Monday, January 30, 2006

Going for that 25 Percent

There's been a lot of talk about the 25 percent. It's supposed to be this great answer to all that ails PR and ways to fix it. It's great that there's all this talk about the 25 percent ... what about the 75 percent that is still screwed up?

What do I mean? Well, let's take a look back at recent events: Tello versus Arrington; Alaska Airlines versus Jeremy Hermanns; Six Apart versus anyone that dares criticize them; Everyone versus Kryptonite. There are tons of examples, but these popped into my head.

Well, what's so important about these? Well, it shows that blogging is not that elusive 25 percent, but that we need to worry about the other 75 percent, such as "who is an official spokesperson" for a company. I like Six Apart, for the most part. They seem like a nice company, blah blah. But, after Anil came to my blog, I called them up for a simple question ... is he an official spokesperson? After a lot of avoiding the question - Apple PR people rock - and talking about what the future might hold for me and for PR and for blogging, I finally got an answer. No, not an official spokesperson.

And, that's the issue - the old 75 percent of PR is where we craft messages, and in a crisis everyone sticks to that message. Is that such a bad thing? No, because PR can be transparent and honest about a crisis, and that's what you are looking for. What is a PR person if they don't have the balls to cut off a reporter, and their OWN spokesperson? Useless - and in this new era of PR, do we need those types of PR people?

That leads me to ask - well, what is PR to do with that 75 percent that we are used to working on, if we have problems with people commenting for the company. That's where PR comes in (to help craft messages), and where a blogging policy comes in. Were those comments from Alaska Airlines? Were those comments from Tello employees or its PR firm? I don't know - but the IP addresses (while they can be spoofed) usually don't lie. And, well, it's not just blogs we need to worry about - it's message boards, where I am working on a fire for a client because, well, engineers like to talk.

The Schedule - Originally uploaded by philgomes.

But, there is that whole issue with the 25 percent. Do you remember that Gawker story on that poor PR person?

What happened there? By no fault of his own, Brandon became the story. He stupidly - yes, stupidly - pitched Gawker on a story for KFC. First, Gawker always seemed more ghetto than KFC to me. It's more a Popeye's type publication (best biscuits, btw and I am ghetto fab). And, second, read the freakin' blog. Gawker is like Page Six without the Murdoch cash. Would you pitch KFC to Page Six? Not unless there was a good tie-in to Lindsay Lohan.

That's why my personal hero right now is Phil Gomes. While others are talking about the 25 percent for personal gratification and to pretend to be leaders - notice the Wiki has died already - Phil is out on tour for Edelman speaking about the 25 percent. Kudos to Gomes, because he gets it (as his tour pic shows).

And, that's why this news is news - I know that I am not going to affect change sitting in Phoenix, but need to be in the trenches and the foxholes in San Francisco at a large firm. I hope to help them not make such mistakes, be their Phil Gomes. And, btw, this is the only time you'll see me blog about them.

But, the story isn't about me, and shouldn't be about me. It's about the most important PR lesson, that seems to be forgotten in the era of PR bloggers ... the story is about the client, not the PR person. Some of us are forgetting that, hoping to keep our A-list (no, not me, because I just don't care) and looking for free invites to conferences and pimping for speaking opportunities. It's not about us - the best PR people I have ever worked with knew that. They were never the story, even when they were the spokesperson. It's about the client.

That's a lesson we should all remember.

Lizzie to Get Married!

Happy wedding to the PR Power Girl, who has announced her engagement to her ex-employee's ex-husband (well, he wasn't so ex- when Lizzie took up with him).

Well, whatever makes her happy. Hope it's a long and loving marriage.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

All Attack on Arrington

Michael Arrington is being raked over the coals because he does not like Tello. Well, he does not like the marketing of the service thus far.

And, well, that's his perogative (he can do what he wants to do).

After a ton of comments, though, let's take a look at this.

First, Jeff Pulver is on the board, and he has been blogging for quite a long, long time. If there is someone that understands the value of blogging, it is Jeff and I would hope that he would have shared that belief with the company. Does that mean the company needs to blog? No - that just goes back to "not every company needs to blog, but needs to be aware of blogs" argument that I like to have with PR bloggers that only get blogs.

