Thursday, April 28, 2005

Clueless train pulling into the station ... various offences today

Engineer Jeremy back here again, a little late pulling into the station. Sometimes, the cluelesstrain is on time, sometimes it's not.

Other times, there are just so many things you read online that make you think that Sparky should either jump on the tracks, or that we need to reserve a bunch of seats for people today. So, just wave to today's passengers, and don't get too close - it might be catchy!

And the train says "Sparky, don't jump on the cluelesstrain!" Posted by Hello

First on board: Arizona State University. The University has a pretty good business school. It's not top 10, but it does quite well for itself. But, apparently it has decided to target online universities in its latest billboard advertising campaign - the Phoenix metro area is home to both ASU and University of Phoenix - with a statement to get a "real MBA" that implies the online MBAs aren't worth anything.

This made no sense - when you make comparisons, you compare up, not down. But, being a Wildcat, I thought I was being too harsh, so I asked a friend who does development for the business school at the University of Chicago. After she stopped laughing - and choking - she confirmed my thought: always compare up, to give yourself a sense of worth and class. Get comfy in that chair on the Cluelesstrain for that ad campaign.

Second on board: TiVo. In my past PR lives, I have worked on reviewer programs. And, during that time, reporters asked us if they could purchase the products. And, since these products were part of our review group, we said that they could after - and wrote down their name in a handy-dandy Word spreadsheet, with their request. Nice and simple, as we kept that spreadsheet database to know when reporters and analysts were sent product, when they were due back, and when we called them for follow-up and to ensure everything was running well.

TiVo might want to think of setting something up like that, instead of their mass email to reporters. According to an article in, "TiVo sent an e-mail to journalists on Friday saying they could get a special $200 discount on the new TiVo-Humax Digital Video Recorder.

However, a TiVo spokesman told on Monday that the special price was not intended to influence the media's coverage of the company."

C/Net also picked up on the story. Not fun for TiVo, who is a company in transition and didn't need this type of press. Plus, it's not hard to create tables in Word.

The third seat is nice and warm for NexTag. NexTag, a shopping comparison site that is a distant competitor to and PriceGrabber - and let's not even forget Froogle and the next generation - had a nice write-up in the San Jose Mercury News.

All which was ruined by the publicist for NexTag and his mouth. In the article ...
the fast-talking Chouteau, who carries purple shades on his head. ``I wanted to blow the doors off. I told them, `I could lie, cheat and steal a little bit for you, you know?' ''
So, all the goodwill built up in the story is ruined because a publicist either thought he was off the record - which any good PR person knows does not exist - or he lacks a filter. Either way, NexTag gets a call for the Cluelesstrain.

The two last seats on today's train are for an unknown LA company and Jean Chatzky. In the LACP Newsletter, there's a Q&A with a person asking a question that no PR manager has the right to ask: I just started a new PR job as a manager and am having a frustrating time building rapports with trade media. Nobody ever responds to my press releases and my phone calls are never returned. What can I do?

If you have reached the plateau of PR manager, you should know what to do. It's as simple as that. Company X - shame on you for not vetting out a competent PR person, or getting what you pay for. Sit down.

Now, Jean is a great expert in finance - and she's a Michigander, and we all know they rock. But, she gets a one-stop trip on the Cluelesstrain for part of her answer in a recent column for the Today page on MSNBC.

The reader asks, "I really want to be a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, I need to make some money! Are there any legitimate stay-at-home jobs?"

Part of Jean's answer is "for example, if you have great communications skills, perhaps you could take on a public relations client or two from home." Yep, PR is just that simple - you have a phone, a computer, you're a "people person" and you too can do PR! Jean must work with PR people occasionally, but it appears she does not respect them. That's just sad.

Hope you enjoyed this week's ride!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Al Golin, Chairman, GolinHarris

PR Face2Face is a special series of interviews with the top public relations and publicity professionals in the country, as well as with people involved in the public relations world. The eighth installment is Al Golin, Chairman of GolinHarris.

A veteran for almost 50 years in the public relations industry, Al Golin is chairman of Chicago-based GolinHarris.

In addition to handling the McDonald's account for more than 45 years, GolinHarris represents such companies as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coors Brewing Co., Florida Department of Citrus, Levi Strauss & Co., National Peanut Board, Nestlé, Nintendo of America, Owens Corning, Sprint, Texas Instruments, Toyota Motor Sales of America, and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

As a consultant to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Al's work centered on a major public relations awareness program for U.S. companies on the benefits of exporting to help our economy, increase employment, and reduce the balance of trade deficit.

Al is a member of the board of trustees of The Goodman Theatre of Chicago and Roosevelt University, a founding board member of Ronald McDonald House Charities, and is public relations advisor to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

He is also a member of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Public Relations Seminar and the Public Relations Society of America.

He has lectured at Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Yale University, Northwestern University, New York University, and the Annenberg Communication School at USC.

Al received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Public Relations Society of America, Publicity Club of Chicago and Inside PR magazine, and was named one of the 100 most influential public relations people of the twentieth century by the industry trade magazine PR Week.

His book, TRUST OR CONSEQUENCES, published by Amacom Books, is currently in distribution.

My coffee meeting with Al Golin, Chairman, GolinHarris. Posted by Hello

You are a legend in public relations, as the founder and head of Golin/Harris. What do you credit for the secret of your success? How did you get into PR?

I got into PR accidentally. After college, I thought I wanted to get into movie productions. My family owned movie theaters, in Chicago and California.

My first public relations job was at MGM Pictures in their publicity department. I thought it would be an entrée in to the movie business. I ended up liking the PR end of the business and stayed in it.

I joined up with Max Cooper, who had a small firm, almost 50 years ago. Cooper now is a McDonald’s franchisor in Alabama, and commutes down there. At the time, the firm was Cooper and Golin. Tom Harris then joined me, who subsequently got out of the business 10 years ago.

With our recent rebranding, we evaluated our name and the thought was to change it just to Golin. The GolinHarris name has value, and people thought we should retain the full name. GH itself has somewhat become as well-known as the two names.

As for the success, I still take part in the business calls, the RFPs. I stay involved. The pitches are fun to win, not so fun to lose. I took part in the recent SC Johnson pitch – it was a remarkable pitch because we went so long. It was a great win against great competitors.

What has changed in public relations for the better and worse in the past 50 years?

For the better, it’s come of age, to a greater extent. When I started, my mother never understood what I did, and we had to sell the prospective clients on what PR is, before convincing them to hire us. The educational aspect of it is over pretty much, although there are plenty of people that confuse PR with advertising. There are very few, if any, large organizations that need to be convinced that they need PR or need to hire a firm. The more sophisticated markets, the people are aware of it. Generally speaking, I think it has achieved respectability – despite the few glitches – and we are in so many different areas that we never dreamt of, such as management consulting. Now PR is more than just traditional publicity.

For the worse, sometimes, the industry has a tendency to be pompous. There are too many PR people – whether agency or corporate – who think of themselves as a profession rather than a business. The “business” side is not a dirty word, but some view it that way. In order for us to be taken really seriously by top management, we still have a ways to go to become part of the mainstream.

We need to take the profession seriously, with high expectations.

What we do is a business. Whether it is on the agency side, or on the client side, we represent profit-making companies.

PR needs to be more focused on the business side. Clients want to make a profit, and we should not be embarrassed about wanting to make a profit. Sometimes, people in our industry have their hats in their hands, and are insecure. We need to be confident enough that our work is important to the client. We are not a stepchild, but have a major seat at the executive table.

Right now, there's a bit of discussion on what are the differences between public relations and publicity. Do you envision yourself as more of a PR professional or publicist?

Publicity is such a small part of what we do nowadays. I am not diminishing the things we do for clients for exposure, but it has become increasingly less important over the years.

I don’t like the word publicist. It has the same negative connotation as flack, “getting ink.” What we do is so much more important than that. It’s more than just getting ink for clients. For some major companies, they might not want that all, but want less ink and PR has to counsel on how to do that, not be a lightning rod for everything and anything. Some companies are blamed for the ills of the world.

