Monday, November 28, 2005

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

There is a movement to push PR forward. The movement has been happening for a while - and been working - with the smaller agencies, the boutiques, the individual practitioners and the agencies that do get it. So, it's not just a small agency or individual practitioner thing - it happens everywhere, including the big multinational agencies. Just look at Richard Edelman, and his blogging boy. Or KPM. Or, Shandwick's Robert Ricci who has been blogging behind the firewall for more than a year, and then had his coming out this month.

For some people, though, the industry is not moving fast enough. I'm not really one of those people, but I do believe that PR can be better, and needs to improve to make sure we get a seat at the corporate table, and keep that seat.

But, the Wiki was closed, and the reindeer games were closed to those agencies with more than 15 people ... the number of God, but I doubt that's the reason it was capped at fifteen. This might be the reason.

In his reversal, Steve Rubel notes that he closed it because ...
... I wanted to make sure we had the right people in the room who can create change on a large scale.
Who are the "right" people, and who decides who is "right" or "wrong"? This was like taking one step forward, and then two steps back with just one post by insulting everyone that was not included in the original list because they weren't "right" for the plans. Or, does "right" translate into "agree with me" in this instance. I guess the "right" people don't include educators or consultants, though, because it's still listed as "If you work in a PR agency and you'd like" a password. Screw education.

Well, it is not just the larger agencies that work with big clients that create change. Yahoo, at one time, was a small client for a small agency. It is the smaller agencies that are moving their clients forward, because they are willing to take chances - both the agencies and the clients. But, it is also the medium, large and multinational agencies that can create change.

I fully believe that there is a need for such a program, but wonder what everyone's answer is going to be like on the Wiki. A few of them are already self-serving, as are the questions, but I hope that there is real dialogue out there. As I noted on Mike Manuel's blog, I look forward to reading what Voce is doing because they are doing more than just launching blogs and calling that blogging relations. Speaking of blogging relations program, I do have a post coming up on the Nokia N90 blogging relations program later this week. The phone rocks. The blogging relations program rocks. Why wasn't Andy involved in this Wiki ... oh, he's doing stuff instead of talking about it.

Am I going to participate in the Wiki? Yes, just to add the sane / luddite voice to the mix.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Like the Oscars ... for Bloggers (or just geeky people)

No, not the Webby's - those are more like the Daytime Emmys, but with less prestige and with an award that looks just like the Simpson's Olympic episode mascot, Springy.

What I'm talking about is the new, updated Scoble blogroll.

I admit it. I read Robert Scoble's blog. While too many blogs out there tend to be about blogs, and are navel gazing, I find Robert's blog to be an interesting read that covers a vast array of topics.

And, well, I made the blogroll. Like getting an Oscar. Or, something. It was pretty cool and interesting to see my blog up there.

Scoble blogroll speech: I would like to thank all my readers, my friend Kyle for getting me into blogging, the other PR people out there that are working to make blogs and PR a better place, the Auburn students for being fun, and all those special people I didn't mention.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Best Laid Plans

Here's a simple lesson in public relations, thanks to BusinessWeek. It's a great tale to show to clients, to show that even working with a reporter on an article does not ensure that your client is going to get press.

Now, this is purely conjecture, but reading the article on Wikis, it makes me think that the reporter must have worked with a PR firm, PR person, PR something or other. It's too perfect a hit.

Read the article. It is well written and explanatory about Wikis and why/how they are changing companies email usage. Well, Wikis and Collaboration Software. The article has great background on the subject. The article talks to companies using Wikis. The article refers to large corporations that are using such collaboration tools, and extensively interviews the managing director at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein with a great descriptive opening paragraph on how he's trashed his Blackberry.

Someone in PR set this up. Just a guess, but it sounds too much like the footwork I have done for reporters for my clients. I can point out two great such articles from Communication Arts and Wall Street Journal, where the client was the main focus of the article, albeit the article was on the space as a whole. It's called doing good PR, and getting information to the reporter.

