Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The marketing of RSS

Forrester today released two reports on RSS and Marketing, as noted by Charlene Li. And, being one of the lucky ones, I did get both reports (15 pages each, which makes me think that someone at Forrester is into numerology, but I digress), and have read them both.

There was a lot of great information in both, that I think is applicable to PR (yes, it's different than marketing, but there are similiarities and with marketing and communications converging, there are lessons here for us to learn). Also, the executive summaries from both have great information and data points ... mmm, data points. I love data points for pitches.

From RSS 101 for Marketers:
  • Best analogy ever on RSS: Marketers should view RSS as a "build your own burger." At its simplest — just the burger patty — are text headlines. But just as you can customize a burger with all sorts of extras, marketers can jazz up their RSS feeds with other elements
    • Commentary: now, if In-N-Out had an RSS coupon feed, I'd be in nirvana
  • Marketing uses of RSS range from creating feeds to putting ads into RSS feeds
  • RSS does not replace email or Websites
    • RSS has a guarantee of 100 percent deliverability of messages
  • RSS users are information junkies and online shoppers, spending more online than others
  • 57 percent of marketers who were asked "How interested are you in advertising in these emerging interactive channels?"responded with a“somewhat” or “very interested” in RSS, and 64 percent said they were interested in blogs
  • While the usage of RSS is low right now - single digit percentage - it will continue to grow as it get easier, and now is the time to embrace RSS
    • Plus, people might not realize they are using RSS, with My Yahoo or My MSN
From Using RSS as a Marketing Tool:
  • Marketers should not nilly-willy add everything to an RSS feed, and not go into overload
    • Need to have that right balance of information
  • It has to be one-click addition of the RSS feed
  • RSS deployment can be either in-house or outsourced to services, like Nooked
  • Measurement and tracking are important for marketing - and can be as easy as adding a tracking code into the feed URL
  • There are different ways to advertise in RSS feeds, which are being tested
  • Branded RSS readers are another way to market
    • Commentary: Come on Pointcast, where are you?!? You could have owned the RSS reader space with the goodwill and love that people still have for you
  • Now is the time for marketing to get into RSS, while the costs are low and mistakes can be made without major backlash
It's interesting that part of these reports seems to have stemmed from conversations and the panel at Syndicate Conference. During a briefing, Charlene noted that she gets opt-in emails from a clothing boutique she shops at with specials, but unfortunately she usually misses them in her email. Now, if they just offered an RSS feed, she would get the specials... .

If you have the budget, and are in marketing, direct marketing, marketing communications, PR or advertising, go and quickly buy both reports. Now. Right now.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Craig Newmark, Founder, Craigslist

Craig is a senior Web-oriented software engineer, with around thirty years of experience (including 17 years at IBM), and has learned a lot about online community and customer service as "customer service rep and founder" for craigslist.org for for ten years. He's compiled extensive experience evangelizing the 'net, leading and building, including efforts at Bank of America and Charles Schwab.

He's one of those guys you hear about who grew up wearing a plastic pocket protector, thick black glasses (taped together), and who expresses his inner nerd via obsessive commitment to customer service to the craigslist community. Someday, he might get a day off.

In 1995, he started craigslist which serves as a non-commercial community service with classifieds and discussion forums. craigslist focuses on helping people with basic needs, starting with housing and jobs, with a pervasive culture of trust.

Craig's also involved with a number of community efforts, particularly involving mideast peace and new forms of media, involving "participatory journalism" and blogging.

He's been featured in the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Business Week, Time Magazine, and Esquire Magazine.

Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster, craigslist.org
Photo by Gene X Hwang, Orange Photography


craigslist has been hugely successful. When you first started, you had a little bit of PR support, but mainly it was grassroots efforts. What do you credit to the success of the list?

There was no PR support when we started – in the few years following, I would chat with Bill Ryan (formerly of Niehaus Ryan Wong) for advice, and he said just to keep doing what we were doing. The growth has been almost completely word of mouth, and the press has been kind to us.

Now, an old friend provides PR support [Susan MacTavish Best, Best PR], whose main job it is to prevent me from saying stupid things. Jim Buckmaster is now the President and CEO of craigslist, as I am really not emotionally suited to be a CEO. Susan has helped us out with the press, and dealing with the press quite a bit.

The success of the list – from one perspective – is that it is a simple and effective site for everyday needs. From another perspective, craigslist has a culture of trust and goodwill. It's pretty clear to people that everyone shares a similar moral compass.

You have parlayed the success from craigslist to citizen journalism. What lead you down the path to become involved in citizen journalism?

I am exploring citizen journalism because right now our country has a big problem, and the only way to get out of it is to find out what is really happening. That means to find more people to tell us what is really going on in different places, like in Washington, DC. Maybe the truth shall set us free, whatever the truth may be.

I do talk with Dan Gillmor on Bayosphere, but that is the extent of my dealings with them right now.

With the change in media – both the classified model that craigslist has eaten, and the journalism model that is under fire from blogs – what do you see as the future of print media?

Well, paper is a really good form of memory. It's very long lasting and it's going to survive, maybe in a limited way, but the cost will go up. I don't see newspapers dying, but new mechanisms will do even better, I believe. The economics of paper isn't that good, but I would have to defer to professionals for that.

For that matter, how do you see PR changing in this new paradigm?

The biggest change – and my perspective is pretty narrow – is that online reputation is a big deal, including online buzz. We have already begun to see people trying to create buzz – sometimes artificially – on message boards and blogs.

And, actually, I have just spent time removing fake buzz on our message boards.

Online reputation and PR will be used by companies that understand that online message boards and blogs are a better connect with consumers and to provide more information. The companies that do that will be much more successful than the companies that do not. The companies that understand the changing nature of media will be in a better position than those companies that do not understand or adapt.

How do you vet the ads, to keep out the advertisements for websites or personal services? In the Casual Encounters ads – are those real, and how do you know?

We don't know if the ads are real. We rely on the community to flag advertisements for questionable content for removal. In most cases, when people post hoaxes or scams – which has happened in the past, where a guy was posting missed connections about himself – you can Google gorgeous guy from about four or five years ago and see the stories – the community does flag and edit such hoaxes and scams. Our biggest source of disinformation has been political, particularly last October during the elections. One of the campaigns encouraged people to post misinformation on our boards.

We do have adult ads, but that fits into the moral compasses of our users. One of the best things to do for people is to show compassion, give people a break. If the post is legal, it's okay. If it crosses the line and is illegal, flag it and have it pulled.

When you first started, you were listfoundation.org – and there was a short crisis involved there. What happened, and what lessons did you learn in the process?

