Steve Rubel, SVP and Director of Insights for Edelman Digital, is well known as the blogger behind Micro Persuasion and, more recently, SteveRubel.com. Steve talks about why he made the switch to a Posterous-powered blog, the meaning (or lack thereof) of lifestreaming, digital curation, and PR 2.0, and PR and online marketing trends that form part of his “flow.”
You made a bold move this year in converting your online publishing activity from the well known and respected Micro Persuasion blog to The Steve Rubel Lifestream (on the Posterous platform). Why did you make a move, and how is it working out thus far?
I made a move for three reasons.
First, I felt that after five years my blogging was getting long in the tooth. As an individual who isn’t running a news blog, it’s harder than ever to maintain one’s influence with a blog these days. The world is moving toward an age of streams – and right now Twitter and Facebook are the primary attention networks. We’re living through the Attention Crash, so I had to do something different to stand out.
That said, I longed for a format that sits between a blog and a tweet, yet lets me syndicate and converse around my content on all of the relevant social networks where I do spend time. I felt that launching a lifestream – a place where I start anything longer than an @, or a simple link tweet was the right approach.
Finally, I fell in love with the flexibility of the Posterous platform. Specifically, I was enchanted by how well it works from a mobile device, syndicates out to other social networks and handles formats beyond the text. It has rekindled my creative side as I dabble in new formats like mindmaps and more.
How do you balance the needs and sensitivities of Edelman’s clients with your ability to express your opinions about online products and trends freely?
This is always a balance. My loyalty first and foremost is to our firm, its employees, and our clients. As a rule, we don’t write about clients without their permission first – and in the process, we always disclose our relationship. The trickier part is writing about the companies who compete with our clients.
Where I have netted out (after trial and error) is to stick to big topics that are future-oriented in nature and don’t single out any one company’s successes or failures. I leave a lot on the table. Still, thanks to a fantastic executive team here, I have been able to find a niche that allows for expression and helps both me and the firm maintain its thought leadership.
What does PR 2.0 mean to you?
With all respect to Brian Solis (a friend who utilizes this expression some), I don’t use the phrase. I believe, however, it describes new approaches to PR that involve direct to audience engagement. To me, all it means is that we need to evolve our profession continually. It’s a reminder never to sit still. In some ways, given that PR is over 100 years old, we’re in PR 10.0.
What’s the most significant online PR or marketing trend that you’ve tracked this year?
The most significant trend – one that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough – is the increasing focus on measurement. Three years ago it was what I call a “coat” conversation. In other words, it was something the client asked you at the end of a meeting as you were putting on your coats. Now today it’s the first question they ask, yet there’s a huge divergence in opinions about what works and what clients and agencies are willing to fund to find out.
What is lifestreaming, and how does it differ from blogging?
Lifestreaming to date has meant aggregating all of one’s streams at a single point. This was the value of Friendfeed. However, it’s evolving to mean using a hub as a launching point for your content, syndicating it out to your “spokes” (e.g., the social networks where one chooses to engage) and then conversing about it in both locations.
What’s your advice to people who are looking to make a serious go at professional blogging?
If you haven’t started by now, it’s extremely challenging to thrive. All of the good niches are taken and established. You either need to find an unmet need or catch on with someone else who is established.
That said, I believe people can succeed as professional content curators – but this will need to go beyond blogging. A good example of this is MuckRack.com, and the network of properties Sawhorse Media is building.
What’s an example you’ve seen lately of a company successfully using social media to break through the noise to reach people about a new product or service?
I have been impressed by companies who just do three thing – build awesome products, talk about or show their work and then let the community take over. Four of note are Blendtec (Will it Blend), Posterous, Evernote, and Dropbox. They seem to be innovating almost every week and letting us know about these updates through Twitter and Facebook. This builds loyal customers who talk about them even more. Another product that follows this same path is Google – with Gmail and Gmail Labs.
How are companies using blogging as an effective marketing tool?
Same as they have been the last few years – they’re using it to talk about their passion and the stories behind their products. Also, they’re using them to offer tips and tricks and advice. That said, though, much of the action has moved to other distant shores since it’s getting hard to get people to come to you (hence my move to lifestreaming).
Is there a future for professional microbloggers?
There’s a huge role for professional digital curators – people who can separate art from junk in high-value niches. Blogs do so. But so do automated sites like the ones Sawhorse is building. There will also always be a market for content creators who know how to stand out from the din.
What can online marketing and PR pros do to effectively balance their blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, etc. etc. activities?
The most important thing is not to just pay attention to the tools. They need to understand their publics, what they want and how to meet these needs using any or all of the different tactics at their disposal. It comes down to strategy and what a brand is realistically capable of executing on.