But, it might not be Tello acting with less than common sense, but its PR firm that might not know or understand the blogosphere. That is quite a possibility. Or, they might have just been under orders to concentrate on MSM moreso than blogs - and that is the right of the client, and does not mean the client needs to listen to the agency's counsel.

Yes, presence is an issue that has been written about quite a bit. I have even written an article about it from a video conferencing angle. If presence does work, it is going to be either amazing or intrusive. Or, likely, both. And, well, the biggest competitors are going to be Cisco and Microsoft, among others.

The best way to get on the radar screen for presence - which is a tricky thing to explain, really - is to go with the hardcore, main business press. That is what the strategy looks like so far. And, they did land some good press.

I wish Tello luck - but hope the company and its PR firm are not behind the comments on this blog. Whether you like Arrington or not should not be the issue, but discussing the post on its own merits should be.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wither Goes the Wire Services

It's been an active new years for the Wire service. First, PR Newswire let go of approximately half of their sales staff - Dee Rambeau has a good explanation of the layoffs (as a partner) here - and then BusinessWire got bought by the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

Now, to add to the pain for the Wire services, Amy Gahran re-raises the issue of should the press release wither and die. But, she's taking it a step further by joining forces with Topaz Partners and finding the answers on whether or not you need Wire services for SEC guidelines.

This all comes on the backend of me having the chance to interview the founder of Primezone, Tom Madden, and getting his views on the future of the Wire industry. And, who knew this, but Primezone is the third largest Wire service.

Okay, the idea of this post started with two things: first, InternetWire's PR firm sent me a bad blog pitch touting the security of InternetWire - mainly at the expense of BusinessWire and an SEC investigation - yep, Estonian hackers got into the system and traded on illegally stolen data. Yes, I'm sure Buffett knew about this.

Oh, I'm sorry, I mean MarketWire. That's the irony - those in glass houses, etc. InternetWire became MarketWire after a little incident involving a person sending out a fake press release to goose the market. Heck there is even a Wikipedia page about it.

The second was a fake press release posted to a service in the UK - a free Wire service, which leads to the "get what you paid for" saying. Someone had sent out a fake press release about Tom Cruise and Scientology on pressbox ... the story was picked up by Radar Online as fake, but not before a few people were fooled.

First - MarketWire.

Here's the pitch ... way too long for a blog pitch:
We're sure you are aware of the recent news stories regarding the Securities and Exchange Commission charging an Estonian financial services firm and two of its employees with stealing confidential information from Business Wire and walking away with at least $7.8 million in illegal profits.

Market Wire certainly empathizes with Business Wire's most recent crisis; scandal, fraud, hacking, employee wrongdoings, and insider trading are all very real in today's technologically-powered and information-rich environments. While this incident is just another reminder that not one of us can always predict or prevent fraud, we must learn from our experiences, good and bad, and work toward improving and perfecting our products, systems, and processes. That's what Market Wire did as a result of Emulex more than five years ago. And today, we're stronger because of it, with our foundation and reputation being built on leveraging the latest technologies to securely distribute company news and safeguard client data.

With that in mind, we wanted to keep you informed about Market Wire's systems and processes and let you know that you can feel confident about sending your news securely through us. Whenever you use a newswire, we recommend that you:
  • Investigate your newswire's internal access policies and procedures.
Who at your newswire actually has access to your release? And when are they able to view and edit it? Newswires that limit internal access to releases further safeguard against the possibilities of any internal wrongdoing. When material news is submitted at Market Wire and queued up for a later release date and time, any viewing, editing, etc., may only be done through a selected senior-level team member assigned to that specific release.
  • Ensure that secure submission and authorization policies are in place and adhered to.
Newswires should only allow secure online submissions. Allowing email or fax submissions is dangerous and introduces several opportunities for security breaches. At Market Wire, we've designed our user interfaces to be easy for clients to navigate while at the same time intuitive enough to recognize authorized users, restrict permitted accesses accordingly, and assign unique passwords to each release submitted.
  • Insist on your newswire employing the highest level of encryption allowed by government standards.
Basic encryption is not least not for us. Sophisticated spiders can break primitive codes. Make sure measures that hide or encrypt URLs are in place to protect unauthorized spidering. Not doing so would be similar to someone putting gates and fences all around one's home, but leaving the front door unlocked.
  • Confirm that your newswire continuously monitors online activity.
Continuous monitoring of procedures, submissions, and processes is extremely important. Market Wire's tech team diligently employs these practices and is alerted at the first sign of any suspicious activity, prompting swift and early action.
  • Evaluate a newswire's computer systems.
What servers and operating systems does your newswire utilize? Are multiple servers used? Is the technology constantly being improved? At Market Wire, multiple servers and an intricate, multi-faceted network allow for constant checks, balances, and safeguards.

