Friday, March 31, 2006

April Fool's Joke Gone Awry?

Okay, so been sitting here thinking about Strumpette (no need to link), and the call I got from Brian Connolly ... and just mulling it over to think over the whole thing.

On one hand, the first post was amusing. It said stuff that most of us were thinking anyway, but someone put out there. In the end, did it matter? Of course not. It's a blog.

Thinking it through, I began to wonder if this was just a bad April Fool's Joke gone badly awry. Launched a week early - it smelled immediately, just from the first email - to string along PR people, then expose us for something or other.

But, then it blew up. It blew up badly, and I doubt Connolly (if it is him) understood the nature of blogs or the blogosphere. And, well, it also showed that the person(s) involved do not fully understand the scrutiny nature of the blogosphere.

He did call me up after I posted a comment on Krempasky. One little lesson - unless the blogger is a friend, start most conversations with "this is NFB (not for blogging)" or "this is off the record" - that will save you from a post like this. And, nicely, I always watch what I say unless I don't care. And, don't call me at my office - email me. That's why I have those links on my blog.

Connolly didn't like that I called his response knee-jerk. I explained that the sane thing to do is walk away, rethink the response, and then hit post when you deem it fine. Amazingly so, I do that with most of my posts on my blog, and comments on other blogs. Wrap your mind around that - my original comments and posts are more acidic.

So, he starts talking, and I'm half listening because ... well I am at work trying to work. But one thing gets me to notice his babbling ... "you are Strumpette. Tom Biro is Strumpette. Or, well, you guys could be."

Um, no I am not. Neither is Biro.

And that was so fucking offensive, it still sickens me. I have nothing to do with that shit (nor does Biro), but here is Connolly - if it is him - trying to deflect attention and make it a group effort.

It gets worse (of course). By him dropping a friend's name, Tom Biro, I immediately IM Biro. In the wonderful world of IM, I contact Tom to ask what this shit is about. With me, Connolly went for the "it would be fun, it would be a group effort" type pitch. With Biro, he went with the "we can make money, I already got an offer to buy it" pitch. Um, he's the Hungarian, I'm the Jew - switch those pitches, and it makes more sense.

Connolly goes on some more - I don't listen, again because I am trying to work - but gives me his contact info (redacted contact info) in case I am interested. I'm not, trust me.

Beyond the offensive nature of trying to tie me to that blog - and, well, the people out there know that if I write something, it's not going to be done anonymously - it is just an offensive, sexist blog (particularly if the guess work is right, and it's written by an old white man?). In the end, that does matter. It matters a lot.

It matters because the generation of next PR people are mainly women - we are a female-heavy industry, and always have been. It matters because last night I am sitting at PRSSA National Assembly dinner, listening to the next generation of PR practitioners (and some new entrants into the work force) talk about PR and online communications, people like Sarah Yeaney and Barbara Tate. It matters because I work with and respect the Auburn students like Erin Caldwell and Emily Melton, the SMU students like Casey Westlake and care about my own interns, Ashely Finch and Gine Weakley. They are what matter, not some crap blog.

Who'd have thunk it that I am a feminist - hey, philosophical issues in feminism and got an A, and helped launch the breast cancer stamp - but this crap tires me. Yes, I have that smirk sometimes, but it is not easy to be in a profession that judges looks just as highly (if not moreso) than talent. At the end of the day, if Strumpette is a female, that's sad. If it's a male, I feel bad for his female employees because it is obvious he has no respect for them (nor his Mother or sisters or daughters).

Let's end talk of that blog. It's tired, it's tripe ... it smells.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

With Apologies to National Lampoon ...

Probably one of the best magazine covers ever (and, well, magazines) ... and, no, I don't think they really killed the dog.

But, to jump on the latest meme ... with fun viewpoints from David Parmet and Josh Hallett, and the man that started it, Scott Baradell.

I, however, am free for dates ... but prolly not for links. I'm holding out for Strumpette, though. Well, she's on a short list.