However, while the article is great, it's anticlimactic. Why? Well, I have no idea about any Wiki or Collaboration software platforms. The article mentions no one at all. The article might have been set up by SocialText or Jotspot, but you would not know that because ... no one is ever mentioned.

So, that's the PR lesson here. You can work your fingers to the bone, tell the client you have a potential great hit coming ... and come up empty-handed. Why did the reporter not mention any of the companies? Only she really knows.

Hat tip to Allan Jenkins for the article.

UPDATE: Chris Edwards at Hacking Cough did the digging that I did not, and found out that the Wiki being used is from ... SocialText.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When Eunuchs Blog

I had a conversation today with a reporter, and was commenting to him about the few comments I had received on my blog post on Dennis Hastert and his blog.

His response "I'm starting to think it can't be a blog if it doesn't allow comments. And moderating comments is also bullshit, as name redacted exemplifies so well."

I noted that I have had issues with moderated comments for a while, particularly as it is quite easy to notice that some moderated comment bloggers tend to sit on comments that the blogger does not like. Come on - a day to post a comment, when others appear immediately, depending if they agree or disagree?

His response? "Eunuch blogs. It's true, though. Most politicians don't allow comments on their blogs. It's crap. Orrin Hatch has a "blog" also. It's just talking points with no feedback."

At least Seth Godin - while he does not have comments - has trackbacks. I am not sure if he moderates those, and how long it takes to post a trackback, but he is at least keeping the conversation going and open to conversations.

But, something about moderated comments seems fake. More along the lines of a desire to control the conversation - so much for the open dialogue of blogs - and fake complaints that it is easier to moderate than to delete. I have used WordPress and Typepad - and get comments sent to me when they are posted. It takes the same number of clicks to delete a comment as it does to moderate one. So, calling that out as bullshit.

The reporter ended by saying that is something, that if you don't allow the free comments, or no comments at all, that it just screams that you are "thin-skinned, and that if you can't take comments, then you have no place blogging. That you are half a blog, half a man - like a eunuch."

Just something to think about. Everyone clamors that blogs are about conversations, and old PR was about controlling the conversation. So, moderated blogs are okay? Um, not in my book. They are no better than being gatekeepers.

Or, as a friend puts it "Ball up Bitch."

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When Schools Do Logos ...

Why don't they try to use their students first?

Scottsdale Community College - most famous for its mascot, Artie the Artichoke - just paid Cramer-Krasselt close to $12K for a new logo. It is not a bad logo - also nothing that creative that a student could not have come up with the same thing - but whenever I read about a college doing a quick logo redesign, I wonder why the college does not go to the students.

It's not like we are talking about a massive PR push or adverising campaign, but rather a rebranding with a new logo. And, who better to know what would embody the spirit of a community college better than its own students? I did check out the college's Website, and they do offer graphic design and art at the school.

Now, do I think that every campaign should be handed to classes? No, not at all. Do I think students should have a voice in the branding and logo of their schools, yes.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Doesn't PR Include Public?

A nice A-list circular post about how Audible has missed the target on it's Podcast announcement, and what the PR should be. To me, though, this is funny - isn't public relations about, well, the public? I asked it last October, but I'll ask again.

The whole thing is over media relations - that dreaded mainstream media - and blogger relations (step-child of media relations?), and how both are different audiences, and have differenct reactions.

But, so much for actually doing any P in that assessment. Media relations, and it's step-sibling blogger relations ignore the greater public relations.

You think the general public cares about this issue? The product is geared to advertising agencies, who are looking for a simple measurement tool for Podcasts. Podcasters, who have an interest in this, are upset about the .AA format, and it has been mishandled in that community.

But, forget the public ... they just don't matter. And, likely do not care about this issue.

