Friday, October 28, 2005

Bloggers Form Lynch Mobs, Prove Forbes Right

When I was younger, I loved the cheesy "When Animals Attack!" television shows that were the standard fare on FOX. Well, sometimes Bloggers can act like animals, attacking others when their young (the Blogs) are attacked.

Case in point: Forbes' article on blogs, which does take a page from FOX. The bloggers attack on Forbes pretty much proves Forbes' point: attack if you don't agree.

The articles in BusinessWeek and Fortune were fawning articles, very pro-Blogs. Probably too pro-Blogs from two publications that are known for presenting both sides of an issue. Now, we get the other side from Forbes, and Bloggers can't take the criticism. While the article does take a negative tone, there are points that needed to be addressed, very valid points.

But, the attacks on Forbes? Give me a break. The issue here is that Forbes is right. When Nick Denton was interviewed by the New York Times in May, he noted that blogs are inherently negative. Hmm, somewhat the point that Forbes is proving.

From the story are a few gems that seem to prove Forbes' point.
"Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality," says Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm that sifts through millions of blogs to provide watch-your-back service to 75 clients, including Procter & Gamble and Ford.
You know, instead of PR bloggers attacking this article, we should be embracing this article because it proves a valuable point for our industry: that corporations need to be aware of what is being said out there.

This is what PR should be counseling. That corporations need to be aware of what is being said out there, the "new reality" as Pete Blackshaw noted in the article. This is what PR is supposed to shine at, counseling clients, monitoring what is being said out there, and providing a strategy to respond. Not to whine that one magazine is wrong and to ignore it - we ignore anything at our own peril. Or, take a page from the Forbes sidebar, and fight back, although that is a not a good way to describe being aware and some of the advice on the list is best ignored.

To quote another blogger, but to give good advice - the type of advice companies can actually use: My message to Corporate America is simple. Listen to Forbes. Take a look around the blogosphere for yourself and you will find real humans - good, bad and ugly.

Update: the story is tops on Memeorandum now, and Om Malik has a good, historical and used-to-work there view, and Doc Searls has a good and balanced post.


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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Customer Evangelists or Corporate Hacks?

The New York Times captured the whole new era of customer evangelism with blogs. I read the article, thought it was interesting, and then moved on to sleeping and working. Other issues, you know.

Then, while reading about the Tivo blog today, and about McDonald's customer (fanatic) evangelist on Synagogue of the Customer (writing church just seems odd), made me think about the differences between corporate evangelist blogs, true consumer evangelist blogs, and the old school days of enthusiast Websites that seem more and more relevant today, and how I pitched them years ago - which I will address when I get the video from Mike Dunn on the panel at BlogOn.

In the article, the Times noted such blogs as Hacking Netflix, Tracking Trader Joe's and The BarqsMan. Those, to me, are true customer evangelists, as they are working on their own and are blogging out of the love of the product. As noted, Barq's parent company did not know about the blog. As noted, McDonald's is tracking the conversation at McChronicles. And, while Coke should have clued in to the one blog, it's good that Mickey D's is looking at the conversation. And, that's what in-house corporate PR people and/or PR firms should be doing: tracking conversations, and jumping in when needed, or hey, even offering previews of new products, new offerings ... you know, the old school PR skill of working with media, being that bridge.

Those blogs are on the up-and-up and honest, while I take the Tivo and Vespa blogs with a box of salt since there is too much corporate involvement. Too much like Astroturfed blogs.

While others point to the Tivo blog as great, to me it's too akin to Astroturf. If you are on the corporate server, and blogging for the corporate, you are a corporate evangelist. It's not any different than the Vespa blogs - those aren't customer evangelists, they are corporate evangelists handpicked by Vespa and its PR firm, who were seasoned bloggers to begin with. While I have no doubt that the Vespa bloggers and the Tivo blogger are enthusiasts, by being part of the fold it does give you pause to wonder how involved the corporate is - despite claims that they are not.

Now, I am all for blogs and customer evangelists. It's just when corporations get involved and launch customer evangelist blogs, you know there are going to be issues. Blogs are great tools and great grassroots efforts, but sometimes corporations try too hard. And, this is no different than the dreaded character blog.