When I first started, it was just me on craigslist. The listfoundation came later, and was a mistake. While I had good volunteers, the effort failed. I learned mostly to trust my instincts, and if they say not to trust someone, to listen to those voices.

Are you worried that you might go down in history as the man that killed the newspaper?

That would be not fair, as I tell people in journalism that the big issue is trust. Jeff Jarvis points out that newspapers are making a lot of mistakes. It's worth looking at.

What I am trying to do is accelerate the form of collaborative journalism, and that we, the public, need something in place in a year. At the very least, hopefully I will have made noise, accelerated the trend, and then shut my mouth at the right time. That would be pretty good.

You are now in classifieds with craigslist, grassroots journalism – what's next for Craig Newmark?

For me personally, I don't know. I would like to have a day off.

For craigslist, we don't know, but we do speculate about a few things, but don't want to create crud. We do need to find more ways to give more control of the site over to people, in particular to empower some of our volunteers to make it easier for them to let us know when something is wrong.

For example, I have a Manhattan volunteer who is very helpful in finding apartment brokers that are doing inappropriate things like bait and switch. Basically, when someone does something wrong, I remove the ad and let the broker know why, and try to reason with them. If they aren't amenable to reason, I block them.

You have recently launched in more cities. How do you build up the communities, how do attract ads and traffic.

We really don't have an answer. We rely on word of mouth. It might take awhile, but when it works, it works well for us.

Any final thoughts or comments?

I just want to emphasize that craigslist is built on a culture of trust and the moral compass of its users. It's working and has worked for the list more than ten years, and will hopefully continue to work.



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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Helping another PR person

From O'Dwyer's and PR Week an Ogilvy employee is in need of a liver transplant. Stories are here and here.

From O'Dwyer's: Shari Kurzrok, a 31-year-old VP at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, will die within days if she does not receive a liver transplant.


She was admitted to New York University Medical Center last weekend, and was told she needs an immediate liver transplant to save her life. Her illness is unexplained.

Ogilvy is reaching out to the PR industry on Kurzrok's behalf.

The Great Neck, N.Y. native is to be married in October. She led Ogilvy's "Save-a-Life-Tour" to raise the awareness of the need for blood donations in a campaign for the American Red Cross. That effort collected more than 3.2M pints of blood, and registered more than 38,000 new donors.

Information about a liver transplant referral for Kurzrok is at 877/223-3386.

Update: Friends and family have launched a blog.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Adam Brown, Director, eKetchum / Ketchum Personalized Media

Adam Brown is Director of eKetchum, Ketchum's digital media development group. Adam is responsible for managing the new media development teams and planning strategy and concept direction for eKetchum’s numerous projects.

Adam has over a decade of experience in managing and developing Web-based and other digital media interactive projects. Joining Ketchum in 1998, he was originally Creative Director at What's Up Interactive in Atlanta for three years. Before that, Adam was an Associate Director at Bright House, an ideation firm in Atlanta where he had the opportunity to concept experiential marketing ideas for companies like The Coca-Cola Company, and The Home Depot.

Through his experience, Adam has helped design and develop interactive solutions for firms including Visa, Nokia, Fox Broadcasting, Proctor & Gamble, BellSouth, Johnson & Johnson, Miller Brewing and Cingular Wireless.

Adam graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Communication, where he majored in Advertising.



You run the eKetchum practice at Ketchum - what is your involvement with PR from the eKetchum side? Or, in other words, what is eKetchum?

Our goal at eKetchum is to make sure what we are doing online for our clients looks, smells and feels like what we are doing for our client offline in public relations. It should be a seamless campaign, ensuring that the message is the same across the board.

We have clients that do hire outside Web firms to assist them with Websites, micro sites, or online marketing – but usually that does not have the same tone and messages that the traditional campaign does. We are here to support Ketchum clients in their offline and online campaigns.

We are PR professionals first, Web professionals second. We try to make the PR and marketing cohabitate. If you look back, PR was slow getting out of the gates when the Web came along, and advertising quickly took advantage of the internet. And, owned it. Even in non-ecommerce companies, Websites are owned by the marketing and advertising departments, not the PR departments, even though the sites are usually PR driven with information for the public. There are very few Websites that are true calls to actions or commerce (unless it's an e-commerce site), so it makes more sense for PR to have ownership of the sites.

Ketchum just launched its personalized media service (KPM) – and you are the head of two of the five service offerings (blogs and SEO). What are your goals and plans for the practice?

KPM is not just a US-based initiative, but a worldwide program for Ketchum with five service offerings. There are a few different people involved in KPM. Podcasts and RSS are being run by Aaron Heinrich, who is the technology practice head in San Francisco. The mobile marketing is being run out of the European Union by Tony Noel, as the EU is ahead of the US in mobile marketing. I head up Blogs and SEO. And Paul Rand, head of Ketchum's technology practice and Jon Higgins, head of Ketchum's European operation, lead our Ketchum Personalized Media division.

The whole idea with these five service offerings, or "buckets," is that the buckets will evolve – in a year from now, those buckets might change, but we will evolve with them, offering our clients what they need.

There are so many other technologies and ways that people are going to be communicating that we haven't thought of. There are so many flavors – for example just in blogs, we have Vlogs, Moblogs, Audioblogs, and others. Blogs are unique in the ways that they operate, but the online dialogue and conversation is pretty consistent with message boards and forums. But, it's more opinionated, more conversational. Just look at the wider swath of online communities as well.

Blogs are the cool and sexy thing right now – for good reason – but there is going to be something cooler and sexier soon, and we need to be aware of that.

The goals and plans – if you look at all of KPM – we are trying to be pioneers next to the larger global firms. Without a doubt, there are other PR and marketing firms that are very engaged in their use and knowledge of these new tools. We wanted to demonstrate that a large, multinational firm like Ketchum gets it, and will continue to stay at the forefront of new technologies.

With blogs, we want to help our clients do three things: monitor the blogosphere (and other online communities), which we are doing with a partnership with Intelliseek (creator of Blogpulse and other great reporting and measurement tools).

Second, KPM will counsel the clients on how and when to respond to the online communities. We are looking at ways we can work with participants in the blogosphere, which is an area that is controversial and risky. Right now, the blogosphere is risk-averse to working with marketing and PR firms, and the past year has seen several marketing firms try to work with bloggers with varying degrees of success. In many instances, these firms didn't disclose their identity or relationship with a product/service they were promoting.

That's wrong. At Ketchum, we are adamant about transparency issues. We work with bloggers, and realize that the ways we as PR people have worked with journalists is not the way we work with bloggers. We need to be cognizant that they are different audiences. And we're going to have to realize that in this new communications arena, we're going to have to relinquish some message control – something we in PR have never been comfortable with.

