Friday, February 25, 2005

For shame

Via Profnet yesterday, I received this query...

10. PUBLIC RELATIONS: PR-Themed Reality Show -- Ragan's Media Relations Report (US)

For a short news story about the March debut of the MTV reality show 'PoweR Girls' (about Lizzie Grubman and her band of publicists), I'd like to include some comments from PR people regarding what impact the show will have on the image of PR. (You can read about the program at http://www.mtv.com/onair/dyn/power_girls/series.jhtml) Do you think such a show will bring young people into the industry? Will it make PR people look like airheads? All opinions welcomed, and feel free to be snarky. Ragan's Media Relations Report is a national newsletter covering the media for people in PR. No phone calls, please. Monitored by eWatch

Need leads by: 03:00 PM US/Eastern FEB 28

Christine Kent [profnet@ckeditorial.com] URL: http://www.ragan.com

And, to tell you the truth, I'm shocked that Ragan would actively go and look for attacks on a publicist or PR person. What ever happened to journalistic objectivity?

I sent in my own response to Christine:
As a PR person that writes on the industry for a blog - http://pop-pr.blogspot.com - and has interviewed some of the stalwarts of our PR community, my view is that public relations and publicity are two different animals, and you cannot really compare them.

Plus, I have written in the past about Ms. Lizzie Grubman, and believe that while she may had the misfortune of bad press, it appears she does do a good job for her clients.

As for your Profnet query, such a show will likely bring more young people into the industry. If you did interact with young PR students - as I do - you would know that many want to be publicists or event planners, not the more traditional fields of public relations, such as corporate communications or product or consumer public relations. Plus, what really hurt our industry was Sex & the City, where everyone thought that Samantha epitomized public relations.

Once again, let me restate that it will not make PR people look like airheads - since the show is about publicists. Quite a difference. But, seeing how MTV edits the Real World/Road Rules, they are not goig to highlight the women sitting in the office making phone calls and pitching clients, but something that will appeal to their 14 year old audience.

As for the request to be snarky, I would hope that Ragan would take the high road and not try to tear down a publicist or public relations professional. In a time where PR has real issues to deal with - Armstrong Williams paid pundit, Karen Ryan as a reporter, the LADWP billing scandal - Ms. Grubman's televison show on MTV is the least of our worries.
This was more of a grab at blatant self-promotion by attempting to take an easy swing at something (Grubman), rather than setting the difference between PR and Publicity straight.

Truthfully, this bothers me, and it's not the first incidence of "attack-mode" that I have seen in the public relations or publicity blogs - yes, I know it's the nature of PR to go for the jugular against the competition, and I have pointed out inconsistencies and issues I have seen with other firms on this blog.

But, at times, we do need to circle the wagons and defend public relations and publicity. While at the NewComm Forum, this was a pretty in-depth discussion I had with my new Texas friend from Ketchum. Which leads me to this - if you are a PR blogger that is pitched by a PR person, there are a couple ways to handle it. Snarky and Classy. There's a reason that I look at Podboy as a PR king among men, and that's why - he's always a classy dude.


Technorati tags: PR Public Relations

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Golden Palace gets publicity ... but does it translate into membership?

According to today's Mediapost's Out to Launch, the publicity hounds/eBay fanatics at Golden Palace Casino just leased the cleavage of Shaune Bagwell - a model that looks like she's trying to keep the buzz going.

This isn't the first online auction that Golden Palace has won - they also get a ton of press for the other things they have bought, such as the McDonald's Lincoln Fry for $75K and the Mother Mary Grilled Cheese. There's a ton of press about what they have bought, and it has brought name recognition in a competitive field.

According to the "if-they-spell-your-name-correctly-it's-good-publicity approach," this is a good strategy. People know about Golden Palace. Do people know it as an online casino? Or, is it known more as that online casino that buys the funky stuff on eBay and travels around the country with them? Or, do they know them as an adware company?

My thoughts are that while it's great to get name recognition, is this translating into increased membership?

I IM'ed Ben Silverman of PR Fuel and BenSilverman.net (very funny blog by Ben on his life) because I knew he would be good for a soundbite. Plus, he always brings a good perspective as a former NY Post journalist, the original DotComScoop and someone that is on the PR side while still writing.
They're not going to stir up positive press because they're an online casino, basically a rogue operation... they're involved in gambling, a vice, which isn't on the top of most people's list when it comes to positive story subjects.
Silverman has a very, very valid point. What touchy-feely stories can you write about an online casino? The investigations by the US government on the legality? That person X lost a ton of cash, and now can't pay his mortgage? That it's becoming like porn, where people are claiming their credit cards were stolen?

