Stories and Strategies Podcast
Guest: Robert Wynne, President Wynne Communications
Published April 16, 2023
Doug Downs (00:12):
Six degrees of separation. You’ve heard the concept that each of us is linked by chains of acquaintance to anyone in the world via five other people, one of whom you know right now. The idea was first introduced by psychologist Stanley Milgram back in the 1960s. He conducted experiments in which people would identify a complete stranger and then send a letter to someone they knew whom they thought was closer to the target than they were. When Milgram examined the letters that ultimately reached their target, he found they had changed hands only about six times.
In 2009, Microsoft studied 30 billion electronic messages among 180 people around the world and found on a planetary scale. We are separated by 6.6 degrees of separation, so the six degrees concept generally holds water. In 1997, a social network service website was created called six degrees.com. It allowed users to list contacts who were then invited to join the site and do the same. At its peak, it had three and a half million fully registered members. This was the birth of social media and Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, Xing, and yes, Facebook all followed this model. Six degrees.com ultimately failed mainly because of the limitations of internet connectivity at the time. Social media today is table stakes, just like websites, a short time before social. If you’re not on social media right now, you aren’t for real. But today on Stories and Strategies, is social media the real thing?
My name is Doug Down’s Music. Off the top, the theme from Raeb’s Lament, God of War, Ragnarok, composed by Bear McCreary, who also wrote the score for the movie, Six Degrees of Separation. So you see three or four degrees of separation there at least. Special thanks this week to Philip Bishop, who is an instructional technologist at the University of Southern California. USC. They’re planning to use some of our Stories and Strategies, content in their curriculum. Thank you Philip. Geo Trojans. My guest this week is Robert Wynn. Hello, Robert.
Robert Wynne (03:05):
Hey Doug. Good to see you.
Doug Downs (03:07):
And I know you’re in that Los Angeles area, Palo Verde Estates just south of Redondo Beach. Is it Trojans for you or Bruins? Where do your alliances fall?
Robert Wynne (03:15):
My wife is a Bruin. I work for five years for USC, so there’s a little bit of Trojan blood in me as well.
Doug Downs (03:22):
Awesome, awesome. Robert, you run a successful PR agency in the Los Angeles area. You wrote a column on public relations for Forbes for eight years. You’ve reported for the LA Times and Newsweek have worked for major universities like Cornell, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Texas Christian University, T C U, Vanderbilt, UCLA, and as you said, USC, you were also a writer for Walker Texas Ranger. How cool is that?
Robert Wynne (03:47):
It was fun. I was a one hit wonder. I got on the show, the producer liked me, then the producer was let go and he was going to bring me on another show and then he passed away and oh, that was my screenwriting career, but I still get residuals, so that’s nice.
hat’s perfect. Yeah. So Robert, I thank you. I really enjoyed your book, the Persuasion Business, how Public Relations really Works. Great read, thank you. In it you cover public relations, content marketing, PR campaigns, and I would say with a really unique and knowledgeable perspective, I appreciated this wasn’t just another PR book that I was reading it. Thank you. There were times you made me think. There were times, you know, kind of frustrated me, which is good, and times I found myself nodding a few pages later. All right, I see what he’s saying. But the chapter that I want to get to is the one on social media, and I’ll capture your perspective by reading a passage from the book. Social media success is difficult in baseball terms. It might produce bunt singles waiting for easy riches and quick results is counting on a 100 million Powerball ticket to pay off the mortgage and you top it off repeating what someone else wrote. Social media is bullshit.
Much of it is. Yes, that’s true. That’s true.
Doug Downs (05:12):
What do you mean by that?
Robert Wynne (05:14):
I think in and of itself, the fact that it’s social media is very common. There’s billions of posts every day. There’s billions of photos. There’s people dancing, there’s people giving their political opinions, there’s people trying to sell things. And to think that you are going to come up with something very unique and original that’s going to help you in public relations is it’s naive and it’s it, there’s sort of the whole feeling of winning the lottery about going viral. And it used to be, Hey, what can you do to help me go viral? And you had have all these PR firms promise you you’re going to go viral rather than going through the traditional channels of the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times or in Texas or Florida or Ohio or a TV station. And that just you yourself can become the broadcaster you yourself with your opinions. It’s going to be the one to many that you’re going to promote it that way. And I think that sort of naive lottery style thinking is it’s become so prevalent and so many billions of posts mean how much bandwidth do you have, Doug? Do you read? I mean, you probably read five or 10 different publications or people, you’re not going to read a thousand or look at a thousand. It’s just the numbers game doesn’t work. There’s more people posting than there almost is, than people who are listening.
Doug Downs (06:39):
And so just to clarify, are you suggesting we shouldn’t be moving toward owned media or Micro media or are you saying an over-reliance on owned media is bad?