As for how Audible has handled or mishandled this whole scenario - it really comes down to which audience they are reaching. But, then again, let's remember that the blogosphere is a happy, positive place and Forbes was wrong.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Unclear on the concept

While many people applauded Dennis Hastert beginning to blog, this pretty much says he's unclear on the concept.

Sending out a press release to announce he has updated the blog.

Do Web 2.0 Companies Have Launch Parties?

They do, if they are Riya. They also buy too much swag, which really does not seem to be Web 2.0. Well, it is actually not just the launch party and swag that has me scratching my head in confusion - it is that the launch party seems to represent a return of a dotcom mentality in the Bay Area.

My first thought about the launch party was "wow, you guys should have it on a rooftop, invite someone from Industry Standard to be cohost, and then you'll have a total dotcom feeling there." I bet they hand out T-shirts as well.

It all comes back to what is Web 2.0. I have wondered about that for a while, if it is just a marketing term for dotcom sites with a community feeling to them and use some Ajax, and are pretty cool. I look at this as an outsider, in a state that does not have any Web 2.0 companies. When I worked in the Bay, though, I also looked at things as an outsider during the dotcom era - realizing that there was more than just the 7-by-7 mile chunk of land, but the rest of the country spent money and was more important than one area. So, I wasn't on top of any rooftops drinking alcohol, but working to help make the company a success via media and PR - my job.

So, I wonder if companies are just draping themselves with the Web 2.0 title because they think that VCs want to hear the term. There are companies out there that have that term, and while they are cool, I have yet to figure out the value proposition.

This also comes back to the post that John Cook was eviscerated for, when he quoted Riya's Tara Hunt on Web 2.0 being about parties and beer. She noted on her blog that the quote was taken out of context - a tongue-in-cheek comment. But, is that mentality coming back to the Bay? Tara wasn't around to see the landscape after the first bust, so it was a joke to her. For us that happened to be there, it was not a joke.

Now, to me, Flickr is a great representation of Web 2.0 - and the article in Business 2.0 was a great explanation of how Flickr is doing more than just providing a service, but building a community. But, that's just good marketing, PR community relations. Buzz does not make good PR, but it makes good Web 2.0 - and companies are not built on buzz, just acquired.

Now, to me, neither Slide nor Filmloop are Web 2.0 companies, but seem to be that me-too mentality that was prevelant during the dotcom era. Hopefully, someone from Filmloop's PR firm is counseling the company on the lack of any benefits that a public pissing match will do for the company as it positions against the competition. It is too reminiscent of 2000.

Web 2.0 is about communities, not about funding. But, it seems to be moving to the all about funding stage.

I brought up my concerns to a friend in the Bay, if we were entering another dotcom mentality era. The response was good: there are no launch parties, as there seems to be a maturing in the Valley. There is a perception gap from what is said on Blogs and the reality in the Valley. But, it is very apparent that the generations behind us, are the "entitlement" generation. They believe they are just entitled to everything without having to work, and that is the larger problem with tech. Rewards with no work.

Update: well, the party did go off, and from the different blog posts (and photos - hey that's beer!), it does read and look like the dotcom parties. Maybe Web 2.0 is a Bubble, or Babble as Om wrote. Actually, this makes me wish I had published a post I had written about six months ago, lamenting that we were on the verge of another bubble, but decided not to post.

Disclosure: I am an Alpha tester of Riya, and think it's okay, so far. I also talk with Tara, and think she's a good WOM/Buzz marketer, although we disagree on many things. I also had contacted Riya when they first had job openings, because of my background in photo industry. Despite claims to the contrary that they contact every resume, I never heard from them.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bad Ad Placement

A very sad story that Geoffrey Frost, executive vice president and Motorola's chief marketing officer suddendly died today at 55.

Here, however, is the problem with automatic ad networks. The ad accompanying the story in AdWeek is from AARP, and their campaign that life does not end at 50.

Bad placement, bad choice ... makes you wish that there was more oversight.

