Saturday, January 24, 2004

Wankstas - is this what PR has become?

Looking for the next Samantha Jones ... is how a recent posting on HotJobs characterized public relations.

Great - just what public relations, and it's sibling publicity, needs. A firm that DOES recruiting for PR to ask for the next Samantha Jones. Like our industry does not have enough trouble with credibility issues, here's a firm that should know better than to refer to the business, in a nutshell, as a tradeshow booth babes, and their ilk.

I've worked with publicists, and just like PR is not a glorious job, publicity is even worse. As stressful public relations is, publicity is stressful with unappreciative and abusive clients, with worse pay.

The problem is worse, though, as there are kids entering college that go into public relations, believing that they are going to become the next Samantha Jones. Ask anyone in public relations or publicity (yes, they are different), and the job is not glamorous, and star-filled. Public relations is a career full of long hours, lots of stress, and from what publicists have told me about their side, even more of a 24 hour job since clients will call you all times of the day (and night).

Shame, shame on this recruiting firm, looking for wankstas for PR jobs, when we need more gangsta stars.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Best PR Firm in Arizona

It seems that the New York Times picked up on an old search engine trick in their article: Engineering Google Results to Make a Political Point.

While playing with search engine results is not new, it does bring up some food for thought for public relations professionals - what do you do if your client is the culprit of Google search results?

In the past, France came under attack during the start of Gulf War II. When someone Googled French Military Victories in the Google search engine, you came back with did you mean "french military defeats". Other examples include the current president as "miserable failure" or weapons of mass destruction as "cannot be displayed" or "cannot be found".

Probably the most mainstream undertaking has been against Senator Rick Santorum, by sex columnist Dan Savage and his many readers. He held a contest on what the name Santorum should stand for, and soon thereafter, his contest came to an end, and Rick's last name came to be the byproduct of a certain sexual act - WARNING: not for the faint of heart.

What could a corporation do if a group of people with an ax to grind decides to start Google bombing a former company, or a competitor? What if Shutterfly Google bombed Ofoto with second-rate prints? What does an internal team do then? How does an internal team combat such search engine results.

Granted, such a possibility is small, but there are always disgruntled ex-employees, mischievous engineers at competitors, and the like.

I decided to start some Google bombing, though, with POP! Public Relations - so click on "best PR firm in Arizona" to help me out ...

Monday, January 19, 2004

Eric B is President ...

And my name is Rakim.

Tonight, the Iowa Caucus happened. I guess that really is the best way to put it - it just happened, and the results were somewhat surprising, with a huge showing by John "Woody" Kerry and John "Second-Coming-of-Clinton" Edwards, and a moderate showing by Howard "Gore and Bradley Endorsed Me" Dean. General Wesley "the Bee" Clark didn't run in Iowa, but is putting his power behind the first primary in New Hampshire - which will be his big litmus test.

Living in Arizona, I get to vote pretty early in a primary, and had already made a choice of three candidates. I had called all three candidates, and learned something in the process.

You are only as good as your volunteers.

This is an important message - which is also a good one for public relations firms, like POP! Public Relations - you are only as good as your employees and interns.

One more time - you are only as good as your volunteers (or employees, interns, administrative staff).

This really hit home when I called the three candidates' offices for the 30-second elevator pitch and a few questions.

The first office I called was Edwards - the man made a great jump in Iowa - and his staff member was well-spoken, and knew what Edwards stances were on different positions. And, when he did not know the answer to a question, he put me on hold and got back to me immediately, reading from the position paper. THAT'S a good volunteer.

When I called the Howard Dean office, the response to the elevator pitch was that Bill Bradley and Al Gore had endorsed the candidate. The volunteer - who sounded like the prototypical Gen Y Dean supporter - did not understand that that was no real answer, and he was proud of it. When asked for different positions that Dean supported, he could not give me any answers and did not think to look for the position papers ... that tend to be next to the phone.