Okay, enough with the kitschy fun ... and back to posts on PR and issues there ...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Burn Hot, Burn Fast - Skype's PR Demise?

I like Skype. I like the woman that initially launched the service via PR, and she did an amazing job. She understands mainstream media, I got her to work with bloggers and consumer generated media (or whatever you want to call it) after a lot of ignoring her requests ... but she's no longer with them, so I feel I can write this without any contradictory feelings...

Skype is blowing it, particularly in the public relations department. Yahoo! recently beta launched Yahoo! Messenger with Voice ... and nothing really came out from Skype or its PR department or firm. While that might not be true in the mainstream press - and, well, I do read that as well - it was the blogs that first broke the Y! VoIP news, particularly Om Malik, and I read no messaging or statements from Skype. Instead, just radio silence. And, it was the blogs that made Skype ....

Now, Skype is being sued using the RICO Act ... something usually reserved for Mafia, drug dealers and other undesirables.

Andy Abramson first broke the story - who says PR people can't break stories, and here's a man that shows that Intel sees the importance of bloggers by including his photo in the Intel Developer Conference keynote - and Om quickly reported the news.

Granted, this story just broke ... but I wonder how silent Skype PR is going to be this time around. Now that they are part of eBay, they are using a firm that - through personal experience - either does not understand, or is afraid, of blogs.

And, well, I recently took part in a Bulldog Reporter audio conference on blogging and working/pitching bloggers ... and it was telling with the silence and number of people that a lot of PR firms and people don't know what to do and are scared.

What do I expect to see - well, when you are sued under RICO, what can you really do? Skype does have a group of blogs, and could launch a crisis communication blog ... but that will really be up to eBay. But, if the silence on Yahoo!'s VoIP product is any indication, the silence on this issue will just be as deafening ... and for a voice product, that speaks volumes.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

PersonalDNA ... SF/SV PR MeetUp ... Blogging Right

You know, doing the PR blogger tour - or, well, just meeting other PR bloggers at a few past PR events - people ask me "why are you so hell bent on issues" or "what does it matter" when speaking about PR blogging, and the purity and honesty I demand from myself (at least try) and I demand of others.

So, today I am going to write about blogging. And, PR bloggers. And, well, best practices and why I seem to get so hyper about best practices ... pretty much pointing to a test I took online (and the new cool fun little icon on the left hand, bottom side).

Jeremy Pepper, Tom Biro
Originally uploaded by philgomes.

But, let's talk about PR. It was interesting, because the other day I was talking to another PR person about the PR blogosphere. Say that really fast.

My point was that most of us have a respect for each other, and occasionally share best practices. Yes, it is a competition as we all work at competing agencies, but at the same time we do not go around looking to stab each other in the back ... well, most of us, those of us who are not too big for their britches and then link (in false modesty) to people saying calling them a "guru."

PR is about growth, and it's about the next generation. It's about moving the industry forward, not moving one's ego forward. It's about the community as a whole, and helping that community grow. Why do I comment and link to the posts from Auburn students? Did I have any connection to them prior to two years ago? Not at all - but I caught a link to my blog, went to the page, embarrassed the girl ... and became involved for the past two years. Do I have any real vested interest (besides the hope that they send me Auburn schwag?). No - but I do have a vested interest in the future of PR.

The same goes for the blogging PR students from SMU - they were out there asking questions via email and on comments, and some PR bloggers responded. And, likely, some PR bloggers thought it was beneath them.

Me & Jeremy
Originally uploaded by philgomes.

But, that's the wrong attitude. Because, well, if we are not there for the students of PR - and, as noted by Edelman's Rick Murray (he's the guy in the corner), there is a desperate need for it - then, who will help? I work with the interns as well, to school them about blogs and blog search and smart blog practices, and it is not for me, but to help them in their careers.

As to that, I am leaking information on a group that was proposed by Mike Manuel, and which I, Giovanni Rodriguez and Phil Gomes are part of: Third Thursday.