Robert Wynne (06:50):
Definitely the over-reliance? It’s always good to have. I mean, if you’re a company and you want to discuss some of your product offerings, if you want to respond to a crisis, if you want to connect with your customers who are already friends with you, I mean, there are companies that are doing that very well right now. There are clothing companies, there are healthcare companies, there are big multinationals who are doing very good job of that. But if you’re a regular person or you’re just trying to get started or something, it’s very hard to compete with some of these sophisticated operations that are acting now, like publishing arms. So if you’re saying, Hey, I’m going to be a content marketer, I’m going to come up with great stuff and I’m going to compete with these large clothing companies, and I forget the one in, they are like a environmental company that Tom Brokaw used to do a lot of things for them.
And they’re down, they started in South America and they post content constantly about their products, about the environment, about what’s going on with the oceans, what’s going on with the mountains, what’s going with the water, and you’re competing against them and saying, this is what I think about Donald Trump’s prosecution tomorrow. Now I, I’d like to get a hundred thousand views on this. It’s just not going to happen. I mean, the competition is too stiff, so it’s good. As a lot of times I tell my clients it’s good to as an extra arm of what you’re doing. So if you get a story in on CNN or on CNBC or maybe a trade publication that a lot of the people don’t know about it, if you post it on LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram, it can work as an extender. I think that’s one way to look at it. But to think of it as an originator, you’ve got to come up with something. The video has got to be fantastic. Your opinions have to be fantastic. You have to do a lot of posting to make it happen, and otherwise it’s just very difficult. Just the competition is too fierce.
Doug Downs (08:54):
Part of the reason this chapter stood out to me is I work with a lot of clients who are really on the bent as a lot are about hiring social media managers, usually consultants. They tend to be on the expensive side, somewhere between three grand, and five or six grand a month just to post some things to social media, which I’m not saying don’t do it, but there’s a lot of reliance on that with a limited budget. You outlined the four fallacies of social media in your book. What are those four?
Robert Wynne (09:28):
Well, I’ll explain a little bit, but I’ll go very quickly. Your opinions are special. Anyone can be influential. Influencers will help you. They’ll be glad to do it for free and anyone can go viral. So the fallacy, the first ones, your opinions are special. If there’s billions of posts every day, you have to be really, really special, unique, come up with something interesting or different or unique. One of the very few ways that you can do that is if you are at the scene of a crash or if you’re at the beginnings of Black Lives Matter or you’re somewhere else and you’re posting a lot and you’re there, that’s one way to do it. But as soon as that crisis is over, so is your audience. So it’s to say that your opinions or your insights are very special. You can be part of a group and agree with that, but to be the leader of that group is very difficult.
The second one is anyone can be influential. So traffic usually flocks to the famous, so Barack Obama, LeBron James, Justin Bieber. Sure, your favorite artist, Doug Ariana Grande. A lot of those famous individuals, they act as broadcasters. So it’s the one to many model. So they don’t need to be on K R L D radio in Dallas or K F W B in Los Angeles. They can essentially be broadcasters themselves. But me, if I post something about me, in my opinion, it’s really not that interesting. So everyone can be influential. The other one is, influencers will help you. I’m going to send something to President Obama and he’s going to retreat it and we’re going to say, wow, Rob’s a great guy. He is interesting things to say. Reaching these influencers through their handlers. They’re publicists, they’re social media, media agencies, their attorney, their attorneys who work for them.
It’s almost impossible. And most of the time, a lot of these influencers, the Kardashians, they request money to do something. We’ve tried this with some clients with the Blue room, Hey, I really enjoyed doing this and trying your new product, whatever, and five people respond. So even once we’re influential, if it’s a paid post or if it’s something that they’re told to do, it doesn’t do very well. And the last one is that anyone can go viral. I think it was Microsoft and Stanford a few years ago. It’s a study, it’s been everywhere. They said the chances of going viral are a little bit more than a million to one. I mean, look how many people are posting videos of themselves dancing and posting videos of their cute cats and your cats playing the piano and all that. And someone may work for a month to train their cat to do that and put little cat treats on there and maybe they’ll get a hundred or a thousand responses.
But what is that traffic. Is that traffic something meaningful to you, to your clients? Is it saying if you have 10 people who see your post and you, it’s the right 10 people and you’re say, it’s for us. You’re a city council resolution and you’re posting something that says, Hey, we don’t need to ban books with our school district and here’s why. And the right 10 people see it and one of ’em is a council member and they change their vote. That’s meaningful. If you put something of your cat playing the piano and a thousand people say, look how cute you are, you’re still not viral, but what does it mean? Hey, there’s a pat in the back. Boy, good job.
Doug Downs (12:57):
I think you touched on it right there in a micro media sense, social media has some impact. It’s the Macromedia sense where you’re saying, yes, this is okay. That’s for the social media managers that are listening, and I’m sure there, there’s lots. This is not to say when we say social media is bullshit, there are some very strong positive uses and times that you recommend more social media for clients. Outline some of those, the positives and the negatives for social.