Market Wire has invested in its technologies and processes to maximize security. By the same token, we encourage all communication professionals who submit material news through a newswire to be proactive and diligent in ensuring that they and their companies are protected, as much as is possible through the latest systems and processes. Finally, we encourage working together to stay one step ahead of those who would take advantage for personal gain.

If you have any questions about technology or security or newswires...or if you'd like more information about Market Wire and the systems and procedures we have in place to distribute material news securely, just reply to this email, click on the button below, or call us. We're here to help.
Now, come on. Did MarketWire really learn any lessons here, or are they just taking potshots at a competitor - one that is so far ahead of them, that even smaller services like PRWeb are nipping at their heals. I am hard pressed to think of who uses MarketWire, and when I have a reporter note to me that he does not even bother looking at their feed because it's bottom feeders and nothing of note, I sit up and notice.

But, the email pitch - the long, long email pitch - did bring up one issue that is true. Who does have access to your account? I know PR Newswire and BusinessWire do have safeguards, which include phone calls, in place. They have forms to sign, and check boxes on the site. PRWeb - while I love them - is different, and mainly just for SEO PR. It gets the release out there, is likely not read too much, but does give you a place to link to in a pitch (a nice, short pitch like all pitches should be). pressbox is the same way - it's a free service and who really knows the safeguards in place. Come on - someone posted that Tom Cruise story, and it went out. At least at PRWeb, I know there is someone reading my press releases (I had one rejected there because of content), but that likely is not the case for all these freebie sites out there. Caveat emptor is the case, but are we listening?

For further clarification, I was emailed this:
Candidly, this type of 'security' issue for newswires is something that the big guys like PRN and BW would have used against smaller wires like U.S. Newswire, Market Wire, PrimeZone, etc. to "shut them down", or, at a minimum disparage their reputations in the PR community. I just found it interesting that Market Wire took the high road when it learned of such an aggregious 'breach' in Business Wire's systems that caused such an issue. Market Wire (and other newswires for that matter) "could" have used this information to deposition or beat up on a competitor. Instead, Market Wire chose to use this unfortunate event to educate PR/Marcom professionals about ways to 'ensure' that they're newswire is secure vs. taking a competitor to task for a challenge that virtually anyone can face, at any time.
I don't buy it. Sorry, just don't buy it. The Wire services are old and long in the tooth, are not providing any real value outside of SEC. For a private company, most of the time I would recommend saving money and doing no press release. If you have a good database, an ability to write a pitch letter (a very sadly dying art in PR), and have relationships, you can get more accomplished than with a Wire releases. Aside from SEC issues, I agree with Amy. It's time to kill the press release of old, and to stop relying on Wire services. Plus, let's admit it: PR firms lie to clients. After a meeting with a potential client recently, he said that his launch press release got 60+ hits ... I had to explain to him that those were not hits. Those were sites that carried the feeds from PR Newswire or BusinessWire. Those aren't hits, that's not coverage, and PR firms should know better than lie to clients like that.

When discussing this issue with one of the biggies, the account executive had a good point: because of the massive amounts of emails to reporters, Wire services are even more important for reporters because they help weed out the valuable from the invaluable in the space that they are looking in. Well, in a perfect world ... that would be true. However, in the real world, there is so much crap put out on the Wires that even the Wire noise is deafening.

