I hope Richard Laermer would consider reading my blog posts on Marketing Conversation as “trend hunting” or else you’ve got some catching up to do. According to his recent post on Conversation Agent called “Trend Hunting is Not a Fad Anymore. Welcome to ‘I Am Source PR’.” You should be searching every inch of Barnes and Noble, the web and the corner newsstand for the latest and greatest information during every minute of every day. All your reading and information gathering should contribute to your “arsenal of knowledge” that will ultimately allow you to spot news and trends that will help you to better serve your PR clients. He says “…you have to be able to recognize something no one else has noticed is bubbling up as a trend-to-be.”
Now, I say all of this a bit in jest, as I think Laermer presents some very worthwhile observations for public relations professionals. And notice, I mention public relations professionals. Regular joes will absolutely not exert the type of effort needed to actively deconstruct and analyze news and information from various sources. We are a talking points and cocktail conversation kind of society. We like factoids, reading the headlines and regurgitating what we read to people we want to impress.
However, as a public relations professional whose job it is to stay informed and to sometimes do the informing, there are definitely benefits of taking up the “I am Source PR” strategy. Laermer discusses seven ways to become a skilled “news sniffer-outter.” I think each of his points are good suggestions and allow you to broaden your knowledge base, to better anticipate trends, and to create innovative solutions that will ultimately benefit your reputation with clients. However, taken together, Laermer’s 7-step approach is a tad unrealistic.
Pursuing all 7 steps would take the above-average PR professional approximately 1000% of his/her time daily. Laermer mentions information searching should be a part-time job. From what he’s describing, it’s more like a full-time job for a team of 50. We’re talking about 900 billion pages of the Deep Web to get through. Even as I’m writing this blog at my neighborhood coffee shop, two techy-looking guys in conversation next to me said this: “Looking at blogs all day doesn’t count as working, it just hinders me from doing the things I actually need to do.” There is just too much information out there to possibly make much sense of a little bit of everything.
This is the reason why we like personalized information sent right to our email and RSS feeds: we can automatically weed out all the things we aren’t interested in. However, there is a risk that by only paying attention to certain sources and types of information, we are becoming very limited in our opinions, ideologies and even creative solutions for clients.
I think Laermer’s suggestions should be taken into consideration as it concerns work for a particular client. This will at least ground your extensive information search to topics that could possibly be relevant to your client. Understand what may work for them and try and become a source of targeted information. Laermer gives this example from his own experience how becoming a source of relevant and targeted information helped his client:
At RLM PR (my firm, a fun place, come visit) we once got asked to help do branding and media for a pizza chain down on Wall Street, pre-Bernanke. They had succeeded in a few other cities but for some reason downtown they were a bunch of chain ghost stores.
I noticed they were in lobbies of financial institution buildings and that while the owners and managers read Pizza Today and a lot of inside baseball about better dough-making they knew nothing about bankers.
I introduced them to Bank, Bank Letter and American Banker magazines and pointed out the good of being “in them” as the new kid in town, and also of them reading these dull magazines (to them) so they could learn what was happening in a ’s mind. They did; read and ran their banking-area-pizza-joints as the ultimate meeting spot for everyone upstairs.
Soon they were handing out Barron’s articles to their customers—telling them “did you see this story about your line of work—and have some extra cheese!”
They got very successful by not just caring about what they cared about.
By introducing the pizza-makers to targeted new information, RLM PR was able to help them better understand their customers. I don’t think the pizza-makers would have had the same success if they started expanding their arsenal of knowledge by reading Perez Hilton, Cat Fancy or High Times. As a result, I recommend becoming a source of targeted information that can better serve your clients. Then pay attention to what interests you, but remember to read something random every now and again so you can keep up with your cocktail conversations.