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Mother of Dragons. Breaker of Chains. Master of PR.

June 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Master of PR

[Warning: Spoilers. Obvi.]

One of the most dynamic and compelling characters in the “Game of Thrones” universe created by George R.R. Martin is Daenerys Targaryen. Born in exile after her father Aerys II was killed as Robert Baratheon assumed the throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros (the mythical world in which GOT takes place), she

She may not carry a smartphone or an insulated Starbucks mug, but Dany has been teaching a master class in public relations over the past few seasons. Here’s what she’s reminded us so far:

Never Forget Who You Are

Throughout the series, Danaerys recalls the strength of her birthright as a Targaryen to forge on against adversity. She trusts her heritage when she sets herself and her stone dragon eggs ablaze, and is rewarded when she emerges unscathed (though covered in soot like a Looney Toons character after an explosion) with her three dragons freed from their shells.

Play to Your Strengths

One advantage frequently used by Daenerys is her underestimation by her adversaries. When securing the army of the Unsullied (slaves trained in combat from birth) in Astapor, she allows their master Kraznys mo Nakloz to assume she does not understand Valyrien (an ancient language of Westeros) because she is Dothraki. While she barters with him for the slave army, he hurls a number of insults at her in Low Valyrian knowing his slave translator will clean up what he has said in the Common Tongue for his prospective customer. In theatrical fashion, she later reveals that she has understood every insult he’s made and orders her dragon to burn him alive in front of all – reminding all of the peril of underestimation (and securing the respect of her new army of freed slaves).

Understand Your Stakeholders

The portrayal of Daenerys in Game of Thrones is one of a woman who spends a great deal of time getting to know the people around her on the show. Like most good leaders, she spends more time listening than she does talking. Her ability to learn and embrace the culture of the Dothraki is crucial to her rise to power. Unlike many who sit on thrones elsewhere in Westeros, she walks among her people without fear – inspiring loyalty and admiration.

Unlike the other rulers of Westeros, Dany takes an interest in her subjects – investing to learn their cultures, motivations, and needs. The latest season contained a scene in which she heard and responded to the grievances of her newly-conquered subjects and responded generously to their petitions.

When she fails, she takes each misstep as an opportunity to learn something never to repeat (like when her misplaced trust in “the Thirteen” in Qarth results in the death of her men at the hands of the warlocks of the city). She uses her wit and presence to win the support of the mercenary army “the Second Sons,” by impressing Daario Naharis who rejects his fellow sellswords’ demands to assassinate her and beheads them instead as an act of fealty to Daenerys.

Wield the Power of Imagery

It’s hard to top the visual of Daenerys Targaryen emerging from a bath of flames on a funeral pyre to become the “Mother of Dragons.” This sets the stage for a series of stunning visuals that mark Dany’s rise to power, from the incineration of the House of the Undying to the incineration of Kraznys mo Nakloz, owner of the army of the Unsullied (the Mother of Dragons does a lot of incinerating). Nakloz’s death is particularly instructive.

One of the best uses of imagery comes when Daenerys and her armies begin their seige of the city of Meereen. In a dramatic appeal to the slaves of the city to take up arms against their masters, Daenerys orders catapaults to fling the broken chains and yokes of the other slaves she has freed over the citys’ walls. As the slaves pick up the broken symbols of subjugation, both they and their dramatically-outnumbered masters realize perception is the only thing keeping them enslaved.

Women: Stand Strong in a Male-Dominated World

Dany is the lone female contender for the throne of Westeros, a world which mirrors the patriarchal bend of ours. Public Relations is unique among other professions in that it is populated largely by women (by some studies, a ratio as high as 75-85 percent). The respect she commands and influence she exerts reminds me of many of the women in the world of PR.

Forced into an arranged marriage with Khal Drogo (a warlord who commands 40,000 riders of a race called the Dothraki) to serve her brother Viserys’ desire to raise an army to reconquer the Iron Throne for House Targaryen, Dany wills herself to be respected as an equal by her new husband.  She endures abuse, rape, and both physical and psychological violence to overcome the subjugation of her cruel brother and the circumstances of her early life in exile. She asserts an equal status to her husband and eventually takes over the leadership of his tribe when he falls ill and dies.