As David Parmet noted, calling those blogs customer blogs is like saying Scoble is a Microsoft customer evangelist. He's a corporate evangelist.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Google Base ... from October 11

Yesterday's big Google news - or supposed news - is the launch of Google Base. It's a hot, fun story on Memeorandum, and it's getting the usual too much buzz and hype on Blogs. It's a typical product story - first rumor, then confirmation - from Google, and Google itself put out a sorta response on its blog - since Google doesn't do PR.

But, the interesting thing is that it's not really news if you read media other than blogs, or if you have the (mis)fortune of living in Phoenix, and reading the tepid Arizona Republic (a good example of how to make a bad paper worse is to get bought by Gannett) and the very good Phoenix Business Journal. Why? Well, when it was announced that Google was going to set up operations in Phoenix, it was noted that
Sources tell The Business Journal that search engine titan Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is the company in question and that Valley plans will likely include operations related to online auctions and expanded Internet and technology services.
Go PBJ! They got the story before the press conference, and had a nice scoop that Google was going to be launching an online auction division, something that was barely picked up anywhere. But, hey, now the Base story is out there, and the reporter that might have broken the story will get no recognition.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Pitching Bloggers Preview

This was my topic at BlogOn. I was up on stage with Andy Carton of Treonauts and Cathy Brooks of Porter Novelli. I have a lot to say about the panel and session, and will blog about it later. And, yes, some is in response to another post about the panel.

In the meantime, it's my birthday today. Note the Amazon Gift List to the side. Or, you know a gift certificate to make my own old school Vans. I can be a custom Spicoli!!

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Blogging on BlogOn, and at BlogOn

I am writing on BlogOn 2005 over at the AllBusiness PR Blog this week, and will be updating the posts here.
Rudest moment of the conference? Steve Rubel asked Shel Israel to explain the PR people will become waiters/waitresses article in the blog. I had interviewed Israel, and he seems like a nice guy even if we disagree on things, and his comment is actually Personally, we think many of them may find their futures in the restaurant service industry and the world may be a better place for it, even if the restaurant industry is not.

Not much better, but okay. However, when someone from Porter Novelli asked a question, and introduced herself, Rubel said "oh, a future waitress."

Like I have said before - nice of people to defend the industry. From one supposed future waiter to another one (or likely to a busboy) thanks for the inappropriate snide comment, doyen. Even if it was meant in jest, it was plain rude and insulting to the profession.

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Friday, October 14, 2005

When Buzzwords Attack!!

Yes, I talked about killing the cluelesstrain - even though it was fun.

And, yes, I have talked about working together for a greater good for PR in blogs.

But, then there are stories like this that just make you scream and rant against the heavens.

A couple of favorite gems:
Rambam discussed the trickling up of new communication trends, such as instant messenger moving from a youth phenomenon to a corporate staple, executives receiving information and e-mail on mobile devices, and single mothers using chatrooms and message boards for advice.
And then this quote - which does answer the question on why blogs, vlogs or podcasts aren't the central theme for this:
"We're studying how youth are communicating worldwide and applying that to other demographics," Rambam said. "Fleishman is a global company, so the idea is to find [and work with] folks in each Fleishman office who are working on NGT solutions, such as a blog, RSS, or new distribution techniques."
Well, okay, he mentions blogs - and we'll assume he also means podcasts and vlogs/video casts. Yes, that's assuming a lot, but let's give them a pass, although none of those new communications tools are mentioned in the press release.

What does this really mean? It means we can expect one of the larger PR firms to unleash a bunch of clueless junior staffers to pitch blogs inappropriate stories.

It could be worse - it could be this, which is just embarassing and, well, borders on sleazy for all of PR. As far as I knew, PR thank you notes were literally notes, and reporters and editors were unable to take gifts.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Chapter One: Blog Marketing by Jeremy Wright

Tonight, I got a preview copy of the first chapter from Jeremy Wright for his book, Blog Marketing. As Wright noted, it will be on the book site tomorrow as a preview.

No real need to go into Wright - I met him first at the first NewCommunications Forum, and feel bad about that one phone call to immigration. Um, kidding about la immigra, in case you were wondering.

First thought is that if the rest of the book is as well-done as the first chapter, Wright might just have a winner on his hand. While it is a little over the top - no, blogs aren't curing cancer, and the mainstream media still has great influence with a good portion of the general public - well, since I wrote a sidebar for the book, I know it's not going to be a pollyannaish, sunshine book that will serve absolutely, positively no good for any corporation looking to get into blogging. Wright presents the pros and the cons, which are desperately needed when it comes to blogging and marketing.

