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PR is where the Money Is

A shout out to all of you disenfranchised ex-SEO people out there: Public Relations is where the Money Is!

PR is a solid career with very little formal credentialing required. Even better, the consumers of PR services have less knowledge about PR than SEO consumers had about SEO! PR is a GOLDMINE opportunity for online marketers, I tell ya.

A few years back, barely any of the young PR people trying to make a name for themselves in that established industry recognized the amazing “blue water” opportunity that was SEO. The few who did recognize it, did what any good self-promoter would have done: they branded themselves SEOs and ran with it all over the PR and SEO marketplaces.

A few kind gestures, some glad-handing of key SEO industry egos, and WHAM… speaking opportunities appeared on panels at Pubcon, SES, SMS, etc. Not only was the PR version of the Internet Marketing story unique content for the eager newbies buying conference tickets, the earned authority (as an SEO) that came from being a “sought-after speaker” was immensely valuable…back in PR world.

Before SEOs realized the profits that were sitting in Big Brand accounts eager for attention, these PR “mavericks” were all over it. And with Big Brand logos attached to client lists, the SEO contracts followed.

Can’t actually do much “real SEO”? No problem… just farm out the audit, link-building, and (only if necessary) on-page SEO work, and push the client towards the PR side of SEO… the Social Media, the Guest Blogging, the “outreach” and the “co-citations”. Down-talk true SEO if necessary… those old techniques of referring to pimply-faced geeks and the like still work wonders in OldBigBrand world. And buy the client a drink… alcohol still works wonders. The Advertising industry is not dead yet!
As the Market for Lemons moved effective SEO out of the reach of the increasingly burned and hesitant marketplace, things like Social media seemed like answers to the imaginary problem of “no rankings”. And with Google obfuscating as much as it could as fast as it could, the lack of performance was nothing a little decent PR deceit couldn’t cover up. Selling is more than half the battle, and selling requires access. Access can be gained through SEO badges… and the SEO world hands them out like candy. Opportunity!

Well, sadly, that opportunity has dried up. If you can’t deliver customers, sales, or measurable outcomes, in addition to visible rankings (which may not even mater), you’re no longer welcome at the client teet.  But guess who is still taking the cash? Yup. THE PR PEOPLE!

Hah ha wow, those clever PR people have re-branded right back to “communications” again, as the specifics of SEO and technical work lost luster. Amazing, those guys. Or is it?

PR is where the money is. Take my advice:

* Just ONE INTRODUCTORY COURSE in Public Relations is enough. You’ll get it. You’ll see the parallels, and immediately see how you can spin your Internet Marketing experience (no mater how dim, basically) into convincing fodder for the BigBrand boardroom.

* start publishing. If there’s one thing we all learned from the Rise and Fall of SEO, it’s that there is NEVER enough authoritative-sounding content published to the Internet.When I played Lacrosse my coach told us “when you’re not working out, the other guy is getting bigger than you” and he was right. Lazy feeds the beast that is your competition. Memorize the idea of “Least Publishable Unit” and apply it in the PR world. Grab on to those industry buzzwords and redefine them closer to what YOU do, to gain the power. It’s not that hard.

* Start Glad-Handing the PR people. Aim for the 45 and older crowd.. they’re the more desperate ones. The Old Guys of that industry are STILL holding on at 60+, boldly ignoring what actually works today because they think they have the client accounts locked up. The young people have basically abandoned the old school approach. The middle-agers are not staring at a fertile next 20 years of work, and they know it. They NEED young blood to do the work (whatever that is). Pitch them… and be sure to carry a non-threatening demeanor.

* Play Dumb about PR and say “Wow I Didn’t Know That”. These middle-aged PR people who have been working both sides of the PR industry (the PR side, and the Internet side) have super big egos, but work really hard to suppress their true personalities in public (part of the PR training). You’ll do best if you treat them like Mensa Warriors. In fact, play super-dumb about anything THEY SAY is PR, and you’ll probably have the best luck. Oh, and learn to smile and shake hands as if it mattered, because in that world, it does.

* Re-brand as a PR Agency or Communications Agency. Seriously… it works! I’ve already seen several “How can we Grow our Business” mind-maps in 2013 that considered “Better SEO” and expensive, high-risk strategy, and “hire a PR pro” as low-hanging fruit. You need to become a “Pro” now. See the above for how to shift your “fake it till you make it” seo skills right into PR world with the least amount of friction.

* Start a new Conference with a Great PR Name. Some tried this years ago, but it was too early. Audience Building, Growth Blasting, or whatever, wasn’t attractive while Google’s referrer tags screamed that Google’s share of Internet was growing in an unstoppable way. But now Google knows that everyone knows Google is unstoppable, so that keyword evidence is being covered up. With less obvious information about what actually works to drive business, what will Big Brand lazy clients do? As my Grandpa used to say, given a vacuum…. MAKE A NOISE! It’s YOUR TIME now. YOU EARNED IT. All you have to do, is GO GET IT!

