Saturday, May 29, 2004

Using work email for personal reasons ...

The New York Times always has a few interesting tech pieces, and Jennifer 8 Lee has her share of them. And, this recent article, A BlackBerry Throbs, and a Wonk Has a Date is some great positioning and a great hit for RIM and its Blackberry products. But, while reading the article, one thought was running through my mind: what are these people thinking?!

We have all read stories of people being fired for using work emails for person fun - or work time for blogging or using work computers for who only knows. So, well, this is easy to figure out who is using their work hardware and software for personal reasons - and we'll know who will be fired on Monday morning.

I really couldn't believe that these people were readily interviewed by the NYT - it was like a big sign saying "yep, using my work Blackberry to try to hook up with others."

One of the first things I learned when I started in public relations was that work email is for work, and if you want to send out a personal email, you use Hotmail or Yahoo - remember, this is when those two services started out. Even though I'm the president/founder of POP! Public Relations, I still use my Hotmail account for my personal emails.

Or, if you are going to use work time for personal stuff, at least hide it better and don't broadcast it in a national newspaper....

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Cookie Cutter PR

I practice PR in an interesting city. There are tons of PR boutiques in metro Phoenix, with even more partnered up with advertising / marketing firms. Mostly, though, it seems to be people that think public relations is easy and not something that you need to learn from experience or schooling ... the "our clients are asking for it, so let's start a PR program!" mindset.

Currently, a friend of mine who is a morning producer at the local CBS affiliate is doing media relations for such a firm ... one morning, the owner decided to start doing PR. You know, it's soooooo easy.

It's the same for PR in a Box - you know, since PR is the same for every product / corporation in the world, you can cookie cutter the programs. While reading my local business section - it's a 2 minute bathroom read of 4 pages - I read about a local Internet strategy firm launching a public relations service line.

It always amazes me that people think they can just launch a PR service because they know a little something about PR. Granted, the person leading the service for i-Ology does have some good credentials. But, isn't this devaluing public relations, making it seem cookie cutter?

Every time POP! Public Relations takes on a client or gets a call for new business, my team and I do research on the space, look at the current and past media from the client, find out what the business goals and objectives are ... you know, those things that you would need to develop a strategic campaign. How is PR supposed to be a success if you are just providing a line-item service within Internet marketing? How is that even possible?

I am finally catching up on my blog reading, so noticed that PR Opinions also posted on this new service.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Dough Factor

Oh, wait, I mean the D'oh! Factor ... as in what happens when your CEO likes the media a wee bit too much, and talks during your company's quiet period before the IPO.

Marc Benioff, whom I have heard from some friends of mine is a handful, might have screwed the pooch because he couldn't keep his mouth shut during an interview with the New York Times. The story was not that flattering a portrayal of Benioff, but rather characterized him as a "boyishly brash chief executive whose large personality matches his bulky 6-foot-5-inch frame," "a mess of insecurities" and then quotes a former CEO from Salesforce that Benioff "loves the media attention and courts it like no one else in Silicon Valley."

Not exactly the way you want your founder and CEO to be characterized during the quiet period ... then again, not many PR persons would want the CEO to invite a reporter to shadow him/her during the quiet period.

Naturally, the New York Times covered the follow-up story - the hee hee, look what we did - less than 10 days after the first story.

Here's the fun part ... how do you control a relatively uncontrollable CEO or executive? How do you control an executive that loves the press and craves the attention? What is a public relations professional and/or firm to do?

From the same above friends, I have heard that Benioff is exceedingly charming, but that the characterization in the NYT is pretty much on the money.

POP! Public Relations is currently in a similar situation, but not as extreme. During a few recent analyst and media briefings, one of the vice presidents went into future plans for the product, laying out the product timeline. I explained to him that those are things to keep under wraps, as if the company didn't deliver it could hurt longer term goals and plans for the company.

POP! does not want to put this executive under wraps, because he is probably one of the better technical people at the company, and fully explains the product in simple terms for analysts and media - he's golden. I watched him on a sales pitch, and he flowed beautifully, and the customer ate it up.

What it comes down to is that we're just going to have another "come to Jesus" talk with the executive, and bring him in line. He's too good on the calls and meetings to put a gag order on, and he complements the CEO's folksy manner very well.

In future briefings, it will just come down to having either IM open, or in person briefings. If he opens up too much, I get to do my favorite thing with executives ... kicking them under the table. Yes, a little kick in the shin will do wonders on an executive - make sure you have a good relationship first - and will reinforce not to mention certain things.

If you can't kick them, just reiterate and reiterate on what can and cannot be revealed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Corporate Blogs ... to the extreme

Little Green Footballs is a Web design firm in California - one of its members lives in SoCal, the other in NorCal (personally, I think they should duke it out for California supremacy).

The firm also has a Weblog at lgf: whip it out!, but it's not about their business, but rather political views that are pretty pro-Israel and neo-conservative.

I think most people in the blogosphere - particularly in the marketing / communications / public relations blogosphere - will agree that having a Weblog is a great way to communicate to customers, to give opinions and views and help build name recognition for your company.