The chapter begins with a cute story about a business looking into blogging, and Wright goes into an analogy about being a fly on the wall of your customers:
Now imagine that you could use this up-to-the-minute information to determine what your customers want, how they want it, what they will ultimately buy, and what they’re willing to pay for it. This is the power of the blog.
Well, those that read this blog know that I do not necessarily agree with that. Blogs are important to track, but it's the conversation that matters, no matter where it takes place: online, in a message board, on a blog, in the media, on sites like ePinions and PlanetFeedback. No customer should be more important than any other customer - sorry Jarvis/Dell is no exception - but all customers should be heard. Blogs are not a holy grail, but another avenue for people to write, to express, and, yes, to bitch.

Granted, this book is a primer for newbies. It's not going to bowl away people that have been blogging for any amount of time, but it will help marketing departments that are thinking of tipping their toes into the blogosphere some food for thought.

And, Wright, blogs are not effectively a form of free advertising - it's just pure public relations. It's PR's to lose, and if we don't step up and make sure we own corporate blogging, it will become marketing pabulum.


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Glam Gets Blogging ... and Blogging Networks

Mid-September, I noted the launch of Glam, and how they had a executive team that is responsible for Blogging. Well, it was announced late last week that Glam is setting up a blog network - both external and internal bloggers - that are an interesting twist of the normal blogging network, because of what they have planned.

I was able to chat quickly with Catherine Levene - ironically, she has no blog - while she was at Web 2.0. Levene has cut her chops on the digital world for more than a decade, with Firefly, Viacom and NYT Digital.

Notes from the conversation:
By setting up both a blog network and hiring in-house bloggers for Glam, we are able to present as many topics that we think our readers will be interested in. [The blogs in the Glam Network are: BagCrazy, Coquette, SheFinds, PopGadget, InMyBag, FashionTribes and Tia Williams.]
Why not just set-up our own bloggers? We believe that there are talented bloggers on fashion already, and it's becoming quite a popular topic for blogs, so we wanted to give the current existing bloggers a larger distribution platform, as well as give our audience content that is out there with those blogs.

With the Glam Blog network, we are giving these bloggers a larger distribution. All the blogs in the partner network will get promotion and distribution through the Glam Network, that will point to their original posts and blogs.

Plus, we are representing the network in a way that no individual blogger could do by themselves. Beyond content, there will be a Glam advertising network to reach the partner blogs as well as the Glam blogs with a revenue share.

It's a network of fashion bloggers, tying talented bloggers in the network that then offers cross-promotional opportunities, product review opportunites, plus more. But, each blogger has his/her own voice, and make their own decisions about what to cover in their own blogs. Glam has its own editorial guidelines, but we are not going to dictate to the bloggers what they write about.

For now, we started with US-based bloggers, but there are a number of talented writers out there writing on fashion in the EU, and we are familiar with them. We will want to work with them in the near future, but there is no current timeline.

But, we are open to people submitting their blog to the network. There is a vetting process to get into the network – it’s more of an art, than science. We select blogs that are in categories that are important to us and our readers, and have a certain tone and editorial voice that fits the Glam network.

Plus, we are looking at vlogging and podcasting. We want to grow the network by incorporating more and more blogs. That includes podcasting as well. Beyond that, we are not going to divulge too much of our future plans. If someone is vlogging and podcasting on fashion, that is definitely one that we would be interested in looking at.

For example, Fashiontribes Daily is already podcasting.

Blogging is here to stay, giving people a platform to express themselves. The more companies that embrace that, the better off they will be.
And, the last line was probably the most interesting: the more companies that embrace that, the better off they will be. It's an interesting departure from other companies that are embracing bloggers, where instead of just pitching the launch of the company, Glam went out and invited the category bloggers to become part of the network, in essence to join in the launch of the company but actually get something out of it.

Of course, this is the real Web 2.0 - inviting participants to be part of the community, real participants not self-appointed participants. And this is where PR is going to have to change. No longer can PR hope to control, but it has to participate in the conversation, instead of being a gatekeeper.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pushing forward the PR Meme

Steve Rubel finally steps up to the plate to take a leadership position, by putting forward a pretty good idea ... until you reach the last paragraph. And, he notes that I have been pushing him to take more of a leadership role, and he finally took the bait.