What advice would you give students entering public relations?

Well, I would really advise them on getting more business oriented skills, more well-rounded skills. I am always amazed at when I see a young person in PR who doesn’t read newspapers, who doesn’t watch the news.

I’ve always been a news junkie, so it’s hard for me to understand those that do not realize that if you are in the business, you really have to know what is current. If you are not knowledgeable on what is going on today, how do you advise clients or company on what to do tomorrow?

Too many young people are not in touch with today. That’s why I am still in the business, because I am very curious. I always want to continue to learn, and being curious is one of the most single important things in PR. I love it when a young kid asks me a lot of questions. I hate it when people don’t ask questions. I rather have too many asked, than not enough.

When we are pitching a new client, and they don’t ask questions – it doesn’t mean that we didn’t do well, but it’s a scary situation. Aren’t they curious about anything? Don’t they want to know more about something we said?

Public Relations seems to be under fire right now - both internally and externally - with the different crises of late – VNRs, Ketchum/Armstrong Williams, etc. What do you think is the biggest issue for PR in 2005 and beyond?

The biggest issue is credibility. It is being focused on the mainstream, trustworthiness.

Trust is a big word for us – I wrote a book about trust, Trust or Consequences, and have been giving speeches on it. I think the word “trust” to me is still the most significant word in regards to our maintaining trust for our clients, and trying to establish trust for the companies we represent.

Without trust, the brand and company mean nothing. In the book, I quote Ralph Larson, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson. I always considered them to be a great ethical company. He said that we don’t have a trademark, we have a trust mark. Anyone that violates that has to answer to the CEO.

I came up with a term for McDonald’s years ago, the “trust bank.” It really means building up deposits of good will, and whenever you need those deposits, you are able to use it when needed. McDonald’s has been attacked as a symbol of everything and anything. All the stuff they have done over the years – the trust bank – has served them well when they need to withdraw from that good will bank.

Your company does not have a blog - what are your views on the blogosphere and pitching blogs? Any short-term or long-term plans for launching a Golin-Harris blog or blog practice?

We have discussed it over the last few months, and we do follow them at our agency.

Richard Edelman has a blog, and he broke ground in that arena from the major firms. He’s done a good job being out there as a voice.

It is important; the industry is realizing that and is having meetings. Whether it’s Arthur Page, PRSA – we all realize blogs are a force to be recognized and reckoned with, and we need to address it.

Golin-Harris has its HQ in Chicago, along with some other firms. How did you decide on setting up the office in Chicago?

The major issue was that I lived there. Chicago has always been a good business town. If you can make it in Chicago, you can make it anywhere. My father said that to me as a child – if you can’t make it in Chicago, you can’t make it anywhere.

New York is obviously very important, but Chicago is more controllable than New York. The Midwest work ethic is something that our clients bring up – the Chicago state of mind that works well for us.

Plus, there’s not a real way to go virtual. It sounds good on paper, but people want face-to-face meetings. They want you to be in the major markets. There still has to be face-to-face interaction. With all the technology that exists, all the high-tech has to be balanced with the high-touch. There has to be more high-touch, because technology is not going to take the place of the face-to-face and interpersonal relationships. People still want that interplay.

Technology has killed the interpersonal relationship with no discussions taking place.

Forty-eight years ago, I made the cold call to Ray Kroc, and that’s how we got the McDonald’s business. Today, you still need those kinds of relationships and skills.

The one key is the dependence on technology. You need to have confrontation, discussion, otherwise it’s a one-way street that will never work.

McDonald’s has been a client of Golin-Harris for many, many years. What do you credit the longevity to, and how have you handled the ongoing crises that have been brought up by such movies as Super Size Me?

The longevity is best answered by what a key executive once told me – you always treated us like you just got us.

That’s the key. We never have taken them for granted, even after all these years. That is the danger of any long-term relationship. You have to keep it exciting, and new.

As for Super Size Me, our counsel was to not over-react. They would have loved to have sued the filmmaker, which would have given them more credence. That would have been a great disaster. You have to take it seriously, but don’t overreact.

For 48 years, GolinHarris has handled McDonald’s for all these years. At the time, no one had heard of them, and now they are the lightning rod. It was just a cold call to Ray Kroc.

The founders of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc and Joan Kroc, were heavily involved in philanthropic endeavors. She left all her money to charities, $1.5B to the Salvation Army, $50M to public radio, and other amounts to other various charities. Why leave it all to kids, because it’s too much money to leave them was her belief. A former PR person from McDonald’s was the executor of her will. As people and a corporation, they were always involved in the community.

Many PR firms started as family businesses, or have had family members join the organization.

I have one son that works in technology in London, and two daughters. One went into the communications business, and was recently the communications director of the Chicago Mercantile; she just resigned and is now on her own in Chicago targeting mainly financially-related clients. She went into the industry, but did not come to GolinHarris because she did not want to be accused of favoritism. I salute her for doing it on her own.

It’s difficult sometimes to bring the children into the business. It’s dangerous for them and key senior people. For the children, they have to prove twice as hard that they deserve to be there. For key executives, it turns off your key people. The thought may be that the children had no where else to go, and since key executives’ names aren’t the same as the ones on the door, that they have no place to go in the organization.

You have had a home in Phoenix for the past 10 years. Has there ever been any thought of opening an office here, or targeting Phoenix businesses?

It would interfere with my golf game, but seriously, I don’t think the market is quite ready for a GH office yet. One of these days it could be a viable market, though.

Would it be possible to build a huge, multi-national agency these days the way you, Daniel Edelman and the others did?

Yes, there is still opportunity. It would be difficult to build that network, but it’s still possible.

To build a large, global agency, it takes capital to either acquire a firm or start from scratch, and not many agencies have that capital available without help from a larger entity.

Any last words or advice for PR people?

My favorite expression is “fix it BEFORE it breaks.” We should all have the courage to change things before we have to.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Holy Cannoli Batman, Target is looking for a PR blogger!

While I straddle the fence on blogging - is it the end-all be-all, is it just a communications tool to be used (and sometimes abused), has it jumped the shark with the Business Week article - this is pretty cool to me.

For the Target manager/senior manager of media relations job for Target, one of the requirments is "Strong knowledge for Internet journalism, e.g., blogs" - think about that for a minute.

The fact that one of the largest retailers in the country - and, personally a favorite of mine - is doing this is quite interesting. Think of all the online shopping that goes on at, the past issues with Amazon/Target and the items for sale. Now, they are actually proactively looking for someone to deal with blogs, including the crisis communications that is sometimes needed when things are unleashed in the blogosphere.

This is a major shift in corporate awareness, understanding that online media and blogging are part of the communications mix, and need to be tracked, monitored, and yes, responded to sometimes. Let me reiterate that - Target is not buying the cluelesstrain pitch that blogging practices need to be separate, but rather is looking for a PR person that understands blogs, how to track them, and how to work within the blogosphere.

And, well, the person has to be a PR person with other PR experience. From the ad, it looks like Target stills want the other skill sets that have always been sought, but just want that added expertise to be in the mix for their new hire.

A round of applause for Target. And, a round of applause to Robert French, who likely has had to deal with the doubters, the nay-sayers and the cynics (and, well, just the cranky academia) when he made his Auburn students blog.

One downside: I bet Target gets a TON of bloggers with no PR experience applying, because, well, PR is easy and anyone can do it (eyeroll).

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Friday, April 22, 2005

PSA: Help Find This Dog

Yes, I know that this really does not fit the theme of my blog, but I received this email today, and it was so sad.

I called the woman - to verify the story - and her dog was stolen from her front yard, while she was tending to her horse. And, then she started crying on me, and if any of you have a dog, you know that special bond between a dog and its owner.