In point of fact, the fantasy world created by Martin has been the subject of analysis by gender studies academics because it’s strong female characters (like Cersei Lannister, Catelyn and Arya Stark, Olenna and Magaery Tyrell, Brienne of Tarth, Ygritte, and Osha to name a few) buck the traditional depictions of the fantasy genre.

To Achieve Your Goals, Stick to a Strategy

Once the city of Meereen is conquered, availing Daenerys of its 93 ships, she wisely puts off her quest to retake the throne of Westeros by sailing to Kings Landing even though she now has the ships she’s so desperately needed throughout the past few seasons. The cities she has conquered have slipped back into disarray without her direct oversight, so she invests in her future empire by pausing to refortify her rule (an important gesture that demonstrates her loyalty to the subjects she has just freed).

The public relations analogy extends far and wide through the Game of Thrones series; the importance of communication and intellectual brinksmanship are felt more heavily in this fantasy series than in others which are content to coast on magic, mythical creatures and hewing swords. As a result, I’ve doubtless missed many other correlaries between GoT and the worlds of advertising, marketing and PR.

I’d love to hear what lessons or analogies you’ve picked up on in the series.

Valar morghulis.

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Life in Public Relations – Corporate vs. Agency

April 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Corporate Public Relations Life vs. Agency Public Relations Life

Another Reminder to be Wary of Sales Jobs Listed as Public Relations, Advertising or Marketing

February 18, 2014 3 comments

As predicted, one of the local West Michigan firms that has been deceptively posting sales / event promotion jobs as marketing, advertising and public relations jobs has changed names.  I received a tip from a former employee that Prestige Enterprises is now “Xcell Enterprizes.”

That appears to be confirmed by a job posting on Indeed.com where they used the Prestige Enterprises login to post jobs for Xcell Enterprizes (and the fact that the Prestige Enterprises website is now dead):

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The name change was likely necessary because word was again getting out about the quality of the working environment.  Unfortunately operations like these tend to churn through a lot of employees, so they spend an inordinate amount of time recruiting.  That turnover is also a sign that you should be wary about applying for a job with any organization that has a lot of jobs posted.  Here are some other ways you can tell if a job posting is worth responding to:

  1. Real People?: Check their website and social media presences for photos of actual, real people (look in the “About” section for bios).  It’s a Red Flag if they don’t have any or if the people listed aren’t visible in the community.
  2. Cool Clients?: Do they talk about “Sports Marketing,” “Entertainment Industry,” “Fashion Marketing,” “Fortune 500,” or other really desirable industries that seem too good to be true? – Red Flag: they probably are.
  3. Suspicious Words?: Does the job description use terms like “Entry Level,” “Fast-Paced,” “Competitive Environment,” “No Experience Needed,” “Rapid Advancement,”  or “High Energy.”  Guess what? – “Red Flag!”
  4. Degree Required?: Does the job require a bachelor’s degree?  If not – it’s a Red Flag.
  5. Do They Rank?: Search for the company name in your local business publications (for example the Grand Rapids Business Journal, MiBiz or Rapid Growth) – have they made any lists?  Are there any profiles of their executives or employees?  If not – that’s a Red Flag.
  6. Stock Photography?: Is their website covered with stock photography? – Red Flag.  [If you’re not sure if the photography is stock, try opening a separate browser window and opening Google Images – then drag the image from the website over to the Google Images search bar.  That will do a search for images like that one, and if you turn up a bunch of identical results of the same photo used on other sites it’s most likely stock.]
  7. Registered?: Check your local County Registrar or the Michigan State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (DLEG) – they will allow you to search for people who have applied for DBA record (“Doing Business As”).  Most, like Kent County, have an online search feature. This can tell you who is behind the company and much more about them – particularly the State of Michigan DLEG directory; it contains the company’s annual report and incorporation documents (watch for companies where the same person holds all of the offices – ie President, Secretary, Treasurer, Director).  Not listed? – Red Flag.
  8. Boilerplate Copy?: Find what appears to be a unique string of text somewhere in their website (usually from the “About” section) and search for it in quotes in Google.  When the results come back, if you see the exact same string of text in multiple other websites – you’ll know they’re not legit.  Note: Google will sometimes omit similar results – so you may need to click the “repeat the search with the omitted results included” link. If you find matches, it’s a Red Flag.
  9. Linkedin?: Look for a company on Linkedin.  They should have a company page (especially if they’re a marketing, advertising or public relations firm).  If they don’t have one, Red Flag.  If they DO have one, you can use it to get more intel on the company: if you view a company page and click “Insights,” it will give you a wealth of data.  You can find out who some former employees are (so you can look up their work history or perhaps even contact them to get insight on how it was working there), who some current employees are, what similar companies people also search for, and the most common places their employees came from.
  10. Lots of Jobs?: Search for the company on job websites (I recommend Indeed.com, which is right now by far the best job website).  If they have a LOT of positions posted and yet they’re small enough that you’ve never heard of them, that should be a big Red Flag.  Just look, for example, at how many positions Xcell Enterprizes is trying to fill (and the variety of titles).
  11. Irrational Exuberance?: Exclamation! points! are! a! Red Flag!!!  The more a job description uses, the more likely it’s not something you’re looking for.