Oh, and VERY cocky of Howard Dean winning the presidential race - forget the Democratic nomination, but they were soooo cocksure that they were going to win.

The third was Wesley Clark - very well-run office of volunteers, that grabbed the spokesperson when they were not sure of the answer. You could tell that the operation was being run like a military operation - everyone was in his place, they deferred to higher ranking officials, and very crisp and clean.

Tonight, after the Iowa results came out, I was speaking with Ben Silverman, a reporter and pundit. Ben had a great point, that fits into the volunteer aspect of the Dean campaign that didn't sit well with me. His comment was that "Dean has built a power base among young, white liberals who feel "empowered" by technology... they're educated and dislike the system, and not exactly big fans of capitalism... you don't win elections with that powerbase... he's going to get his ass kicked in the South, Midwest and Rust Belt. he has no clue how to reach voters who actually work for a living."

Sorta glad that I called 6 months ago that Edwards would get the nomination, after I read the profile of him in the New Yorker. And, glad I made a $50 bet that Dean wouldn't get the nomination.

Tonight's music is from the inestimable Eric B and Rakim ... because Eric B is President.

You must learn ... as PR Week updates its site

PR Week unveils a new PRWeek.com, to offer up-to-date news items to its readers, and offers a free news-service for non-subscribers.

An interesting move, and one that seems to show that PR Week is going to go head-to-head with the ubiquitous O'Dwyer Website.

This should be fun - the fight of the daily updates between PR Week and O'Dwyer's. If you've watched the fight - and there does seem to be some bad blood between the two publications - they both offer online resources and their print editions. I subscribe to O'Dwyer online, and then get PR Week at home.

Still debating it, so no comments.

If Jack is smart, he'll take this as a wake-up call to update his 1970's look Website. The O'Dwyer site breaks a lot of stories, but it looks dated. If PR Week does its site right, they can finally battle O'Dwyer's on an even keel.

Let's see how this one plays out ... but I hope Jack and John see this as a shot across the O'Dwyer bow and get to battle stations and change the site.

Music from Boogie Down Productions - and a double-entendre. You must learn for the public relations community, as it now has two good news sources. You must learn to O'Dwyer folks, to update the look. As we all know, it's all about appearance.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Follow the Leader - Part Two of the 2004 Predictions ...

As noted earlier, POP! Public Relations had been interviewed for its views on 2004 predictions for agencies, and for the media.

The first part of the interview was about freelancers. Whilst in my Kodak days, and then my Ofoto days, the reviewers tended to be freelancers. And, I keep in contact with many of them - particularly one that I speak to on a monthly basis. He gives me good industry information, I give him magazine launch information and contact numbers, and we talk about people we know, and what they are up to.

One of the things he brought up was that while all these magazines seem to be launching, they don't actually seem to be hiring. It might be a different scenario in other media cities - he's in the Bay Area, which still hasn't fully recovered - but he pontificated that he and his media friends have not heard of job openings, but a lot more freelancing opportunities.

While this may bode well for work, it is the media companies way to take the cheap route - with freelancers, there's no benefits to worry about, so the companies save money.

Tom over at PR Opinions also discussed the freelancing phenomenon in his 2004 predictions.

And, this loops back into the other discussion of small versus large agencies - it's all about the Rolodexes. When I was at Ofoto, I was at the advantage against my competitors. I knew the freelancers, the pundits, the evangelists because I had their contact information. These are people that tend NOT to be in Bacon's or MediaMap (one and the same now, huh?) but are found through years of contacts and work. Small agencies have those years under their belts, while the turnover at large agencies have those media lists and Rolodexes disappear, along with the built-up knowledge in the executives' heads.

The other media that I spoke about was ... blogging. While I blog, I blog for a small audience - at least, I think it's a small audience. But, blogging has become way too self-congratulatory. The best example I can think of comes from a reporter (yes, he blogs) that bloggers can pat themselves on the back all they want for breaking news stories, but until the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or Washington Post pick up the story, its just blogging on the Web. Yes, Matt Drudge (who is, in essence, another blogger) did break stories on Clinton, but if his news wasn’t picked up by the mainstream press, it would have stayed on his Website.