Stolen Pickles Posted by Hello

A 7-month old Jack Russell was stolen around 6 p.m. last night on April 20, 2005 from the owner's front yard. It was during broad daylight and a couple in a yellow H2 Hummer with a bike and bike rack on the back called Pickles, who is a typical friendly puppy, and the dog went up to the couple. They grabbed the dog, took off down Dynamite Boulevard, near Scottsdale Road.

The woman has set-up a reward to reclaim her puppy, and is asking for people's help.

If you live in the Phoneix area, and see a Yellow Hummer H2, call the Scottsdale Police, who have taken a report. Look for a blonde woman with long hair - which, likely, is most of the Hummer drivers in Scottsdale - or a male, and the little terrier.

The dog was bought for the woman's birthday by her daughter, and the family cannot believe that someone that could afford to buy an H2 is so low enough to steal a puppy.

Pickles is white with black spots and freckles. She has a heart-shaped black spot on her left-side of her back. If you do see her, IM me and I will forward the information.

UPDATE: Pickles has been found, and returned to his family.

PR Gets Some Good Press

In a turnaround from its recent stories on public relations, the New York Times takes a look at how Wendy's has been handling its crisis.

This is a great case study of how Wendy's public relations team - and Ketchum, who is helping with the crisis (according to an O'Dwyer's story) - are handling the event.

In the article, it is noted that beyond Wendy's having to deal with a decline in business,
Wendy's has had to weather some 20 copycats around the country who claimed to have found everything from fingernails to a chicken bone in their Wendy's food.

Wendy's is reaching out, though.
To quell the problems and try to rebuild the company's reputation, Wendy's decided to offer free milkshakes this weekend in 48 Bay Area stores as a sign of customer appreciation. Mr. Lynch flew to San Jose on Tuesday to help coordinate the effort. The company has also decided to send coupons to residents in the area around the restaurant. Next month, Wendy's will introduce a new premium deli sandwich, also in the Bay Area.
Is that really enough? Likely not. A few crisis communications consultants noted that Wendy's did not do enough to reach out to Ms. Ayala, and show empathy. I am not sure if that is really necessary in this case - considering she lawyered up pretty quickly - and her shady past has been helping Wendy's.

This is a missed opportunity to test out the viability of blogs for crisis communications. For Wendy's, though, the crisis blog might have backfired. As the restaurant is the butt of jokes on the lame late night shows, and the finger has yet to be identified, all the information that the corporate communications team could have posted would have been about the reward, and ongoing investigation. And, it would have been open to juvenile comments.

Update: Wendy's is vindicated! Woman arrested for attempted grand larceny and shown to be a hoax.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cluelesstrain pulling into the next station:
Blogging Practices ...

The has had a long run in the past five years. First, the train had to pull into the Online Practice in 1999. Then, in 2001, the train pulled into the Homeland Security Practice station. In 2002, the station was the Sarbanes-Oxley Practice. The Cluelesstrain is tired, but thankfully it has a stop in the Blogging Practice station for the next year.

Engineer Jeremy is here to help you understand the point: just like most agencies dropped online practices in 2000, and Homeland Security and Sarbanes-Oxley practices disappeared the following years, Blogging Practices will be either swallowed up or killed in the next year.

Cluelesstrain Express. Next stop: PR Blogging Practices Posted by Hello

Here is why. Most firms realized that the differences between online and print media was moot. If the online team pitched a reporter, but the article showed up in the Wall Street Journal, who took the credit? Sadly, some agencies still split the practices, but most agencies get that an integrated campaign - online, print, and blogs - makes the most sense. As for Sarbanes-Oxley and Homeland Security practices, the pratices had short shelf lives.

I have posted about this in the past: the inanity of blogging practices, but it came up again for a few reasons. Recently, Holmes Report reported the launch of MS&L Hass Blogworks. Unlike the launch of the MWW Cluelesstrain Blogging practice, at least MS&L Hass has blogging experience with GM's Fastlane Blog, and the firm is planning to launch its own blog.

But, shouldn't this practice just be part of the overall integrated campaign? Did they really need to spin it off with its own cutesy name?

Another passenger on today's train is Denver-based XStatic Public Relations. I came across its press release announcing a blogging service. In fact, the first line of the press release touts:
As the number of Internet Weblogs surpasses 4 million, Xstatic Public Relations, a Denver-based communications agency, has added blog relations to its list of services for companies looking to share company information and manage their reputations online.
How hard would it have been to verify the number of blogs being tracked? They could have easily gone to Steve Rubel's post on IceRocket revamping its blog search engine, and found out how many blogs are being tracked by IceRocket (10MM), Technorati (9MM) and PubSub (9.5MM). When I did call the firm to ask where they got the 4 million figure from, I mentioned Technorati. The site's name was met with silence.

A special seat near the conductor, though, is saved for the Big Blog Company. The company
is a place where you go to get a blog for your company, for your project or just for fun. If you want to engage your customers, show off your expertise, tell your side of the story, handle a PR crisis, or make your web-presence a walk in the park, let us give you a hand.
So, what they do is do blogs for corporations. Just like the good, ol' days during the dot-com era where you couldn't throw a stick without hitting a Web/Internet consultant. They get the special seat, though, for claiming to be blog experts, and then refusing to be transparent in a post on supposedly a PR firm setting up fake blogs. The first thing that PR bloggers tell a client that wants to blog is ABT - Always Be Transparent. If the firm consulting on blogs can't be transparent, how can they hold the clients tothat level of honesty?

There are some tickets being held for this Cluelesstrain - for Blogging Planet and for Steve Rubel - just in case I need to give them out.

In their interviews, both Lord Chadlington (EU and UK) and Jeffrey Sharlach (Latin America) noted that blogs are very US-centric, and that is why, while their firms are aware of them, they have not been been actively targeting blogs.

That is why Blogging Planet has not yet been given their ticket for the Cluelesstrain. Blogging Planet is concentrating on the EU and the UK. Most of that market is still very young - maybe even immature - when it comes to blogging. Blogging Planet has at least a two year lead time, and in that time can build a nice business.

In the past, I wrote about CooperKatz launching Micropersuasion as a separate practice. A comment by Rubel on his anniversary post made me wonder, though, if Micropersuasion might be leaving CooperKatz as a whole, and just becoming a blogging consulting firm. Maybe I'm reading into his comment - Thanks everyone. Stay close for some big news in the coming weeks - but it does make you wonder. I'll hold onto his ticket until he announces his news.

On a side note, recently, someone that I respect brought up an issue, that some of my posts could be construed as anti-agency. No, it's more an anti-stupidity, hence the launch of the cluelesstrain. If I were anti-agency, I would not be using to interview the top PR people in the world, who tend to either be with firms, or founders of firms.

Now, if "yo hablo espanol" or "falo Portugues" I would be targeting Jeffrey Sharlach to hire POP! PR as a blog consulting firm for his clients in Latin America - showing my love for the agency life....

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Blogs in the Communications Mix

Recently, I wrote that it was all about content, and that no matter how great the content is, unless it is being pushed out in a way for people to read, it's not going to matter.

Here's taking that idea one step further - content is great, you need to get it out to the right audience, but it's not just about being online. Blogs are a great form of communications, but they are just a tool in the communications mix.

So, here are two examples of blogs being used to enhance the public relations campaigns. The first is Steven Phenix's father and colleagues; the second is English Cut and David Parmet's work on the project.

When The News Went Live
is a blog written by four old-school journalists, and how their lives changed the day of the Kennedy shooting down in Dallas. The blog was set-up to support the public relations campaign for the book of the same name the four had written together, and has lead to more press and more public appearances for the four.

Via email, I have been speaking to Steven about the project. We first talked about the difficulty on getting parents to blog - I gave up on my Mom's real estate blog, but if you want to buy in Scottsdale, let me know - and I was sure he had some of the fun headaches I had. I believe he characterized it as taking a stick to the fellow authors to adopt new communications technology.

Here's where it is interesting - and why it shows that a blog can be a good mix in a public relations campaign if correctly done.