So, Golden Palace gets name recognition in a way that works for them - the any press is good press strategy. This is a great strategy for a casino, however, this strategy doesn't work for everyone, and shouldn't be the first part of a PR strategy.

If you think back to the dotcom days, a lot of PR firms were just media machines, throwing up as much crap as possible at the wall - sorry, pitching to everyone under the sun - and hoping for the best with as much press as possible. I call it the quantity, yardstick approach.

That isn't a strategic campaign, and usually does not help a company. Strategically, you want to target the right press with the right messaging. I call that the quality, on message approach. Have a few message points you want the targeted media to pick up, to reach the right, optimal audience.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ignore the blogs at your client's peril...

That's my new favorite motto, something that I thought of during my presentation at the NewComm Forum.

It spoke volumes on the larger firms that did attend the Blog University, and it spoke just as loudly about the firms that did not attend.

My hat's off to Ketchum, Bite, Fleishman-Hillard, and Edelman for sending people from all around the country to attend the NewComm Forum.

After talking to these attendees, it was obvious that they already knew the blogosphere, already knew how to work within its confines. But, they wanted to learn more and be better informed on how to track and pitch for the benefit of their clients. Hence, my thoughts on ignoring the blogosphere to your clients' peril - the agencies that weren't there missed alot.

As for the Bite folks, they get the blogosphere. Five people from their office attended - including the GM NA. To me, that shows a commitment and understanding that public relations is changing.

Tomorrow, Bite launches Become.com - Become is a search engine for shopping, but not a shopping search engine. It's not a price comparison site, but it's a site that aggregates product info and reviews to help find the right product to buy. Or, that's what I got from Bambi's piece at Marketwatch.

From my talks with Bite - case study to come out in March - I was told how they used a grassroots effort to get the word out, including targetting influencers and blogs. It worked well enough, with results that weren't too shabby ... and did lead to live with Bambi.

Beyond Become and the blog campaign to launch the site, there's another reason to pay attention to the blogosphere, and well, the Internet as a whole. Actually, it's more than just the Internet - it's all about amorphous communications, and how consumers are getting information from IMs, TMs, blogs ... .

I was IM'ed this little gem yesterday. How does a company combat such a Website - the woman brings up issues about the mortgage company, and the first two results on a Google search on the name are anti-sites. Does the company even realize that such a Website exists, or know how to combat it? Are they tracking the Internet and the blogosphere to make sure they aren't being attacked ... or ignoring the blog at their own peril?

One of the presentations that was great - and that I wish I could see again - was Shel Holtz's presentation on Crisis Communications and Blogs. Here's a perfect example - the company should set up a blog, refute each point, and have an open dialogue with the public. Will they? Likely not ... Arizona companies have not fully embraced blogs yet.

A few sidenotes: Postings from this blog are now being republished by WebProNews, Happy Birthday to Dr. Dre, who turned 40 on February 18 - who knew that he did the 1988 song "Turn off the Lights", and let's all celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice - I do believe in miracles.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Good versus Bad Guerilla Marketing

I'm really into guerilla marketing. I think gorillas are cute, and Che Guvera always struck me as a fashionable type of guy. Why, you go to any college campus, and you'll run into at least one person wearing his face on their chest.

I'm sure a good communist like Che would love that he's become the epitome of capitalism.

Now, according to the NYTimes article, interactive marketing is going to come to a bunch of products that have nothing to do with the Internet. Che save us - hey, get it?! No religion because of communism?! Oh ... forget it.

Anyway, because of the wonderful success of the Subservient Chicken - at least on the Internet as a viral campaign - the thought is that everything should have an interactive campaign now. But, one thing I never really have read yet is how successful was the Subservient Chicken campaign really? Did it get a bunch of people into Burger King to buy chicken? I know I never got up to get a chicken sandwich there ... and there's a BK about 5 minutes from my office. Now, the "best darn burgers" commercial (opens to Real Audio video) did make me want to go in, but I'm a sucker for jingles. Plus, I always did wish that life was more like a Rodgers & Hammerstein film or Bollywood.

But, thankfully, we now have an interactive campaign for Brawny Man at Innocent Escapes. Sorta like bad SNL soap operas. To me, this is an example of trying too hard for a guerilla campaign ... especially since they have gone on an email campaign to let people know about it.

Now, the WB also has an interesting campaign ... full, life-sized posters of various WB stars. Here's the very-loved life-size Ashlee Simpson (blonde version). This, to me, is a creative campaign. I read about it online (can't find the link), and if I were their target audience, I'd print out a few posters of the shows that I watch on the WB.