Effective some time very soon, we will be re-branding everything we do over here as “PR”, for the same reasons I highlight above. I know the general public (and 99% of the PR world) doesn’t read this blog, so this post doesn’t give away the farm. Besides, it’s a true Blue Water opportunity… lots of room for all of us. If I could start today, I would, but my pesky partners are still insisting on good SEO architecture for our re-branded website. I can’t ditch them until 2015 under my current contract, or BELIEVE YOU ME I WOULD. I’d be all over the PR thing like a link builder on SEO, or like a Content Marketer on SEO, or an InBound Marketer on SEO, or… well, you get the idea.

Google is an Addict

I have lost a few friends to addiction, and spent a considerable amount of time learning about addiction and the way individuals get caught up in a spiral of destructive, compulsive behavior that eventually destroys them (usually after causing considerable amounts of collateral damage). Let 2013 go down as the year Google became an addict.

An addict, as you know it (someone addicted to drugs or some other “substance”) exhibits a fairly well-defined set of behaviors. Even if we temporarily ignore the following VERY IMPORTANT aspects of addiction:

  • genetics and other non-behavioral factors may modulate propensity for addiction (disease model)
  • addiction likely has roots in other health / mental health disorders (behavioral health, co-occurring disorders)

we still are left with the fact that addicts behave a certain way, as they spiral down into the depths of addiction towards a likely eventual “rock bottom”.  That “addict behavior” includes the following:

  • re-alignment of effort from tasks of daily living to the single task of securing a supply (of drugs)
  • shifting belief system that rationalizes changed behavior that supports drug-seeking (such as stealing to get cash for drugs, scamming to get drugs, ignoring needs of others/responsibilities)
  • increasing desire to isolate oneself, limiting interactions (and trustful relations) to like-minded peers (other addicts)
  • voluntary continuance of behavior that has serious negative consequences to self, even though aware of those consequences (compulsive, destructive behavior).

Funny how I see Google exhibiting these signs of addiction in 2013, with gusto.

Under Larry Page, Google re-aligned resources away from building the quality, innovative, and delightful search engine we enjoyed at Google.com. Google the organization pulled back on the “20% innovation” concept, and aligned creative efforts with the core business of advertising targeting and identifying prospects for advertising targeting.

Google seems to have stripped autonomy away from the individual “leaders” it hired away from their innovative startups, and assigned them to the single task of “gaining more power” over the flow of traffic and commerce on Google’s properties. Google is clearly damaging its own projects, on the way to achieving these new goals.

Aside from an elite few, many top-tier technologists who “went to work for Google” are now basically pushing advertising onto the world for a living. That damage (to staff morale, to industry reputation, to the stream of talent formerly looking at Google as a great place to work) is considerable.
Google is addicted to power and money.

Google has CLEARLY started to isolate itself from others. No longer a fun, energetic member of the web economy, Google is actually hated by many companies and company leaders. Entire industries have engaged in discussions about “what to do about Google”. Retired tech industry veterans (the ones who don’t fear Google’s wrath) openly reference Google as “evil”.

Yet, in true addict fashion, Google’s behavior suggests it disagrees with the haters. In many cases, we see Google vilifying the haters, as if Google thought everyone else was out to get Google (justifying the abusive behaviors like a drug addict justifies stealing from a wealthy friend).

Google is an addict, and needs help.

Unfortunately we know that a deeply addicted individual — one who is truly under the power of the addiction and is not able to exert free will, will not seek help. No matter how much you may plead with Google to seek help, to get substance abuse counseling, and to realize how abusive and harmful its behavior is to the rest of the community,  Google will not do it. Google will only seek more, more, more of the drug it wants.

Every addict is unique, but it is very likely that it will take a near-death experience or a rock bottom crash to make Google change its ways. And there will be a ton of collateral damage.

In the mean time, hide your stuff.

When there are no Jobs

As in independent consultant and small business owner, I see how the markets and society impact productivity every day. One thing that need acknowledgement is that we are responsible for our own difficult situations. By we, I mean the tech sector companies, managers, workers, employees, investors, and consumers.

When we don’t respect education, we don’t get well-educated workers coming for jobs. When we have poorly-educated or not-very-smart employees in roles within a company (especially managers), we get inefficient and often error-prone execution of job functions, which leads to low quality products and services.

When we neglect education, we also isolate our independent personalities, “free thinkers”, highly-motivated and creative people, as they are most neglected by a lesser education system and lesser organizational function. Some say we “breed” mediocrity, but I don’t agree with that as much as I think we alienate those who do not fit into the “mediocre” group (perhaps pushing them out of view, leaving “mediocre” in sight).
At least two facets of this process lead to self-reinforcing mediocrity in our economy. As we manage companies that hire ill-prepared thinkers as employees, and manage the error-prone and lower quality production of products and services that results, we lower standards. At the same time, those free-thinkers and creatives and highly-motivated workers seek employment outside of that system.