Robert Wynne (13:27):
Oh, sure, sure. I think for crisis, Twitter is a great platform. I think it’s one of the best ones because it’s interactive and it gets back very quickly for announcements. LinkedIn works extremely well. I got the first publisher of my book, what used to be called Straight Talk about Public Relations, and this is the Persuasion Business is actually the third edition of that. So when I got to do the book myself, I changed the title, the cover and all that sort of thing, but I found that person on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is very important. And also Texas Christian University is a client of mine now, and we post many of the times that we’re on television in Austin, in Fort Worth, in Houston, on CNBC and other places we posted on social media. So a lot of the tcu, horn Frog alumni and the business community sees it on LinkedIn. Very, very, very valuable. And it works as an extender. So I think in those cases, it’s really good. Facebook, not so much Twitter. Good for some things, not for others. Instagram is not good for my clients. But I think if you’re in the visual arts, if you’re in the fashion industry, Instagram is very valuable. As is TikTok.
Doug Downs (14:43):
You outline what you call the six rules for using social media, for public relations. What are those?
Robert Wynne (14:50):
Be brief. Don’t be boring. It’s very hard to get an audience if you’re technical and you say something, I know this is controversial, but I think Michael Jordan might have been a good basketball player. I mean, you got to come up with something, right? Be newsworthy. If you have something, whether it’s, I’m just using today’s news as an example, but everyone said there was going to be an indictment today. It’s actually going to be tomorrow. But if someone had that information and gets it out there, that’s newsworthy. If something’s happening about the weather in Los Angeles, angel, we’ve had some incredibly weird, and at 30 years being here, the wettest weather we’ve had in the last two months has been more rain than we’ve had the last three
Doug Downs (15:32):
Years. And you’ve had snow to be fair in some parts too, which is ridiculous.
Robert Wynne (15:36):
In the higher elevations. Yes, I know, but what roads are closed, what roads are open, things like that that are posted. So a lot of the times, the National Weather Service, the police department and other places, they’re posting on social media constantly for these types of things. So that’s being newsworthy. Be consistent. People who post one or two times and have, maybe they’ll head it out of the park and they post a month later and they find their audience is gone, whether it’s see the conservative media, they want to see what’s happening with QAnon on or Fox News or the MAGA world. They’re posting 10 times a day or at least every day. So that sort of thing be helpful. If there’s something that you can do at saying like, oh, I, I’m on a podcast every day and you an I have had colds recently and our throats are hurting. Don’t try Honey or Tea
Like that. I would read that. I would read that,
Yes, right now I would do that a lot. Yes. I think crossposting your content across all platforms. Not every platform works for everyone. Like I’m not on TikTok when I look on TikTok, there’s a lot of people dancing or taking off their clothes or doing it has nothing to do with higher education or events or I do some work in the aerospace industry. I wouldn’t post anything on there, but I would post it on LinkedIn, sometimes on Twitter once in a while on Facebook, not that often. And then I would say when some people can be live if possible. That’s the last one. If you have something to say and if something’s interesting, again, you would rather be on CNN N or C N B C or ABC News than on Facebook Live. But sometimes if you’re trying to reach a certain smaller audience that wants to hear what you have to say one-on-one, that that’s a great way to do it.
Doug Downs (17:34):
You’ve touched on this a couple of times, the most valuable social media tools in certain circumstances, and you actually reference a survey in the book done by Muck Rack of PR pros and journalists and their comments on the different social media tools. What did they find?
Robert Wynne (17:51):
Milk Rack does this every year, and they come into my conferences and speak and they present it. So the next one’s going to be in April in New York, and they’ll be presenting that as well. They find that journalists almost overwhelmingly use Twitter, so they post.
Doug Downs (18:08):
It’s like a newsfeed, isn’t it? Yes. It plays out like a
Robert Wynne (18:10):
Newsfeed. Yeah, and I had the Washington Post years ago, spoke at one of my events. They have about three or 400 engineers on staff, and it’s amazing. They have this huge, in the newsroom, this huge TV screen, and it shows all the different news stories. So they change the headlines throughout the day. I’m sure the New York Times and others do this as well, but I can just speak about the Washington Post. So they change the newsfeed throughout the day based on the social media hits and what’s popular. And so they may change the news stories. You’ll see what goes number one, what goes number 10, that sort of thing for all different sections. And they’ll do that for based on which has the most Twitter hits, which one is trending on Facebook and LinkedIn, and all those sorts of things. So they update that constantly. And reporters are told they’re going to be judged on how many likes, retweets and links. So when you see a reporter saying, Hey, what do you think about my story on blank? They are being judged about that from their bosses.
Doug Downs (19:19):
Aha. It’s part of the KPIs now for journalists.
Robert Wynne (19:22):
Doug Downs (19:24):
Excellent. Robert, I really appreciate your time today. I know both of us are fighting minor colds and throats are not at a hundred percent velocity, but we motored our way through it. Thank you very much.
Robert Wynne (19:34):
Oh, thank you very much, Doug. I appreciate it very much.
Doug Downs (19:39):
If you’d like to send a message to my guest, Robert Wynne, we have the email address in the show notes. Check out his book. It’s a really good read, the Persuasion Business. I’ve read lots of these. This one does stand out to me, so it earns its place on my bookshelf. We have the link in the show notes, stories and strategies is a co-production of J G R communications and Stories and Strategies podcasts. Can I ask you for one favor, leave a rating for this podcast to help encourage others to check it out. Thanks for listening.