David Meerman Scott: on the Frontline of the Communications RevolutionLast Updated: January 1, 2021
Almost a decade since the publication of his best-selling ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR’, influential thought-leader David Meerman Scott is still on the road, urging businesses to join the greatest communications revolution in history. Scott paints a stark, simple choice for businesses: you’re either a part of the revolution, or resistant to it.
DAVID Meerman Scott is one of the most influential business and marketing thought-leaders in today’s world, but the big life-changing moment came for him in 2001, when the company he was working for said: “You’re fired!”
Up to that point, Scott had been vice-president of marketing at NewsEdge. But in 1998-’99, he’d noticed something new—a change in the way people were buying products.
Seeing how customers were using search engines to research products and services, Scott eschewed traditional and costly PR programs in favour of reaching out via the internet’s realtime channels: “For almost no money, I was able to reach people and generate sales leads, and it was working really well.”
However, NewsEdge was acquired by owners who did not appreciate the approach. “They had me explain what kind of marketing I was doing, and when I told them, they said, ‘You’re fired!’,” he laughs.
But this was “a good thing” because “it gave me the jump-start to go out on my own… and I was able to do my own thing.”
“My own thing…”
DAVID Meerman Scott believes we are only midway through the most important communications revolution in history, with 20 years left to run, and how you engage with it is a declaration that you either join it or resist it.
Choosing to join the revolution and do his own thing, as a writer, speaker and influencer, Scott has played a part in shaping it too, especially through The New Rules of Marketing & PR, the globally influential book published in 2007.
He has written 10 books, two of them co-authored, but The New Rules… is the one that made his name internationally, selling more than 350,000 copies in 25 languages, and used in the teaching programs of universities and business courses across the world.
Scott commands the respect of his peers, and—with presentation techniques honed through an annual tally of at least 50 keynotes—his effect on an audience is electrifying, but it takes hard work. From the fateful day when he was fired up to the publication of The New Rules… took five long years.
So for David Meerman Scott, passion is crucial; not just for him, but for anyone starting a business.
“Firstly, there has never been a better time to start a business. Unlike any other time in history, you can actually reach your potential customers for free by using the tools of real-time communication. But the other thing I would say is that you need to be passionate. You have to enjoy it. If I say to someone, ‘How passionate are you about this? Is it something you really love?’ and they say, ‘Nah, it’s just a job’, well, that’s not gonna work so well… because they won’t have the energy to see it through.”
With his busy annual schedule of keynotes Scott has shown countless thousands of professionals to grow their businesses using “disruptive” techniques. One specific program is Newsjacking (another of his bestselling books), which is the art and science of getting your ideas into a news story that is breaking in your marketplace, so that you gain media attention and grow potential leads. One of David Meerman Scott’s most popular programs, Newsjacking is an ingeniously simple idea, and you can find out more in an infographic from Scott’s own website at the end of this article.
Unlikely Marketing Pioneers
“The Grateful Dead created a social network before Mark Zuckerberg was even born.”
SCOTT is constantly on the road as a speaker as this is the primary revenue source of what he refers to as “my little business”. But it’s clear that this is not “just a job—it’s more a way of life.
In conversation, David Meerman Scott conveys the sense of a mind that is entirely open and always connecting dots between X and Y, and looking for fresh, and unlikely, case studies.
He’s the co-author, with Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, which positions the rock band as pioneers in the 1970s and ’80s of a kind of marketing that only became widespread with the advent of social media.
This could so easily have been a dry, academic hypothesis. As conveyed by Scott, it’s a vivid history lesson that is inspirational and endlessly educational.
“The Grateful Dead created a social network before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. Back in the 1970s they were one of the very first bands who created a mailing list of their fans. They were as far as I know the first band that allowed their fans to record their concerts. They were one of the first bands that allowed fans to bring cameras into the audience. They did a lot of things that were focused on creating a community, a tribe of people; and in doing so, they created a group of fans who are still even today, 50 years after they were founded, passionate about them.”
“There’s no question in my mind that it’s still as powerful,” says Scott, who attended all three of the ‘Dead & Company’ shows staged in Chicago to mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s foundation, “but what makes it even more interesting is that the community is also now really, really strong on the web… Dead & Company were the biggest selling tour in North American last year—they did better on a per concert basis than anyone else”.
The ‘New’ Rules—a Decade on…
“We are making a lot of progress, but… there is still a lot more room to grow.”
WHEN talk shifts to straight business and marketing, Scott loses none of his urgency. Talking about the irony of a book entitled The New Rules of Marketing & PR still being taught in colleges almost a decade on, Scott expresses both frustration and optimism.
He is frustrated that so many companies seem resistant to “the biggest communications revolution in human history”.
Scott seems genuinely bemused that many companies “act as if it’s still the old days, when they were in control, and could dictate the ways people engage, and be secretive in the information they choose to disseminate. Today, it takes just two minutes to dig up all sorts of information, so I don’t understand why many companies still want to be secretive, or even worse, to bend the truth”.
However, he is optimistic about what he sees as a shift in thinking, in the demand for his talks, and in the myriad universities using The New Rules… in their programs.
“The institutions that are teaching entrepreneurs and marketers… recognise that it’s not just the old ways which they’ve been teaching for so long… but that there are new ways to reach people. That’s really great. It shows me that we are making a lot of progress, but at the same time there is still a lot more room to grow.”
Away From the Networks
“Any time I can get near a surfing wave, I’m there.”
DAVID Meerman Scott loves surfing… actual surfing; not just the virtual kind. “I’m not a very good surfer, because I learned later in life, but I just absolutely love it. Any time I can get near a surfing wave, I’m there.”
Not surprisingly for a fan of the Grateful Dead, the ultimate live jam band, Scott also loves live music—“I’m not into jazz so much, or classical and opera, but give me a rock band, and I’m there.”
Aged 55, it’s natural that Scott would favour classic rock bands such as The Who, but he has eclectic tastes that take him beyond his natural comfort zone. “I went to see Miley Cyrus backed by The Flaming Lips, and I was by far the oldest person in that room—but I loved it.”
Scott’s language is fascinating. When he speaks of the things he loves, he is “there”. Conversation about his current projects is shot through with a similar degree of enthusiastic verve.
He is currently completing a paperback second edition of his The New Rules of Sales & Service, an extension of the ideas in The New Rules of Marketing & PR, to be released in summer 2016. And his 2014 book Marketing The Moon (co-authored with Richard Jurek), about the marketing aspects of the Apollo lunar program, is in production for a documentary film. “That will come out in a couple of years, so that’s pretty cool!” he declares.
That understated yet excitable “pretty cool” speaks volumes about Scott’s infectious enthusiasm for real-time communication.
In his forecast, we’re only halfway through the revolution, but one suspects he will be an influential figure for the duration, for at least one significant reason: he palpably enjoys it, with the passion he regards as a crucial ingredient for success.
“Well, you have to enjoy it. If it feels like work, you’re not going to be as successful as if it were something that you are incredibly passionate about.”
How to Newsjack – by David Meerman Scott
Download this infographic.