The book publisher launched a traditional campaign - media outreach to print, radio and TV. And book signings. With the blog - and Steven's work - those book signings have increased, and C-SPAN came to Austin to film a segment. The blog has also reached people in foreign countries, something that the PR campaign was not accomplishing. As Steven noted, his father gets very excited when he gets a comment or trackback from outside the United States.

Let's be honest, though. If the authors were not interesting - and the book subject not Kennedy - the blog reach would not be as massive. But, Steven is working with the authors to make sure that they are blogging the right way, are posting interesting information, and driving greater traffic and awareness for the book.

On the flip side of the same coin in The English Cut blog on the Savile Row tailor. David has done a great job working with Thomas Mahon, the tailor, and booking some great media appointments while in New York. The Red Couch has a good post about David's work, but misses the bigger picture.

But as we discussed over Skype, is it the blog driving interest, or is it because there's a great story to tell? Just the blog isn't enough to get the story - it's a great hook to get into the door for media - but the fact that Thomas is a sincere, genuine person and it he comes across that way in both the blog and in interviews. Here's someone that decided to market his old world skills in a new world communications form - that's a good story. Here's someone that can actually tell the story, and hooks up with a pretty darn good PR person that can work the phones (yes, PR is still a phone-based business).

So, while the blog may have been an impetus for publicity, it wasn't the end-all or be-all of the story. The story on English Cut is bigger than just the blog, but the blog has helped increase business.

Two ways that blogs are being used in communications - and how PR can use blogs as an ends unto themselves.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Lord Chadlington, Chief Executive,
The Huntsworth Group

PR Face2Face is a special series of interviews with the top public relations and publicity professionals in the country, as well as with people involved in the public relations world. The seventh installment is Lord Chadlington, Chief Executive of the Huntsworth Group.

Lord Chadlington is the chief executive of the Hunstworth Group. He has spent his entire working life in communications, as a journalist after graduating from Cambridge University and later in public relations both in-house and consultancy. He founded Shandwick in 1974, establishing it as the largest PR consultancy in the UK within seven years and holding that position without interruption for the next 17 years. He built the firm overseas and it was sold to The Interpublic Group of Companies in 1998, forming the group that became the largest PR consultancy in the world. Lord Chadlington is a former director of Halifax plc and has written and lectured extensively on communications, politics and public relations. He was created a life peer in 1996.

Lord Chadlington, Chief Executive, Huntsworth PLC Posted by Hello

You have had a storied career in public relations, first founding Shandwick and growing it to the largest PR firm in the world, and now building up Huntsworth PLC. What do you credit for the secret of your success? How did you get into PR?

No question at all in my mind for the reason of success – never giving up. Everyone in PR gives up way too easily. You have to be resilient, always moving forward, push, push, push.

I am a huge believer in never giving up. My motto on my crest and shield in the House of Lords is “Never Give Up.”

I started my career in journalism, and was asked to help write for a trade press department, and enjoyed it very much. So, I made the jump from journalism to public relations.

Because of Shandwick, you have practiced PR in both the US and the UK. What are the differences between the two disciplines – is US more proactive, while UK is more reactive?

There were very significant differences when I started in public relations, but not anymore.

Today, the main differences are that the people in Europe are very good, and tend to be more global in their thinking than the PR professionals in the US.

But, if you have a huge home market like the US, you don’t need to think about overseas and International. You have to be very small in the UK, if you feel you don’t have to develop business in the EU or the US.

Right now, there's a bit of discussion on what are the differences between public relations and publicity. Do you envision yourself as more of a PR professional or publicist?

I am certainly a PR professional. Publicity is exclusively getting exposure for products or individuals in the media.

A large percentage of our work is not in that marketplace.

What advice would you give students entering public relations?

Never give up.

An important maxim is that a good PR campaign makes a bad product fail faster.

Be as certain as you possibly can be that the product, company, or people that you represent are of the highest quality. The only way you will have a long-term relationship with them is if they are of quality. If you are good, they will be a client forever.

I had one client that started with Shandwick when I started firm, and left when I left. It was a very close relationship, very intimate. I credit the ability to provide good results to the client, and the client being of high-quality.

Public Relations in the States seems to be under fire right now - both internally and externally - with the different crises of late – VNRs, Ketchum/Armstrong Williams, etc. What do you think is the biggest issue for worldwide PR in 2005 and beyond?

There are two different answers. First, it is about the quality of the business skills, the ethical and moral values of the people in the business. That’s a big issue that lasts all the time.

Secondly, there are issues to do with the world as it is today. The biggest issue is the environment – both the world’s environment, and the environment for how business works today.

Your holding company does not have a blog - what are your views on the blogosphere and pitching blogs? Any short-term or long-term plans for launching a Huntworth PLC blog or blog practice? Is the blog phenomenon more of a US fad, or are you beginning to see blogs in the UK and Europe?

We are not seeing many blogs in the UK and Europe. We are actively pursuing the blogs, but it is not a high priority in our life.

But, also until the Incepta deal finalizes, we are relatively small. When that deal closes, we will go from $140M of fee revenue to $325M of fee revenue.

When we grow with that deal, we will then start looking at those sorts of things.

Huntworth is made up of 10 various PR firms, and will grow with the proposed merger with Incepta. What are your plans for the United States, beyond your current US offices and the Citigate possibilities with Incepta? Are you looking to acquire or build in the US, or is this market not on your radar screen?

The US is absolutely on our radar screen. At Shandwick, we had a billing balance of 40 percent in the US, 40 percent in the UK and continental Europe and 20 percent in Asia.

In very broad terms, that split was correct as it reflects the size of the PR markets and the split of the world in that triad.

We have a long way to go to develop our business in the US. There are specific areas we can improve, to establish our foothold and expand it in the US. One area is our public affairs business.

But, there are lots of other things to do in the United States, which includes expanding our healthcare practice.

Is it possible to build a huge, multi-national agency these days the way you did with Shandwick?

I hope so – I’m doing it now. The Incepta deal will make us one of the largest PR consultancies in the world. There are very few consultancies earning more than $350M, and we got there under five years.

This is just the beginning of what I want do. There are some things I will do differently moving forward, but where I am at, I am very pleased with the progress.

Would you ever consider joining up with another multi-national conglomerate to grow Huntsworth?

There are two answers. One is that it is not something we currently plan, but we have shareholders, and I have to consider shareholder return. I have to be open to any offers or suggestions that are made to me.

If I wanted to practice PR in Europe, in what ways could I go about getting sponsored for a work visa?

You have to make the contacts, but in the end you have to be offered a job. The firms in the UK and EU are always looking for good people.

I like people with international experience, so very much in favor for it.

If I was looking for a job, I would write to as many people as possible to build a rapport with them, to get that introduction I would need.

How has technology changed the face of PR? Is it for the better or worse?

Technology has changed PR completely for the better. When I started Shandwick Worldwide, we needed to have physical offices. Now, we can have virtual offices.

The great advantage of email and keeping conversation going is a benefit to business. It is immeasurably better – my Blackberry and cell phone mean that I am accessible for clients all the time.

The one big downside for technology is that people don’t think. It becomes too easy to respond with an email or text message. You have to think in our business, or you make mistakes.

What are the biggest challenges for starting a new firm?

Depends on what you want to do. If you want to build a national firm, you put up a shingle and get started. There’s no entry hurdle, just get started.

Then it becomes something you can get on with and do.

The more difficult option is to try to build a multi-national business, a very high-quality service with high-quality people. I attract high-quality clients and high-quality people. It’s harder to build an agency this way.

The biggest hurdle is something called courage.

How does the Lord title change people’s expectations of you?

In America particularly, people think that Lord is my first name. But, on the whole you must not take yourself too seriously.

The Lord Chadlington – the name remains the same. The title is how people address me. I am still Peter Gummer, but now addressed as Lord Chadlington.

Any last words or advice for PR people in the US, the UK and EU?

In all your life time, whatever we do in Europe, the United States will be the most important commercial and financial power in the world. We should remember that in Europe.

