Idea Grove President Scott Baradell launched his company two years ago. As part of his marketing effort, he created the Media Orchard blog, which soon became one of the most popular blogs on the Internet.
Now he’s started, Spin Thicket, an online community for marketing, media, PR and advertising folks. As a big fan of Spin Thicket, I’ve asked Scott to be the next Diary Interview and share some of his thoughts with us. The results are excellent, providing some deep insights from this marketing pioneer.
What made you start Spin Thicket when you already had a successful blog, Media Orchard?
When I started Media Orchard in March 2005, I knew nothing about blogging. My first couple months of posts were pretty tentative; I was worried about offending potential clients so I was careful not to talk too much about politics, controversial topics, things like that. At some point, I started opening up and sharing who I was through the blog. It was a breath of fresh air for me, and I found the creative juices carried over to my client work.
But after 2,000 blog posts, I wanted to try something different. Spin Thicket is an attempt to build an online community, which I think most people would agree is a more difficult challenge than writing a blog. As with Media Orchard, Iâ€™ve centered Spin Thicket on the kind of content I enjoy â€“ because as soon as itâ€™s not fun, itâ€™s not worth doing.
How have these sites benefited your business?
When I started Media Orchard I had no clients who were blogging or had any interest in blogs. Right now, Iâ€™m helping virtually all of my clients with blogs and/or online communities.
A lot of agencies and consultants present themselves as blogging experts but havenâ€™t done much to back it up. I reached the top 2,800 blogs on Technorati at Media Orchardâ€™s peak last year â€“ and I think that communicates more to a client than some PowerPoint presentation on Web 2.0.
With Spin Thicket, I hope to do the same thing with an online community. More and more clients say they want them; what better way to show your competency than to do it yourself?
Whatâ€™s your favorite aspect of the new media environment?
I like a lot of things about it. Iâ€™m an information junkie. When I was growing up, I read the newspaper every single day â€“ even when I was a little kid. Then I became a newspaper reporter. I love having all these sources of information to choose from. Highly addictive.
How has the new media (blogs, video, etc.) impacted the PR and marketing profession?
In so many ways â€“ and weâ€™ve only scratched the service.Â Thereâ€™s been so much talk about corporate blogging and social media news releases that itâ€™s distracted corporate marketers from what will impact them the most â€“ the underlying medium, rather than how itâ€™s currently used.
To provide just one small example, the Idea Grove has been doing a lot of television pitches recently for one of our clients.Â A couple years ago, we might have had the client shoot b-roll and distribute it via satellite â€“ which isnâ€™t cheap.Â With this client, weâ€™ve had great success simply sending an e-mail note with a link to the video on YouTube.
Everyone knows about YouTube.Â But there are new tools emerging all the time â€“ and most of them (for now anyway) are free.Â Whatâ€™s a better deal than that?
What tips would you offer other PR pros?Â
The best way to learn is simply to get involved.Â Start a blog.Â Â Join a community.Â Comment on other peopleâ€™s blogs.Â Subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds that you like, and make checking them part of your morning routine.
If you choose to start a blog, though, hereâ€™s an idea: Write about something you enjoy!Â Donâ€™t become another generic PR blog, trying to impress prospective clients with posts like â€œ5 Ways to Get Bloggers to Write About Your Companyâ€? and â€œ12 Things to Do When a Blogger Says Something Bad About Your Company,â€? and â€œ37 Ways to Scratch Yourself in Your Boxer Shorts While Writing a Blog Post.â€?
Be yourself.Â People â€“ and clients are people, too â€“ like that.
Do you see social networking as an art or a science?
Iâ€™m not heavy user of social networks.Â Iâ€™ve started MySpace sites, YouTube accounts, MyBlogLog and so on, but I havenâ€™t followed through with them as Iâ€™d like to.Â Itâ€™s just too time-consuming. But Iâ€™d say that social networking is part art and part science.
The same is true of blogs, by the way. Brian Clark over at Copyblogger has certainly turned it into a science. Â His topics, how well he promotes them, how quickly he adds subs â€“ itâ€™s pretty amazing.Â Â He has a special talent.
Iâ€™ve always been a bit hit and miss â€“ more artsy, I guess.Â Â For example, the most popular post I ever wrote was something called â€œThe 10 Greatest Countries in the History of the World.â€?Â It was completely off-topic for Media Orchard.Â Somehow, itâ€™s ended up getting 100,000 hits in two days.
Itâ€™s kind of like the songwriter who spends months writing songs that go nowhere, and then scribbles something down on a napkin that becomes a huge hit.
Last Decemberâ€™s Time person of the year article really seemed to legitimize blogging and other web 2.0 technologies.Â Whatâ€™s next for the blogosphere?
Frankly, I think itâ€™s going to get ugly as corporations continue to exert their influence over it; the process has only just begun.
When you think about it, Web 2.0 started the way Web 1.0 started. Â That is, you had a bunch of techies and academics and anti-corporate types running everything and thinking they could make the rules for everybody else.Â But guess what?Â They canâ€™t.Â We live in a deregulated market economy â€“ and ultimately, where there is money to be made, the market will make the rules.
Iâ€™m not saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing; Iâ€™m just saying itâ€™s inevitable.Â Itâ€™s inevitable in the same way that cable news stations will cover Anna Nicole Smith 24/7, no matter whatâ€™s going on in Africa.Â All this social media stuff is going mainstream; itâ€™s all going to be owned and operated by companies that are trying to wring every dollar they can out of it.
So the geeks who think they rule the world right now are going to get a reality check from big business.Â The lucky few will get a cashierâ€™s check as well.