To me, this is a creative campaign. It's viral, it touches on the desire of wanting to be part of the show, and it's pretty cool idea to be able to print out a full life-sized poster. The only loser in this equation is the parents whose poor color printers die right after...

Okay, I'm going to go back and watch the Burger King ad again, and sing at the top of my voice.

Okay, I lied - instead I went over to read Robert Scoble's blog - and found this little ditty on another division at MSFT that's trying to create a guerilla campaign ... and bore the wrath of Scoble for trying to launch such a transparent effort. Scoble has an interesting take, and takes them to task for not making the site a smart marketing site.

Friday, February 18, 2005

From MW to eNR

According to O'Dwyer Website today, Michael Shuler - formerly of Market Wire - has now shown up at eNR Services.

Here's the story:
Michael Shuler, a co-founder and top executive at Market Wire, has landed at tech-focused PR services company eNR Services in Norwalk, Conn.

Shuler takes the title of senior VP, database applications. Along with marketing current and future database products for the company, he is immediately charged with launching a news analysis service, Media/QTM, and a suite of media research tools. Shuler reports to eNR CEO Jon Victor.

Shuler co-founded MW, then Internet Wire, in 1994 with Michael Terpin while at Terpin's high-tech PR firm, The Terpin Group, as a senior account director. He was most recently senior VP of sales for MW.

ENR is looking to build on recent success in marketing its grassroots PR program to franchise companies like Ben & Jerry's and large companies with scattered operations to land coverage in local media.

Hmm, so ENR is getting into measurement, and brought in a man that should know a little bit about that from Market Wire. I wonder what affect this is going to have on MW - here's my past post on the company - and what it says about Shuler's response to me.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Personal PR Spinning - Or, Vetting Client Bios

Tunheim Partners - a very well respected PR firm in Minneapolis - has been caught between a rock and a hard place.

Why? According to O'Dwyer's:
Tunheim Partners is handling damage control duties for client Reggie Fowler after an embellished draft copy of the millionaire's biography was distributed to reporters by the firm in his bid to buy the Minnesota Vikings football franchise.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other local media debunked several claims in the draft bio issued on Monday, causing Tunheim to issue a clarification on behalf of Fowler, who said in that statement that he regretted that the draft was issued.

The original bio was issued with a news release announcing Fowler's signing of a purchase agreement for the Vikings, pending approval from the National Football League. The erroneous bio also went to all the league's owners.

Among the items corrected was a statement that the businessman played in the Little League World Series (it was actually a Tucson Little League All-Star team) and played for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League and the Calgary Stempeders of the Canadian Football League (he attended training camps for the teams but didn't play in games). His degree from the Univ. of Wyoming was in social work, not in business administration and finance as the original draft noted.
With more than 200 articles noting the bio "correction," this is embarassing for the agency. The agency took the bio that Fowler provided from Spiral, Inc - his company in Arizona - and accepted it at face value.

Here's the twist - as PR people, we accept the truth in the bios that we receive from our clients. In this instance, it would have been very easy to verify the information on the bio - particularly in the era of Google and the Internet. Claims to have played in the NFL and CFL are very easily verified.

But, as a PR person, you want to believe that those bios are the truth. But, just look back at the dot-com era and the executives laid off for fake bios. Two recent examples that I could remember where Nirav Tolia leaving Shopping.com and Kenneth Lonchar resigning as EVP and CFO from Veritas.

At the end of the day, trust and sloppy work sometimes bite us in the butt. The lesson here is to always do a bit of background research on executives to make sure nothing is going to come up. It's too bad, though, that this might kill Fowler's chance to become the first African-American NFL team owner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Peeking into Ketchum's measurements

From O'Dwyers is a short story that "Ketchum's research for the Dept. of Education has been posted by People for the American Way. Hundreds of pages detail how Ketchum ranked media and reporters in their coverage of the No Child Left Behind Law."

Let's take a step back, and look at this from a small PR agency / PR boutique perspective. Oh, and no more Ketchum bashing for me, but I will bash the pundits for pretending to be journalists.

While boutiques and small agencies tend to be started by people who come from the large agency life, we tend to adopt the practices we had used at the large agency, for better or worse. So, the reports I do are similar to the reports I put together at Shandwick.

But, sometimes it's good to get another perspective. And, despite the fact that this must be a pain for Ketchum, it is a good chance for us smaller firms to look at another way of putting together reports.

Here are the various PDFs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My missed lunch with Scoble

Since it's DEMO@15 at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, and well, I live in Scottsdale, I tried to set-up a few blogging meetings and interviews.