The United States should remember its position in the world - and therefore it is incumbent upon it to learn and show global humility

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Alllllll Aboard - Welcome to the Cluelesstrain

Welcome to the , a weekly post on things that will just make you scratch your head. While it will be a Thursday feature, here's a sneak-peak into what the Cluelesstrain will bring!

We've all heard or read about the Cluetrain. It's a very big, hot-button term for the blogosphere. It's a holdover from the dotcom era - check out the Wikipedia post on it - and pretty much part of the famous buzzword bingo.

Go to any Web 2.0 style conference, and you will be sure to hear at least half the companies use a bunch of buzzwords that have no real meaning. Think longtail, and you can develop your own Web 2.0 drinking game.

So, in honor of the Cluetrain, I have decided to debut the . All aboard, as I pull back the curtain on clueless issues.

All Aboard the Cluelesstrain! (Apologies to Wesley F.) Posted by Hello

The first cluelesstrain leaving the station is this week's New York Times article on blogs. And, no, it's not the New York Times that needs to get a clue - it's the bloggers that have attacked the paper of record.

BL Ochman asks why it took the NYT so long to write on bloggers being fired, and asked her readers to send in other instances of the mainstream press following bloggers.

Steve Rubel
jumps in and links to her post. Shame on Rubel for not taking a stance, but he is bringing attention to Ochman's post.

I sent in a comment to BL to post on her blog, which has yet to see the light of day. BL chooses to moderate comments to her posts. So there are instances where my comments have not made it up onto her posts. In the era of blog transparency - and PR transparency - either post comments or don't post comments. Don't be arbitrary about it.

Ochman is criticizing the New York Times for actually calling and interviewing the people involved, rather than ranting about EFF and other crap. So, she's criticizing the NYT for responsible journalism. Let’s attack responsibility – and have journalists act more like bloggers. It would make for better reading, and well, the legal teams at the papers would get more work.

As for stories that the mainstream media picked up after the blogosphere went hyper? Yes, we have all seen stories first covered by blogs, then picked up by mainstream media - like the Trent Lott story, or the Dan Rather story.

Oh, wait, until mainstream media picked up those stories, Dan and Trent were fine and wouldn't have likely stepped down. It wasn't until mainstream media, like the NYT, picked up the story did it finally get legs.

All Aboard! Welcome to the Cluelesstrain!

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Friday, April 15, 2005

It's about content, stupid

Public relations, PR, communications, marketing communications. No matter what term you use, it always comes down to one thing: content.
  • You can have the perfect story, but if the pitch does not work, no one will bite. The pitch is your content.
  • You can have the greatest product in the world, but if you cannot articulate why it's great, no one will care. That articulation is content development.
  • You can have the prettiest blog in the world, but if the content is lackluster, no one will read it.
  • You can be the greatest corporation, but if your press room does not have the right content, reporters and analysts will go away with no pertinent information.
It's been a while since anyone has written about the state of online press rooms. Back in October 2003, Tom Murphy had a couple of posts on the Vocus study and the former MediaMap's recommendations for the online press room.

And, Ben Silverman crowned Apple as the king of online press rooms on his PR Fuel Blog - the right content, the right contact information, the right mix.

But, since those articles, the issue of online press rooms has taken a back seat to every corporation needs a blog. AAAH. And now, fast, stat! Of course, my feelings on corporate blogs are known - blogs are not for every business, and they are time intensive.

It is, however, important to note that every corporation does need an online press room, and that is what is changing out there. It's about content - and that does not mean a blog - and getting that content out to the right people.

And, those of us that have worked with Dan Gillmor when he was with the San Jose Mercury News were well aware of his open letter to PR people. He didn't want phone calls, but only email. And, in his blog for the Mercury News, he noted that PR would need to move to RSS feeds, abandoning email.

From a PR standpoint, the chance to build a phone or face-to-face relationship is best, but you have to follow the reporters' wishes. In Dan's case, he wants emails / RSS feeds. You work with what you get - and hope that when you do have phone conversations, you build that relationship.

But, with the inundation of SPAM in reporter's email systems, there needs to be a new system. And, with the advent of new technology, there are companies that out there to help either rebuild the online press room or work with PR firms and PR people to publish their news.

The fact is that anyone that does not have everything going out in all the preferred channels that media outlets want - be it email, RSS feeds, or even podcasting - is failing to get the information to the public.

That brings up to different strategies for corporations to take when it comes to news and RSS feeds: rebuild the online press room, or just publish RSS feeds.

Building a press room
BNC is a PR firm that has gone the route of rebuilding its press room. Actually, the whole Website is being rebuilt.

They are an example of a company getting it. They are rebranding from publicity firm to an entertainment marketing communications firm.

I spoke with Peter Dang, the firm’s CMO, about the rebranding of the firm and the evolution of its Website. For Peter, the purpose of the new Website is to have journalists find clients’ information, having it accessible so reporters can get what they need.

The rebranding of BNC - from publicity to entertainment marketing communications – is to highlight what the company is doing in non-traditional marketing. The firm worked with iPressroom to redo their corporate Website, to showcase the celebrity outreach, the influencer marketing and the events that BNC does for their clients.

If you take a look at the site, you will notice that it's not a corporate site anymore. It's a content filled playground for the media to find information and news about BNC clients, including the option to download photographs. The platform is a mix of entertainment and pop culture, trying to reflect the hipness of BNC.

Does it do that? In a way, yes – it has information that is being syndicated with RSS feeds and is information on what’s hot, what’s happening in BNC’s core markets.

The site has those RSS feeds for both the clients' and firm's press releases. The site has the option to host video posts and Webcasts of the hot parties that BNC is involved with, such as Sundance events. And maybe have RSS feeds of those events. The site has the option to also host RSS feeds of Podcasts ... which is great for BNC. Say the firm wants to record and stream an event they host for a client, to give the fans some feeling of Hollywood - well, they can have those MP3 links on the site, with an RSS feed for them.

For BNC, the new Website is an interactive effort, to create and build relationships with the media and their clients.

While speaking to Peter, one thing that came up was that the Website needs to be the face of BNC, to be unique and cool, and to be a living, changing site. It has to show that BNC gets “it” and is in tune with the latest happenings.

Peter believes that with the new site, BNC has “achieved the look and personality of the entity we call BNC. In 8 months, you will see the total evolving vision.”

One of the cool things about the new iPressroom is that it can host Podcasts – which the firm is going to announce at Bulldog Reporter’s Media Relations 2005 on Monday. With that announcement, iPressroom is also launching its "One the Record ... Online" Podcast series. In an ingenious PR move, iPressroom is interviewing various reporters and influencers, and posting the Podcasts onto its Website ... with RSS feeds, naturally.

Some of the people that iPressroom has lined up are Andy Lark formerly of Sun, Brad Stone of Newsweek, and Nick Wingfield of the WSJ, among others.

Publishing RSS feeds
But, what if you are not rebuidling your corporate Website. Does it make sense to do a new online press room, or just find a way to publish an RSS feed for the press releases? In that instance, it seems that Nooked makes more sense.

Nooked is an RSS publishing service for corporations. The company publishes RSS feeds, helps extend the reach of those feeds, and provides measurement tools for the clients. It's the reporting and publishing aspects that are of the most interest to communicators.

I have been wanting to interview Fergus Burns, the founder of Nooked for a while. But, then PR Week landed Fergus for the interview, and got a lot of the answers I was looking for.

But, it's hard to get companies to understand the need for RSS feeds. To prove this point, I took a look at the USA Today's Internet 50, to see who is publishing their news in an easy way for reporters.

Um, unless I missed something, only 5 of the top 50 are working to get the message out: Cisco, Yahoo, Sun, Siebel and United Online. That's a 10 percent adoption rate of new technology by technology companies.

