing their homework to find the appropriate person within his organization who “might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.” He then went on to post 329 unsolicited email addresses. The list included people from some of the top PR firms in the country. For the record, nobody from Kel & Partners was on the list.

I would like to remind Chris that “people are people,” not the a**holes he makes them out to be. Everyone at every level, including Chris, strives for one thing – to do a good job and be recognized and rewarded for it. It’s quite simple. The thing is when we are early in our careers, we probably don’t do everything right – in fact, we probably make a lot of mistakes. Hell knows that early on I stumbled my way through a roadway littered with my mistakes – from cashier to chambermaid to security guard (complete with hat & tie) to marketing manager to CEO of this company. I still make mistakes, although please don’t tell my kids.

It reminds me of the nervous teenager working the cash register on his first day of work, at his first job ever. His manager is breathing down his neck as an angry line forms. I believe in cutting the kid some slack and telling him to take his time. We were all new at a job at some point. I’m sure Chris’ first stories were a shell of the work he produces today, and they are quite possibly even laughable. Who cares? He was on his way to a great career and needed to make mistakes and learn from them to get to where he is today. I’m sure many of the PR people who emailed Chris were very junior. I’m not sure publicly humiliating them is going to help them any more than a well directed response email would have.

People are people. A PR pro doesn’t go to work thinking, “How can I do the least amount of work today and piss off as many journalists as possible?” People are people. A snapshot of my employees offers a glimpse into the human element behind the “hacks” as many refer to us. One of my employees recently battled cancer. One is losing his Mom to a terminal illness. One is dealing with a high risk pregnancy. One needs to take her son to Children’s Hospital to see a specialist. One has a son who was diagnosed with brain cancer at six months. These are real human beings who come to work every day and work hard on behalf of their clients even though they are dealing with life’s many challenges.

I also remind Chris that lumping people under a single label is never fair. I’m sure Chris is well aware that “The Media” are not viewed in a positive light by many people. The stereotype of a typical media professional is someone who is lazy, never does proper research and looks to make money off of twisting a story at someone else’s expense. This couldn’t be more untrue. The vast majority of media people I know are hard-working, underpaid professionals who are trying to do a good job, and along the way, maybe be recognized and rewarded for it. At the same time, they have a job to do.

I just finished Anderson Cooper’s new book, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival. In it Cooper does a wonderful job describing the internal struggle he has with needing to do his job (reporting) versus dropping everything to help the many victims that he encounters. PR people have a job to do. It is our job to help our clients secure media coverage. None of us are perfect, but most of us love what we do and have very grateful clients. Most of us approach our profession with honesty, integrity and a well-meaning heart. I think Chris really tripped a bound when he went on the attack. I always chose empathy and compassion over tirades and humiliation. In a recent New York Times story on the incident, it was noted by a pundit that “PR people do the legwork for journalists – feeding them stories and sources, and doing research.” Sound pretty accurate to me.

People are people.

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