Third, KPM will help our clients develop and maintain blogs. Now, we are of the opinion that the majority of the times that a client wants to do a blog are not appropriate. They're better ways to communicate online, even with other types of two-way, online communities. We can ensure the appropriate message gets out there, and control the message (a foundation of PR). A corporate blog sometimes is appropriate, other times it is not the right tool for communications.

We are currently working with several clients whose entry into the blogosphere is a good thing. There, the participation is disclosed, and we are either developing blog posts, blog comments or the entire blog – nothing funny is going on.

My personal opinion is that for public relations, RSS is as big, if not bigger, than blogs. RSS will change how we share information, as we are seeing already with Podcasts. It's what we were talking about with XML five or six years ago, the ability to parse the data and metadata and package information in new ways. RSS is the realization of that. It allows us to "push" online information rather than always "pulling."

When Ketchum did launch the practice, the PR blogosphere went into overdrive – some said welcome and mentioned the kool-aid, while others went onto the attack that no one blogs at Ketchum. While you have blogged since 2002, no one else has at Ketchum. Why not? What are the Ketchum plans on a Ketcum blog or podcast?

What we all saw when we launched KPM, a lot of bloggers welcoming us to the blogosphere, but there was criticism directed at Ketchum for not practicing what we preach. I tried to respond to some of the posts. The first thing you are going to see – and I look forward to talking more to the PR bloggers after this interview is published – is that we are launching a KPM blog soon, one that is going to be focused on KPM, the things that interest us, as it relates to PR and the new landscape. We hope to announce that very soon.

We made the choice not to launch KPM with a blog. We wanted to get the message and the news out worldwide – we launched in the EU, Asia and the US. We will continue to use the other online sites that we have: Kethum.com, KetchumPerspectives.com and KetchumIdeas.com.

One of the complaints that was raised in the blogosphhere was that no one at Ketchum blogged. You had responded to that issue – that there are bloggers there. There are a few people that are out there. On my personal blog, GumpRants.com, I doesn't mention my affiliation to Ketchum, but that is a personal choice. My blog does talk about PR and marketing, but also talks about books and cars and gadgets – what interests me. It's a separate blog, my personal one, that wasn't supposed to be about work. And I plan on keeping it that way.

The coming month or so will be exciting as we announce our other Ketchum Personalized Media initiatives, that build on the podcast we have started and put up on Ketchum.com. One of the tenets we hope to adhere to is to podcast and share ideas.

Your blog is Gump Rants, and has been only about you – are there plans to transfer it as a part of Ketchum Personalized Media to start blogging on eKetchum?

No – that is what I do on my own time. That is Adam Brown's blog, and will continue to be Adam Brown's blog. No different than any other person's personal blog.

What we are planning to do with the KMP blog is keep it’s focus very narrow, to focus on our field of view on what personalized media is, and how it is affecting PR. We don't want to venture far off that main mission, one that allows us to share our opinions and insights on how all this is changing the communications landscape.

We have an interesting position here at Ketchum, and our interaction in the blogosphere is interesting. We want to create and be part of the PR conversation in blogs, to share our ideas and thoughts with current and potential clients. We're a global PR agency, to this point Ketchum and our other peers have not been very participatory in the blogosphere beyond Richard Edelman and H&K.

Right after the launch of Ketchum PM, KetchumIdeas was found – and it turns out that that was a Chicago office initiative (full disclosure, I suggested to Ms. Bernhardt to add the disclaimer, and got a mini iPod for my suggestion). What can you do to keep other offices in line and aligned in your worldwide initiatives to make sure things like this don't happen again?

The KetchumIdeas is in line with what KPM and Ketchum are going to do. The objective of KetchumIdeas was to be a 30-day site to help promote and market the thought leaders and activities in Ketchum Chicago's corporate practice. It was like an Op-Ed site with the various members of the Chicago office. The program is now over, and it was a great success for its participants.

It just happened to launch at the same time as KPM – and people assumed it was the Ketchum blog. KetchumIdeas.com really had nothing to do with KPM, and admittedly it wasn't a blog, but a one-way communications micro-site. While it was built quickly on the Wordpress engine, it's similarities to a blog ended there. When we plan to launch the KPM blog, it will be a true blog.

My opinion is that blogs without comments are "flogs" – fake blogs. A blog is about dialogue, an online conversation. To be a blog – instead of an online diary or Website – you have to solicit and respond to comments. That doesn't mean that you can't have a blog policy or procedures when developing and managing a blog. That doesn't mean you won't moderate any inappropriate comments. You need to follow a blog comment policy – like deleting off topic comment posts – and you have to be consistent.

You can't change policy midstream. Some blogs have recently done that – started a comment moderation policy or blog post editing that isn’t consistent with the initial site policies. If you are open to comments, you need to think ahead. My opinion is that there are no issues with moderating comments (it's your blog, you can do whatever you want with it), but be consistent, and be ready for the ridicule you'll hear.

Now that the month is over, is KetchumIdeas going to be scrapped, or are you going to build off of that and convert it into a fully-operational blog?

KetchumIdeas was a successful one-month campaign, and it is likely going to be converted into an information piece, converted into a PDF. But right now, that is just speculation, beyond a compilation for what's been there for the full month.

Are we going to forward the URL to the KPM blog? I don't think so - KetchumIdeas.com has served its purpose. A more appropriate guess is that it will be an annual program, and be brought back from time to time.

Why did Ketchum decide to launch a personalized media service? It seems to be late to the game, but is the first large agency to launch a practice – does this give you an early adapter advantage albeit late?

The unique thing about KPM – we didn't come out with saying we had a blog service, or the SEO expertise (which we had been doing for four years) – we combined the services into one program. They all work with each other. RSS and blogs and podcasts and SEO – those are all tied into together. SEO is a great tactic and strategy to drive people to the other three. KPM is new, but we've been doing parts of KPM for some time.

Mobile communications is cutting edge – the latest in marketing communications, which fits into how there are now new avenues for communications.

KPM is about letting people get the information where they want, when they want and how they want it. Blogs are doing that, like getting news from the blogosphere – even going to the MSNBC or ABC blogs or podcasts – and seeing the time shifting, people liking to get their information form sources more in line with them, rather than the mainstream message. People find a blogger or Website that is more in tune with their particular thinking.

RSS is just another pipe. The way I explain RSS to people unfamiliar with it is that the first pipe we had coming in was the email pipe, around the same time as newsgroups. The second big pipe was the World Wide Web – rich graphic pages through Web pages. The third pipe is RSS – it’s really going to change how people get their information.