The best example of the blogging versus print is Trent Lott. While bloggers like to point out that they brought him down, nothing happened during the months of blogging about his comments at Strom Thurmond's birthday party ... until the mainstream print press picked up the story. Did the bloggers help bring it to the attention of the mainstream press? Indubitably. But, it was still the power of the printed newspaper that led to Lott's downfall.

Plus, what is the audience of the blog? Is it mainstream consumers - the people that public relations professionals want to reach with their products and services - or other bloggers? A recent post from Elizabeth Spiers, puts it perfectly with 7 people all posting the same thing about Outkast. It's the same circle of blogging that the Washington Post wrote about, as noted in Spiers piece.

I did compare blogs to influencers / evangelists, though, for public relations. These include Gizmodo, Digital Photography Review, plus other sites. With Digital Photography Review, you know you are hitting the digital camera enthusiasts, and Phil's site is often referred to in mainstream press as a great resource for all things digicams.

I thought a good tongue-in-cheek title would be Eric B and Rakim's Follow the Leader.

GASP! Oscar movie finds itself online ... by itself!

The Los Angeles Times today has a story on the Oscar movies finding their way online ...

Gasp!!

It's quite an interesting story - but not a surprising one.

I visited New York when I was in my early 20's, I met a woman who worked for a couple of Oscar voters. Back then - before the day of DVDs and P2P networks - she would loan the movies to her friends to watch, and maybe dub.

In other words, the eBaying and Sharing of the Oscar movies - which tend to still be in the theaters at the time the DVDs are sent out to the Oscar voters - has been going on, but it's just more advanced. This isn't new, it's just that there is a bigger audience that it is now reaching.

One thing that is impressive is how quickly the Oscars have responded to the problem, and the safeguards they had in place. The movies were encoded with tags that let the Oscars know where the tapes came from. No, surprisingly, blow-ups by the MPAA on the evilness of file-sharing, or how it's going to be the end of movies as we know it. Wait, though, because Valenti said the same thing about VCRs.

Right now, though, it's being handled quite well - there has been a link, indubitably assistants will be fired, but it's been hopefully contained.

Jack the Ripper - get it, ripping DVDs?!? - seemed fitting. Plus, it's LL Cool James, and the ladies love cool James.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

On the Point

POP! Public Relations was recently interviewed by O'Dwyer's to give its views and 2004 predictions for the state of public relations and the state of editorial.

It was an interesting interview, and gave me some time to give my views on the state of the industry, and what POP! Public Relations believes 2004 will bring to the industry. The article should be coming out this week, but I wanted to go into my theories a bit, and talk about my views.

What I first talked about was that 2004 is going to be the age of the small and medium sized agency, as compared to the larger agencies. Part of my reasoning is that many of the large firms concentrated so much on media relations, that they ignored the public relations generalist - quick , guess which one I fancy myself to be - that is able to pitch media, write and do strategy and tactics. With the large agencies slowly becoming media pitching machines, and clients wanting strategy and tactics to better target media, the smaller agencies would be able to provide what the larger agencies no longer could.

I went into what I call the "Arnold Effect."

During his gubernatorial campaign, Governor Arnold reached out to local papers, and undertook a grass roots campaign, which could be applied to any public relations campaign. Small to medium sized firms are better suited to local, grass roots campaigns, as they are more apt to look at the larger picture and realize that it's not just about the large hits, but about messaging and wider range of the public. Hence, they work with the smaller, local media.

With the Arnold Effect, it was more about the local paper than the regional paper. And, smaller firms have the experience with both the national dailies, as well as the grass roots experience with the smaller dailies.

Another benefit with the smaller and medium-sized firm is that it's impossible for junior people to hide their phone phobias. Once again, as it has been noted before, the era of the phone is back – or never really left.