My condolences extended to Motorola and the Frost family.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Transparency and Synthetic Transparency

Transparency is an issue I have tackled on my blog, and then questioned on others. For me, it is pretty simple. We are communicators. As communicators who blog and are counseling clients to blog, we need to lead by example.

That does not mean by just having an About page that says who your clients are, instead of disclosing in the post, that you are excused.

That does not mean posting about clients and projects without noting they are clients and projects.

That does not mean you can take the line that "well, if they click through, the reader will see I'm quoted in the article."

That does not mean you even need to link to articles, because that is just whoredom.

That isn't real transparency; it is a 'polyester' ... tacky and out-dated.

What brings this on? Two great posts from Northeastern University's Advanced Organizational Communication course. The first was on Synthetic Transparency, and the second was responding to issues raised by the first post. Yes, this issue has been written on quite a bit out there.

But, kudos to the professor for pointing out that the emperor sometimes is naked.

There's a simple answer that we seem to forget. If we are counseling, we need to be 100 percent transparent, above reproach. We cannot let it slide, but be honest about what we write about. If we are not honest, can we expect our clients to be truly transparent? No, and we have no one to blame but the profession and ourselves.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Will Sprout Blog?

With the relaunch of the Jolly Green Giant by Saatchi & Saatchi, the obvious question is ... where is Sprout?

Now, I have a free suggestion for Saatchi - with the relaunch of Jolly Green Giant, have Sprout come back as a character blog. Yes, a character blog. I am in the minority, as I like character blogs and think they have their place. But I'm also a realist - that as blogs become more and more prevelant, more and more character blogs will be launched, and the blogosphere just needs to accept that reality. Does mean that the purists have to like it? Of course not, and they won't.

On another blog, I have stated and reiterated that I would love to see a Jack in the Box blog, because if it was done half as well as the commercials, it would be pretty good. But, some people just cannot accept that character blogs have their place, and can be a good thing. Or, heck, that even regular blogs are sometimes character blogs, as people are characters behind their computers.

Now, I agree that there cannot be that many interesting stories out of the Green Valley, but how about just setting up a blog about the products, with recipes? Using the Sprout blog with the RSS feeds to share those recipes, and the comments to have people note whether or not they like the recipes, or what they did. Or, can also add video podcasts of cooking demonstrations and recipes, like a Sprout cooking show - and, just my opinion, but the chef should have to wear a Sprout outfit. Or, even audio podcasts of recipes, so people can make the recipes in their kitchens, while also printing out the recipes.

Why do blogs only have to be stories - why not sharing information, and building a community? What would make this that different than the well-loved Stonyfield Farm blogs? It's a great chance to reintroduce Sprout while Jolly Green Giant makes his debut again.

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Finding a Voice

Yesterday, I was on a panel for the AMA Phoenix meeting on "Leveraging B2B Marketing Technologies."

What it really came down to was blogging, podcasting, Wiki/collaborative technology and permission email marketing.

I was the blogger on the panel, and the AMA chapter in Phoenix is going to post video, so I will be able to post that when I write a bigger piece.

Two things that I want to highlight, though. The last question to each panelist was "in 60 seconds, what is the takeaway for your area?"

I said just three words: Pubsub, Technorati and Blogpulse. Then, went on that while it is not necessary for a company to blog (or podcast or video podcast), it is extremely important that they know what is being said out there about the company, about the executives. That if you are not taking part in the conversation, at least know about the conversation.

After the panel, though, I was talking with James Peggie from Elexir Systems' Search Engine Marketing Blog - who already has blogged the event - along with Jennifer Deurloo also from Elexir, Nice Moseley (who arranged the whole event) from DirectResults, and Andrew Lahser, an attorney that has a patent law blawg and podcast at Patent Pod. The conversation came around to finding a voice for your blog (or podcast).

