Friday, September 24, 2004

MSN Names Corp VP, Global Marketing


Jane Boulware, MSN Global Marketing Posted by Hello


From MediaDailyNews, Jane Boulware, from Kimberly-Clark, is

...charged with leading the MSN brand on a global basis, overseeing the development of its consumer image, and other awareness-building efforts for MSN products and services.

In the newly created position, Boulware is tasked with making MSN the most relevant and trusted brand among consumer online services over the next five years, according to Microsoft. She is responsible for MSN's global marketing, advertising, public relations campaigns, and consumer research efforts.


Kimberly-Clark is an Edelman client, and it would be interesting to know how much interaction Ms. Boulware had with Edelman Worldwide.

Is Richard salivating at the thought of getting more Microsoft business?

Edelman Seattle already handles MSN Zone, so there already is an in with the MSFT kingdom...

Straight from NY ... it's Denver's PR program

The city of Denver, and it's Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. has gone out and hired a New York-based PR firm to promote the city.

According to PR Week,

The EDC, which is affiliated with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, chose New York-based economic-development specialist Development Counsellors International (DCI) for national media relations.

Okay, this is bone of contention for me. It doesn't just apply to the Denver EDC, but to corporations in Arizona that go to LA, SF or NY to hire a public relations firm. There are plenty of capable of public relations firms in the Phoenix area - no, I'm not just talking about POP! PR but my competition - but companies here feel that they cannot get national or international experience without leaving the state.

I would like to know why Denver had to go to New York to get a PR firm. Are there no firms in Denver with the national experience needed to get the job done for the Denver EDC, especially in a campaign that is to bring jobs and companies to the city - it just seems like Denver would want a Denver-based PR firm to sing the praises of ... Denver.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Weber Leaves IPG

In today's New York Times:

Larry Weber, a founder of Weber Shandwick Worldwide who was most recently a consultant to the Weber parent, the Interpublic Group of Companies, opened the W2 Group, Waltham, Mass., a marketing services agency. W2 has acquired the Racepoint Group, Waltham, for undisclosed terms and has opened a unit called the Digital Influence Group.

I checked out Racepoint Group; the agency is a group of former Weber Group people, and they have Redhat. Not a bad client to build a new Weber empire upon. It will be interesting to see what Larry does with the W2, as he has built one powerhouse and merged it into becoming the largest PR firm in the world.

Developing story, I'm sure...

And, it has developed - updated at 10.45 AM PDT.

O'Dwyer's had posted the story at about 8.45 AM PDT, and PR Week has followed up at 10.30 AM PDT.

The PR Week story is here, and highlight's from the O'Dwyer story are below.

Digital Influence Group ... will focus on "constituency management" within emerging technology and digital channels. He (Weber) told O'Dwyer's he is interested in the Weblog arena also and is looking to make acquisitions and mergers down the road to build W2.

...

Weber said he is bullish on the tech sector with the caveat that it will never be close to what it was for PR in the late 1990s and 2000. Weber pointed out that a little less than half of marketing went to PR during the tech bubble, but as the sector regroups and grows again, that percentage would probably peak at around 25-27 percent of budgets.

After tech, Weber said W2 would focus on healthcare, noting that now encompasses lifestyle PR and analytics in sectors like food and the environment.

"You didn't expect me to sit on a beach for the rest of my life, did you?" Weber asked.


Like I wrote earlier, I expect the W2 Group to do well, and it will be interesting to see if lightning will strike twice.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Atkins Fall-Out

An American institution files for Chapter 11 protection.

Twinkies and Wonder Bread are a part of Americana. Everyone has childhood memories of both brands, and my memories of Wonder Bread are stronger because Detroit had a Wonder Bread factory downtown (which is now a casino - blech). The smell from the factory was always really good, and countered the smell of exhaust quite well.

Atkins and other low-carb diets have been hurting companies whose bread and butter is, well, bread and butter. Pasta companies have been hurting, and now Interstate Bakeries has filed Chapter 11 to protect its assets. Oh, the mishandling of accounting is also probably to blame for the filing as well.

If you are on a low-carb diet, I suggest you read this piece from the good folks at ChangeThis.

Being charitable

As a young child, I went to a private school. The school put a heavy emphasis on doing charitable work, particularly in helping Soviet Jewry escape persecution.

Realizing that most of the kids hadn't a clue what that meant, we were also encouraged to plant trees in Israel in memory or honor of other people. There are many trees in Israel planted in honor of my first dog, Benji.

But, the whole purpose of charity is not to get recognition. We learned that you did charitable acts because you wanted to, not to get a pat on the back.