Ketchum has an early mover advantage that we combined and see the advantage. Our whole industry has a great opportunity with this, but we need to realize the potential we have here. This changes the way we share information with reporters, with the public. This changes the way we can go to the public, in a timely fashion.

What we are talking about here – blogs and RSS and all these things in creating dialogue and fostering relationships with people – that's what we are doing with the public. It's a change for PR, but one that our industry can capitalize upon.

Have you launched any client blogs or podcasts as of yet?

Yes – we had a blog program that is no longer up, for Staples. And, we are working on a couple of blog projects for other clients. Stay tuned for those launches. So far, there are no podcasts … as of yet. We have pitched and shared ideas with prospective clients, but Podcasting is going to be very big.

Anything to add?

The whole industry is at a crossroad – anyone can jump on board, and realize that everything is changing. We as individuals, as PR firms, we are going to make missteps. It is the wild frontier, but we need to focus on using the new medium, and less on pointing fingers at each other.

We need to use our collective energies to own this, and we need to see PRSA and IABC take the big step and embrace these new tools, and own them for public relations and communications. We haven't seen them take that step yet. The organizations need to step up.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

MySpace is now FoxSpace

Okay, so NYT bought About.com - which is basically just a form of citizen journalism.
Okay, so IAC bought AskJeeves, and in the process got the much beloved Bloglines.
Okay, so Topix.net is partially owned by Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune.
So, okay, now News Corp buys Intermix, which is mainly MySpace.com.

Is this the future of journalism and blogging? The large entities buying blogging and 'citizen journalism' platforms, as well as online news platforms, to expand the advertising options across the board. And, with Google News using blogs - both its own Blogger and others - as news sources, and the launch of all the blog news aggregators - Pubsub, Technorati, et al - well, it's become a big mess of a space.

Yes, I said mess of a space.

First, with the mainstream media buying the blogging platforms, does this open up the publishers of the platforms to libel laws? I did a post on libel, but with the media owning the platforms, it will be an interesting twist.

Second, with all the different 'news' sources now, the public no longer has to hear all sides of the story, but can only hear those opinions that fit their tastes. How cute, it's the Fox affect. While I did bring this up in my interview with Dan Gillmor, he noted that the middle has always been quiet, and if there is a need for middle news, it will be filled. I'm still not so sure.

Third, what does this do for journalism? Despite claims to the contrary, bloggers are not journalists. Not all bloggers follow an internal code of ethics, but rather just blog gossip that might or might not be true. I have been told that it's a blog - they don't need to be fact checked. That is a travesty. There's no codified code of ethics to be upheld, just the wild west of the blogosphere.

Fourth, what does this do for public relations? Right now, I am working with a few blogs and podcasts on review units. Now, call me part of the so-called old PR, but I am not going to send out a $1500 product without a signed loan agreement. And, with the integration of blogs into more news outfits, is this going to become more of an issue.

So, in the end, News Corp just bought a really good social blogging platform, full of tweens. It competes with Six Apart - which includes the much-loved tween LiveJournal and - which makes me wonder who is going to end up buying them to swallow into a media platform. The convergence of blogging into journalism is the new journalism, but is the new journalism really that good for the public?

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Washington Post Goes to Ads in RSS

Hot off PR Newswire, Washingtonpost.com is going to start pushing ads in its RSS feeds starting July 15. From the release:
Washingtonpost.com today announced that it will introduce advertising in its RSS (Real Simple syndication) feeds, making it the first major news site to offer ad units in its syndication streams.

To launch on July 15 in its Top News, Politics and Opinion feeds, the ads will be part of a unique campaign integrating RSS ads, online video, behavioral targeting and standard ad delivery.

The launch partner for the campaign is the MSNBC nightly news and commentary program, The Situation with Tucker Carlson.
This is great that the first large media site is going to push ads via RSS. And, this is terrible, because the first large media site is going to push ads via RSS.

Why's it great - well, it shows that RSS is ready for prime time, and that the Post expects more people to adopt RSS to read the paper and the feeds. Why's it terrible - easy, it's the spamification of RSS. Yes, I know that the media needs to pay reporters, and needs to find new revenue streams for the downturn in circulation and readers of the paper. But, at the same time, I wonder if this is the first step down the slippery slope (yes, logical fallacy) of RSS becoming perverted.

At Syndicate Conference, Nooked (disclosure: client) hosted a lunch panel moderated by Tom Foremski with Robert Scoble, Charlene Li, David Dunne, plus others. Well, the panel was on the future of RSS. While we didn't look that far into the future, one of the things that did come up is that there is room in RSS for marketing and advertising, but how about just an RSS feed of deals from various corporations, like Target or Jetblue or Walmart - the RSS feeds of coupons and specials. (Yes, Nooked offers such solutions, including tracking and measurement, for direct marketing).

That seems like another solution - that the Post could offer an RSS feed of Post subscriber specials, but then you have to wonder if people would subscribe to that RSS feed. Yep, a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation ...

Update at 12.20 pm pdt: Steve Rubel has his take that this will happen more and more, particularly as more brand RSS aggregators.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

VC2PR:
Howard Hartenbaum, Draper Richards

VC2PR is an occasional series of interviews with venture capitalists, and their take on public relations and the start-up environment. The first in the series is Howard Hartenbaum, of Draper Richards.

Howard Hartenbaum, Partner
Howard Hartenbaum placed investments in Skype, NetKraft (acquired by ADEA Solutions), Sapiens Technologies, Securewave, Marketworks and Commsec. In the past he worked at Hughes Electronics, supporting business development, marketing and sales of satellite, information security and automotive technologies developed by HRL Technologies. He was regional manager for a $300 million satellite project, conducted a sourcing evaluation for DirecTV Japan's encryption technology and supervised the defense conversion of DARPA-sponsored technology contracts. He also spent several years working for Honda R&D and Teledyne Relays. Mr. Hartenbaum has worked overseas for a total of ten years in Luxembourg and Japan, is professionally fluent in Japanese and a graduate of M.I.T.



How much of the marketing mix do VC firms think start-ups should dedicate to public relations?

Well that totally depends on the type of company and focus. We are technology investors: chips, automation design, software services, manufacturing related, consumer technologies, consumer Internet. Every different company has a different profile, and how it can take advantage of public relations.

For early stage companies that we are involved with, none of them use formal public relations to get the word out. They are not paying a PR firm, for PR counsel, nor do they have in-house PR. The internal people set-up their own the design automation tradeshow schedule, handle the direct mailing efforts to reach the core audience and target, and the other easy-to-do marketing and PR duties.