Smaller firms have the flexibility, and smaller support staff, to be able to provide the same quality as large firms, but at a more cost-conscious pricing structure. With lower overhead and possible willingness to bill less per hour, plus usually the same tools as the large conglomerates, the smaller and medium-sized firms can provide the same public relations as the larger firms.

A fitting title for pontificating from QTip and A Tribe Called Quest's Check the Rhime, as it's always on point, tip.

More on Fred ...

The Mercury News had a very nice piece on Fred Hoar today, and the standing-room-only memorial service.

While I was unable to make it out to the funeral, I did have a few friends that went and said it was a fitting tribute to a man that was so loved by so many. The place was packed, a testament to a man that went beyond just being an employer to many in the Bay Area.

It was very fitting that the column ended with Jocelyn, his daughter. Whenever I spoke with Fred, I always asked about his daughter because I knew how much she meant to him. When I worked with Fred, his eyes would light up when he talked about her, and you could just tell that she was daddy's little girl.

O'Dwyer's also had some nice comments on their article, and the ubiquitous FRED joke ...

Jim L (1/09):
Here was a guy who defined the best in our business for decades on end - he was thoughtful, shrewd, and effective. Through it all, he really was a nice guy.


Jeff (1/06):
Fred is one of the few people from my class at Miller that could smile on the fact that he was a PR man with the last name Hoar.

Jeremy Pepper (1/06):
Fred was one of those public relations people you actually enjoyed working for, and working with. A great boss, a great man, a great thinker.

I was lucky to work with him a little while as an intern, and kept in contact with him through the years. He will truly be missed by all those that knew him.

Shandwickian (1/06):
I had the pleasure of knowing Fred for nearly two decades. He was always mobbed at conferences and events by tech PR people like myself looking for tales of kicking off Apple or the million other projects he was involved in through the Valley. Cheers, Fred.

Retired Rick (1/06):
Fred was an icon and will be missed for the trail he blazed in tech PR. "It's spelled F-R-E-D"

Monday, January 05, 2004

It's Spelled F R E D

A good friend, a great public relations professional, a great adviser and mentor has passed away.

Fred Hoar - spelled F.R.E.D as he joked - passed away on Friday. So far the Mercury News has a small obit but Fred was the man that launched the Lisa at Apple, worked at Fairchild Semi, was one of the original tech pundits, was a man that knew no boundaries, always had a piece of advice for younger practitioners, was just a great man.

My first internship was at Miller/Shandwick Technologies in Mountain View. The office was in the dog building, on Castro Street, and I got to work on Philips Semiconductor and then Compaq Computer - two great clients for an intern. When I switched to Compaq, my hours became odd late night shift, from noon to 8 PM, with an hour for lunch.

My other late-night mentor, and pizza buddy, at M/ST was Tricia Heinrich; Trish is a wonderful person and great PR practitioner, who I still tease about being too nice in a field that can be quite political and is full of backstabbing and credit taking. Tricia was the first executive - she was a VP at M/ST - that sent me a 'nice job' fax during the National Semiconductor / Cyrix merger. She was the first to commend me for my work, while she was on the road, and I had no real guidance. I bet she doesn't remember that, but until recently I had kept that fax in my clip book (okay, in the shuffle of moving, I can't find that box). Now, if she'd only fire her current agency and hire POP! Public Relations!

Being at the office with my late hours, I got to build a great relationship with Fred. That, plus being a Michigander seemed to endear me to Fred as Fred used to live in Birmingham during his career - I can't remember where, though.

Fred was a go-getter, a total PR mensch who held late night hours. While faxing off documents to M/ST Singapore, I began to develop a friendship with Fred, who began advising me on my public relations career, offering help and advice to land a full-time job. When I got my offer in Los Angeles, I also had an offer in Houston and a pending offer in San Francisco. Someone kept putting internal emails on my chair before I came in - I always suspected it was Fred pushing me to take LA - and when I did get the LA offer, I asked him what to do with the firm in the City. Fred's answer was classic Fred, but very helpful nonetheless: Fuck 'em, they aren't that good.