I guess the good folks at PN don't subscribe to the same school of thought, though.

On September 16th, PN sent out a release that:


Porter Novelli has made a donation to Spiransky Hospital in Moscow, one location where children are being sent for treatment and rehabilitation. The donation was coordinated by Porter Novelli's office in Moscow, R.I.M. Porter Novelli.
Of course, the amount could have been $100 USD, since they don't mention the amount.

I commend Porter Novelli for donating money to help the Beslan children attacked by terrorists. I question their motives, however, when they have to publicize the event.

Friday, September 17, 2004

What do you do ...

When you are (okay, were) a popular singer who is now accused of child sexual abuse, and you have a sister whose breast was exposed during what is supposed to be a family friendly television sporting event?

You record a song together telling the media to leave you alone!

Hot fresh news that Janet and Michael have recorded a song in response of criticism.

I can't wait to see the video on MTV!

The need for immediate PR response in the blogosphere

The blogosphere is an odd thing, with a lot of influence. You post one thing, it gets picked up by another blog, and soon it spreads. Then, any where from a month to a few weeks later, the mainstream press picks up on something and runs with it.

Many companies still do not realize that there is a lot of potential to get hurt by things posted, and that you ignore the blogosphere at your own peril.

Kryptonite is quickly learning this, but not in a fun way. Just as kryptonite is Superman's downfall, the Bic pen is the Kryptonite locks downfall.

I first read about Kryptonite's bike lock problems in Business 2.0's blog, and then read a very good take on the situation from Business 2.0 had posted a response from the Kryptonite PR person, which really has not cleared up the situation. Engadget also has an official response, albeit different than the one from Business 2.0.

PR Studies has a great post about how Kryptonite has mishandled its criticism, and Tom Murphy of PR Opinions blogged on the issue as well.

All point out one interesting point - that more than 400 people have been involved in the post on a biking board, and that it took quite a while for Kryptonite to respond. Kryptonite has a harder battle to win, now, to get people to trust their product. First, the expose was from a bike enthusiast site, then picked up by various bloggers. Second, the initial response was a non-response. Third, the company is not being upfront on whether or not they are going to fulfill any insurance claims filed for stolen bikes - one of the cornerstones of the Kryptonite locks.

Lexar Media is in the same boat, albeit the story has not exploded like the bike lock. If you are in technology public relations, you should be reading Slashdot. Recently, Slashdot had an article that the Lexar JumpDrive Password Scheme Cracked; in other words, the password protection that Lexar had been touting for protecting data on the JumpDrive is crackable. AtStake, a security consulting service, had posted a security advisory on the Lexar JumpDrive, that had since been picked up by Slashdot.

Just like the Kryptonite posting, the Slashdot community has now posted 562 comments on the issue. Some of them have picked up this part of the AtStake advisory:


08-05-2004 Vendor contacted via email to support. No response.
08-12-2004 Vendor contacted again via email to support, sales, Public Relations, Investor Relations, and general inquiry email addresses.
08-12-2004 Automated response from support received.
09-13-2004 No further response from vendor, advisory released.
Lexar did respond to AtStake with a comment on the 16th of September. A full month and a half after the first email was sent to support, and a full month after the first email to public relations. With any time-sensitive issue - and security is a time sensitive issue - the PR department can't twiddle its thumbs. Or, in a crisis the team can't bury its head in the sand and hope the issue goes away, which seems to be the case here.

Is the Lexar security issue going to blow up like the Kryptonite story? Most likely no. But, has Lexar just lost a key group of customers - the Slashdot community - that is very tuned into security and technology? Most likely, yes, those Slashdot readers are going to think twice before picking a Lexar product.

So, two cases of how not to ignore the blogosphere, and how important it is to respond quickly to criticisms, whether they are online or in print.

_______________________

Update from Business 2.0 Blog: Kryptonite to replace locks.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Good publicity for a publicist

From everyone's favorite NY gossip blog, Gawker interviewed the founder of People's Revolution. Warning: very boring Web site, but pretty cool logo.

Check out The 5X5 Interview: Kelly Cutrone, People's Revolution

A nice profile on a publicist that presents the industry in a pretty good light.

Pots calling Kettles black, and the Issue of Hyping Clients

I, like a few others in the PR blogosphere, read Micro Persuasion written by Steve Rubel.

Today, Rubel mulls over whether or not to blog about his agency's newest client in a posting, about, well, his agency's newest client. For my blog, if I do blog about a POP! Public Relations' client, I make sure never to mention the name or to hyperlink to articles, the Website, etc. It's not what my blog is about - it's about issues in PR, what I come across, and the like.