Let me reiterate that I have no problems with sales jobs.  What I have a problem with is falsely advertising a sales job as something it’s not (ie public relations, marketing or advertising).

Contrary to what companies like Prestige/Xcell claim, these “entry level” jobs will not give you experience that is transferable to a career in marketing/advertising/PR.  They won’t build your skills, give you relevant experience, and any hiring manager worth his/her salt can see through the title to discern that the job you came from was in sales.

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Go Ahead, Get At Me – Tech and the Blurred Lines Between Advertising, Marketing And Public Relations

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The Blurred Lines of Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing

As far as I can tell, the major factor that helped keep communications disciplines like advertising and PR separate was the fact that one had to work through the mass media to get messages out.  On the advertising side, there was the complex process of media buying from hundreds if not thousands of media outlets.  On the PR side, there was a similarly complex process of establishing relationships with a vast array of journalists.

No longer.

The rise of digital has accelerated the pace at which communications efforts are integrating, to the point of almost being indistinguishable.  Here’s how this reality has manifested itself:

Pay Per Click

John Wanamaker famously said “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”  Now we can track a customer all the way from clicking on an ad through shopping on a website to the final purchase (and beyond, with the proper customer engagement system in place).  Nationwide advertising campaigns used to only be something the largest brands could afford.  Small businesses were relegated to the yellow pages, local weekly papers, and high school athletics programs.

As Chris Anderson wrote: “What matters is not where customers are, or even how many of them are seeking a particular [product], but only that some number of them exist, anywhere.”

Now that anyone can advertise to anyone at an affordable price simply by filling out the equivalent of an intelligent online form, it’s reducing the need for specialization and expertise.  Over the past few months alone, Facebook has made dramatic changes to its advertising platform to simplify the process to the point where even a novice can run a competent digital ad campaign (with A/B testing no less!)  Both Facebook and Google have robust educational resources (from chats to webinars to tutorials) so that anyone can learn how to advertise.

Everyone Needs Creative

Decades ago, it only made sense to pay for high-quality photography or video if you had the budget to pay to have them viewed.  This usually meant traditional advertising campaigns with big budgets.  Digital has rendered this paradigm obsolete.  Public Relations pros, used to relying on the written word and some well-placed phone calls, are now finding themselves pressed for content to fill the insatiable newsfeeds of their clients.

Better cross-train.

No matter who you are, if you work in a communications-related discipline it is now your duty to be able to produce visual content.  Photos, illustrations, infographics, videos, vines – you’ll need them all to help tell your company’s story in a fashion compatible with the media-rich, attention-poor sea we all swim in.  “Creatives” are still important – but the economics of marketing/advertising/pr today mean that they can’t be the only producers of visual media.  So voracious is the public’s appetite for new and original visuals that we need to train ourselves to see every meeting, visit, tour or walk down the hall as a time to keep our eyes open for what could turn into the next tweet or YouTube upload.

Understand IP Law

Another reason it’s important to produce your own original content is that it’s so easy to take what someone else has produced and share it as your own.  This is verboten, however, unless you do it within the carefully-prescribed parameters of the Intellectual Property (IP) law (something PR people had little occasion to worry about in the past).  You need to know what is “fair use” – and beyond that – what is fair play (even if you’re not risking a lawsuit, your actions could risk the reputation of your organization).