This all brings me to the lunch with Primezone. Madden was surprisingly candid about the Wire services.
  • He noted that the reach of the Web is immense, and while reporters are still using the Wires to get the kernels of news, reporters are just as apt to use Google News as research for articles. It's a plain information overload.
  • He noted that personal connections with reporters are just important as the Wire services, and that private companies can use Wire services effectively to get the ball rolling, but it comes down to relationships [which is why DIY PR only goes so far].
  • He noted the importance and growth of RSS feeds, how bloggers are growing in influence and important, and how Primezone is working on stock symbol specific RSS feeds, to help reporters weed through the immense amount of information.
  • He noted that there has been a tremendous shift in ways people are receiving information, and what they are doing with the information - and Primezone is working to find the best ways to filter the information and weed out the noise.
  • He noted - most importantly - that it is about the quality of the news and the quality of the company. It is about the news, about the content. Let me repeat that ... it is about the quality of the content, the newsworthiness of the release.
Let's re-read that: it's the content of the release that gets pick-up, not the fact that it is just a press release. And, that's part of why the press release will not die, but will die. It's about the quality of the writing and the ability to tell a story, which is a lost art in PR. While the crap that is SEO PR will tell you to put out four press releases a week to juice the rankings, the lost fact is ... you will soon be ignored by the media you want to write about you. Who wants to be spammed with that much of non-newsworthy stuff? One of the bigger offenders in this camp is GoDaddy - who used to like to push out as many releases as possible. Now, since the PR department is run by two former news assignment editors, I hope that the practice ends ... but I somehow doubt it.

People ask why I care about the Auburn PR bloggers. That is why, because blogging can make them better writers and give them the ability and skills to tell a story in a straight forward, succint way.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What's the message?

I read a lot of papers - regular ones, and online - as any media junkie/PR person should. So, while reading the papers, I look at it from a PR perspective and more often than not, I just sit there shaking my head and wondering what the thought process was for the person speaking.

So, this past week a few gems popped out at me.

From the Arizona Republic came an interesting story about homeowners who have sold their homes at what they hope is the top of the market, moved into an apartment, and are looking for the market to correct itself. It's an interesting investment strategy, but two things jumped out at me.

Kurt Nishimura is taking a calculated ride on Arizona's real estate wave. He sold his home in the Willo neighborhood, believing its value has topped out, and is renting an apartment in the Arcadia area for a year, hoping to buy something after the wave has crested.

Kurt, however, is the vice president of acquisitions for Pivotal Group. Pivotal Group is a "strategically sophisticated investment and development company." Yes, they are in the business of developing residential communities (among other high-quality real estate assets). Okay, so following this thought ... your VP of acquisitions tells a local paper that he thinks the market is over valued and is getting out? Must have been a fun day in the office that following day.

Here's a great PR lesson: make sure that only qualified and media trained executives speak to the media. There was no reason Kurt should have been contacted ... unless he's going out on his own. There's a reason we have PR people: to create messaging. I am pretty sure ... this was not on message.

From USA Today, about the lawsuit against Nickelodeon and Kelloggs because, well, kids are fat comes a great quote.

"Going out on a limb here, perhaps her (Carlson's) kids want these foods not because of ads, but because they're children," said Dan Mindus, spokesman for the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Now, just a guess, but that was probably not the message that was meant to get out: so, your kids are fat not because there are Kellogg's products with Nickelodeon characters, but, hey, they don't exercise and you are a crappy parent who folds when they whine for certain products.

I have to admit - I agree with the guy. What happened to the Presidential Fitness Tests where we would get the certificates in front of the whole school? Yes, the pudgy or non-athletic types would feel bad, but we (yes, I was one of the non-athletic types) would work harder the next year to not feel so ashamed. There's nothing wrong with peer pressure like that.

But, man, I am sure that was not the message that was supposed to get out. Funny, but not on message.

Also, from USA Today ... Amazon is working with Bill Maher. Yes, I know everyone loves podcasting and video podcasting and how streaming videos are great ... but what's the upsell here? Commercials at the beginning of each show? Why not just sponsor KSSX or Rocketboom?

"This is the next step," says Kathy Savitt, Amazon's vice president for strategic communications. "The mission or common thread through all of these series is to offer innovative and interactive opportunities for customers to discover ... new films, music and books."

Okay, and it gets people to buy films, music and books ... how? Maybe I'm being dense, but from a PR standpoint it seems like another instance of stunt PR. How about making the shopping experience better? That might work as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Day of Acquisitions

Well, today is a busy one in both PR and PR measurement. Intelliseek has been acquired by BuzzMetrics which is now part of VNU (okay, so if I get this right, BuzzMetrics acquired Intelliseek and then was acquired by VNU ... I think) and will be known as Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Yep, that's a mouthful. The full press release is here, and everyone's favorite blog measurement Website, Blogpulse, will still be around as will everyone's new dad of twins, Pete Blackshaw. Crappy timing, though, since VNU announced that they were up for sale to be split up.