I understand Rubel's predicament, and I would give him more of a free ride, if not for the fact that he once took another PR blogger to task for posting about a nice hit in the Wall Street Journal for his client. That blogger, Matthew Podboy / Active Voice had never written in his blog prior that he would keep his blog free of client mentions. He blogs about his agency - he's a co-founder of Voce Communications - and he blogs about the work there and the clients. It's a pretty straightforward issue for Podboy. He blogs about the workings in an agency.

I came to Podboy's defence because I know him well from my beginning in public relations, and have looked deep into his heart while working with him. That, plus I had a huge crush on his wife when we all worked at M/ST.

Plus, back when Rubel first started to blog, he asked bloggers everywhere whether or not he should blog about his clients. It seems that he hasn't come to a decision yet, but is leaning toward all out hyping of clients.

Don't get me wrong - Rubel has done a great job promoting for his blog. I see Micro Persuasion linked to some well-read blogs, and PR Week even notes that because of his blog CooperKatz was able to land the new client that he blogged about today. I wonder, though, if Rubel starts to blog about clients and turns Micro Persuasion into a blog about clients, if he might lose audience share or those links.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Getting Out the Vote / Hero Worship

I purposely avoid politics with my blog. I have friends on both sides - Bush fans that give me grief for not blogging about media conspiracies and the sort, and then Kerry fans that berate me for not being more supportive for JFK on my blog. The Kerry forces seem to be more vocal in harassing me, though. But, I was raised to believe that politics is a private matter, that it's a one person, one vote society and no one has to know who you voted for (here's a hint - on the unknown races, I write in Jeremy Pepper, so please do the same in your district).

I like to think of myself as partly open-minded. I read both right-wing and left-wing blogs, I read Drudge (not a fan, so he gets no hyperlink). I guess, though, that I am in the minority for keeping an open mind. A Forbes article today on Bloggers and Blinders notes that while people read blogs, they only read the blogs that they are in agreement with. Not me. I like to keep my blood pressure up, and I believe that I burn a lot of calories grinding my teeth.

So, in the spirit of the season, I am writing about the current campaigning. As an undecided voter, I'm sickened by the current tactics that both the GOP and Democrats are undertaking and I have no doubt that this election will reach the same low level of turnout since Poppy Bush ran against Clinton.

Why did I decide to blog about this today? A personal hero had an OpEd in the Washington Post today - Elie Wiesel is one of those four people I would have dinner with, if I could.

Wiesel writes ...


But why the disagreeable, offensive tone that emanates from this event?

I've been living in this magnificent democracy since 1956. As a foreign correspondent for some time, I had the opportunity to watch the two parties campaign in a number of presidential races: John Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford. I have watched the elections of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In every case, the supporters and spokesmen of both the incumbent and the opposition expressed themselves with ardor, conviction and dedication.

But never with such violence as we see today.

Too many Democrats feel hatred -- yes, hatred -- for President Bush, and too many Republicans fail to hide their contempt for Sen. John Kerry. These two sentiments should be excluded during electoral contests.

Wiesel goes on to note that politics is no longer a noble pursuit, that it inspires contempt, that politics has devolved into nastiness and ugliness. Here is a man that survived the Holocaust, who treasures the freedoms that the United States has granted him, and he's disillusioned by what politics has become.

I have to wonder - since this is a PR blog - what is the public relations strategy for both parties? Right now it is pretty obvious that the party loyal are going to vote either Blue or Red, and will not be switching sides. The people that Bush and Kerry need to reach are the undecided swing voters. Does dirty politics work? Well, if the past is any indication, yes - just think back to Lee Atwater's campaign against Dukakis with the tank photo and Willie Horton - but is this how we want our president decided?

I am still waiting to find out what each candidate's position is on various subjects - but the TV commercials sure are not telling me anything about the candidates. Isn't this what public relations is about - getting out a message, but not just a negative one?

Let's be honest - the whisper campaign works wonders. If you have practiced public relations for any amount of time, you have undertaken a whisper campaign against a competitor's product. You dig for information from sources, you place the doubts into influencers' minds, you work the system. And, yes, it works in politics also.

In PR, though, the whisper campaign is one small part of an overall strategy. A very small part. You cannot promote the product with just a whisper campaign against the competition - you have to go forward with getting the message out to the public. You have messaging points on why your product or company is better than the competition. You have messaging points that bring forth the best aspects of your company or product. You have messaging points that highlight the product or company. And, these messaging points are what are the most important parts of the campaign, what sets the company above the competition as the one to beat.