Trying to set-up an interview with JotSpot to take place after DEMO, and my interview with Chris Shipley - the DEMO maven herself - is in the works.

But, the lunch with Robert Scoble turned into a new axiom for POP! PR - business before blogging. I had a business lunch that came up that morning, so I had to cancel on Robert.

Yep, sacrilege in the blogosphere.

So, we had a discussion while he was being driven to the airport, and I hope to do a follow-up talk if I can convince him that he needs to come back to Scottsdale for PC Forum.

On The Economist article: I asked Robert if there wasn't a little bit of irony, and some English hyperbole, to say that PR is dead ... while they had to go through WaggEd to get the interview with him? Robert did laugh at the irony, but noted that he loves his PR people and firms. Yay!

On Rubel, MicroPersuasion and my post on new MP service: Well, here's a shocker. Robert says he has no idea who Steve Rubel is - okay, it's a joke - but he did disagree with my post, and he had a good argument why separate blogging services are needed for PR firms: corporate America is scared of blogging, and doesn't understand blogging. So a separate division is a good way to get blogging into corporate America. And, I have to agree ... somewhat.

Tying in the two questions, Robert noted that PR is changing, and that the agencies that don't get blogging, or fight it tooth and nail, are doing so at their clients' peril. Scoble had a great example: 10 years ago, all that PR people needed to worry about was reaching out to the Walt Mossbergs of the world. Now, though, since even the media checks out PubSub on major companies, it's the blogger that might have an audience of two that might bring up the next story that's going to be detrimental to your company. If, as a PR person, you aren't tracking the blogosphere, it's inevitable your client is going to get burnt at some point.

So, we agreed on main issues - that PR firms need to embrace and learn about the blogosphere - but disagreed on the finer points if separate business units need to be started. Interesting, though, that this issue also came up during the business lunch: shouldn't PR firms be able to provide strategy, tactics, media expertise - along all disciplines from print to online to blogs?

O'Dwyer Conference Call - Trying to make sense of the New York Times article ...

With the article on Sunday, about PR needing better PR, Jack O'Dwyer and his editors will host a conference call at 2.00 PM EST on Wednesday, Feb. 16 on the article and other topics.

Call (800) 820-4690, conference code 6792471 to take part in or listen to the discussion.

Now, I haven't yet blogged on the article - I have begun writing a long essay on the article, as well as other subjects - but I think I'm going to hold off to see what dialogue comes out of the O'Dwyer conference call.

It should be interesting...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day ... but not for those who used Hallmark.com


Oops - who forgot today was Valentine's Day? Posted by Hello

Well, I was a pretty good guy. I sent out about 4 Valentine's Day e-cards from Hallmark.com.

This morning, this is the message that I got when I went to send out a few more, because I remembered some more people.

Okay, it's sucking up to potential clients. I admit it - I think it's cute to send a Valentine's Day card and turn it into a business pitch.

But, this is a nice mini-PR nightmare for Hallmark's Web division. Either this is the default message for when the Website crashes during an e-card holiday rush, or someone really didn't plan well ahead and remember today is Valentine's Day. I'm guessing it's a default message for crashing.

Well, I will check later in the day, and hope that these people that I sent cards to ... will actually be able to see the cards.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Blogs and Libel - or Damn, NKK!

While walking back to her office from Jamba Juice, NKK said something that's stuck with me: be careful you don't get sued for libel, because that can get expensive.

I smiled at NKK, then told her I'd make sure to re-read the AP Style Guide libel section.

Side note - if you are in PR, and don't have the AP Style Guide, run - dont' walk - to the nearest bookstore and pick it up. Now. Stop reading, and go. Now.

What lead to this with NKK? While at the NewComm Forum, I was IM'ed by a former client of mine. He asked me if I had given his name to an SVP of another PR firm. This firm - bigger than my boutique - has offices in Chicago, San Diego, Indianapolis, San Jose, Los Angeles, New York. Plus, with the SVP having moved to Scottsdale, also now Arizona.

So, this woman had called and emailed my friend. My friend - let's call him "Doc" - let the woman know that if he did go with any firm, it would be with POP! Public Relations. She has since called a few more times, not taking "no" that well.

Prior, the same agency would not stop emailing and contacting a client of POP! PR. Even after the SVP was told that they had a PR firm, she continued to email and call, and I had to call her to tell her to give it up.

So, I let NKK know I was going to blog the situation, and name names and link to the agency. That's when she said ... it's inevitable that a blogger will be sued for libel. And, now, I can't get the issue out of my head ... damn, NKK!

Can blogs be sued for libel?