It is an interesting point - when you begin to blog, you really do not have a voice. There are blogs that I read (or cringingly read) that are just parroting information and have no real voice. However, those blogs might be well read, but they provide no real value to the conversation because they are voiceless.

Then, you can scan the blogs at PR Blogs, and you can hear the students' voice. They might not be seasoned bloggers, but they have a voice because they are adept at the online world, growing up with IM and The Facebook and Myspace.

How did I develop my voice? I write in a conversational tone, and while I like to say all blogs are character blogs, because we can not be this way in the real world. But, my tone on the blog is pretty similar to the tone in real life - it's my voice, with less of a nasal twang.

How do others find their voice? By blogging or continuing to blog. Eventually, if you are being true to yourself, a voice will appear. And, that is what makes a blog worth reading - an intimate tone.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mapes Blames Everyone ... But Herself

Mary Mapes goes on a rampage against everyone ... letting everyone know that she's partially infallible, but is the best reporter that has ever walked this green Earth.

From the article comes this doozy of a quote:
"I'm a human being; I do things wrong from the first breath I take in the morning," Mapes said. "I don't in any way feel I am without responsibility in this. . . . I probably shouldn't have been as pliable or as malleable as I was" when her bosses were finalizing the story. "This is a huge shortcoming. I didn't know how to say no. . . . I was trying very hard to please them."
Now, maybe I am being naive, but reporters are not supposed to be human ... well, they are not supposed to make mistakes, and if they do, are they not supposed to own up to them?

The article - and I'm sure the book - are amazing reads. Here is a woman that is able to find a conspiracy against her around every corner, and yet does not own up to anything. And, while I do not find CBS' handling of the affair to be anything to hold up as a great example of crisis communications, at least they did not pass the buck so readily. They might not have fully owned up to the mistakes, but Mapes refuses to at least admit to her part in the crisis and still believes she is right.

Mapes wants to stay in journalism - good, at least she will not enter public relations. A course in crisis communications and ownership might do her some good, though.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Topix Adds Blogs, But Which Ones?

A piece of news from Topix, that they are adding blogs to their mix. It's an interesting topic, as they do not ask if blogs are news, but if all blog posts are newsworthy. And, it is a good subject to debate, but one for a future date for more journalistically inclined people than me.

But, this one part of the post that came up for me was
How did we judge which blogs to add? We started by crawling about 1M blogs, and then began automatically filtering and ranking these using our NewsRank algorithms -- which consider a variety of factors, such as blog posting frequency, writing style, type of reference, popularity, and so forth. We ended up adding the top 15,000 sources that passed these tests.
This seems arbitrary, but I could not comment on the post because there's no trackback or commenting. Seems like a cardinal rule that certain people have touted has been broken, but that rule must depend on the day of the week.

I am about to hit submit on a letter to them - the same way you ask them to add your blog is just the generic feedback form that goes who-only-knows where.
How did you choose the new blogs to add to Topix? What blogs were added? Why were they chosen - what were the criteria?

I noticed certain blogs had been added a long time ago. What blogs were added, and why? Have you used any reports on adding blogs, such as the report from Edelman and Intelliseek, which did rank blogs, or Technorati, which has it's ranking services?

If I did want to be added, what are the criteria to be accepted? Who is on that committee?
I wait with anticipation to get the answers, but I have other questions that might be too hard hitting, such as:
  • How frequent does a blog have to be updated to be added?
  • What is 'writing style'?
  • What does reference mean?
  • What do you mean ... number of links put in a post, or number of times a blog is referenced by others?
  • What is popularity? Whose judgement on popularity?
While I have yet to say much about the different surveys out there - Edelman's, Guidewire Group's - at least we have some idea on how they went about things. Here? Well, for all I know it was a room full of trained monkeys.

I hope Topix releases the list of blogs, by locale and category, so we have an idea on who they judge worthy. But, I have a feeling they won't. Nheh, I'll still go to their site for a cheap way to track news and clients.

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