Very rarely do they hire PR people to do the work. When the company is very early, it's goal is to get its first set of customers, get those customers implemented and to use them as references. That's the stage of the companies we are working with. Later stage companies do need PR, but that's not what we focus on. Except for Skype, which did use PR for messaging development.

What do you believe is the best use of PR - are there worries that a funded company might launch too early, using up their cache of PR good will?

When a company is too early, it really does not have too much PR. Some entrepreneurs want to get the word out, and they have nothing. And, if that does happen, it will hurt the company. I never understood the press release announcing funding or an executive hire - those are the entrepreneurs that think that the buzz is going to help the company, when most of the time I wonder who the person is, and why we should care, or if the company is going to use the funding for what they claim it is for.

Those that minimize the use of PR early on are the better suited for long-term survival. Those companies talk to the analysts, but concentrate on getting and implementing customer bases. When they do use PR to let the market know what is going on, they already have implemented customers that are paying money and can be used as customer references for other sales and for the press.

When a company says to me that "we should hire a PR firm to do press releases," my instinct is that you don't have anything interesting to say. Wait until you have full customers that are paying and can be references, then start the PR campaign.

It is extremely important to help get the message correct, getting the right message out there, but that is when the company is ready. PR specialists can help companies focus, and make sure that the company executives are not too aggressive and begin making lofty statements. Good PR people will keep the entrepreneur in line and in check, outline what PR is and what it will do for the company and keep it on track.

With many entrepreneurs, they have been trying so hard to get people to believe in what they are doing and they are so excited that it is finally happening, the entrepreneurs want to do a press release and announce everything. It's a partial ego-feed to validate what they have been working on, and partially for team and company recognition. From a third party perspective, though, it's a "what's that." moment. We see a lot of personnel announcements, but it can be damaging if no one has heard of the people. The best companies do something significant, and then use the press releases and PR to announce what they have done. It begins with market traction and paying customers. I never understood why people announce funding, except to scare the competition.

The only things that a young company should care about are: customers, good references, and implementation. There's no need to tell everyone what you are doing. The worst thing that a small company can do is tell the market what they are doing, and then have the large competitors provide the same service or product. There is no benefit for a young company to announce all its great things. They can call and get a great reference - all they need to do is to tell the other companies in the space (customers' space) and that will do more than a press release.

Are there worries that the VC community might be supporting a rebirth of another dot-com era? Is the era of funding until maturity - like how FedEx was VC funded - over?

There's a wide range of VC firms, and some focus on earlier stages, and plan on continuing to put money in as the company moves forward. Some firms start to fund at the start and continue to fund all the way through to maturation.

In my opinion, the best companies are those that are capital efficient. When companies come to me asking for $35M, it makes me wonder what is happening. When companies come to me for lower funding, and show how that will help them be on the path for profitability, those are the companies that make sense to invest with.

Those entrepreneurs - the ones that come back again and again for funding - are not using the funding for what they claim it will be used for, and the claims of what they are working on do not come to fruition.

Look at FedEx. They went through many rounds of VC funding, and are a very successful company. But what happened was that the first investor and second investor made no money; the third investor put in the money and got out the money. The first two did not get what they expected out of the company.

From a VC perspective, we like companies that don't need a lot of funding to move forward. Build the product, validate and prove the market, get the customers that prove the product. Many times, if I don't give the additional funding, I lose my initial investment.

Is this potentially another bubble? It depends more on the entrepreneurs and if they will build good businesses, do what they say they are going to do with the money. Then, there is no concern for additional funding.

Do VCs look to the existing PR structure - the early buzz - as a reason for investing in a company?

It is true that buzz will catch a VC's attention, if they are looking at a company and paying attention.

But, it's the numbers that really matter. We invested in Skype, and these are the reasons: claim of a stable P2P network, which we believed in because of their past involvement in Kazaa and VoIP knowledge from prior telco jobs. In regards of PR and Skype, it was obvious that if you looked at all the press Kazaa had, and then all the press that a telco play would get.

It was an easy PR pitch to sell: they had the history with Kazaa, and they were entering a hot space with a product that could change the industry. It was obvious that when these guys launched the product, people and the press would go crazy, which would drive more users and more press, and help get Skype to reach its critical mass and more. That's exactly what happened. Skype launched, and made the cover of Fortune a few months later. Then, the press would come around, since the past stories had traction, and there was a good story to tell. It was an easy pitch.

The second round VC firms were looking at the press, but looked at the numbers first. The Skype press helped guide customers, but if it had not driven customer numbers, there would not have been the second round of funding.

Many VCs have launched formal and informal blogging initiatives to personalize the system, and to put forth their own ideas. Have you thought of launching a blog for yourself or for Draper Richards? Do you think the VC blogs are a good idea?

If Draper Richards did a blog, it would make sense for Bill Draper to do it. For me, I have only been doing VC funding for a few years, so not sure what I would bring to the table, or would write.

I am involved in the consumer Internet, and learning a lot from Skype. After Skype does what it does, maybe I'll possibly begin blogging. I've never considered myself that good a writer - I did one post on Always On Network. When the site launched, they asked me to do a post on international investment. It was fun, but I didn't really have much more to say.

VC people and bloggers want to read about what they are looking for, and then have people modify the pitch to fit into the parameters. VCs and VC bloggers want to know what the future is, and I am not sure if I have that vision or insight yet.

As for the VC blogs, I think that those with more name recognition than Draper Richards that are involved in make good bloggers, like Tim Drapers at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.


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What's a blog supposed to be?

Okay, so I started another series of interviews - VC2PR. While Steve Rubel recommends SEO terms for headlines - better to get links to your blog, and raise that profile - I rather have headlines that are quirky and fun, but also can be slightly branded so that people can look at my sidebar - or my Technorati tags if they actually ever worked - and know that I am the PR Face2Face blogger or now the VC2PR blogger. It's partial personal branding, and partial blog branding.

Why? Because I wanted to keep content fresh on my blog, continue to learn from others, and continue to grow for myself and for my readers. Those in PR - whether one year or 20 years - well, we can continuely learn from others. When you stop learning, you start dying.

Also, something I read today by Tom Murphy made me think about this blog, and moving forward. Blogging is tiring, it can be draining. Some bloggers out there are saying that posts shouldn't be longer than 150 words, or that posts should be chock full of links, or that posts should be just links to other articles. Give me a break - who appointed these people the overseers of the blogosphere? So, you can't post commentary longer than 150 words? Pshaw. Blogs should be links to other blogs? Well, that just propogates the notion that the blogosphere is one big 's just a circle jerk. Blogs should be chock full of links - those are called link blogs, and some of them might as well be link farms.