It is inevitable, and has already happened. Blogs have received notices from attorneys that they are being sued for libel, but typical of the blogosphere, they don't take these threats seriously. I have read in various blogs that libel suits are rarely won, or that the blog is protected by the courts. But, if push comes to shove, how many bloggers have the deep pockets to fight a libel lawsuit? Or, are most bloggers like Rakim, digging deeper into the pockets and still coming up with lint ...

Is it worth pushing the boundaries in a blog to get traffic, then end up in a libel suit? Are certain blogs that we all have seen - making fun of ugly people on the Web, making fun of Star Wars fans - worth the potential for a libel lawsuit?

To answer all these questions, I interviewed David E. McCraw, Counsel for The New York Times Co. I figured the counsel for a newspaper as prestigious as the New York Times would be able to provide some good insight on libel for bloggers:
It's going to happen that someone will blog, and the response will be a lawsuit. Look at all the high school journals with compromising photos of friends. It's going to be something that willl be sued over - an intra-high schol suit that won't get major coverage.

With blogs now being published under the writer's name, and easily identifiable and writing on public topics, there's no reason why blogs are not being sued for libel.

In public figure libel cases, the public figure has to prove that what's written is maliciously known to be false. The private individual, though, only has to prove that a reporter is being careless - was the individual called? Were questions asked? In reporting, these are the questions that need to be answered to protect against libel.

Bloggers, though, blog on belief. Bloggers are like disc jockeys rather than reporters - they say what's on their mind.

There are three interesting set of legal issues for bloggers:
  1. Republisher Liability: the site is used to post letters, responses, chat rooms, message boards. For the Republisher site, the Website is a neutral conduit, and cannot be sued. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that such sites - including blogs that republish/link from other sources - are protected against libel.
  2. Originator Liability: the Website can't be sued, but you can be sued. If you post on a blog, even though it is a neutral conduit and is protected, the originator is open to liability. The safe harbor is not true for everyone.
  3. Protection against subpoenas: the Website falls under the shield law case, with unpublished material you don't want to testify about. The third case is currently at issue with the lawsuits against the Apple bloggers - and, the issue is whether or not those bloggers are protected as a journalist would be.
Unfortunately, many bloggers think that their blogs fall under the protection of the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling. This isn't so. If a blogger posts libelous content that is original, it is still libel.

Do bloggers deserve the same protection as journalists? On one side, it obvious that bloggers are journalists, and on the other side, people are just having private conversations. Bloggers are trying to site on both sides of the fence - citizen journalists and personal journals. They want the protection of shield law as a journalist, but at the same time not worry about fact checking since it is just a blog.

Originally, people thought that since blogs had low readership there was no real reason to worry about libel. But, now the way that search engines work, blogs are being easily found - with comments and posts of an unflattering nature.

What happens on blogs now is that posts are being picked up by major media outlets. The lonely, personal essayist is no longer true for blogs. There are now blogs that are influential and being picked up, and if it construed as factual information, there needs to be a level of fact checking. If it is false, the original source - the blogger - may be subject to liability just as much as a newspaper.

Suing a blogger might not be worth the hassle, though. First, you have to prove that people have read the post, that you were damaged by it, then find the person that posted the libelous content, find the court that has the jurisdiction ... it is extremely difficult to deal with these hurdles in an economic way.

It is unlikely that a person of prominence will sue a blog, because of the high hurdle public officials need to take. But, blogs and the potential of libel raise interesting legal issues.

One more thought - In Europe, particularly the UK, libel laws are different. Unlike the States - where it is the plaintiff who is responsible for proving libel - in the UK it is up to the defendant to prove that what they wrote was true. (Interesting side note is that the Wall Street Journal just won a libel case in the UK, proving that only 5 people read the article).
I also spoke with a local attorney I know to get his views on libel, and Arizona laws.
Bartlet Brebner, of The Brebner Law Firm, noted that “First Amendment is such a moving and shifting area of law – new court decisions alter the lay of the land, the jury instructions – that nuances come along and change what can be done all the time.”

Bart also had a very interesting point on the value of blogs – it’s America’s equivalent of the Hyde Park speaker’s corner.
Why should we care about this in public relations? To protect myself a little bit, I did add that the blog is "my opinions and views" - that it's my views and opinions. But, as McCraw noted, that's not enough protection against libel. Simple labeling that something is an opinion does not make it so - the writer has to use "opiniony" words so that it is easily identifiable as not fact, less factual, while showing the basis of the opinion.

Another thing that bothers me, though, is should bloggers have the same protections as journalists? With the fast and loose nature of the blogosphere - where very little is fact checked, but opinions run rampant - it seems counterintuitive to extend the same protection that media gets. A recent Baltimore Sun article noted that the Web is changing reporting, but the fact is that such Online reporters are in a world of their own.