Thus far, in this election, I have learned that Bush may or may not have served out his full term in the National Guard, and that Kerry may or may not have been in Cambodia during Christmas, and that he may or may not have deserved the respect of the other Swift veterans. All incidences from more than 30 years ago - which have no real affect on the upcoming election.

In 2004, vote Pepper for President.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Pepperdine to cut PR Program - the student's side ...


Grant Turck - the man that would fight Pepperdine University Posted by Hello


Today, I was able to interview Grant Turck, the Pepperdine University student that is leading the fight to save the public relations program at his University. While I may not agree with his Quixotic adventure – when you have a leading public relations expert calling for the end of PR and the adoption of marcom, you have to wonder how long PR degrees are going to last – I do give him credit for fighting what he believes in. And, on today’s college campuses, you rarely see students fight for anything.

Grant Turck moved from metropolitan Cincinnati to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting, but got bitten by the public relations bug while spending a summer back home in Ohio. Turck came to Pepperdine for PR because it was a specialized program at the University – and now, he wants to see the major go beyond just his graduation year. Turck chose Pepperdine for three reasons: the experience, the education, and the location.

When Turck found out that Pepperdine was proposing to cut the program – looking to cut it because of its lack of viability, although he believes that “there has yet to be a full review beyond just cutting it” – he began to mobilize forces to save the program. Besides public relations, though, the school is also supposedly looking at advertising to be among the programs cut, but to offer both public relations and advertising as minors. Turck believes that this would be the first step to merging public relations and advertising into an integrated marketing / communications major – it is “the University’s attempt for a three-for-one deal at Pepperdine.”

Turck notes that the public relations major already does require upper-division courses from outside concentrations, such as marketing, journalism and advertising, so PR with marketing is already covered. The integrated marcom major – it’s a buzz word from 10 years ago – and Turck’s worry is that Pepperdine is just going to start teaching students to be marcom generalists, not specialists, with no surefire knowledge in any one field.

When asked whether or not his quest was for a dying discipline, Turck responded that he does not believe that public relations is dying, but rather that “there is a necessary need to directly tie PR into sales, corporate strategy. There needs to be more return on investment, a better way to measure the end-results of public relations, whether it is sales or something else that is tangible. There needs to be a new way to look at PR.”

Turck is now looking at a way for alumni to save the program by earmarking donations for the public relations major, or he is hopeful in finding a large public relations firm or conglomerate to step in and donate the money to save PR. Turck is getting ready for an outreach program to raise the money – stepping forward with a positive campaign to proactively save the campaign, forcing Pepperdine to keep the program because the funding would be from outside sources.

He is working with PRSA's LA Chapter President, Cynthia M. Harding, who is providing advice and ideas on how to approach the situation, and he has also spoken to Rhoda Weiss, treasurer of the National PRSA Board, who has also offered a lot of advice and support, as well as proactively calling to speak to Dr. Robert (Bob) Chandler, chair of communications division. On the campus front, Turck has attended the University’s first PRSSA meeting on campus, sharing his thoughts on the subject and offering advice to other PR students, as well sitting on the board of Pepperdine's PRSSA Chapter.

On a final note, Turck noted that his campaign is going well, that he has received tremendous response from alumni thus far, and that the alumni seems to be backing Turck. He is hoping that the next stage of the campaign to fundraise raise $300,000 for the program will be enough to save the program.

My final thought: I think that Pepperdine would be better off calling the program “marketing communications” instead of the dinosaur term “integrated marketing,” but that’s a horse for another day. Speaking as a philosophy major who worked at the college paper, if students want to make an impact in the marketplace, they would be better off with another major than PR which is too commonly identified as press relations. Nowadays, marcom is considered what used to be just public relations: analyst relations, customer relations, outreach programs – and it may be too late for the industry to reclaim PR as all encompassing public relations that includes media relations.

Slow News Day

Business Wire adds five languages to website

Yep, I think that having this as the lead story is the official notice of a slow news day.

Pepperdine to cut PR program?

From the O'Dwyer Web site,

PEPPERDINE CONSIDERS END TO PR MAJOR

Pepperdine University has proposed a realignment within its Seaver College institution that would eliminate PR as a major and combine several marketing disciplines under an "integrated marketing" major through its business school.

The University, which charges about $35K a year for tuition and boarding, put together a plan to slash $1 million from the Seaver budget.

"The PR discipline is one of several which are being looked at," said Jerry Derloshon, director of news and PR for the university, who noted a handful of other programs are being looked at as part of an evaluation process. "What I think the end result should be, and must be, is a better overall academic program for the students. That could be keeping PR as a major or calling it something else like 'integrated marketing communications' with other disciplines."