But, "ahem" indeed. I don't think he is very opinionated, and that's been my issue with his blog - take a stance, put out your neck.

However, when he does ... he puts it out behind an iron curtain.

As he notes:
I am using Writeboard as a collaborative tool and I love it. I would like to invite Richard Edelman and Phil Gomes from Edelman, Tom Biro from MWW, John Bell from Ogilvy PR, Niall Cook from H&K, Richard Cline from Voce and other “new media” gurus from the PR agency world (including PR Week and other organizations) to join me on a private Writeboard wiki where we can brainstorm some joint action initiatives to immerse PR pros. Then we can take these concepts and present them to a larger group to weigh in.
So, in other words, "me and some carefully chosen other grown-ups will handle this, children, and get back to you soon enough"?

Why hide behind an iron curtain, though? Make the Wiki public, and invite all various PR firms and PR bloggers to be involved. Or, why not do this on the New PR/Wiki?

Where are the other PR bloggers that have been doing this for a while that can bring great perspective about rebuilding PR?

Where's Burson, Golin/Harris, Weber Shandwick, PAN Communications, SparkPR or Outcast, to name a few off the top of my head that can add to the conversation and Wiki?

Where are the PR people from EU or Asia Pacific or Africa or South America?

What about involving the whole community of PR students at PRblogs.org and letting them observe, and maybe participate to bring a fresh view?

Instead of dismissing Global PR Blog Week, Rubel should have posted this there and helped push forward PR.

PR does need to change - or we might just need to throw away the baby and the bath water and start anew - but being exclusive isn't going to work. Some of the best PR is being done by consultants like David Parmet or Shel Holtz or Allen Jenkins or Andy Lark or Josh Hallett, who are working with companies to push PR forward, where we all have a stake in the future of PR. It's these consultants or small agencies that will truly push forward the industry, or remake it.

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What's a Jot?

Okay, as Scott Baradell of Media Orchard noticed ... I have changed the name to POP! PR Jots for this blog.

Why? Well, it was time. Musings was such a ... cliche. And, before bloggers jump on me for the Jots line - thinking it is a take off on Jotspot - um, nope.

First, I have nothing but love for Jotspot and for the launch that Voce did for them. They both rock.

But, the Jots idea actually came from an article in The New Yorker on Harold Arlen, a great American composer.

From the article,
He always carried a pad and a pencil in his coat pocket to catch the fleeting musical ideas he called "jots." Inspiration could come at any time, but walking was his most consistent catalyst.
I read that and thought "yeah" especially because I used to have a notebook next to my bed to jot down thoughts, ideas and dreams as I woke up during the middle of the night. Now, my notebook is a blog, and it's mainly on PR.

Enjoy the new name.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ketchum's Blog Launches

Back in July when I interviewed Adam Brown, the director of eKetchum, he noted that there would be a blog from Ketchum Personalized Media. And, no, it's not KetchumIdeas.

And, it has launched ... to no fanfare, to no announcements, to no datelines, and pretty much to no content.

Ketchum has taken heat for a few things, most recently it's participation / non-participation in Global PR Blog Week II. Some of the complaints are warranted, some are not, and, well, the fact is that Mark Rose should not have posted the private email conversation he had to a message board ... I think that's a violation of some Well type operational procedure.

And, I always go back and forth on Ketchum. I know a few people that work there that I respect, and then there are whole teams I think are detriments to their clients.

But, the blog just doesn't do it. It doesn't cut the mustard ... and no, it's not because it's a large agency blogging, but because, well, it's lame. The posts have no dates, so it's hard to see if anything is current. There's not much interaction going on. The posts just aren't that interesting.

The KPM team needs to take a step back and look at other large firm's blogs - either from the CEO or other employees. Take a look at Edelman's 6AM by Richard Edelman and Employee Engagement by Christopher Hannegan. Take a look at Tim Dyson's Technology PR. Take a look at Michael Kempner's MWW Straight Talk - but, unlike his recent post on SUN, note when you write on clients. Transparency is king in corporate blogs.

Good luck with the new blog. It can only improve.

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