Okay, so the quick analysis of this: no brainer that the measurement industry is going to contract and we were going to see either companies go through M&A or just die. It's the same with the Web 2.0 companies, and while I use BlogPulse, I have not used BuzzMetrics nor know much about them beyond the emails I get from Max Kalehoff and his columns in MediaPost. But, while word of mouth marketing is hot right now - and the WOMMA conference should be fun - let's boil it down to what it really means: Nielsen wanted the capability to track this crap so they bought a company to do it - well, actually two companies.

Another interesting piece of news is that BusinessWire is being bought by Warren Buffett. From O'Dwyer's ...
Berkshire Hathaway, the $75 billion conglomerate run by Warren Buffett, has moved to acquire Business Wire in a deal expected to close in the first quarter of '06.

BW's management team, led by newly promoted CEO Cathy Tamraz, will remain in place and operations will not be affected by the ownership change, according to BH. BW will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of the conglomerate.

Business Wire sent a letter to BH last year pitching the potential acquisition.

Buffett had high praise for the 44-year-old newswire. "In making this acquisition of Business Wire, we have followed our blueprint of buying profitable companies that are industry leaders, yet have significant growth potential," he said in a statement. Buffett cited the company's experienced management team and called it a "gem of a company." He added: "I expect BW to continue to do what it has always done and I'll be there if I can help it in any way."

BW, which is privately held, said it posted double-digit growth in 2005. It has grown significantly overseas in the last few years.

Last month, founder and CEO Lorry Lokey promoted Tamraz, a 26-year-veteran of the company, to the top executive post and said he would focus on his philanthropic pursuits, which have totaled $160M to date.

Lokey said BH is "committed to providing a supportive environment" that will allow the newswire to continue overseas expansion and pursue "emerging opportunities."

BH companies include Benjamin Moore & Co., Fruit of the Loom, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, and GEICO Auto Insurance, among a roster of 42 companies.
This is interesting, and I have been working on a larger piece about the Wire services and whether or not they are needed nowadays (hey, how about those layoffs at PR Newswire). But, hey, congratulations to Lorry as he is a nice guy and philanthropic. I will have more to say about this later in the week, after I meet the CEO of Primezone. But, the telling part here is that BW actively pitched BH to be acquired. There's got to be a story there, but I will leave that to the reporters.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Where is PR Going?

Okay, I keep planning to do a big think piece - or really, a "what I think" piece - on where PR is going in 2006. I have no answers, I don't claim to have any answers, I'm just some kid in Phoenix that is blessed to look 10 years younger than I am, has a good ability to write, and can be sociable when needed - some not-too-bad traits for PR. For the piece, I even have a nice photo of Phil Gomes on tour for Edelman, thoughts on the so-called 25 percent and if PR is changing, and other stuff along those lines.

Heck, I even gave a quote to Ragan's newsletter about predictions for 2006. More on those thoughts on a later date, but the not-so tongue-in-cheek part of the quote was cut, where I noted that those same divisions would just be swallowed into PR as a whole, when firms realize that they do not need to separate blogging outreach from mainstream public relations.

But, yesterday I wrote about Foremski and Rubel and their posts about the coming (or shortcomings) of PR. Both wonder what PR is going to be in the future, why it is growing. I just look at it this way: the mainstream media universe is shrinking, with more and more freelancers coming out from the cuts in the media. Those freelancers are only going to be only really known by PR professionals that have relationships that are not built via blogs nor email but from good old PR, with the phone and personal, high-touch communications and not high-tech. Many thanks to Al Golin, who brought up the importance of relationships and the over-reliance of high-tech in our interview. Every one in PR should re-read the bolded line, and think it over. And, also go read Richard Edelman's fisking of the Foremski piece - as the leader of Edelman, Richard always has good points, and this is no exception.

And, yes at the same time the media universe is expanding with bloggers and podcasters and other consumer generated media (or whatever you want to call it). Those are going to take a gentle hand to work with, a gentle high-tech and high-touch feel that is going to be a new thing for PR. PR has never been about control (ha!! - if any PR person can tell me when they have had control with the media, I'll buy them a burger), but has been about messaging. That's what PR should always be about - access to the message, getting the message out.