With those words, I took the job in Los Angeles, keeping in contact with Fred throughout the years. When I started POP! Public Relations, I asked Fred to be part of my advisory board. Even though he was sick, he said he would love to help me out. That's Fred in a nutshell. If he liked you and respected you, he helped you out and went out of his way to help you out.

One of the things that sticks in my mind with Fred was that he respected intelligence, while quietly tolerating idiocy. More and more, though, the idiocy seemed to be creeping into public relations, and I could just see Fred wince at what I would read on O'Dwyer's or in PR Week.

A few Fredisms that I have, and still use to this day, is that "advertising is pay for play, while public relations is pray for play" and that "public relations has 7 times the reach of advertising, while advertising costs 7 times as much as public relations" - both maxims that are good to remember.

Plus, Fred always was sweet and nice to everyone he worked with, from the top corporate officers to all levels of reporters, to his public relations colleagues, as well as the interns, and to receptionists and everyone in between. Fred realized that public relations is about more than just media relations, but about dealing with all levels of the public. And, that's what I try to remember when I work.

I spoke to Fred last week, after XMas but prior to the New Years. I wanted to touch base, see how he was feeling, and try to make it out to the Bay to see him.

Update: Mercury News wrote a full obit today.

Listen to Lee Bang

The recent WSJ column by Lee Gomes - who is always a prognosticator, always an educator, just like KRS-One! - has some very interesting comments for his 2004 outlook on technology.

My first thought reading the column was what public relations person pissed in his Cheerios? The column, one of his best, is filled with a bit of venom. But, as venomous as it might be, it's venom that is rightfully spewed out to the Silicon Valley pundits.

I have my own thoughts on what he wrote, and more to add to his column. Social networking is cool, but come on, whatever happened to the phone? Are people that afraid to meet others that they have to sit by a desktop or notebook computer and meet people only online? A friend's company, TotalMass, is developing some great social networking tools, but their differentiator is that they are mobile - you aren't tied down like a hermit in your office or home, but can meet and network while you are living your life.

The funniest comment, though, has to be Gomes comment on blogging, and who's left to blog. In a recent interview with O'Dwyer's, the publication asked for my forecasts for the 2004 PR economy and editorial changes. I noted that bloggers are important, but not as self-important as they believe. Every hardcore blogger points to the Trent Lott story: if Bloggers didn't keep harpinig on Lott's comments, he'd still be in office. If the mainstream press didn't pick up on the story, it would have never really been a story.

The title today is a rip off of the KRS One / Boogie Down Production's 9mm Goes Bang since Lee is going off on the hype industry today.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Microphone Fiend

A great piece in The New Yorker, a critique written by Louis Menand on two recent books that examine the Kennedy and Nixon eras in the United States.

The article examines the use of image, and one of the interesting points made is from an observation by University of Chicago historian, Daniel Boorstin.

His argument was that the rise of mechanical means of communication and reproduction—the telegraph, photography, the high-speed printing press, radio, television—and the subsequent emergence of media “sciences,” such as advertising and public relations, had produced a culture of what he called “pseudo-events,” events that are neither real nor illusory, neither genuine nor fake, like, he said, the Kennedy-Nixon debates.

Boorstin believed that date - the advent of PR and communication - went back to the 19th century and the "graphic revolution" that began the age of the celebrity, someone known for being known.

In essence, though, the current era of public relations and advertising can be traced to the Nixon - Kennedy debates. Kennedy understood the nature of the soundbite, the public image, while Kennedy was surrounded by ad men and understood the nature of appearance - sometimes too well, and too well scripted.

That's not nearly the whole article - and there's some more great tidbits and ideas that were presented in the books critiqued by Menand.

Both Nixon and Kennedy, in their own way, were "microphone fiends," borrowing a phrase from a somewhat fitting title - Eric B. and Rakim.