When you need a visual, fight the urge to type ‘images.google.com’ and bogart something from there for your next blog post.  Even if you’re web-savvy and know to click the “Search Tools” box and specify “labeled for commercial reuse with modification” under “usage rights” – you could still run afoul of copyright trolling law firms tossing out demand letters like singles at a strip club.  You don’t know that the person who uploaded that image and gave it a Creative Commons license actually owned it in the first place.  You can’t even trust the royalty-free stock image websites – colleagues of mine have been shocked to find that some of those services steal images and leave users to suffer the legal consequences when the actual owners find the unauthorized use.

Turnkey Visual Production

Even the highly-technical field of video production is changing at the hands of the blurring effects of tech.  Here there are two factors at play:

  1. The Public’s Changing Appetite: Viewers (particularly younger ones) no longer require that everything they watch be well-produced.  Tastes are changing as a result of the democractizing effects of social media.  In some cases, a piece of video that is too slickly-produced can actually have an undermining effect.  A similar phenomenon happened with the advent of digital music storage formats (particularly MP3): teens have grown to prefer the crispy, tinny quality of compressed digital music over the warm sound of analog records that are prized by audiophiles.
  2. An Explosion of Automated Tools: One no longer needs thousands of dollars of equipment and software to produce visuals worth sharing.  YouTube offers free tools to correct and enhance video (and it even automatically detects and alerts users to possible problems).  Easy-to-use apps and software will bundle images with pretty transitions and set them to music.  Google+ is earning praise for its “Auto Awesome” tool which magically improves images and even bundles them into a multimedia experience.

SEO and Two-Way Communication

PR pros aren’t the only group displaced by this shift in how we produce and consume media; on the flip side of the equation marketers and advertisers are being confronted with the need to up their game with respect to writing and relationship-building (traditionally the wheelhouse of PR).  No one will watch a gorgeous video or view an amazing graphic if they’re not properly described and tagged so they can be indexed by the massive social media machines whose algorithms determine what we see recommended in our newsfeeds.  Further, it used to be that you aired an ad and the only feedback you might get was an industry award or write-up in a media trade column – but now every company is confronted with instantaneous feedback in the form of likes and comments.  Responding to the “trampling herd” can be critical to the success of a campaign.

To some, all of this change comes as a crushing blow.  Unfortunately decades of specialized expertise and experience are being rendered irrelevant.  I sympathize with them, but in the end all of this is for the better.  Now you get to use virtually all of your ideas – the barriers to executing them are much lower.  Moreover organizations that have always had stifling budget limitations have a new universe of opportunities to connect with stakeholders (look no further than the power granted to animal rescues that have harnessed the photo-sharing abilities of Facebook to find adoptive homes for previously-unwanted pets – something they couldn’t do if they had to do ad buys in newspapers or on TV).

Onward and upward.

Sales Jobs Falsely Positioned as Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising (An Update)

October 17, 2013 2 comments

Earlier I wrote about some companies in the West Michigan area that attempt to recruit young professionals into direct sales jobs by positioning those jobs as careers in advertising, marketing and public relations.  To clarify my position – I have nothing against sales as a vocation.  I have family members and friends that work in sales.  What I take issue with is recruiting people under false pretenses.  Though Sales and Marketing work hand-in-hand, saying a job in Sales is the same as a job in Marketing is like saying a Comptroller is the same as a Firefighter.

“Marketing” is a word that has been bastardized (and is frequently used interchangeably with Public Relations and Advertising).  True “marketing” requires that an organization have control of the “Marketing Mix” or the “Four P’s”: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.   Direct sellers do not control any of those things (save occasionally the promotion).

If anyone is unclear on the difference between Sales and Marketing, here’s an excerpt from an article by Dorie Clark in the Harvard Business Review that outlines the larger difference:

“Recognize the difference between marketing and sales. There’s often a lot of confusion about marketing and sales. Indeed, many executives have both in their titles — where does one discipline end and the other begin? Here’s my quick definition: marketing is what you do to make clients come to you, while sales is about you reaching out to them and closing the deal. They’re both important and complementary — the former is longer-term and creates a valuable pipeline for the coming months and years; the latter is what’s going to help you make payroll next week. Ideally, your company should have a strong mix of both to keep your cash flow balanced; if not, you’re going to have to adjust accordingly.” – (2012), “Marketing for the Extremely Shy,” Harvard Business Review 

In a more specific, occupational sense, jobs in Advertising/PR/Marketing almost universally require college degrees whereas jobs in Sales almost universally do not.