It appears to me that some bloggers need to be slapped down for what they write. Then again, I am one of the only bloggers that raised his hand at the NewComm Forum when Andy Lark asked the audience if anyone felt that corporations were right to fire bloggers in certain instances.

As amorphous communications grows, and blogs become part of the communications mix - both pitching to bloggers and having a corporate blog - we as public relations professionals need to keep in mind what we can and cannot say. And, we also need to be very aware of what is being said about our clients, and at times, about us. As McCraw noted - and I can attest to - bloggers blog on beliefs and emotions. Sometimes, that can be a dangerous combo that will lead to a libel suit, or at least some trouble.

Snippet - BIG Congrats to Anthurian

If you had been wondering why the Anthurian blog had been down for awhile, part of it is this ... Anthony and his wife just had a baby girl! Go take a look at the cute photo.

Congratulations to the happy couple, and let's get a gift together from the Global PR Blog Week people :)


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Snippet - Micro Persuasion isn't just a blog anymore

Congratulations to Steve Rubel with his launch of the Micro Persuasion service at CooperKatz.

But, whenever agencies launch specialized practices - beyond the natural ones, like healthcare - it makes me wonder "shouldn't these practices be part of the overall public relations campaign to begin with?"

Why do firms feel the need to marginalize different services - like MWW's blogging service, FH Out Front for the homosexual community or Ketchum's Women 25to34? It's like most of these efforts/offerings are designed as marketing tactics. The firms don't know how to promote a new service as much as they feel capable of promoting a whole new 'mini firm'

While Steve has done a great job branding himself, - I did ask him if MP was going to become a division of CooperKatz a couple month's ago - does PR need to divide and marginalize every practice and group?

In PR Week's Julia Hood's New Year editorial, she noted that "We will hold agencies more accountable for proving the benefits of their new practice areas and offerings, and challenge more aggressively blanket productization of PR programs."

What do I take this to mean? PRW will look to write about "real" new practices at PR firms, not the micro-practices that come and go with trends.

It's my view that we should be able to reach out to any group for a client, and have certain practices within the campaign. Granted, as PR people we need to pay attention to budgets, billability and time, and can't feasibly provide everything in one campaign, but shouldn't this just be one part of a campaign, the blogosphere? It's the same thing for me when agencies split up online and print campaigns - don't they overlap to begin with? It should be one campaign, and often times its not.

Everyone in the PR Weblog community seems to have been writing that blogs/online should at least be explored as a possible tactic to add to the mix for any campaign. If it suits the campaign, use it - offer it. But, do we need to have a separate division?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Snippet - Marketing firm looks for blog writers on CL

Well, it looks like another marketing firm is getting into the blogging business.

Electric Artists has posted an ad on Craigslist looking for Pop Culture, Artists and Entertainment Weblog Writer.

I hope this does not devolve into an episode of Bullshit Marketing, as noted on the Site-9 blog for O&M's blogging outreach for AmEx's Blue.

They should have attended the NewComm Forum to make sure the blogs are done in a transparent way. :)

But, this also brings up another issue - who should be responsible for blogs? Marketing, Advertising or Public Relations? It's the age-old question of control, and since PR is supposed to be the most transparent (and, well, since I am in PR) I hope it would be PR that drives blogging and blog outreach.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Fun with Superbowl Ads

The Superbowl is, well, the superbowl of advertising. The extended media coverage from a Superbowl ad - which cost $2.4M per 30 seconds, not including production costs - more than makes up for the cost.

But, just having a commercial on the Superbowl does not guarantee an increase in sales or name/brand recognition - despite the 2 week build-up and week later buzz. Try to remember all the dot-coms that used to advertise, or, quick, try to think of the commercial that had Da Bears in it tonight?

So, it comes down to good ads and bad ads. I consider an ad to be bad because I wonder if I will remember it the next day. Yes, tonight during the Superbowl the name might stick in memory, but what about tomorrow? What about next week?

I didn't review each advertisement, just the ones that I thought belonged in one category or another. The ones that did not make the list are ones that were neither bad nor good, but something that I didn't think needed to be ranked. Or, I just had no feelings either way about them - like Pepsi.

Here's my list of what I view as the good and the bad.