Derloshon told O'Dwyer's the input of students, alumni and professionals in the field will be considered and factored in any final decision.

The Malibu, Calif., university's student body numbers just over 3,000.

"I could understand if it was a non-producing major, but PR is the 12th most popular major at the school," said Grant Turck, a junior PR major who is organizing an effort to put pressure on the school to change its plans.

Turck has fired off e-mails to PR alumni of the school, many of whom have expressed support of the program and conveyed those feelings to the school. Some have threatened to withhold contributions.

Dan Shaw, a PR alum who is now with Rogers & Assocs. in Los Angeles, noted: "Whenever I tell people about my degree, the most common response is, ‘Wow, how refreshing it is to find someone who was able to major in a field they could actually work in!' And therein lies the true value of the public relations program - it is a tangible, hands-on major that teaches very specific skills to excel in a particularindustry."

He continued: "It would be a shame to see such a valuable program disappear. Public relations is a discipline unto itself, and for far too long people have mistakenly confused it with other communications disciplines such as advertising or marketing. Please do not make the same mistake."

Derloshon added: "These kinds of inquiries make the university want to delve into questions like, 'Would an integrated marketing comms. approach be more effective and more valuable in the marketplace?'

"We are looking at ways to be more effective and the PR discipline is one of the subjects we're evaluating. It's part of the dynamics of a university, to stay relevant and serve the students better."

Derloshon stressed there is no de facto elimination of any program at this time and described the process as "an evaluation." He stressed the move is not a "knee-jerk reaction to budget cuts."
I am in the process of interviewing Grant Turck, the student who is leading the fight against Pepperdine, as well as the president of PRSSA, Sarah Yeaney to get the "official" PRSSA take on Pepperdine.

I also contacted Pepperdine University, who sent back a statement that Pepperdine is focused on providing academic excellence and academic program reviews are essential to maintaining a sharp edge. The end result, whatever the result, will be a better program and the University is examining just how to accomplish that.

Developing story ... .

Thursday, September 09, 2004

AlwaysOn launches a new magazine ...

Back from the dead, in a roundabout way, Tony Perkins of AlwaysOn Network is launching a quarterly publication.

According to the email I just received:

AlwaysOn is launching a new quarterly magazine this winter, and you can get the first issue for FREE.

The AlwaysOn magazine will be a regularly-scheduled briefing on innovation in technology and media.

The first issue will include breakout interviews with Bill Gates, MichaelPowell, Jonathan Schwartz, Stratton Sclavos, and other top industry luminaries,plus a special section on the AlwaysOn 100 most innovative companies on the planet.

The intellectual centerpiece of the magazine will be a special Economist-like briefing that emphasizes the coolest three or four things going on in technology and media, all written by former Red Herring writers.

This should be an interesting launch - I will admit that I mostly liked Red Herring - although it seems to me that the Valley is trying way to hard to re-capture the hype of the dot-com days with the launch of an Always On magazine, the relaunch of Red Herring, among other signs.

But, hey, PR people cannot look a gift horse in the mouth. Being brutally honest, the dot-com days were good for the industry because we had various publications and outlets to pitch to, and Always On seems like it will be a good magazine to ping.

I know that I'll pitch appropriate POP! clients to the pub.

The buzz about Buzz Magazine

Recently, Stuart Bruce wrote up a small piece on Buzz Magazine, which got my wheels turning to ask for an interview. Today, Shel Holtz also posted a piece on the magazine.

So, I sent out a few questions to Heather Pugh, the editor-in-chief / Mizzou student / co-founder of her own PR firm. And, the first featured PR student for Buzz Magazine.

According to the media kit,

Buzz Magazine is a vital resource for individuals at all stages of their public relations careers. Buzz serves as an educational supplement about the public relations industry - to help increase individuals' knowledge of and love for the field.

Buzz comes out of the first of every month, with editorial deadlines on the fifteenth. Buzz has the layout of a traditional print magazine, but is made available to subscribers in PDF format via e-mail.


POP! PR Blog: Currently, there are a few media outlets that already cover the public relations industry, such as O’Dwyers, PR Week and the Bulldog Reporter. How is Buzz Magazine going to differentiate itself from other news outlets in the space?

Heather Pugh, EIC, Buzz Magazine: Buzz is different than those publications for several reasons.

First, Buzz is aimed at a younger audience. Buzz readers are typically students, recent graduates, educators and young professionals, although we do have several seasoned professionals who subscribe.

Second, Buzz allows anyone interested in public relations with some writing experience to contribute. So, whether you’re a student or CEO, you can write for Buzz. We believe that the opportunity not only opens doors for those looking to contribute to the field, but also provides many different perspectives for the magazine.