Why this practice concerns me is that it stands to negatively affect the careers of young professionals.  This entry level work in sales will not readily translate into experience that a future employer at an actual Marketing, Advertising or PR agency would value in a hiring decision.

Here are a sampling of some misleading job descriptions I was just able to find today with a quick Google search, including jobs from another company I haven’t seen before falsely selling itself as doing “marketing” – T.E.M. Inc.  :

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Other companies that fit this model include:

– Craig James, Inc. (Glassdoor Reviews)
– Prospect Solutions, Inc (Glassdoor Reviews)
– MLM Sports Marketing
– Excel Enterprises
– Excel Marketing
– Eminence Management

When is a Marketing Job Not a Marketing Job? – At Grand Marketing / Cohesion Inc / [Future Name Here]

July 23, 2013 18 comments

I feel an obligation to protect the students that I teach and mentor.  Whenever possible, I try to steer them away from mistakes I’ve made or lend them some of the limited wisdom I’ve acquired in nearly two decades of being a professional.

The latest effort to help students and young professionals out is advising them to stay away from “Cohesion, Inc.” (formerly “Grand Marketing”), “Prestige Enterprises,” and other similar companies, which are essentially door-to-door sales or telemarketing jobs falsely promoted as jobs in marketing, advertising or public relations.

These companies target college students and 20-somethings with promises of jobs in marketing and advertising, when what they really offer is commission-based sales.  They claim to represent companies in the “Sports” and “Fashion” fields because they know these industries are top targets of young professionals.  In reality, students end up selling undesirable products (like health supplements) and work on commission – and often they’re set up as multi-level marketing operations (ie pyramid schemes).

In doing some digging, it appears that many of these companies are all franchises of Cydcor (the Mother Ship). Their entry on PissedOffConsumer spells out many of the same complaints that others have had.  The parent company, be it Cydcor or some other group, provides the franchisees with canned website copy and direction on how to set up their business (which makes them all easy to spot – see below).

Fortunately social media gives former employees and interviewees a way to share information about the deception with others, resulting in this long entry about Grand Marketing / Cohesion at PissedOffConsumer.com.  In fact, social media could be what drove the company to switch names as the negative reviews rank higher than the actual company website in Google search results:

Grand Marketing Google Results

Another company of the same variety in Grand Rapids has come to my attention: Prestige Enterprises Inc.  They appear to be the same type of operation, as the copy from their website shows up on the sites of dozens of other similar “marketing” companies around the country.  I took a unique phrase from the websites of Cohesion and Prestige and googled it – these are the results (so either they’re all plagiarists, or they all are using the same website template):

These companies also share similar Facebook page characteristics (inspirational quote photos – some even use the same ones, group photos, and a “careers” page that links to the Jobcast recruiting app).

Prestige Alpha Comparison

Impulse Adamant Comparison

These companies are starting to get more savvy about how they recruit, as they’re realizing that people are figuring them out.  They’ve even started to infiltrate the job boards at colleges and universities (so you can’t even trust that those have been vetted properly, a fact I was disappointed to find out).  Moreover, Cohesion appears to be trying to get out in front of the negative reviews, and mysteriously a couple of rave reviews have shown up on the company’s Glassdoor.com page (and somehow the same photos from their Facebook page are uploaded to the Glassdoor profile on the same day as one of the reviews):

Cohesion Similar Pics

As many young professionals need to be warned about these deceptive outfits as possible – so if you’ve had a bad experience with a company like this, post a review to Glassdoor.com, RipOffReport.com, or PissedOffConsumer.com, or give us their name here. If you’ve received a job offer from a company you’re suspicious of, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help you do background research on them to see if they’re legitimate or not.  If you want to do your own research, here are some tips:

How to Tell if a Company is Really a Marketing / Advertising / Public Relations Firm