The Good:
  • Visa. This commercial makes me want to run out and fill out a bunch of Visa applications. Not because of the security message, but because of Underdog. Nice tactic to pull in some cartoon nostalgia, and, well I love Underdog so much that I used to go as him for Halloween.
  • Budweiser. No matter the Superbowl - except last year - Budweiser comes with its best and brightest ads. And, they should as they pull together more ads than they need, then pick the cream of the crop.
  • Honda. While the commercial aired, it made me think it was just another boring pickup truck commercial. Then, it ended and Honda unveils the Ridgeline. For being a little bit the same, then a little different, it made me sit up and notice. I'm not going to forget the truck tomorrow (well, maybe the name), but I will remember that Honda now has a pickup truck.
  • Ameriquest. With a couple of clever commercials - Don't Judge Too Quickly - and the sponsorship of the family-friendly halftime show (where I was expecting a concert flasher or two), Ameriquest got its name out there. This is a borderline good ad, because I can't tell you if people are going to remember them tomorrow morning, or go to them for their mortgage.
  • Ford. The 2005 Mustang commercials were clever, well placed, and pushed the look into my mind. Plus, it was fun to watch a Midwesterner frozen and I will remember that the car will be out this Spring.
And now, the Bad:
  • Careerbuilder. Looking like any dot-com advertisement from a few years ago, the job Website pulled out the monkeys to highlight ... that we all work with monkeys. Tomorrow morning, let's see if people can differentiate between Careerbuilder, Hotjobs and Monster.
  • American Idol. Well, the show bugs me so the ad bugs me.
  • Silestone. While I like watching Da Bears, and it was an interesting strategy to advertise on the Superbowl, I wonder what the brand recognition is going to be like tomorrow morning.
  • Go Daddy. Yes, I have written about the Superbowl ad, but after watching the "final" commercial, I still don't get the ad. What did this have to do with Website registration and hosting? And, the commercial seemed a lot shorter than 30 seconds. Will anyone remember the company's name tomorrow morning, or just that they had an ad with a buxom brunette's strap breaking?
As for local ad campaigns, Fulton Homes had an ad that was just as creative, if not more. Produced and shot locally. There is talent in Phoenix, you just need to give it a shot.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Good Bye, Uncle Lou


Uncle Lou and Aunt Edith, together now Posted by Hello

So, I found out tonight that my Uncle Lou passed away during his sleep last night. A couple weeks ago, he turned 98, so he had a full life.

Whenever I would be in New York for business, I made sure to make time to go see him in Brooklyn. He had lived in the same neighborhood forever and a day, and even when the neighborhood changed, he was fine. Everyone looked out for him, because he was a nice guy. Plus, a flirt who spoke fluent Russian (as the neighborhood was becoming Russia after being Jewish and Puerto Rican).

Last time I was in, he was in a Coney Island rehab hospital because he broke his hip. I spoke to the doctors, the nurses and rehab people all said the same thing: sweetheart, total flirt, great patient (when he listens).

I was going to try to get back to New York in a couple months, and see him. But, at least when I last saw him he was happy to see me, and I got to spend the day with him.

Goodbye Uncle Lou, and hope you were reunited with Aunt Edith and Fonda.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Snippets - Denver cookie scandal, Auburn bloggers, NewComm Photos

  • No good deed goes unpunished. These two sweet teenage girls in Durango decided to do something nice for their neighbors, so they baked cookies and delivered them to houses with lights on.

    Well, they frightened one cranky neighbor who sued them. Personally, I think they should have counter-sued the woman for wasting the court's time on such a frivolous lawsuit.

    The lesson here? Never do nice things for neighbors, because they might sue.
  • The new Auburn classes are blogging.

    The instructor, Robert French, has set up two different blogs for them. The Style & Design class all have individual blogs, while his Intro to PR class has a group blog.

    It's quite interesting to note the different voice one semester to another. Last semester , the students seemed to be more individualistic, while this semester the students seem to go with the flow. So far, a lot of the bloggers are blogging the same thing and aren't finding their voice.

    Hopefully, some of the students will begin to find their own voices, searching the Web and the blogosphere for different subjects that interest them. Or, write about some personal things - just because someone brings up Epic, all the students don't need to write about it.

Pro-PR Grassroots Campaign

Steven Phenix sent me - and a few other PR bloggers - a missive, a call-to-arms to defend public relations.

As Tom Murphy noted, there might be more reasons than just pushing the envelope, and trying to clear the air for PR, but all-in-all it's for a good cause: to highlight what PR does for the public, or as Phenix wrote, have the "PR blogging community devote a post-or two-to why we are necessary, how we make an impact or to simply what we respect and love about this industry. My hope is that our contributions will create somewhat of a buffer zone of online goodwill that will hold up no matter what befalls us next."