Finally, Buzz is not simply a news source for the public relations industry – it does not contain mostly firm announcements. Buzz serves as an educational supplement about the public relations industry – to help increase individuals' knowledge of and love for the field. Each issue contains 12 regular columns (see attached one-page), as well as 10-15 features. Each piece aims to teach Buzz readers something new. And just because someone is a seasoned professional doesn’t mean they can’t learn something new.

POP: Buzz is going to be covering an industry that is surprisingly closed mouth when it comes to the press – how is the magazine working with public relations executives or the executives of the holding companies to get stories out there?

BUZZ: We have a list of contacts at various firms around the nation who know about Buzz and know they can send company news to us for publication at any time. We are continuously working on becoming known by all firms – big and small. Word-of-mouth can be simply amazing … However, public relations firm news is not the main focus of Buzz. Instead, Buzz focuses on teaching its readers about the industry and the skills needed to succeed in it.

POP: Why did you start Buzz Magazine?

BUZZ: Buzz started as a publication written by students, for students, in order to give them an opportunity to contribute to their field, but has grown to be so much more. Only a few short weeks after inception, news of Buzz had saturated the professional and educational worlds. Now individuals at all stages of their public relations careers are subscribing and writing.

POP: Is there both a PDF version and print version of the magazine?

BUZZ: Currently, there is an online version (http://www.buzzmagazine.net/) and a PDF version, but no print. We hope to be a full print publication by next (academic) year, but that will rely mostly on how many advertisers we gain in the coming months. The PDF version, originally supposed to come out on the first of every month, still has not been completed for the first issue (release date, Sept. 1). Two weeks prior to the release date, our entire layout staff received other offers elsewhere, and we have only recently found replacements. We’re working hard to get the first PDF issue out by Sept. 15, but that’s not definite. In the meantime, readers may view all the articles online.

POP: You noted that there had been some misperceptions about Buzz Magazine out there already – what are some issues that you would like to clarify about the magazine?

BUZZ: PRFuel referred to Buzz as an “e-mail digest,” which is simply not true. While the issues are currently available only via e-mail (or online), they do not appear in “digest” format. Buzz has the layout of a traditional print magazine, but is made available to subscribers in PDF format via e-mail. Some of our subscribers even pay the printing costs (which, without advertising, are a bit high) and receive a print copy. Once we acquire enough advertisers, a print version will be available, hopefully at little or no cost to our subscribers. We wish to remain affordable to individuals at all stages of their career – we don’t want cost to be a subscription barrier.

Also, BuzzMagazine.net is simply the online version of our publication. We put the articles in two columns because they are long, and we felt that format would make them easier to read.

POP: What is your distribution model and current circulation rate? As PR is in somewhat of a lull right now, how are you going to get subscribers to your publication? What type of outreach are you undertaking to get magazine subscribers?

BUZZ: We are in the midst of a campaign to notify public relations firms, as well as all colleges/universities with public relations majors. We’re starting off with a direct mail campaign and going from there. We will be contacting more than 245 schools and 60 firms in the near future. Because of limited funds, we have to take one mailing at a time, assess the success rate, and then evaluate whether or not we want to continue in the same means or find another route. In addition to direct mail, we’re also using word-of-mouth through alumni of the schools we contact, as well as the Internet, to let people know we’re here.

Our plan is for Buzz to be a not-for-profit publication. When we do end up charging subscribers for the print version, it will be to simply cover printing costs. The goal is to gain enough advertisers to continue making the publication available for free; to educate and inform individuals in the field is much more important than making money of off Buzz.

POP: What is the funding source for the magazine?

BUZZ: Right now, Buzz is funded by the University of Missouri-Columbia Public Relations Club. We have extremely limited funds, and hope to bring in many advertisers for next year.

POP: Are you all members of PRSSA? Have you spoken to PRSSA about funding the publication, or becoming the official PRSSA magazine?

BUZZ: Many, if not most, of our members do not belong to PRSSA, including myself. Many schools do not have PRSSA chapters, and so it’s just not an option. For example, I started the PR Club at MU because there is no PRSSA chapter close to Columbia. However, writers/subscribers can be members of PRSSA – we don’t include any restrictions like that.

PRSSA does not want to fund Buzz or take any part in its production. In fact, they encouraged me not to start Buzz because they feel they offer enough opportunities for students to go around. My response is, “Students need more than one avenue in which to explore their career. Buzz will help bring all budding public relations professionals together and give them an opportunity to contribute to the industry.” Please note, though, that I am not against PRSSA in any way, and their organization is mentioned in several articles in the current issue in a positive light. Young public relations pros can be members of and contribute to both PRSSA (and FORUM), as well as Buzz Magazine.

