Real-Time Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

With his 2008 bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott redefined contemporary marketing thought. Scott explained how existing advertising strategies—expensive campaigns and interrupting television commercials—had been replaced by search engine optimization and websites that engage customers when they are actively seeking information about a product. In Real-Time Marketing & PR, Scott expands upon that line of thought by emphasizing the value of using new media tools to engage customers constantly and in real-time. Real-Time is more of a practical guide than a book of theory; Scott’s writing is characteristically informal, and his book is likely a compilation of posts from his popular blog Web Ink Now (www.webinknow.com). Scott has a significant social media following and frequently speaks at corporate events.

In Real-Time Marketing & PR, Scott’s thesis comes (ironically) in the last chapter:
The explosion of online communication has led to a . . . loss of vendor control . . . in recent years. With email, social media, and alternative online media, consumers suddenly regained their collective voice in the marketplace. Faced with a vendor’s offer, consumers can once again scoff, rave, critique, or compare—and be heard far and wide. . . .  
Far from making everything “new,” as many pundits insist, the Web has actually brought communication back full circle to where we were a century ago. What people respond to, and the way they make purchase decisions, really hasn’t changed at all. The difference is that word of mouth has regained its historic power. 
The Web is just like a huge town square, with blogs, forums, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook serving as the pubs, private clubs, and community gathering places. People communicate online, meet new people, share ideas, and trade information. And yes, they sell products, too. (199)
Scott illustrates the power of social media through several poignant examples. In the most telling, Dave Carroll, a relatively-unknown rock musician from Canada, takes down United Airlines via a catchy song on YouTube. When baggage handlers mistreat his beloved Taylor guitar, Carroll seeks recompense by contacting the company through traditional channels. But after being shunted between customer service outlets for months, he writes the song “United Breaks Guitars” and posts it to YouTube. The video gains thousands of views within a day and over two million within a week; when CNN, Fox News, CBS, and even the BBC pick up the story, Carroll becomes a mass-media sensation. United continues to ignore the issue, but nimble companies like Calton Cases and Taylor Guitars reach out to Carroll to collaborate. While United suffers significant brand damage—their formal apology is only belated—both Taylor and Carlton see their sales skyrocket. “When luck turns your way, you can’t squander it,” says Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars. “This was a big branding leap.” Three months after his video, Carroll continues to speak to airlines and even the Senate about consumer rights. The lesson? Companies cannot afford to ignore the conversation occurring about them in real-time. [Read the full case study in the first chapter of Scott's book (pdf).]

“An immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations” that are the first to break or act on a news story (35), and in the always-on new media world, even waiting “a whole hour” may be too long (36). Constantly monitoring Internet traffic sounds time-consuming, but Scott does offer some tips, including a detailed job description for a “chief real-time communications officer” (176) and some guidelines for freeing employees to use social media (and influence the conversation about their company in real-time) (162). Since the pace of business has increased, companies need to supplement their existing marketing programs with live communication strategies. In the end, “real-time is a mindset” (210).