A blog is a person's or corporation's own personal work - if you want to post partial feeds, go for it. If you want to post long posts and commentary, go for it. If you want to be part of the herd, and do what every one else says to do - SEO optimization, link farming, name dropping, short posts, - go for it. It's the blogosphere, do whatever you want.

Me? Well, I will continue to post my interviews and my commentary, and see what happens. And, maybe get that redesign up.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

PR Face2Face:
Andrew Gilman, President, CommCore Consulting Group

Andrew Gilman, president of CommCore Consulting Group, has been a communications strategist and crisis counselor for more than twenty years. Co-author of the best-selling book Get To the Point (Bantam 1990), Andrew is also a lawyer and award-winning journalist. He frequently is called upon to help senior executives prepare for media interviews, new business presentations, board meetings, testimony before Congressional committees and regulatory agencies, expert witnessing in lawsuits, appearances on TV and radio, road shows, analyst presentations, and investor meetings. Andrew also develops and directs the CommCore training and consulting services.

As a journalist, Andrew has experience as a reporter for trade and consumer publications, as well as a radio reporter and host. On radio, Andrew was a frequent contributor to National Public Radio's award-winning programs "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition." His articles have appeared in The New York Times, National Law Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Risk Management Newsletter and the Washington Business Journal. He has received awards from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and has been nominated for Sigma Delta Chi and National Magazine Awards.

Andrew is admitted to the Bar in New York State and Federal Courts. He has lectured at "Grand Rounds" Yale Medical School, Wharton School of Business, Harvard Business School Club of New York, American Bar Association, China External Trade Development Council in Taiwan, American Association of Advertising Agencies, New School of Social Research, American Society of Association Executives, Cable Telecommunications Industry Association and D.C. Bar Association. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. He holds two degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Masters of Science in Education. His law degree is from Fordham University.



How did you get into media training?

I guess you could say that I've made a hop, step and jump from high school teacher to public relations. If you can motivate 17-year olds at 8.00 AM when they would rather be sleeping, adults who are coming to learn are a little easier to work with.

When I started as a teacher – just out of college - I didn't think I knew enough yet to be a really good teacher, so I decided to get a little more life experience. This prompted the move into journalism. I was working as a trade journalist – Travel Management Daily, a two-page newsletter with 25 stories a day. I left the newsletter to become a freelance reporter – I wrote for airline magazines, Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, among others. While freelancing, I was going to law school at night, and then started doing a lot of NPR journalism. I was basically a permanent freelance reporter.

Just before I graduated from law school, I wrote an article about media training – a fledgling business in the 1970's – and while writing the story, I saw that it was a good combination of teaching and journalism, with a fair percentage of legal issues thrown in.

Those three disciplines – teaching, journalism and the law – worked very well to get me where I am.

How did CommCore Consulting get started?

I was at first an independent media trainer for two or three companies, and I then went off with a business partner to start CommCore, Inc. That business split up and I formed CommCore Consulting Group. This is now our 20th anniversary of operations under the CommCore name.

It's a lot more fun to own your own place than to work for someone else.

What is the biggest issue you have while media training professionals?

One of the questions we get asked is "can we see the questions in advance or the story before it is published?" Executives like control and want to see the final product. We have to explain that this request is against journalism protocol. We say, if you want total control, buy ads. But if you want the credibility that reporting offers, do the interview.

While a few trade publications may send you the questions, that's pretty rare. The Internet has changed this practice a little bit. Some e-zines and Web-based publications will email you questions and allow you to submit your answers.

In rare instances, people have been sent the article – but that is usually for very technical stories that need to be fact checked.

So while you won't see the exact questions, part of the preparation is to anticipate the subjects and the questions and think through the answer. One of our jobs is to train people on how to think like reporters - think through the process and what will survive for the reader, viewer or listener.

On a related point – a media interview is not a place for creative thought. Don't try out a new anecdote, a new answer in front of a person that is going to publish or publicize what you are saying. The best sound bites are already prepared.

We try to explain how the press is going to think, how the press is going to react. We are a sponge for the newest trends and approaches to working with the press, and try to pass on that knowledge in media training to our clients. The press isn't biased to the left or the right, they are biased toward conflict. If you understand that, you can prepare for negative and positive conflict.

If you understand where the press is coming from, it helps you position yourself better.

You have offices in New York City, Washington, DC and Los Angeles. Are there any differences in how you practice media training in those cities?

It's not about where we are located, as the world of media training is about taking a plane to the client location. On the other hand, having offices and trainers in a number of cities can help clients who need to schedule at the last minute and always want to cut down on travel costs. Clients prefer to spend their money on services, not on expenses. Our model has been to have a team of trainers – one as good as the next – to assist clients.

In DC, though, we have a bigger footprint with not-for-profits, government agencies, and associations – many of these are located in DC. While DC is where my office is, we do well in NYC and LA.

NY specializes in health care, consumer goods, technology and financial services. Last time I checked, NY was still the largest US city and it's no surprise that it's also our largest office by revenue. Our Executive Vice President, Jerry Doyle, has done a great job building the NY practice.

With the LA office and the diverse California economy, we can be doing a little bit of entertainment media training one day, and the next day it could be a defense contractor, the video game industry, or biotech.

Which client or client moment are you most proud of?

The PR answer is that we love all our clients equally. The answer from my heart is a not-for-profit, pro-bono client. I am the Chairman of the Board of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

Why? My son has food allergies – and every time our efforts help someone learn about food allergies and how to prevent severe reactions, I feel that I have done something good and possibly saved someone's life.

Media training is an interesting field, but at times one that seems to be thought of as something that anyone can do – what differentiates your firm?

Media training evolved out of the oil crises of the 1970's, and while there had always been Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters for executives, all of a sudden the PR industry had an event where the media didn't want its answers from PR people. You had accountants, engineers, roustabouts running the oil companies, who needed to be trained to speak – and that is pretty much how early media training started.

In the early days, we'd rent a studio, have the big fancy cameras running, and have the six executives lined up to be interviewed. We gave them training on how to get comfortable and survive an interview.

Today, most people have been interviewed before, and/or have a high exposure to the media. So the art and science of media training has evolved to increasing the odds of what the client wants surviving the editing process and showing up in the article. This means more time on developing and honing of the message. Another aspect of training - just like using the skills of a lawyer, my background – is to figure out what questions you would prefer not to address or answer.

A lot of media training is product-based, where you highlight your own products. You don't want to bash the competition or talk about them – you want the journalist to write about you. That's providing the conflict.

Every client is entitled to representation and training – it's the foundation of our legal system, and should be the basis of our media process as well.

The question that sometimes does come from a journalist is "were you media trained for this event?" The response should be "you prepared to come to interview me; I had to prepare to be interviewed."

