Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5 questions with a Publishing PR

A couple of weeks ago I met up with Tony Mulliken, chairman of Midas Public Relations.  Tony's a friend from long ago, and one of the things we talked about was how digital media was changing PR, and online PR in particular.

He suggested I talk Alexander Martin, Head of Digital Media.  Here are his answers to my five questions.  He's very articulate!

Describe your job and a typical day
Every day is different – which is what keeps it exciting. I work with a range of clients, from artists such as the amazing Stephen Wiltshire, to authors, publishers and technology companies. I work with my own clients – running specific digital and new media campaigns – but also with colleagues’ clients, working on the social media aspects of their projects, such as updating a client’s Blog, monitoring a Facebook page, or engaging with consumers on Twitter. We also create videos for clients – author interview videos are especially popular, and often featured by bloggers alongside more traditional book reviews. Readers also love to see and hear an author speaking about their book, so videos really add something new and give the media another reason to feature our clients. Overall, it’s a digital PR role, with creating new and exciting content at the heart of it. We create websites, videos and Apps, which all play a part in larger social media campaigns, making the most of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the internet in general, as a method of communicating – and listening to – consumers.

How did you get into your current job?
I started at Midas PR as an intern, straight after finishing at university. It’s a really friendly company to work for, and we have a huge variety of clients. I started in a general PR role, learning the key elements of communication and generating media coverage with the traditional media – newspapers, radio, TV, magazines, etc. Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of social media and the whole landscape of how people communicate has changed. This obviously has affected PR, but also the marketing and advertising industries. To make the most of this change in how people communicate and where they look for news, Midas developed a New Media division, ‘Midas GOLD’. I had experience in website design, graphic design and video production from before university, so was recruited to employ these skills in the PR world. I was also an early adopter of Facebook and have always been keen to use and learn about new social networks, as they develop. Working with the team at Midas, we quickly formulated a new suite of digital services, and now offer these to all our clients. In my role of Head of New Media, we have expanded our services to include mobile app development, and have worked on award-winning social media campaigns – for clients ranging from Disney to Mills & Boon!

What is different about how thing are done online compared to offline?
In many ways, online and offline media are very similar. It’s all about providing content which will be of interest to that specific media outlet. Online, there are more opportunities to target niche, specialist interests, but often the approach is similar, in terms of contacting the journalist or blogger, finding out what they’re looking for, and offering some new and exclusive content. Though there are similarities between traditional media and websites/blogs, the real differences occur around social media. Here, it’s a different game completely. Social media is a two-way conversation, unlike traditional media, such as a newspaper or TV programme. Social media is all about listening to consumers, being reactive as well as proactive, and having a real conversation with people. This is why PR is particularly well suited to social media – advertisers and marketeers are used to selling a message to consumers; talking at them. PR is more subtle and responsive, talking to people, rather than at them – and that’s what social media is all about.

What changes do you see coming in the next 5 years?
The continued decline of traditional media is inevitable. Already, newspaper and magazine circulation figures are decreasing, and the numbers of users and hours spent on social networks – and online in general – is growing exponentially. New platforms, such as the iPad, make browsing online for information more attractive – you no longer need to be at your desktop to read news on a website, you can access it on your phone or iPad wherever you are. It’s easy, convenient, quick and attractive to consume media online now, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone will. Already, most people look to Google first if they need information, news and views. As an author, publisher or anyone with a product to sell, being online is essential, and telling people about it via social media is the smartest way to promote yourself.

What are the biggest opportunites and threats to authors from digital media?
The biggest opportunity is that the web opens up a whole world of readers to your product. Never before have so many people – wherever they are in the world - been able to find you and read your books. You need to be out there with your website, ebooks, Twitter feed, Facebook page and YouTube videos – all of which, unsurprisingly, are available from Midas PR! Many people in publishing are afraid of digital – worried than what happened to music will now happen to them. I understand their concerns, but the best way to survive in a digital revolution is to embrace the change. Readers want to read your books digitally, and if you as a publisher don’t provide your books in the formats they want, consumers will simply create it for themselves, and you will lose ownership. The digital world – both in terms of publishing and media – represents a huge opportunity to reach out to new consumers, and also to create more exciting, interactive projects. The possibilities are endless and it’s an exciting time.

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