Which amazes me - there are so many people that are adopting RSS feeds just to combat the terror of SPAM. RSS is a way to get the information out there, and many of the default home pages are adopting it for their news. You have MSN's homepage with My MSN to add RSS feeds. Yahoo has its My Yahoo with RSS feeds. Firefox comes with that automatic recognition of RSS feeds, and the next generation of Outlook is supposed to have a built-in RSS reader. The only surprising laggard is Google News - you can add content by searching for key words, but you don't have the ability to add RSS feeds yet (or I just can't find it).

What's not to get, though?

It's going to be interesting to see which way corporate America (and, Corporate EU) is going to go. It just makes sense to have RSS options for reporters. And, yes, Nooked's development efforts have also gone into podcasting, to support the variety of ways people get information - not only computers, but also iPods.

Whether it’s a new press room or RSS feeds, it’s about the syndication of content. It’s about ownership of the information, providing the basic information for the media, in a simple way.

But, it will be up the communications teams to scream to get this into place, to make life easier for the media and the public, understanding the power of information and getting it out there.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Jeffrey Sharlach, Chairman and CEO, The Jeffrey Group

PR Face2Face is a special series of interviews with the top public relations and publicity professionals in the country, as well as with people involved in the public relations world. The sixth installment is Jeffrey Sharlach, Chairman and CEO of The Jeffrey Group.

Jeffrey Sharlach founded The Jeffrey Group in 1993 after spending 15 years in New York at top international agencies. He was Executive Vice President for International Operations at Rowland Worldwide, Vice President and Client Service Manager for Burson-Marsteller, and Vice President and Worldwide Creative Director for Carl Byoir & Associates. Trained as both a journalist (BSJ, Northwestern) and an attorney (JD, NYU) he has developed and managed communications programs for many multinational clients throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. In 1995, he was honored as a “Public Relations All-Star” by Inside PR Magazine in the field of international PR, recognizing the success of The Jeffrey Group in Latin America. Jeff currently serves on the national Board of Directors for the Council of Public Relations Firms, the industry trade group.

Jeffrey Sharlach, Chairman and CEO, The Jeffrey Group Posted by Hello

The Jeffrey Group has the reputation as being THE go-to firm for Latin America. How did you end up specializing in such a specific market?

During most of my career, I was at the large agencies in New York – Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton – and in my last position, I was in charge of international operations for Rowland Worldwide. At the time, Rowland was the fourth largest independent in the world, and I was working with local offices worldwide, and finding acquisition targets for the firm.

In 1992, I took a series of trips down to Latin America for Rowland, to set-up Latin American offices and affiliates. I had put together the proposal for Rowland, suggesting the firm open an office in Miami as a regional Latin America headquarters. At the time, though, Rowland decided not to spend the money and pulled back.

As I talked to more and more people, I thought it was a great idea to do for myself. I moved down to Miami in 1993 and started The Jeffrey Group out of my apartment. It was just the perfect time, with all the multinational corporations moving to Miami to set up Latin America operations. The local PR scene had been tourism and real estate, but no one could really work on a multi-national program with corporate contacts, with the know-how to implement a global program in a foreign country.

The original goal was to be a high-priced, go-to consultant for companies, as well as teaching public relations at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. I was planning to be a high-priced consultant, teach and work on the novel I had been talking about writing for the past 20 years. What happened was that it was just great timing, and the firm grew rapidly. Within the first 60 days, I was already looking for office space. Ninety days later, the first employee was hired. Now, we’re the largest independent agency in Latin America, with 60 full-time employees in four offices. Our largest office is the headquarters in Miami, but our Sao Paulo office is now pretty much the same size as Miami. I stopped teaching after two semesters—which I hope to get back to doing. And, that novel: now, I’ve been talking about sitting down to write it for 32 years instead of 20.

Most multinational corporations concentrate on 3 countries in Latin America – Argentina, Brazil and Mexico – which make up 80-90 percent of the regional revenue.

Right now, there seems to be a multicultural push with the large agencies – reaching out to women, gay community and Hispanics/Latinos. Is there such a thing as Hispanic PR or marketing?

The change in the management with the addition of Jorge Ortega as President – who was the head of the US Hispanic Brand Practice at Burson-Marsteller – will give us the extra push to get ready to add onto our US Hispanic practice.

What we are starting to see is that it is not so important where people are geographically, but what language they are speaking. We are seeing the same TV programs being watched in Mexico City as they are in Los Angeles.

Within Latin America, it’s been impractical for years for a multinational company or brand to manage PR on a country-by-country basis since now so much of the news and information flows across national borders. It would be like a US company hiring one PR agency for New York and another for California; it wouldn’t make sense since so much of the media reaching people is the same.

There is cross-over with the television programming, and we are beginning to see more and more of that with video-on-demand, where the content is available, and it is not going to matter where the viewers are.

We see the US Hispanic market as the next big growth market for The Jeffrey Group, an increasing amount of interactive, broadcast and print media the same in all Spanish-speaking countries.

You have offices in Miami, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and arraignments with firms in the Caribbean - Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico - Central America and other South American countries. Your only footprint in the US, though, is Miami. How come you haven’t opened up in the heavy Latino communities in Texas, Arizona or California?

In Latin America, many of the big agencies follow what I would call a “basic affiliate model.” They run around, and get a long list of an agency in each country and sign them on as “exclusive” affiliates. But, that does not work in the secondary markets, since the PR firms are very small - usually one or two individuals - and very specialized. They may be good at financial but not consumer, or vice verse.

Instead we use what we call “Local Service Providers” which are non-exclusive relationships with local agencies that we specifically choose based on their suitability for particular client assignments. In some markets we’ll have four or five contracted LSPs. Collectively, in the smaller markets like Peru or Chile, The Jeffrey Group is the largest purchaser of PR services. We have the influence because we have so many clients we are contracting PR services for in these countries.

We’re working in the US with a model very similar to that we use in Latin America. We do what we can centrally from Miami, and when we need expertise on the ground in a certain market, we contract with local people that have the knowledge and experience we need.

I expect the US Hispanic market to be one of our biggest growth areas. As that expands, we may in fact open other offices in the US as we did in Latin America, when it makes sense in terms of providing our clients with better service. One of my strong beliefs is that you should not try to be all things to all people, but to focus on what you do best. We are one of the best in Latin America public relations, and the natural extension is the US Hispanic marketing communications practice.

With the continued growth of the Spanish-language media in the United States, do you see your agency begin to look more Stateside and use your experience and knowledge in the growing media, or continue to focus on Latin America?

Initially our business was just managing and developing programs in Latin America, but now we have many clients that we serve only in the US for the general or US Hispanic markets. Over the years it’s been our clients that pushed us to expand into US programs. For example, British Airways was initially just Latin America, and then the client contact took on more responsibility, so we extended the British Airways work into Florida and the Southeast. When we won the FedEx business in 2001, they were organized in such a way that Florida was handled along with Latin America.

We’ve had other clients such as Lycos where the US Hispanic market was managed by the same client contacts that handled Latin America.

The Jeffrey Group has grown by client requests. The significant change in the business model was last year, when very traditional PR firm activities (media relations, events, spokesperson training) were hit by the economic cutbacks (particularly in Latin America, which was hit very hard). We started to report into marketing managers and directors instead of PR people on the client side, and these contacts had control over a lot more than just media relations. We started to expand with art directors, designers – changing into a marketing/communications/public relations firm. Instead of just going to clients with a list of things we do, we’re now much more solution-oriented which I think makes us a much more valued partner.

The Jeffrey Group comes up with a whole variety of tools, beyond just the media that offers our clients solution-based campaigns.

In the past years, there has been a heavy emphasis on acquisitions by the conglomerates. Why have you decided to stick it out alone? Do you work with the big firms a lot on projects?

We work very frequently with the big firms, since we focus mainly on Latin America, and now the US Hispanic market. Many of our clients work with other agencies globally, so we work a lot with those firms.

The people with the big agency experience that we bring in, there’s a tremendous focus on short-term profits, a tremendous pressure for profits. We take a long-term view with the client, investing in the client relationship where we might lose money at first, but my philosophy is one of client service, for that long-term relationship and account.