Why is it that when PR people talk, it's called "spin"? When lawyers speak for a client, it's "advocacy." We help our clients advocate.

Isn't this the job of a PR firm?

Many PR firms have media training departments, and many of them are quite good. There are business reasons for not having a media training department, such as the media training person isn't 100 percent billable.

Media training used to be a "what is that?" part of the equation. Now it's built into the PR plans. The smaller firms recognize that they need to have partner firms that provide the highly specialized skill.

We want to come across as a partner with the client or with the PR firm. We all have important work to do – the skilled general practitioner offers a full variety of services, and that may include calling in a media training specialist. When we work for a PR firm, our job is to reinforce the firm's and the client's relationship.

What makes a good media trainer?

The question I always get asked is "what makes us different?" Sometimes other media training services have better brochures. Or, someone's client list is equal to mine. But the real difference comes in the media trainer's ability to work with individuals and groups. I tell clients that when we start a session, we have about four to five minutes with the executives in which they calculate whether their investment of time and money is going to be worthwhile. It's the ability to work with the people, to pull out a sound bite or message to connect with them that's essential. I have met many outstanding reporters who can't quite figure out how to teach a client how to best conduct an interview. The credential is a starting point, but it's the teaching side that's the differentiator.

Don't get me wrong, credentials count. I still get calls based upon my experience with Tylenol – I was one of the consultants who helped Johnson & Johnson handle the crisis. I was the coach for James Burke (former chairman of J&J) for his "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace. The credit, however, all goes to Johnson & Johnson for its credo and culture.

The best positive media training results will be having someone who cannot only handle the interview with confidence and pose, but also deliver the message and the pull quote. We have trained someone well if they can answer with that substance during the interview. There are the occasional difficult interview situations where "Do No Harm" is the goal--to survive, not to score. To this day, a bad quote or bad product announcement will do more harm than a good quote or good product announcement can do.

We prepare for a training session by reading all the stuff that is out there on the client: we read what's out there on the blogs, what's out there on LexisNexis. We do the competitive research, and come in with questions. One of the greatest compliments we can get from a client is that we knew our stuff, but that we also knew their stuff.

When SARS broke out, someone Googled me and I was asked to counsel the Canadian government. They looked at the Tylenol case, and brought me in because of the work done there.

One thing I hope is that you never see a Silver Anvil for media trainer – we do the coaching so that the clients do well. We are just like speech writers – they don't take credit for what they have written, and we shouldn't take credit for whom we have trained or the crisis that we prepare executives for.

Another reason we get hired is that we really make sure that we know what people are getting trained for – a Business Week roundtable? A webchat? A satellite media tour? It's all about the performance and the results; and we need to stay on top of what the media and blogs are doing. We don't cross over into the traditional PR realm – strategy, the pitch, campaigns, press conferences. We just specialize in media training.

There are a lot of media trainers out there – but we always have someone available. All of our media trainers have 20+ years of experience, and we always find new trainers that are already seasoned. You need that substance to media train a CEO.

Have you begun media training for Blogs or Blog commenting?

It is coming up more and more, and there needs to be a space to sound off besides the "letter to the editor." Media training works beyond the comment or quote in the media outlet. Did you get in what you wanted? Did you get treated well? A blog is a good way to get that message. A blog is a good PR forum.

For crisis response preparedness, Kryptonite is a perfect example of the impact a blog can have, and how blogs can affect a company. Blogs are a tool, another way to communicate, and just like stories were broken in trade journals and picked up by large press, stories are now being broken in blogs and picked up by the mainstream press.

Is there that point where the person becomes too media trained or too polished.

I'm hearing more and more push back from clients that they can't stand it when business people act like politicians. Spokespersons are getting more savvy and they often know that different types of messages and proofs need to be delivered to different audiences; the sales force is different than the business reporter.

So, yes, there is a risk that a spokesperson can come across as a little too wooden and mechanical. You have to work very hard to make sure that the spokesperson practices the "bridge" on the difficult questions, but that they are credible with the response to the initial question.

Bottom line, answer the question or tell the reporter why you may not want to answer the question, such as the question would require an answer that is speculative, proprietary, or subject to legal proceedings.

With any journalis - print, broadcast, blog - it's about understanding how the game is played. We analyze the reporter and try to figure out the angle to prepare our clients. It's just doing our homework.

As to over-prepping I'd rather do one more run through on the difficult questions than have a client say we didn't anticipate a reporter's line of attack. Media training is like the Boy Scout motto – "always be prepared."

Anything else to add?

There are the three Ps to make anyone effective in media: Prepare, Practice (Q&A), and Passionate Performance - that energy with which you communicate is so important.

Media training is fun. You have a very intense half-day, one-day, two-day project with the client. At the end of it, their skills have improved, they have seen the change, and if you do the job right, they say thank you. The tool of videotape – even for print interviews – is critical because they can see how the spokesperson reacts, and then self-correct. It is nice once in a while to see the sound bite you developed on TV or in print.


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Monday, July 11, 2005

Russell Gets It

Another one, not Beattie.

On his co-blog today, Russell Buckley summarized the whole Blogger Fight between Beattie and Rubel with this:
That's my thoughts so far on PR and blogging. No where near as extreme as Russell Beattie. But no where near as patronising as Steve Rubel's response to him either, I hope - which could be the real reason for Russell's grumpy response.
Do I like being called a Moron? Of course not, but I'm in PR - if I were thin-skinned, I would have been run out of this industry years ago. PR professionals are used to stress. We expect to be yelled at or attacked by reporters when we just get them at the wrong time. Now, we have bloggers to deal with, and it can be nastier - and personal, as noted by Eric Eggertson.

Now, someone IM'ed me that I was the only PR blogger defending Beattie - and, that's not really true. I can empathize. We all have fuses that at some point burn out and explode. It appears that one bad PR pitch pushed Beattie pretty damn close to the exploding point, and then a blog post pushed him over the edge to name names. Is it excusable? Not really. Should it be expected in the blogosphere? Well, yah.

Heck, I like Steve and this is just the after affects of a hurricane that he's in the eye of right now. I just wished he would write more on how PR is being affected by blogging and new communications, because that would be a good read.

We should all learn a lesson over this (for journalists and bloggers): if you pitch someone, get back to them in 48 hours. If you are going to pitch someone, know what they cover. If you pitch someone, have your freakin' information together. Tom Murphy has a better list here on how to freakin' pitch, as does Constantin Basturea.

To summarize: the blogosphere is ripe for this kind of emotional off-the-cuff response (even if Russell did it on purpose to throw flames at what he saw as someone else shooting flames) ... everyone should be very wary of pitching any bloggers - especially widely read ones - and you can't unring the bell.