  1. Check their website and social media presences for photos of actual, real people.  Most of these companies rely heavily on stock photography (because real photography of real people is expensive or time-consuming to produce).  If they do have photos of “real” people – they’ll typically be large group photos which make it appear like there are more people working there than actually are.
  2. Do they talk about “Sports Marketing,” “Fashion Marketing,” or other really desirable industries that seem too good to be true? – They probably are.
  3. Search for the company name in your local business publications (for example the Grand Rapids Business Journal, MiBiz or Rapid Growth) – have they made any lists?  Are there any profiles of their executives or employees?  If not – that’s a red flag.
  4. Check your local County Registrar or the Michigan State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (DLEG) – they will allow you to search for people who have applied for DBA record (“Doing Business As”).  Most, like Kent County, have an online search feature. This can tell you who is behind the company and much more about them – particularly the State of Michigan DLEG directory; it contains the company’s annual report and incorporation documents (watch for companies where the same person holds all of the offices – ie President, Secretary, Treasurer, Director).
  5. Find what appears to be a unique string of text somewhere in their website (usually from the “About” section) and search for it in quotes in Google.  When the results come back, if you see the exact same string of text in multiple other websites – you’ll know they’re not legit.  Note: Google will sometimes omit similar results – so you may need to click the “repeat the search with the omitted results included” link.
  6. Look for a company on Linkedin.  They should have a company page (especially if they’re a marketing, advertising or public relations firm).  If they don’t have one, red flag.  If they DO have one, you can use it to get more intel on the company: if you view a company page and click “Insights,” it will give you a wealth of data.  You can find out who some former employees are (so you can look up their work history or perhaps even contact them to get insight on how it was working there), who some current employees are, what similar companies people also search for, and the most common places their employees came from.
  7. Search for the company on job websites (I recommend Indeed.com, which is right now by far the best job website).  If they have a LOT of positions posted and yet they’re small enough that you’ve never heard of them, that should be a big red flag.  Just look, for example, at how many positions Prestige Enterprises is trying to fill (and the variety of titles).

Google Needs to Offer a Social Media Monitoring Service

July 9, 2013 3 comments

Google's Index of the Web vs. Social Media Monitoring Tools

Radian6, Cision, Wildfire, SocialRadar, Trackur, Alterian SM2, Sysomos, Lithium, Viralheat, Brandwatch, UberVU, Trendrr, Trackur …  all good tools with rich featuresets and analytical capabilities.  They all have one problem, however.

They’re not Google.

No matter which tool you go with for social media monitoring, it inevitably cannot index as much of the web as Google, which currently has over 3.65 billion pages.  Some do an admirable job attempting to keep up by buying access to other indexes of web and social content – but that still isn’t complete and worse, it adds a delay to the process of merging the two databases.  As any social media manager will tell you – delays are something they can ill afford.

This missing data causes three major problems:

First, important mentions can be missed (or not accessed in a timely fashion).

Second, the archives are incomplete – looking at the present is a primary concern but historical data can be important as well.

Third, the analytics generated by the expensive social media monitoring platforms aren’t accurate; worse, they seem to get progressively less accurate as the size of the brand decreases.  If you’re Coca-Cola you’re okay, but this is a huge problem for most of the brands my colleagues and I work with which are primarily local in nature (which means they have a far smaller footprint online).

Despite their best efforts, none of these tools will ever be able to match Google’s prowess for indexing the increasing vastness of the web in real-time.  So Google needs to offer a social media monitoring service – and I would welcome one even if it had a pricetag as hefty as the aforementioned tools (some of which have a BASE price of $500/month).

Tapping Google’s enormous reserves of indexed content is even more difficult now that the search giant has eliminated RSS feeds for Google Alerts when it discontinued Google Reader, and now limits them only to searches of Google News.  All of the conversation about the “death of Google Reader” and subsequent scramble for alternatives has so far almost completely missed this critical detail which is, for my money, far more important.

I just went through the arduous process of reformatting a hundred or so RSS feeds I had built using Google Alerts because they’re no longer active.  Transitioning them to Google News RSS feeds is okay, but my understanding is that it won’t capture nearly as many mentions as a general Google Search.  Google even says as much here in outlining its standards for being included in the Google News index.

I completely understand the need to eliminate content that is not worthy of being considered “news” from the index, but the problem is that social media managers need to be aware of ALL mentions of their company/clients – not just the high-quality ones.

Google is well-positioned to offer this sort of service; they already have the data, they’re excellent at building easy-to-use interfaces, they’re excellent at providing analytics, and they’re well trusted.  I doubt we’ll ever see this service, but I’ll continue to dream anyway.