POP: Buzz appears to be a resource, on some level, for those about to enter the real world of PR. What ties do you have with agencies and companies in terms of entry-level job postings and internships?

BUZZ: Buzz Magazine is in contact with about 60 firms around the nation, and has sent classified ad forms to their human resources departments to fill out whenever they have positions available. We want to become a premier source for those seeking jobs/internships in the industry.

POP: While the publication notes that it is for all levels of PR, the magazine articles tend to skew young. How are you going to change that perception?

BUZZ: I agree, the publication does tend to skew young. Most of our subscribers are in the 18-25 age range. However, we encourage seasoned professionals to subscribe to keep them up-to-date on how public relations students are being educated and what the latest trends in the industry are, according to its youngest/newest members. Just because someone is a seasoned professional doesn’t mean they can’t learn something new.

POP: Looking over the first issue, it appears that a lot of your reporters are current students (as are you). How are you and your staff going to be able to balance school, internships and the magazine?

BUZZ: Our staff, except for the regular columnists, changes month-to-month. Not everyone participates in every issue. Those who have time contribute, and those who don’t, don’t. We have a list of about 100 individuals interested in writing for Buzz thus far. So, we do not foresee any problems in filling every issue, even when the same people don’t participate each time.

Now I can’t speak for others, but balancing my time between school, work and Buzz happens to be my forte, and it’s an excellent learning experience. I find I work best under pressure, when I have several deadlines at once. Time management is a skill every one of our writers and subscribers should have.

POP: Since most staffers are currently students, does that mean there will be large turn-over rate as staff graduates? How will that affect the consistency of Buzz?

BUZZ: Absolutely not. Actually, many of our writers are not students. And those who are wish to remain occasional contributors once they graduate. True, the first issue was written by many students, but the second issue is about 50/50 between students and professionals. We encourage many professionals to be at least occasional contributors because it’s a great plug for your company.

POP: The hot thing in public relations and marketing communications right now is blogging – how come the magazine has not launched a complementary blog to the magazine?

BUZZ: Since the idea for Buzz only just came about in late July, I’m impressed that it’s come as far as it has in the short amount of time. I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew the interest existed in the student population, but there’s still the matter of getting word to them (which as I said, we’re still working on). You never know. A blog might be in Buzz’s future, should the talent to produce it come along at the right time …

POP: Any further thoughts or comments you would like conveyed to the audience?

BUZZ: BuzzMagazine.net is simply the online version of our publication. We put the articles in two columns because they are long, and we felt that format would make them easier to read.

Buzz is mostly meant for younger members in the field (18-25), but can also be a useful source for seasoned professionals in gaining insight into what public relations education looks like today – what they can expect their newest recruits to know.


___________________

The magazine is an interesting concept, even if it has an uphill battle (for magazine statistics, you must check out Sumir Husni's Mr Magazine site). I wish them best of luck, and sure, I'll send them PR news for POP!, or even write for them once in a while.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

It pays to vote

Well, sorta.

From the guys that brought us Hot or Not, comes Vote or Not.

It's a great, different, ingenious grassroots campaign. No, they aren't asking people to vote for candidate W or candidate K, but merely to vote and to participate in the democratic process. And, if you are the lucky person (or person that referred the lucky person), you can win $100,000.

After I voted today in the primaries - got my sticker and everything - I realized that there must be an easier way to vote. I first went to the wrong polling place (less than 5 miles away from the other polling place). The polling place I go to apparently is at my old high school - yes, bad flashbacks happened immediately - and the best part was that there was no parking. If I was just a casual voter, I would have driven away and not voted. For the disenfranchised, it really is not easy to vote.

But, back to Vote or Not. Go make sure you are registered to vote, and then go pledge to vote and maybe win $100,000.

________________

First read about this on Chris Nolan's Blog, Politics from Left to Right: Profit Motive. If you don't read Chris, you should check out her stuff. When I lived in the Bay, and she was at the Merc, she was a favorite read of mine.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Crisis Mode for South Beach

Now, I'm not saying that there is a correlation between the South Beach Diet and Bill Clinton's Bypass Surgery, but this can't be good for the high-protein, low-carb diet fad.

Clinton's known love for McDonald's probably didn't help much either.

Reaching the elusive audience

If you read the the advertising or marketing publications, there has been a recurring theme - that the 18-34 year old male has disappeared! AAAAAAH!