With more and more companies launching, it is no surprise that PR is in demand because companies - after their DIY PR stage - they are going to need the professionals to lead the way. That's PR firms. Now, I read the same article in the SFBT about the growth of PR firms in the Bay (btw, one wasn't so new, but just a new name) and just yesterday I got a "sneak" peak into news from SHIFT Communications. They are now the new AOR for The Churchill Club, an organization that does harken back to the days of the dotcom era. To me, it was a nice strategy - they know I write about PR here, they pitched it with the press release (bad, but not as bad if it were an attachment), and they answered my questions on what they are going to be doing (PR, marketing - the whole of promoting the club, events, and booking speakers). Heck, they even blog so they seem to understand that universe, but when the profile says "principal of the best damn PR firm, period" and you don't get the joking tone that you do from the FOX Sports show, it comes off as ... odd.

But, all this talk of Churchill Clubs and growing PR firms and changing PR and Web 2.0 and Social Networks makes me wonder ... is PR getting caught up in the same shit as it did in the dot-com era? Can PR firms push back on clients, and say "no, that's stupid" or are we going to do the same goose steps with bad campaigns that bring in money? One of the greater benefits I have had with blogging is that I have an even better sense of what is and what is not ... a story. And, I have no problem pushing back - can firms do the same thing, or are we going to see clients raped again?

That's the real future question for PR: did we learn from the first time around, or is this bust going to make the last one look like a walk in the park?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's Not About SEO - It's About PR

Tom Foremski has an interesting post today - Foremski has always had good ideas, as one of the key people in the Financial Times office - but he wonders why PR is growing, while the media universe keeps shrinking. There was even a recent San Francisco Business Times article on the growing of PR firms in the Bay Area.

Steve Rubel picks up the post by Tom Forensky (sic), and makes it about SEO PR - search engine optimization public relations. That's all good and fine, but it does not help tell a story, but rather is about cooking the results in Google and other search engines, such as the blog ones like Blogpulse, PubSub and Technorati. It's a great way to make yourself into a top tier blogger, but hand someone enough rope ...

But, it's not about SEO, it's never been about SEO, and it shouldn't be about SEO. The reason PR is growing is because it is about the expanding media universe and how to reach that universe in a smart, strategic way, while at the same time reaching the older, more established yet shrinking media universe. It's two sides of the same coin, where PR is best suited to do the work.

But, does that mean launching a blog? No, not necessarily. For Vespa, instead of blogging, a MySpace community would have made just as much sense, if not more - a social network for a social activity. When I think Vespa, I don't think "let's sit behind a computer and blog" but rather "let's find others that also love to ride Vespas and meet up and take pictures and then post them to a something similar, like, oh, a social network."

It means being smarter, thinking smarter, doing smarter PR that takes into account all various outposts, from MySpace to Blogs to audio and video Podcasts (I prefer Audioblog because Eric Rice rocks) to newspapers to radio to television. It's covering the whole media universe from the shrinking to the expanding.

PR is growing because companies realize they need us, and need us to maneuver the new landscape. It is time for PR to shine, to own that 100 percent and not let advertising or marketing pervert blogs.

As an aside, every interview I did for the PR Face2Face series, I would go off the record, and would talk about the dot-com boom and bust. I would ask if PR as a whole learned anything - and the answer was always no, we had not learned anything. The boom in PR firms in the Bay speaks to that, I believe.

Blogging Outreach for the US Army

Well, when you are running a successful blogging initiative in a successful PR firm, companies and organizations are going to come to you for advice, and to lead blogging initiatives. Yes, I am speaking of Hass MS&L and the BlogWorks team. Ha! Bet you thought I meant someone else, but geez, come on, I said successful blogging intitiatives that go beyond blog launches.

From O'Dwyer's, comes the story that the US Army has contracted Hass MS&L's BlogWorks for a blogger outreach program. From the story:
The U.S. Army has hired Manning Selvage & Lee to do outreach to pro-military bloggers, Jud Branam, managing director of Haas MS&L, told O'Dwyer's.

Branam said he could not go into any detail about the work. He would only confirm that the Detroit office was recently hired by the military.

A Haas MS&L e-mail sent to bloggers says the Army is interested in testing a "new outlet for public information." The Army promises "exclusive editorial content" on selected issues.

The blogs are viewed as a way to distribute "good news" about Iraq stories. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes stories about progress in Iraq are largely missing from the mainstream press.

