Colleen Coplick on PR and Getting Famous
Colleen Coplick is the new blogger at Buzz Networker, with a career in PR backing her up. She is one of many professionals from the traditional media industry that is moving towards the blogosphere, adapting, and transitioning. For a PR agency, blogs and social media are important tools today, otherwise you’re not very likely to succeed in today’s online world, are you?
Long time readers know that I’m always curious about people and companies that are making the transition, and not just disappearing along the way, in this new media world (although it’s hardly “new media” anymore). So as a follow-up to the Buzz Networker-focusing short interview over at The Blog Herald, I decided to talk to Colleen about PR practices, the blogosphere, writing successful press releases, and of course on how to get famous using the social sphere.
I recently shot you a few questions for The Blog Herald, about you taking over Buzz Networker in the b5media network. Other than that, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? You’ve been in PR, but what else?
I’ve run the standard gamut of what i thought a woman in the work world would have to do. I’ve been a property manager, an Executive Assistant for a CFO, and an assistant at a travel agency in the last 12 years. I found out about PR from another practitioner and had no idea about it. I was so excited that I found a course that would get me as much hands on experience as quickly as possible and quit my job. My husband supported me through my schooling and I had internships within the first week of school. I worked in house at the PR Department of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, and then after 8 months went to the local office of an international PR firm. I started my own business in November of my second year of school and went full time the day after graduation. I’ve been running my own business ever since.
How would you say that the PR industry is transitioning to blogs and social media? Are they getting it yet?
I think PR people are starting to understand that they need to look at social media, but I also think they don’t get it, and I think that they’re scared of it. It’s something completely new, and I think that really throws a wrench into many people’s worlds. The quick and dirty consultants are touting that companies have to give up control, but what really needs to happen is that the companies engaging in social media need to share control with their audiences. They need to join the conversation and actually talk to their audiences, not just fire messages AT them and hope that it will work.
That sort of goes for the advertising part as well. Buying a silly amount of pageviews is crazy if the ad isn’t focused on the target audience. What will happen to the non-pro part of the blogosphere when PR ad ad agencies starts to get it?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I hope that the PR and ad agencies spend time to understand that the traditional routes don’t work and you can’t talk at your buyers – you have to engage them in conversation. Hopefully that will mean more companies engaging their buyers directly an that in turn will lead to more informed consumers and more direct contact. I also wonder if you’ll see the only companies who advertise are the big giant multinationals…
How important are blogs as a PR tool today? Do you see that changing in the future?
I think blogs are amazingly important. Personally, I think that blogs are a given for any company looking to engage with their audience. Based on this, I think that blogs are only going to get more important as a PR tool. Also, I think that as news outlets, PR people need to realize that blogs are a very important way to get news out. Blogs like the ones in many b5 channels, or even bigger, Dooce, reach a bazillion people a month. So many people read these blogs on a regular basis, and those people want to know what we think. So, from that perspective, PR people need to work with bloggers much more closely than they currently do, but they need to make sure they do it right.
If I was in PR, I’d throw samples to the left and right within the blogosphere. Most people are so thrilled to get something for free, that they just write it up because they feel they need to, without getting paid. In what scale do you think that is happening?
I know it’s happening for sure, and in fact I recently wrote a post about one company that I think was doing it wrong. It’s not worth being seen as a sell out just to get free stuff. I’m starting another b5 blog later this month and am talking to a lot of PR people to review their products, but it’s
Paid reviews and posts are nothing new in the blogosphere. How would you look at them, as someone working with PR?
I ‘m against paid reviews and posts. I want to review something or write a post because I’m interested in the product. For me, this is sort of a weird place to make a decision on, because on the one hand, I’m PR and I’ll happily provide bloggers with a product I’m prepping to try out knowing how important they are, and on the other, I am now essentially a journalist and I have recently been offered samples. So where’s the line? If I get paid to post something, I think that’s an issue, but if I’m given something this as a sample, and I decide I like it (or not) and post it, then that’s a review. It’s a very fine line, but i think that overall, if you’re being paid to review something, and you don’t care or like the product, then skip it. If you’ve being paid to write the blog, and in the course of that, you get samples, and post your honest opinions, then that’s OK.
If I want to break into the PR industry, what should I do and where should I turn?
When you’re trying to break into PR, the first thing you should do is go get a couple of internships. Start either in house or at an agency. Pick one, and try it for a few months. You’ll have to volunteer but you’ll get killer experience. And after you’ve done one, do the other. Go to whatever you didn’t do! Try it all. It will give you killer experience and a great resume when you go to work for real. I know it’s hard to fit internships in, but if you want to get in, you’ve got to get experience, and this is the best way to get it before getting a real job.
You’ve got an interesting post up on using social media to reach stardom, or at least VH1. If I wanted to do that, what PR stunts should I pull, and on what social networks should I get an account?
HA! All of them! MySpace is big for singers, indie bands and “celebrities”. Facebook is also really important. Twitter is good to get your message out. Friendfeed is good to get everything aggregated in one place. You should definitely consider writing a blog. Be real with your fans. PR stunts are hard to pull off unless you’re already a pseudo-celebrity on one of these networks. You need to generate a following to get to mainstream.
In fact, let’s think bigger! I want to be a star, what would you advice be? And don’t tell me I need an enormous amount of talent, I’m not buying that!
Hee. Release a sex tape. Be hot. Go to the gym and knock it out. then, get a following on your social networks, and then, release your tape. People will flock to you! and if you don’t want to go the Paris Hilton route, you’ll have to go the slower, more traditional route. Again, be hot. Hit the gym. and then hit the red carpet everywhere you can. worm your way into as many red carpet invites as you can, get pix. and get them into magazines. Slowly but surely, this will work. It’s just not as fast as releasing a sex tape once you’re known.
Well, that’s not gonna happen for me then, at least not intentionally… One final question. Is there a sure-fire way to compose a press release so that people will want to write about it? Say I have this great idea, I’m launching it, and I want to get the coverage out there. What’s the proper way to do this?
There’s a lot of tutorials online about how to write a press release, but the main things to keep in mind are that it has to actually be news. I ask my clients “so what” until they get to the nugget of gold that makes me go oooh and when you find that, you know you’ve got it. It’s not news if your company put up a new website. So what? Well, it uses the latest technology. So what?
Keep so whatting until you find the oooh and then use that as the lead in your news release.
I’d like to thank Colleen Coplick for doing this interview, and wish her all the best at her new gig at Buzz Networker, as well as with the upcoming blog – keep an eye out on The Blog Herald for news about that one!