Hopefully, this will be the last of it, but it won't. Another PR person will send a bad pitch to a blogger, the blogger will name names, and we'll see the whole thing played out. Again.

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Russell Beattie Hates Me

Well, not me specifically, but PR bloggers and PR people.

For someone that laments and strikes out at the PR / marcom industry bloggers, he has done a little bit of work in the industry. Personally, I didn't know IBM had a media relations office in Boca Raton. That must have been a cool job.

I am confused, though, on his comment that blogging isn't his job. Isn't it part of the "Evangelizing, strategizing and managing development of new mobile products and services" that he does for Yahoo mobile?

I have now been blogging on PR for two years - my little anniversary was July 2nd, and as soon as the new design is ready, I'll post my anniversary post - and when I do speak to other PR firms or people, the first thing I note is that they don't need to be blogging. Why? Because blogging isn't for every corporation, it isn't for every industry. But, I do note that they need to be aware of what is being said, to track the conversations with PubSub, Technorati, Blogpulse, Bacons, Cymfony, eWatch ... well, there are lots of services.

Beattie calls out a few PR bloggers, but doesn't say who he thinks are the worst hacks and players. Why not? If you want to be truly transparent - which seems to be this big thing out in the blogosphere - name names (albeit in a good, non-Red baiting sense). Someone must have really annoyed him, and he thinks we should all ignore those people ... but doesn't give us a clue on whom to ignore. Or, he can't since he's referring to one of the PR firms for Yahoo.

Beattie has valid points - there are PR firms and PR people that are abusing the blogosphere. I rail against them also, but unfortunately there is a learning curve. I think the so-called blogging experts are just that - so-called. I think the people and the firms that pollute comments to plug clients are lazy, but likely under orders from bosses or clients, and afraid to push back.

Blogs are about to move into version 2, where the purists will unfortunately be pushed out by the corporations and the agencies. It's just the same maturation of the market that the Web went under the first time. Will it kill conversation? Likely not.

Steve Rubel has his own take on it, but mentions he loves Beattie more than I did here - I don't know Russell, so I would feel odd proclaiming any love for him. Respect, yes. Love, no.

1.30 PM MST Update: Well, it turns out that it's Steve Rubel that Russell Beattie is talking about - hey, at least it's not me that he hates. Yes, hates is a strong word, but come on, the title is funny.

And, Steve ... so, you respond to criticisms from A-listers (but, hey, you hate that term after you got slammed for using it), but if others bring up issues, you ignore them? I'm still waiting to see your response on this.

While you espouse the values of the blogosphere and pitching bloggers, it appears that you have made some of the same mistakes you rail against - and recently. Plus, the Amazon card is embarassing - for you and for everyone else in PR.


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Thursday, July 07, 2005

The case for open comments

I'm not very hep on comment moderation. I think it's a line for bloggers that cannot handle criticism - why is the blogosphere so full of thin-skinned people? - but the usual line trotted out that it's to stop comment SPAM.

Well, since I use Blogger and Typepad, that seems like a cop-out. You can set it so you get comments sent to you when posted - and then delete the comments if you believe or feel that they are SPAM.

Today, BL Ochman posted about the potential for bad PR for American Airlines. I read the article about American the other day in the WSJ - contest winner declines tickets - and smiled. I didn't think it was going to be a huge issue, because the guidelines were pretty explicit in the contest rules. It's an unfortunate event, but the IRS is the IRS.


I wanted to post a comment. I had a valid point that it's not bad PR, but crappy rules. But, apprently I'm no longer allowed to comment on BL's blog ... click the photo for her nice little statement.

Oh, this was my comment:
Is it a PR problem, or the inability to read and understand the fine print, and the lack of knowledge of tax laws?

American Airlines has to declare the tickets at full value. Do they ever sell the tickets at full value? Probably 1 percent of the time - but per tax laws, that's what they have to do.

I feel bad for the guy - well, actually, I think it's pretty funny. But, is this really deserved bad press for American Airlines? Even if they gave him vouchers, they and he have to technically declare the value to the IRS.
I guess this means that I no longer will be reading BL's blog (unless someone IM's me something for a laugh ... which is usually what happens). Which is fine, since I noticed that she doesn't post things so she can usually have the last word.

Why did this come about? Likely because I posted a comment on this post, asking why she felt she had to attack Constantin Basturea. I like Constantin. I've met Constantin. And, no offence to Constantin but attacking him is like kicking a puppy. The man has done nothing but good for PR and the blogosphere: New PR Wiki, Global PR Blog Week, Blogdigger Headlines, plus much more.

So, why moderate comments? Steve Rubel just went to the same policy (although no explanation), which would make me think that if he moderates, he would respond more to comments, but alas that is not happening either.

To me, comment moderation is good for corporate blogs. In a corporate blog, you do have people that are trying to attack the company on unfair grounds. I have posted comments on the GM Fastlane blog - something usually along the lines of move out of Detroit, to save the company - but those get moderated. And, at the IABC Conference, GM noted that their agency does help moderate comments.

But, individual blogs? Blogs written by people in an industry that pounds its chest about open communications and how blogs are equalizing the world, and how these are great venues for a two-way dialogue? Well, that two-way dialogue ends when comments are moderated. Then it's just lip service.


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Friday, July 01, 2005

Animal Farm for bloggers

Animal Farm was right: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

In this case: All bloggers are equal but some bloggers are more equal than others.

Or, to put it in a different way - you can't write about how A-listers are more important one minute, then extoll the virtues of customer evangelism the next.


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Who really controls the media?

As a teenager, I was always highly amused by the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and one of its many claims that Jews control the world's media. Part of the bemused stance is I keep waiting for a knock on my door, handing over a media network. I think I'd like Conde Nast, because I really like their latest magazine launches: Lucky, Cargo and Domino. And, I'd get the New Yorker for free.

Well, it turns out that The Protocols isn't true. From the HighVizPR blog comes a story on who really does control the media, an interesting circular relationship of board members sitting on each other's boards. I would say that it's suprising, but it really is not - mainly because I would not be surprised if this is common for more boards than just the mainstream media.

It's also interesting that just like there is a circular nature of the mainstream media, there's the same circular nature of the blogosphere. With all the whining against the so-called MSM, the blogpshere sure likes to copy the worst aspects of it - like, oh, since you are an A-lister, you are the only thing that matters in the whole wide world.

But, hey, this blog is about PR. Just like there are certain media outlets that are tier one, certain blogs are tier one - it's just harder to separate the chaff from the wheat in the blogosphere, and a tier one blog today might be tier four (or lower) tomorrow. You don't see that type of drop in a month for MSM...


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