Book Review: Real-Time Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

Real-Time Marketing and PR written by David M. Scott was a phenomenal book for the future public relations professional. The book was applicable to many professions, but particularly to those in communications management and should be required when entering into a senior role. The notion of time and attention is changing with everything becoming instantaneous. People are becoming more and more impatient for information and require instant gratification for many things. For companies and communications departments to engage in real-time marketing and public relations, they must change their mindset to allow for improvisation, outside of the corporate rulebooks.

The biggest barrier to changing is fear. Companies and communicators need to unlearn what communication, marketing and PR is. People are on Twitter, blogs and news sites constantly, and therefore communication with them must be constant. “Awareness of information as it happens, in real-time, can give you an enormous competitive advantage – if you know how to use it” (Scott, Prologue). There is a new currency of success and that is the ability to gather, interpret and react to new information in fractions of a second. Social media are tools, but “it’s not about the tools, it’s about adapting your mindset to the new environment these tools create (Scott 38). The book dives into how companies, agencies and organizations can be successful by being early adopters and being involved early in conversations with customers and clients surrounding their brand.

Real-Time Marketing and PR introduced me to two laws that dictate the speed of information: the real-time law of normal distribution and the real-time power law. The real-time law of normal distribution describes the pattern of news of immediate or widespread significance. This law shows that it is important to react during the time of increasing interest on a particular story. This allows for more exposure and allows your news angle to be at an advantage during peak search times. The real-time power law governs the way data is distributed and the way breaking news is disseminated. There is a spike in coverage and buzz around a topic in the early stages, followed by a steady decline in the frequency of coverage (Scott Chapter 3).

Mr. Scott emphasizes the need for companies to change how their mindset to embrace real-time communication. Traditional research, planning and teamwork are still essential to a thriving business, but speed and agility should not be sacrificed. Unfortunately, they often are. Managers must provide the ROI of this new mindset. Real-time is taking place across industries and platforms, stretching from media to customer service to business. Scott often refers to an analogy about Wall Street. The most successful investors are the ones who buy and sell first. The ones that react to news the fastest are the ones that make the deals and organizations need to be like that. In a study that he conducted, the companies that practiced real-time communication were doing better off financially than those that were still following a traditional communications model. One method that he explained was newsjacking, owning the second paragraph by injecting your own ideas and news angles into a current event or hot topic. For example, when disgraced former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned due to a sexting scandal in 2011, Larry Flynt, porn publisher, offered Weiner a job. The announcement of this job offer was covered widely in the media when any mention of Congressman Weiner and the sexting scandal was mentioned. By sexting the opportunity quickly and aggressively, Flynt was able to own the second paragraph of thousands of news stories, building the image around his brand. This is an unusual example of how newjacking works, but perfectly illustrates how two things that may seem unrelated can be.

“In an always on world, people get news on their terms, from the platform of choice and at the time convenient for them” (Scott 64). On the web, you are what you publish, and therefore you need great content to satisfy the public’s desire for information. There are advantages to delivering information in real-time, but many fail to realize that and are caught in old news cycles. Communications managers can begin applying lessons from the book in real-time. Although senior management at larger corporations will not be as privy to this new management model, making the case for the value of real-time communications is important. A transparent company should allow its employees to take initiative and use common sense to make judgments. As human beings, we must be empowered to think on the fly and make decisions with empathy. People who bring flexibility and humanity to their work are the ones who thrive. As a leader, one must tear down the command and control mentality and embrace employees that take initiative, while still providing clear guidelines. Ford Motor has instituted formal training for everyone at the organization to understand how the real-time web fits into his or her job function. This allows for real-time to become engrained into company culture, from strategic planning to day-to-day functions.

David M. Scott made some valid points in his book and presented a clear argument using cases studies as well as data to support his claim. However, I do believe that the shift to real-time marketing is going to be similar to the adoption of social media. It will take some time and convincing to get CEOs and the legal team on board. I was pleasantly surprised by how factual the book was and how every single chapter was supported with concrete evidence. It was well organized and thorough. I am interested in seeing how academic institutions would respond to this book, and if the teaching of public relations is or should be shifting to this kind of mentality. During my four years at the best undergraduate public relations program in the country, I felt that we are taught to think using the old model of communication, which is to research, plan and execute. Research is important, but in the real-time environment, there is no time for surveys, focus groups and in-depth interview. By the time that is completed and analyzed, an opportunity may have passed. This book was beyond eye opening to the new form of communication and business.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Real-Time Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

  1. freshspot says:

    Emmelie — Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to review my book in such a complete way.

    Yes, real-time is still a new concept for many executives and sadly even the top communications programs like yours don’t spend much time on instant engagement. However, it is an essential idea for today’s organizations.

    Good luck in your future career. I’m sure you’ll do great because you are open to new ideas and you understand the power of content creation.

  2. Fantastic review of a phenomenal book! It’s exciting to be part of the real-time revolution, as it were, as it gains momentum. I was just joking yesterday about how I still practically hyperventilate with joy when I see a brand respond to a customer’s tweet.

    • Me too!!! When any social media gurus or celebrities respond to a tweet, I am just in awe at how the communication gap has narrowed dramatically. Real-time marketing is a culture that we must adopt quickly in order to be successful in this era. Thank you for reading and commenting Dwayne!

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