This leads to our “Silicon Valley” experience on the one side (highly-motivated and creative thinkers seeking alternative systems of employment) with it’s exploitative labor arrangements distorting the purpose of labor away from production and towards servitude. It also feeds a lop-sided financial world driven by a winner-takes-all mentality with “go for the gold and invest” vs “hold back and try to hinder” behavior.

Like a sump, a community of lower-motivated and “entitled” workers makes up the largest remainder group. They accept work at mediocre dysfunctional organizations, and accept lower standards while seeking to make lives and find happiness.

But the consequences of this downward slide of economic civilization also include a perhaps less obvious “cheating society”, where workers who do not engage with the high climbers but who do not fit in with low-demand entitlement community of workers, do their best to “get ahead” within the system. These workers often ending up holding down multiple jobs or careers (e.g. job at the bank by day, real estate agent by night) or working as freelancers and contract workers. They “cheat” by exploiting “loopholes” in the system for personal gain. While “cheating” is a harsh word, if you look closely you might find a significant portion of their “earnings” come from exploitation of the overlaps between their endeavors, or their personal monetization of “slippage” that exists in the positions they hold.

Examples of “cheating” include personally selling excess office supplies from work on ebay (rationalized with “they were just going to throw it away”), spending company budget lines on training that is more relevant for the second job than the one that’s funding the purchase, calling in “sick” when there is an opportunity for better pay at a side job, etc. Sitting on multiple boards where there is conflict of interest or benefit derived from mutual considerations. Taking full benefits even when not needed (rationalized as “it’s mine, part of what I negotiated when I took the job”), deciding to execute a plan that is not truly needed by the company but would make your job much more fun, etc. The examples are so numerous and behavior so common we have come to accept them as “normal” or even “benedfits”, even though most of it technically is illegal or close to illegal. It often seems that the bigger the company, the more the cheating is considered “normal”. The government seems to be the biggest company of all, in that respect.

Psychologists have names for these behaviors (as do some lawyers) but for the purpose of this discussion I will simply note that when a person is underutilized and unhappy in a job, they tend to find ways to compensate and self-reward. Those “ways” are often at company expense, and this “cheating” mentality exists across the whole spectrum from worker through management and company behavior towards customers. One can even “see” how it could be extended to explain the nearly billion dollar pay of some CEOs, and the million dollar salaries of CEOs of so-called non-profit organizations. I think it stems from a lack of respect for education.

Of course “fixing our education system” is not a wholesale solution. I, personally, think our education system needs to be scrapped. I acknowledge however that I am not a qualified expert on fixing large dysfunctional systems.

But fixing “the education issue” is a solution. Fix education. Individual education, group education, societal education. Respect for enlightenment (and the process of “education”) is key to fixing the problems.

Perhaps the first step is to defend your own right to knowledge and enlightenment, an activity which will earn you access to “education”. You have a right to not be misinformed. You have a right to learn the truth (about whatever). You have a right (and perhaps a responsibility) to continually learn.

If you think about it (if you can.. meaning if you have any time to think, have any environment free from distractions such that you can think, have any way to defer the demands of everyday life such that you can freely “think”) then you may see that many of today’s “problem issues” stem from the failure of all of us to get educated and stay informed (educated):

We take too many prescription drugs
We drink to much alcohol
We take on too much risk in our leisure activities, or not enough (what happened to the middle ground?)
We “hate” too quickly
We “love” too little
We are “alone” too much, and our “community time” is too stressful/unfulfilling
We are either not busy or too busy (e.g. underemployed or overworked)
We have little peace and are becoming entrained by ambient noise – which brings us back to the top of this list

When there are no jobs, there is pain and trouble. But the solution is not “more jobs”. The lack of jobs is a symptom of the real problem, as is most of the above. The problem is what medical doctors commonly call “a failure to thrive”, in this case applied to the human spirit and humanity.

As individuals we thrive when we can fulfill our personal destinies, which were at one time the product of our unique personal combination of genetics, physical and mental abilities, and personalities, nurtured in a development environment (family, friends, society). But once we started to impose constraints, and developed them into a system of control, empowered by surveillance and authority, we started to kill “education”. Where our ultimate life paths were once determined by our individual natures, supported and influenced by our surroundings, our life paths today are determined by our ability to break free of constraints, “cheat”, or settle for a selection of entitlements within reach (using coping skills like alcohol and drugs to manage our internal discontent).

It wouldn’t seem so bad if we were “happy” with that, but clearly we are not. And whether or not we acknowledge it, when it comes to humanity, defined as “thriving in life as a human”, the status quo is not sustainable.

Education. Awareness. Enlightenment. Information. Knowledge. Satisfaction. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. Humanity.