Monday, January 12, 2009

PR Rock Stars: A conversation with David Mullen

About a month ago when I started engaging more actively on Twitter, one of the first folks I met was David Mullen. Man, was I lucky. 

Right from the get-go, despite his enormous popularity, David's been approachable, accomodating with my questions and requests, and friendly. After multiple conversations online, we've discovered we have a lot in common (two young kids, passion for blogging and a spirited interest in PR and integrated marketing and communications). 

Bottom line: David represents many of the key reasons I continue to devote so much time to blogging and engaging through online channels. He shares. He advocates. He collaborates. In fact, I feel like I learn a little nugget from him virtually every time we interact. So many smart people out here. And today, I'd like to share with you all a little more about David--what makes him tick, how he manages it all and who he follows regularly online--as the first installment in an ongoing "PR Rock Stars" conversation series. Oh, and if you aren't already, start following David on Twitter and visit his blog.

1-You're a busy guy. Two kids at home. Full-time job at Mullen. You're active on Twitter. You blog regularly. I'm assuming you have a healthy array of hobbies. How do you balance it all? 

I'm not going to lie. It's really tough to balance work and family alone most of the time without even tossing hobbies and social media stuff in the mix. Twitter doesn't really take up that much time for me since I quickly dip in and out throughout the day. Blogging, on the other hand, does require some decent time.

There was only one way to add blogging to the plate and not sacrifice time with my wife and daughters. The vast majority of work done on my blog falls between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. after everyone else in the house is asleep. It's wreaked a bit of havoc on my sleep schedule, especially since our youngest girl wakes up around 6 a.m. every day, but you do what you've got to do. Actually, the great thing about that was that it made me decide very quickly if I was serious about blogging or not.

2-I heard you mention at some point that you started your blog six months ago. Since then, you've evolved into a social media luminary online. Any advice for those aspiring to position themselves as authorities in different disciplines online?

You're way too kind. I'll leave the luminary title to Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund and a few other fine folks. My advice would be to blog about what you know and love, and find an angle on it that's a bit different from everyone else.

For example, I'm passionate about social media, but there are a LOT of already established bloggers who tackle that topic with much more background in the space than me. What I know really well is PR and integrated marketing. I write about social media from time-to-time on my blog, but the majority of time is spent on PR and integrated communications generally.

What I noticed about other PR bloggers is that many write about PR industry news and such. What I've done to have a different voice is regularly challenge the way we PR types do business to make sure we're doing things because they are the right way to do them, not simply because it's the way it's always been done. Challenging our profession in a positive way led to a lot of great comments on my posts, even early on, and solid growth in readers and subscribers.

3-You're a pretty savvy "Twittizen." Who are your "must follows"? Who do you make sure to check in with regularly? And whose blogs do you make a point of reading and commenting on each day?

Ah, you're going to make me name names... There are so many great folks I follow and I know I'm going to leave some off. But here are some of my "must follows," for various reasons. By the way, I'm leaving off the obvious A-listers (though a couple of these are inches away from that status). Those folks are pretty easy to find on Twitter.

@ambercadabra, @bethharte, @shannonpaul, @scottmeis, @sonnygill, @kellyecrane, @scotthepburn, @abneedles, @bradmays, @cubanaLAF, @evanspatrick, @rockstarjen, @dannybrown, @prjack, @susanisk, @researchgoddess and, of course, one of my new favorites @arikhanson.

I don't get to read as many blogs as I'd like or comment nearly as often as I should, but my must-read blogs right now are Amber Naslund, Shannon Paul, Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, Leo Bottary, Todd Defren, Jason Falls and Mack Collier. On the personal side, I also follow Desiring God , The Just Life, and The Resurgence. There are others that I read regularly, but these are the ones I read most often. I also get pointed to a lot of great posts by my Twitter peeps.

4-In your day job at Mullen, how have you been counseling clients who want to get into the social media space because "everyone else is jumping in?" How are you advising these folks to be prudent and strategic in their decision-making instead of taking the "me too" approach? Any best practices to offer?

I ask them a lot of questions during the first discussion that not only provide me with insight about their motivations, but also require them to stop and think about why they're interested. After getting all the answers out in the open, it's usually obvious to everyone if we're looking at social media tools as a strategic addition to our overall communications or if we've come down with Shiny Object Syndrome. It sounds simple, but asking the right questions - even if you already know the answer to some of them - can change a conversation.

5-Lastly, you mentioned the other day you paid off your second car and that you now have no payments. Nice. So, I'm guessing that means you won't be in the market for a new car anytime soon. However, if you were, what would be your dream automobile?

We are definitely NOT in the market for a new one car anytime soon! But if I could pick any set of wheels, it would either be a 1957 Chevy Truck, a 1956 Porsche 356 or an Aston Martin Vantage. Which car would depend on how I felt that day and whether or not my wife was with me.


Jen said...

I just don't know how David does it. 4 hours of sleep?! I can't finish a sentence if I don't get at least 6 hours of shut-eye.

David Mullen said...

@arik - thanks for such a kind intro. you've made my day and I'm glad we've connected.

@jen - two words, my friend... Dr. Pepper! :)

Anonymous said...

Very nice post Arik. I agree, the DM is a social media BEAST. I'm not sure how he pulls it off, spectacular. I'm also not totally convinced that he's not really the CEO of Mullen.

Seriously though, he's always one of the first people I latch others on that are looking for direction and insight on the social Web.

SusanIsk said...

I have truly enjoyed getting to know Mr. Mullen over the past year or so. Despite only having a handful of years of experience in PR (OK, half of one hand), David has treated me with respect and has always shown a true interest in what I have to say. He was extremely supportive during the time I was applying to an MBA program (I truly enjoyed his blog post and the resulting discussion on the MBA versus the APR designation - I am proud that the MBA "won"). He also flattered me by discussing the topic of ghost blogging which I raised to him.

Keep up the great work!

Susan aka @SusanIsk

Danny Brown said...

Anytime David's in the house you know it's going to be an enjoyable read. This is no different, and shows why he's held in such regard in the social media realm.

Great questions, great answers, great read.

Cheers Arik, for giving David this platform. And cheers for the shouts, David - it's an equal pleasure to know you, fella. :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I already thought David was amazing...but 4 hours of sleep?! WOW! :) Arik thanks for interviewing David, he truly deserves a spotlight for all his great blogging and social media insights. And I respect him even more know that I know he's a Dr.Pepper fan! :)

Kellye Crane said...

What a great interview! It gives a lot of insight into all the hard work it takes to win the recognition David has received (Dr. Pepper or no Dr. Pepper!). Thanks for sharing.

Arik C. Hanson, APR said...

Thanks for the comments Jen, Scott, Beth, Danny, Susan and Kellye. Clearly, by this show of support and from what I know of David, he is one of the real class guys in the social media/PR space.

Tip of the hat, Mr. Mullen.

David Mullen said...

well, thanks to you all for making my week. it's appreciated!

Anonymous said...

This is quite possibly my favorite post, only because it comes from two guys who I have learned so much from in such a little bit of time. They challenge me to be a better PR professional and make me think constantly. You both are Rockstars! :) - LAF