PRNewser Interview: Geoff Livingston
November 28, 2007
Continuing in our weekly series interviewing the movers and shakers in PR and media, PRNewser this week spoke with Geoff Livingston, CEO of Livingston Communications. Geoff is a widely read blogger (what, you haven’t heard of him!) at the Buzz Bin, and recently wrote a commentary for the Washington Post on green PR titled, “Actions, Not Just Words,” as well as a book, “Now is Gone: A Primer on New Media for Executives and Entrepreneurs.”
Hardest part about running your own shop?
Operations, no doubt.
Best part about running your own shop?
Saying no to clients and opportunities that aren’t worth doing.
What time did you wake up this morning?
How many emails do you receive a day?
What is your opinion of NYC?
Philadelphia plus a white collar
Favorite holiday season tradition?
Taking the week between Xmas and New Years off.
Nationals or Orioles?
Nats, are you kidding me? Angelos? Geez.
Redskins or Ravens?
God, Redskins in spite of Snyder.
A lot less intelligent than everyone thinks. Sort of like the CIA.
Cyber Monday: Real deal or don’t believe the hype?
What led you to work in PR?
I sold out as a journalist to make more money. In that sense, blogging has brought back a lot of joy in the professional day-to-day life.
What single person played the biggest role / had the biggest influence on your PR career?
Victor Watts, I actually just blogged about this.
What made you want to write the book? Can you give us a bit of what readers can expect?
It was actually based on the amount of requests I was getting locally to sit down and have lunch with people to explain new media. Long story short I couldn’t keep up with it and run my business. I would save them money and me time by writing a book and codifying basic types of information.
I wanted to write novels for a long time. I had a couple novels written that I tried to market and get published and had not succeeded. But I had learned about the industry and talked to publishers. As a result of those experiences I had knowledge of how to get into non-fiction books. First you have to write a marketing plan, first chapter, and an editorial outline. A lot of folks are looking to publish non-fiction, that is where money is at. I went to Bartleby because they were a client and it was the right thing to do for me. They just snapped it up.
A book that is great for anyone thinking about doing this is Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers.
How has the reaction been?
It’s been positive. There are a bunch of reviews out there already.
Did you do a PR tour, or mostly just interviews as they come?
I’m handling it more from word of mouth standpoint. The idea was to create a book that would be a service to people. If that really happens, hopefully it will take off. When we talk to media outlets, they look at the book and they ask, “Can you write something for us on Facebook, or social media principles?”
Is that how the Washington Post story came about?
Yes. I met Dan Beyers speaking at the Board of Trade, before that conference [of local execs on green pr]. The reason I was on the panel, was because of the book. But sometimes, when bloggers get their 15 minutes of fame, they think they can buy the hype. The reality is, the story isn’t, “we wrote this book.” The story is “businesses want info on social media and this book is one way to get that.” We are proud to service people; however we can help.
Do you believe PR will get to the carry the social media flag?
No, I don’t think PR will get as much of a role as they should. The reason why is PR has become media relations. That’s not what PR is, but it’s what people associate with it. It has become perception and perception is reality. Social media is not media relations. Most PR folks that approach it that way are going away.
Does PR even belong in social media?
Practitioners that understand it are the ideal people to carry the torch. You look at John Bell at Ogilvy, for example, they are creating this whole new word of mouth practice for social media. They really understand it and PR is a phenomenal skill set to do it. Ideally the right skill set is in the PR profession.
Are there any clients you’ve told NOT to blog?
Yes, I’ve told several clients not to blog. We’re also launching a social media tool for some clients. Sometimes a company offers value in a very vertical way. Lets say XM satellite. They only thing they add is greater radio. Do they really belong in the blogosphere talking about automobiles? But, they could maybe talk about great road trips, and then have a blog about it. It’s all about knowing where your place is in the larger picture.
What is #1 thing clients have asked for over last 6 months?
Facebook app. If I hear another Facebook app I’m gonna jump off the roof.
Doesn’t “traditional media” still matter?
We have a chapter in the book about using traditional media to promote new media. There is a weird ping-pong match going on between traditional and new. To ignore either would be a mistake. The reality is there is always going to be a place for traditional media. Blogs drive info into the spotlight, forcing traditional media to pay attention. Once journalists report on what blogs have to say – it starts a ping-pong match.
The other thing is that, I know people say bloggers are citizen journalists, but they aren’t.
Your column “Action, Not Just Words” in the Washington Post, attacked “green PR” for being all talk and no walk. You mentioned Dell as one company who is following up on its talk. Are there any others you’d like to highlight?
One is Marriott. They’ve been doing it for about ten years.
Do you see it changing?
I don’t know. It’s a strange world we’re in with corporate America. That is really the issue. They’re still being led by folks who will do whatever it takes to build business and be profitable. Social responsibility is being thrust upon these companes. Some will get it. Innovators will get it. Most will not ’till they start losing customers.
There was recently a big debate about Guy Kawasaki using Twitter to promote his website Truemors. What’s your take on that?
Participation is marketing. Some guys get away with more promo than others, but eventually there is going to be a time when folks say no