France's Publicis Groupe owns MS&L, which also blogs on behalf of General Motors.
Well, this is an interesting way to go about it, and the full pitch letter to the bloggers can be seen on One Hand Clapping. My only complaint on the pitch letter is that it's way too long for bloggers. Short and sweet and to the point is my new mantra for pitch letters, especially ones to bloggers.

The Washington Post's Early Warning Blog had a different take, though. They think that the Army hiring MS&L is a desperation move, but I have to disagree. MS&L did quick outreach, informing the political bloggers that there is information and access out there, if they are interested. It's about access, which is never a bad thing. It's not like all bloggers work in the Beltway, or for the Post, so it's a way for them to get information and interviews as well, should they so desire.

Now, it also depends on how the Army brass are going to work with bloggers - but I don't think MS&L has that full control of the Army press officers. If the Army is upfront, honest, and doesn't try to spin - but just communicates - I think the program could go well.

As a side note, this is not the first proactive blog campaign undertaken by BlogWorks. Last November, they did blog outreach for Hefty Serve 'N Store plates and bowls. There were a few mis-steps there - bad targetting, bad mail merges - but they learned from that experience, and seem to have done a better job with the Army. Full disclosure, I asked for some of the plates and bowls, and they are pretty neat. :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Who Took My Kodachrome Away?

Okay, it's post-CES and a lot has happened there that I plan on blogging about - the PR of CES, and how the show went. But, first is Kodak, technically Eastman Kodak for first reference. Oh, what happened to that great company that I got to work on at Shandwick? Where has it gone?

All the stuff below makes me think that the company has lost its PR center, and is now just glomming onto current trends and fads ... and it's losing that battle. Here's a hint: do smarter PR and stop trying so damn hard. Where's your interaction with bloggers? Where's the ability to post photos from Ofoto to blogs? Why do reporters still talk to me and then say ... btw, we never hear from your old company?

First, the Skype announcement. Now you can talk on Skype and then send a slideshow from Kodak. Um, okay, but why? Is it a sad way to glom onto the Skype hype? I just don't get it. I have been using Skype since close to day 1, and if I want to share photos I can IM a link to Flickr, an open photo site where anyone can view my photos without me having to share them. I went to the booth to get a demo ... but no luck on it working. But, granted, I came at the end of the last day (working the show, ya know) so I'll cut them some slack. But, come on - it's something that really makes no sense to me, but seems like a grasping at straws. Who needs to share photos while talking in another open window ... in a slideshow ... that can't be done with a link in an IM window?

Second, not sure who is more short-sighted on this one: the internal Kodak person that said yes, or the agency that suggested it. Either way, it's a damn close tie on what can be seen as idiocy. Eastman Kodak changed its logo. Om Malik put it well that it's a new logo, but the same old irrelevance - and then makes what I think is a Freudian slip and calls Kodak a phone company (Kodak and Motorola at CES). Okay, let's think this through: let's kill a logo that is recognizable worldwide (the big giant red K since 1971) and go with something that is somewhat unmemorable - they even got rid of the K serif. Let's imagine Coca-Cola killing the wave, or Nike killing the swoosh - makes no sense, huh? I have a great idea, though - let's kill all worldwide known logos and symbols, such as the McDonald's arches. That will teach them! Yeah!!

Third, I am on the fence about this one. On one hand, I see the value, on the other hand, I think it's just a desperation move. So, I'll put it out there for others to discuss. It turns out that Kodak gave away about 75 of its new digicam at Ghost Bar at Wynn Hotel. First, not sure that reporters should be accepting a gift that big (MSRP of USD$399.95), but also what was the reasoning behind Kodak giving away these cameras? What was the PR strategy - let's give away cameras to reporters, and then the next time that they write an article about the company, they will think twice before going on the negative attack? Are these reporters now beholden to Kodak and its PR firm?

And, come on, was this really the best they could think to do at CES? Back in the day, I became friends with a few reporters and we would go out to dinner ... and none of them would ever let me pay (which, come on, was great). Now, do I fault these reporters for taking the camera? Heck no, I'd have done the same thing, and am now pissed that I never finished my registration as press. Do I fault Kodak for handing them out? A little bit, because there must have been something else that could have been done to get press - and during the review process, there is always that special price that reporters do get.

I will be writing about CES more, and then posting my CES pictures later ... on Flickr.