Personally, I try to keep my political views to myself. I read the O'Dwyer Web site, and find the comments by its members amusing, and once in a while pipe in with my opinion ... with a pseudonym. We're in PR, and it's best to stay neutral, unless you are working in public affairs for one side or the other. And, as anyone that knows me knows, I was a columnist, not a a journalist, at the Arizona Wildcat because, well, I am opinionated. An aside - the nicest compliment I got from the editor was that I would make one of the best journalists to ever come out from that paper ... if I kept my opinion to myself. :-)

But, on LGF (as it's known), the owners are stealth about their postings - you'll notice that they tend to just post stories, make one or two comments, then let the comment folks go nuts. But, it's still pretty inflammatory postings and comments.

This all leads me to a bunch of questions ... how has the Weblog affected the company's business? Has it brought in business, or hurt the company during pitches? Are LGF's competitors using the blog against them in pitches - we all know that the brass knuckles come out during pitches, where each company positions itself above and beyond the competition. I read LGF, agree with some things, disagree with some things, shocked at others and, well, the KISS story made me laugh today ... but I wonder how it all pans out for the company in the end.

As this blog is supposed to be about public relations, it is supposed to mirror the philosophies of POP! Public Relations, or at least present some of my views on public relations, press relations and the state of the industry. I hope that I am able to present that in a pretty fair light, and at the same time amuse and inform and maybe teach others about public relations.

Schwag, Schwag, Schwag

POP! just got back last week from the Network+Interop tradeshow in Las Vegas.

First, for those non-PR tradeshow people - it's Vegas, it's nothing fun, it's nothing exciting. It's spending most of the day on your feet, then at night doing more media events, then grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to your hotel room to continue working and responding to emails from the day. It's not glamorous, it's not fun... it's work.

I'm always looking for signs of an improving public relations industry, and trying to see if they correlate into more money being spent on PR. The show was busy, it was a success for the client ... despite having 3 other public relations firms show up at the booth. One firm, based in Chitown, apparently can't take "no" for an answer, as they've called the client once, came to the booth, and emailed twice - each time, being told that the client has an AOR, POP! Public Relations :-) Classy group of kids, huh?

So, here's the list of schwag I brought back for the director of marcom from my client, so she can get a better feeling for what's being handed out. I still like my idea - hand out little bottles of sunscreen (come on, they'll be used!!). Yes, I was on a mission to collect schwag ....

1. Tin of mints from Xelerated. Nice company, the PR person is from Sweden (as is the company) and she commutes in for tradeshows. She seemed nice, but tall blondes intimidate me.

2. M&M's from Microsoft Live Meeting and MCI, announcing their new partnership for Web conferencing. I love M&M's.

3. Fuzzy dice from - 'nuff said!

4. Blow up globe from MCI. On Friday, the last day of the conference, it was slooooooow. So, I started playing volleyball with the booth babe from MCI, Rochelle. She's from Las Vegas, is a flight attendant on a four year furlough from United Airlines, and is taking her real estate classes to become a realtor. We talked real estate for a bit. She was very pretty and nice.

5. Foundry Network Superhero - probably the most inventive and creative schwag I've ever seen ... but not that practical.

6. Luggage tags from Alcatel. Alcatel is the big French telco, and the color is orange for all their goods. I like orange. They also were giving out T-shirts and orange pens and orange plastic cups.

7. MCI long highlighter pen in different colors. It's when I met Rochelle. I like her, she's sweet.

8. G-string, yes g-string, from Blackmagic. Not sure what to say about this one ...

9. Squishy stress balls from F5, who also sponsored the computer bags for the media and MX Logic.

10. Squishy alien rocket ship from Juniper, who was also handing out cloth bags (which I used to carry my schwag around).

11. Pens from Computer Associates, Google, Blackmagic, Spectel (beautiful redheaded marcom director), and Network Engines.

12. Hacky-sack from Opnet (who was also giving out massages!!). You gotta love a company that goes retro with a hacky-sack.

13. Light up mini martini glasses from Microsoft Live Meeting.

14. Network cables in those cool retractable containers from Msft Live Meeting - in blue OR gray.

15. Little flashlight from Transition Networks.

16. LED flashlight from Spirent Communications.

17. Post-it note cube from FaceTime.

18. Yo-yo from Websense. I broke it, I got to walk away with it (it was an accident, I swear).

19. i-Slice single-sheet cutter from Marvell. The woman was concerned it wouldn't get through security, but it did!

20. Google logo flashing pin. Cool AND annoying!!

Yes, I promised one company that if I took their schwag, I would post about it. But, it is interesting to see what other companies give away at tradeshows, and what the client can do to be interesting and different (sunscreen) for Comdex....

I hope MCI is there ...

Oh, here's a fun photo of the living tradeshow dead ....

The glazed look of the tradeshow dead ... this was the Ofoto outfit and an 7.00 AM event ... ugh! Posted by Hello