You can't reach them via television advertising, because they aren't watching TV. They don't really read newspapers, they get their news on the Internet, they play their video games at home while surfing porn on the Internet ... all the while, ignoring or missing out on the mainstream media's messages to buy this product or that product. Wired Magazine had a nice-sized article about the phenomenon, cutely titling it The Lost Boys.

So, what are the avenues that marketing people can take to reach this elusive audience? There's always the fun traveling campus shows, the tents of schwag that are handed out at the beginning of every semester. And, as noted in Mediaweek, publishers are trying to reach this niche by launching such magazines as National Geographic Traveler on Campus, SI on Campus, and GenZ, and MTV has brought out MTVu for the college crowd.

So, to my delight, I read about ManiaTV, the World's 1st Internet Television Network. Okay, here's the launch release, but it's very, very tongue-in-cheek (okay, it's cheesy).

Here's an Internet TV station that is launching to target college students - actually the target is 15 and older - and is launching at a time when almost all campuses are wired, all dorm rooms and fraternity / sorority houses have broadband access in each room. When I was at UA, I didn't have a TV at the dorm, because there really wasn't any room for one. We had a little one with a VCR and we were unable to get any channels (okay, this is in 1990, so cut me some slack).

I spoke with the very charming PR person over at ManiaTV - Christy Kruzick - to get some more information on the station. While she was able to give me some topline information, since the station does not launch until today, there isn't any demographic or traffic data yet.

If the Station / Web site turns out to be a success, it's a great venue to reach that elusive audience. There are links for advertising, and the variety of shows is pretty widereaching.

For us in public relations (marcom, now, according to Jack), the nice thing is that the shows are open to PR pitches. While watching the previews, if you have a mainstream consumer product, there are tons of great opportunities for the client. Or, if you have an event, what could it hurt to include the hosts of certain shows with press credentials? I already have a few ideas for upcoming events that I would like to include the ManiaTV kids at, but that's not for a few months ...

It is an idea whose time might have come. ManiaTV may be a success, and possibly the first of many Internet stations (which I always thought was going to be the AOL Broadband strategy).

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Starbucking the system

According to the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks Set To Raise Prices.

This is an interesting strategy. When the company last raised prices, there was a national outrage that the company had raised prices by a single-digit percentage across the board. While that was four years ago, it left an indelible impression on the consumer, and Starbucks is going to need to have a really in-depth crisis communications plan and customer relations outreach program in place when it rolls out the newest price increases, as well as an employee communications plan for managers at the store level, who need to be trained on how to deal with irate customers, and these managers need to train their customer facing staff on how to handle the fall-out (and, indubitably, the less tips).

Say you get an irate New Yorker who demands to know why the cost has gone up. If the "barista" cannot answer the question, and the manager on duty is somewhat inept, you have word-of-mouth brand bashing, where even though it is noble of Starbucks to provide benefits to all employees, the company has managed to piss off a ton of people who are going to say, "well that is none of my business if you can't control your costs."

According to the article:
The bigger price culprits are rising dairy and operating costs. Starbucks said that it has recently experienced double-digit costs increases in its health insurance plan, which offers all of its 80,000 full- and part-time employees world-wide. Costs for dairy and real estate also escalated, but the company declined to say by how much.
Let's be realistic - the average consumer does not care that milk prices have gone up, nor that Starbucks pays for all of its employees healthcare benefits. The average consumer just wants to stroll in to Starbucks and buy their "grande" cup of colored water, and be on their way. If they are feeling charitable, or the "barista" is especially nice / cute, they'll throw in a few coins into the tip jar.

Here are my thoughts on the issue. The customers come first, so how is Starbucks going to keep them happy? It seems somewhat short-sighted to raise prices - will Starbucks drop prices if the cost of milk goes down - instead of looking for other ways to cut costs. Starbucks is already expensive, the independent coffee shops are offering WiFi for free, so beyond the mystique, what's left?

First problem I see is Starbucks growth strategy. Who is managing their growth? Does any city need a Starbucks on every corner, and what is the dying need to have Starbucks locations literally across the street from each other? By shutting down some of the locations in areas that are over-saturated, Starbucks could save some money and pass the savings to its customers by not raising prices.

Second problem (well, not a problem, but something that needs to be brought up) is the benefits. Starbucks is a very generous company, and sees itself as a throw-back to the 60's by looking out for its employees. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to profits. Maybe the offering of health benefits to part-time employees is turning out to be a not that well thought out of a corporate strategy. Yes, it's an evil comment to cut out the benefits for the part-timers, but it's something that should be brought up and another way to cut costs.

Time will see, though, what the lash back will be against Starbucks.

Final thought: drink Peets. It's better coffee anyway.