What ever befalls the PR industry next, though, the industry needs to weather the storm on its own. As marketing, advertising and public relations continue to roll down a path of convergence - where both boardrooms and the public cannot tell the difference - PR needs to push its way to the forefront.

And, with an administration that had a first term with one of the lowest amount of press conferences, and then showed its disdain for the press by paying pundits to push their agenda, PR has taken an unnecessary hit for being the conduit of some of these deals. The NY Press has the best piece I've seen thus far on all the paid pundits.

PR is necessary for any corporation, but will need to continue to evolve. And, there really is no better source for that type of insight than Jack O'Dwyer, from his commentary on PR's shift toward marketing.

One thing that we need to remember in this industry - as amorphous communications grows more and more, and as we are unable to truly control the message on blogs - that the P has always been about public relations. We are a bridge to CEOs, to corporations to reach out to the public. We need to not pull the Heismann move, but to help reporters, editors, pundits, and yes, bloggers, get the information they need.

As a blogger, I have run into that - PR firms that I call to get information for a post, or for my presentation for the NewComm Forum, and then having the Heismann pulled on me. It's bad when a PR person would do that to another PR person. It's unconscionable for a PR person to do that to a reporter.

One thing I did pick up at the NewComm Forum was from a discussion with a very Texas-cute VP from a large PR firm. She noted that there are times that PR people should circle the wagons, because outsiders are looking to see what we are going to say about our colleagues.

While PR needs to evolve, and we need to be pro-PR, we also need to look out for other firms, and help them find the light - hallelujah! - and come into the fold.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Snippets - Ofoto kills memories, Vonage fun, Go vote for Musings from POP! PR

  • Ofoto hates wedding memories. Okay, not really, but this less than fun story in the San Fransico Chronicle highlights the Ofoto deletion policy.

    While it was partially the woman's own fault - she hadn't updated her email address for the account - Ofoto should shoulder some of the blame. Why did the woman's account not notify her of its impending doom when she logged in? How about a simple pop-up screen telling her of the upcoming deletion, instead of the unending push to purchase?

    I did receive the deletion email, and was offended by its bluntness. As the former PR manager, I had a couple fake accounts to see how outsiders were treated, and, well, the email was quite the wake-up call.

    So, now the woman's wedding photos are gone, and Ofoto has competition coming out the woodwork: Flickr, EZ Archive, SnapJot, HeyPix, Phanfare, Picasa - on top of the competition that is already there, like SmugMug, Snapfish, Shutterfly, PhotoWorks ... oh, the list goes on and on.

    Not a fun day for Kodak PR.
  • Vonage for business. Well, not really.

    I am moving offices, and decided to sign up for Vonage for my business line.

    First assessment? Vonage is not ready for business. Why? It's simple - no ability to choose your own number, or even change the number. Then, when I called to complain, the CS person said all phone systems were like that.

    Wrooong. When I was in college, I sat on the phone for 20 minutes going through numbers with the representative until I found a simple number for my family and grandparents to remember. It was one number of the local Chinese place, but hey, that wasn't a big problem since I only got one call a week for food.

    But, while I like Vonage thus far, I would hold off if you were thinking of them for business until they can offer a better business service - particularly number choice.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Snippets - Anti-social iPods, A9's Yellow Pages, and it's not PR's fault - it's unethical "columnists"

  • iPods are personalized media makers - From USA Today, a nice little article on the personalized media push with iPods.

    Is it just me - and, yes, I have no iPod, so speaking on a theoretical basis - but is it that good that we have a bunch of people walking around in their own little world no longer interacting with other humans in real-time, face-to-face? Just a question to put out there.
  • Hey, how can I find that abused women's shelter? While I think A9's new Yellow Pages is an amazing piece of technology - here's an example for florists in Phoenix - USA Today's article did point out a few problems: lack of privacy for a few addresses that need to be kept hidden. Such examples were abortion clinics and women's shelters.

    Still, all in all, it's a great service. This is just a small PR issue to take care of, and easily rectified by editing out certain addresses and photos.
  • Maybe it's not PR's fault, but, well, pundits lack ethics.

    Here's the argument. First, we have Williams-gate (I refuse to call it Flakgate or that PR firm gate). Then we have the recent admissions by Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus for taking money to write on marriage. Now, a recent Washington Post article highlights that right-wing pundits Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol helped out with the inaugural address.

    This leads me to wonder: are columnists supposed to abide to the same journalistic ethics as editors and reporters? If they are going to use the excuse of pundit, are columns even worth reading, or are they signed, sealed and delivered by special interest groups.

    When you usually see a fake article in a newspaper, there's that fun "paid advertisement" banner all around the article. Maybe newspapers need to start doing that with Op-Ed pages.