Yes, we are here to make money, but we do not have the pressure of a public company to always meet certain profit targets, every single month, every single quarter. That’s not to say that there isn’t good work being done at the mega-agencies. The big agencies are great training grounds and much of what I learned when I was at big agencies is the knowledge and experience I use every day in my work.

But, that is not to say that we would not look at the right opportunity to be part of a larger agency. It just has to be the right fit - it’s not just a question of dollars and cents.

Your company does not have a blog - what are your views on the blogosphere and pitching blogs? Any short-term or long-term plans for launching a Jeffrey Group blog or blog practice, or has blogging not really caught on in Latin America?

The blogosphere is still just evolving, but we are paying attention to it. We know that the blogs are out there, and keep track of the information out there, but are not spending a lot of time on it right now.

Blogging will be more of a factor moving forward. Right now, it’s just not a big factor in Latin America, because there are not a lot of home computers. But certainly it’s something that all PR people need to pay attention to.

What are some of the proudest moments or campaigns in your career?

The proudest moment was the first year we took in $1M at The Jeffrey Group. For me that meant we had evolved from “Jeff Sharlach consultant” to a real agency. When we were at that point back in the late 90s what when we stared opening other offices, hiring talented people in other countries. It was a great turning point for the agency.

The other thing was when I was elected to the board of the Council of PR Firms. It’s interesting that we both started at about the same time. The Council is a great resource to support people managing agencies, to help them move forward. The Council has done a lot for entrepreneurs, people that are starting agencies, in using their guidelines and benchmark studies.

Right now, there's a bit of discussion on what are the differences between public relations and publicity. Do you envision yourself as more of a PR professional or publicist?

Definitely a PR professional or better still, a communications professional. The days of the publicist getting news out there are really numbered. These days, it’s so fragmented – the media and the audience.

You have to be more strategic on getting the message out there, and what you don’t want out there. And the media is just one avenue for getting the message out.

It’s why the industry is changing into more of a marketing communications profession. It is not just the media, but Websites, blogs, cell phones – there are more avenues for getting out the message than we have ever had before.

Public Relations seems to be under fire right now - both internally and externally - with the different crises of late. What do you think is the biggest issue for PR in 2005 and beyond? Can PR survive the recent spate of bad news?

PR will definitely survive. There are certain ways the processes have been abused – not just VNRs, but the line between PR and editorial process. People are taking a long hard look at the practice of PR and its relationship to journalism.

A lot of the issues that have surfaced have highlighted how content is reaching the public, leading to a more skeptical public. It makes our job more challenging, but shows the importance of good PR.

What do you see as the differences between Latin America and US PR?

What we see in Latin America, from when we first started down there in 1992, is things have evolved tremendously. When we started, the public relations business in Latin America was almost non-existent. When I first traveled to Latin America, people would tell me if you want something in the newspaper, it’s easy - you just pay for it!

As firms like ours and the other big agencies expanded down there – and refused to pay for coverage – it helped the media become more sophisticated, as well as PR.

People like us opened offices, refused to pay journalists, and if the journalists wanted to cover the big companies, they needed to do so without receiving payment. We were giving them access – spokespeople, photos, good releases – and the journalists responded.

We have strict policies, as do other firms. We do not pay for coverage, and that has been adopted by the other local agencies, raising the bar on PR in Latin America.

I have some students that read my blog. So, for their edification, what are you looking for in interns and account coordinators?

Writing skills are the most difficult thing to find. Once people can write, I feel that pretty much everything else we can teach.

If people cannot write a good, compelling sentence, it makes it difficult to teach anything else.

Writing is such an integral part of marketing communications, public relations. We give everyone a writing test on site before we even take them to next stage of the interview process.

Any last words or advice for PR people?

The big thing is to really try to focus on the thinking. These days, anyone with a PC can basically get the names of all the journalists they want, and hit the “send” button. So it’s no longer about execution, since anyone can send out news releases nowadays.

What the real value public relations agencies offer is the strategic thinking. That’s why I think PR professionals do us all a disservice when giving away our thinking, recommendations and best ideas for free as part of the pitch process. It’s not about execution, and PR agencies will not be needed for media relations, if that is all they can do. Counseling and strategic thinking is what we provide, and the real value of public relations and marketing communications in 2005.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

The second coming of Global PR Blog Week

As a participant in the first Global PR Blog Week, I was able to interview a great group of PR professionals, which was somewhat the impetus for the series.

Well, Constantin Basturea is taking the reins again - with the same core people - and driving Global PR Blog Week 2.0.

I have yet to decide on how I will participate - or if I will participate - in GPRBW 2.0. The first event was amazing, with a collection of PR bloggers that brought a variety of viewpoints and information to PR people worldwide. But, in that year, the PR blogosphere has exploded, and this event will likely be even bigger.

But, if push comes to shove, I have one idea of aggregating various comments and quotes from the series on PR and blogging. So, it'd be a compendium of views across various public relations professionals.

Take a read, get the information, and participate in this year's event.

Global PR Blog Week 2.0 is Coming!! Posted by Hello

WHAT: The Global PR Blog Week 2.0 is an online conference on how new media technologies are changing the practice of Public Relations and corporate communications. We’re talking weblogs and participatory journalism, wikis, podcasting, and RSS - but the list of topics is open.

WHEN: Sometime between May and October 2005.

WHERE: The conference planning is hosted by the NewPR Wiki. The conference will take place at

WHO: People interested in the subject of the conference. You don’t have to be a blogger in order to participate.

  1. You can be an organizer. We need a small, result-oriented, consensus-driven group of people that will take care of all the aspects of the conference: hosting, web design, press release writing, editing, communicating with participants, etc. All organizers are volunteers, and they will receive credit for their contribution.
  2. You can be a participant, if you are interested in posting an original, consistent article, or an audio interview/debate (podcast) on the conference’s weblog.

The number of people blogging on PR-related issues has grown since July 2004, from about 30 to more than 180. We’ll have to find a way to:

  • have great quality content
  • accommodate as many participants as possible
  • encourage new voices to join the conversation
  • organize the content in a way that makes sense for readers.

Strongly encouraged:

  • original content. No republishing or refactoring of old articles.
  • fresh content. Not yet another “blogging is good for business” type of article.
  • research. Quantitative research, case studies, best practices.
  • collaboration. Articles written by two or more authors.
  • group discussions. Podcasts featuring more than one interviewee. Round tables. Debates.
  • a non-commercial, non-partisan approach. Don’t pimp your company, services, or expertize; put everything in a larger context.

HOW: There are many decisions to be made: what topics should be excluded, if the numbers of postings/participant should be limited, how to select postings/authors, who will make the selection and on what criteria, and so on.

  1. If you want to participate in the decision making process, subscribe to the discussion list available at (send an e-mail to - your subscription will be approved in the next 12 hours). Please note that, for transparency purposes, this is a public list, so all messages and archives are public. No other data (like e-mail addresses) are public.
  2. If you don’t want to participate in the decision process, but you want to participate to the event, then please send an e-mail to Constantin Basturea (cbasturea at or Elizabeth Albrycht (ealb at with the title of the article/ posting/ podcast you want to contribute, and we’ll add it to a special page on the NewPR Wiki. Later, you might have to send a half-page summary of your contribution.

The weblog’s content will be licensed under a Creative Commons license (its type will be determined later).

GET UPDATES: If you want to get updates about the event, you can:

  • watch this page on the NewPR Wiki
  • subscribe to the RSS feed of the discussion groups (excerpts only — that’s what Yahoo! Groups provides)
  • read the messages on the discussion list
  • subscribe to the RSS feed for Global PR Blog Week’s weblog

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Because of Neville...

After posting the interviews with the IABC chairmen, Neville Hobson has been on my case to get a trackback system installed.

I like Blogger. I like its ease-of-use, I like that it's been around for awhile, that I have most of my posts here already.

I don't like that it has no trackbacks. So, I finally broke-down and installed Haloscan trackbacks, after too much work to install it. Not a really easy way to to do it, unfortunately. And, I think it slows down my blog loading time.

But, the masses (okay, Neville) called for trackbacks....

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Warren Bickford, 2005-2006 IABC Chairman

PR Face2Face is a special series of interviews with the top public relations and publicity professionals in the country, as well as with people involved in the public relations world. The second part of the fifth installment is Warren Bickford, the incoming chairman of IABC.

Warren Bickford, Vice President of Gryphon Reputation Management, has worked for more than 20 years in fund development, public relations and communications in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors. He is the incoming Chairman of IABC, and is also a Past Chair of the IABC Research Foundation. Warren is also actively involved in his home community having served on the boards of Volunteer Regina, the Hospitals of Regina Foundation and the Children’s Health Foundation of Saskatchewan and currently on the board of the MacKenzie Art Gallery. He has also served on the boards of the Healthcare Public Relations Association of Canada and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

Warren Bickford, the incoming IABC Chairman Posted by Hello

Besides being the incoming IABC chairman, you are the Vice President of Gryphon Reputation Management. How do you balance the IABC work with the account work with family life? Where do you find that life/work balance?

I don’t balance it very well. It’s interesting because I have always have had fairly demanding positions, where I am on-call 24/7/365 – that’s just the nature of the work I have done. I am used to not working standard hours. What I find is you work some fairly long days because the daytime is client work, and then the evening is taken with the IABC work – email, and other work-related activities.

I am fortunate that my family is very supportive, plus I have older, independent teenagers. It just seems to work out.

The IABC Chair blog was hailed at first as a good idea and intention, but has now come under fire. What would you change about the IABC blog? Are you going to continue the blog? (Editor’s Note: David Kistle has already handed over the blog to incoming Bickford.)

Absolutely I will continue the blog. In the Member Speak area, I have already noted that I do intend to pick up the blog, and you should expect to see something within a week.

You have a lot of IABC bloggers – Allan Jenkins, Shel Holtz, Eric Eggertson, Neville Hobson – but no blogroll on the IABC Chairblog. Why not just turn the IABC blog into an IABC blogger aggregator?

Actually, no, we have not considered that, but it’s not that we have not thought of those things. We are getting the Chair Blog back up and running, and we will link to those other blogs, but we have a lot in store for the blog.

The way I am envisioning it is that I will be the primary person, but because I travel for both client work and IABC, I am looking at having guest bloggers. I am in the process of putting that all together at this moment.

What is IABC? In Ragan’s, David Kistle noted that the association is moving in the right direction at the right speed. What is the direction that you plan to take IABC in your year?

There’s this myth that when the chair comes in, he or she can make wholesale decisions and changes. We spent the last year developing a strategic plan for the next five years.

I will be paying close attention to what is in that strategic plan, and ensuring that the initiatives are carried out. For IABC, it is about the annual growth strategies, the annual goals. I come in and make sure the plan has action associated with it.

The joke about volunteer organizations is always that they are great, except for the volunteer aspect. How does IABC combat this?

It is our greatest weakness and our greatest strength.

Combat is not the right word. We realize it’s a volunteer organization, and the senior positions are held by people with lives and jobs outside IABC. Everyone is extremely dedicated.

Sometimes it just takes longer to get things accomplished. It’s not out of a lack of interest, but due to time constraints and obligations that we may have.

It can be frustrating at times, but it’s the nature of the beast.

I’m a former IABC member that had a terrible experience – but I love Johna Burke. I know that you are trying to grow membership, but what would you say to someone that felt he wasted his money and would rather never join IABC again – how do you bring me back into the fold?

Well, that’s a very interesting question. I would think that because IABC continually evolves, it is a different organization than it used to be. That trend will continue, and I hope that we can offer something to a wide variety of people.

One of our biggest issues, when you are dealing with a membership of 13,000-plus, is that you will have different hopes and wants from everyone. We have to be useful and relevant to each member. If it’s at the local chapter level or as a member at large, what the association is offering has to be meaningful.

It is a continuing challenge.

When I joined IABC, I thought it was like a lobbying group – bringing more attention to local PR practitioners to local business and press, and to try to keep local business locally PR’ed. I was told that that’s not the group’s mission. What is IABC’s mission, then?

IABC is a professional association. IABC is about providing ongoing learning opportunities for practitioners so they can be the best practitioners possible. Yes, some of that is ensuring the broader community understands what communications is and what it can accomplish, but primarily IABC is a professional association with a primary mission to provide continuous learning opportunities.

I have a few students read my blog. While IABC is making a push to be on more campuses, most students are more aware of PRSSA and PRSA – what do you say to them to join IABC instead of PRSA?

Not sure I can say something to them. They have to make a personal decision on what is best for them, in their particular area.

IABC was conspicuously absent during the recent PR controversies. Why doesn’t IABC take a position on controversial issues?

Part of it is the fact that the mandate of the organization is professional development. There has not been a tradition of commenting on communications issues, public relations issues. That’s not to say that shouldn’t change, but past practice is one reason we haven’t said anything.

How do you see IABC's business model evolving now that most communicators have a far wider range of off-line and on-line professional development opportunities than, say, 10 to 15 years ago?

That is something that will continue to evolve. In the strategic plan, we are looking at ways we can change. When you serve such a wide and diverse membership, we need to find ways that people can interact with the organization.

Whether it is online, going through a chapter, or joining an online chapter - the interactive nature of IABC – there are many ways to get members more engaged in the organization. You will begin to see more and more tools tested to find the best practices.

IABC needs to continue to evolve.

Some past and present IABC members seem to see blogging as an important force in discussing and promoting the profession: Allan Jenkins, Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson come to mind. Richard Edelman, Jay Rosen, and Jeff Jarvis are some other communication leaders with blogs. Which blogs do you read? And do you see blogs as important to the profession?

I read all of the ones you mentioned, and it is absolutely important to the growth of the profession.

A number of CEOs have embraced blogging, or are encouraging their managers to blog. What's your take on Lutz' blog at General Motors, for example?

It’s interesting to watch how the whole blogging world is evolving. The past year has grown leaps and bounds. It is an interesting new way for an organization or company to communicate with their members or customers.

Blogging will continue to evolve in the next few years. It is presenting information in an unmediated way, and it’s going to be fascinating to see the results of that. Right now, it’s too early to tell.

One thing, though, is that it is changing the mainstream thoughts of what journalism is and is not, that’s for sure.

Your board is going to be only 12 people, as opposed to the current 20+- You're moving to a regional structure, away from a district structure. How can you take advantage of that to improve IABC?

We’re moving away from a regional structure because the people on the board are no longer regionally elected. We have moved to a competency-based board. The regions and districts will still have a voice, though.

It’s going to be significantly different because the size current of the board sometimes impedes movement. With a board of 12, we can be more nimble and make decisions faster than we were able to before. And, the board is going to be able to work on policy issues instead of operational issues, or specific regional issues.

You've served as Finance Director under Charles Pizzo and Vice Chairman under David Kistle. What lessons did they teach about what to do and what not to do?

Charles Pizzo is a good friend of mine. I learned from him that it is okay to be an activist. That’s the primary thing I've learned – it’s good to challenge the association and challenge the status quo.

From David Kistle, I have learned much by watching his interaction with individuals and chapters. Maintaining a healthy respect for the leaders we have around the world and making sure to stay connected to those people is important. David spent time reconnecting with chapters and regions.

What that means to me is that if a chapter wants me to be there – no matter where they are – I will try to be there. It’s important to have strong chapters and regions and I will do whatever I can to help them be and get healthy.

When you look back in 2006 over your chairman post, what do you hope to point to as your successes for the year?

I haven’t given that a lot of thought. I would be happy at the end of the year if you could see that I stayed connected with members and in some way that I contributed to the conversation about IABC as an organization and the profession in general.

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