The goal for Third Thursday is to share best ideas - and, no, this is not some ego event like the dead Going the Distance - but this is a group of PR bloggers that believe in moving the industry forward. It is about best practices, to hopefully kill stupid ideas ... like this one from Fleishman Hillard. But, it is all okay because FH apologized (from O'Dwyer's - subscription required): Fleishman-Hillard says it was wrong to "blog" about the disappearance of 12 giant St. Louis Cardinals redbirds from billboards in the St. Louis area without saying that it was in on the heist.

Yep, FH staffers went around to various message boards for fans of the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball team, and posted about "where the birds?!?" that went missing ... only to appear on the radio station billboard. So much for transparency in PR, which is one of the things that I have been harping on for the past year ... and heard mainly the chirping of crickets from the silence, or little girls giggling about the issue.

Originally uploaded by david parmet.

But, a junior staffer at Bite decided to pick up the baton ... one that had been sitting desolate on the ground for quite a while ... and go run with it. Why he did not post to the Bite Blog, I have no idea ... but he wrote it on Silicon Valley Watcher. He had some good points, the comments had some good points, but at the end of the day, is it that hard to disclose on a blog what you are doing (Bite, by the way, needs to disclose that Plaxo is a client, if that is why Plaxoed is such a favorite). Does PR want to sully its hands by doing guerrilla campaigns that lack transparency? How are we going to work in the new media, and how do we do it smart? That's a question on both transparency and moving us forward (and, hopefully, one we will figure out on Third Thursdays).

So, the PersonalDNA part - well, just read the page, and you will understand why I am the way I am about blogging, and transparency and why I think some people are bad for both PR and blogging ... and you can see the fun graphic on my page now.

Originally uploaded by Brian Oberkirch.

Oh, the pictures above? Those are just a handful of the PR bloggers that get it (and that I have photos with myself with). Tom Biro (full disclosure, sister firm) gets it. Phil Gomes gets it. Brian Oberkirch gets it. Josh Hallett gets it. Mike Manuel gets it. David Parmet gets it. Shel Israel gets it (although we argue about what it is at times).

No, that's not an exhaustive list. Check out the Auburn students, the instructor and Forward - they get it. Check out Robert Ricci (disclosure, he's a colleague). Check out Giovanni Rodriguez - although I think a recent post lacked transparency, he gets it. Check out Constantin Basturea and the Texas PR Bloggers ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

LL Cool J and NBCU Loves the Ladies

Yes, the ladies love cool Jeremy - and, now, there's proof that NBC Universal loves the cool ladies as well as it bought iVillage for $600M.

It's been talked about for a while - that someone would snap up iVillage (here's the whole iVillage history from PaidContent). And, NBC seems to be an interesting choice to go after iVillage, but also makes sense to fit into its television networks (Bravo and USA), to work within the network to promote and crosspromote within the iVillage network, which includes blogs and the old skool (which still works wonders) message boards.

While I am not in the demographic, the community does not have the feel of other communities recently snapped up, like MySpace, and others. But, 14MM users (stat from Robert Ricci) is no small network to mock.

It's an interesting position for PR people - there are message boards to tread lightly in, the articles themselves on the site, the potential for cross-pitching with TV shows (when we find out how the site will be integrated) and blogs to pitch and send product out to.

Now, if NBCU buys ClubMom, they'll have that market locked up tight...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

at&t might not get blogs ...

But, they get what it means to be captains of industry - or, what it means to have a monumental rebirth as a new company. Yep, talking about the announced acquisition of BellSouth by at&t.

Slightly reminiscent of Cronos eating his own children, at&t (really, SBC - which was one of the kids - but let's not sweat the details) is beginning to look like it is going to dominate the pipeline, the telco and be the possible backbone of Internet 2.0 (not to be confused with Web 2.0, but that really, really cool project that will double the speed of the 'Net).

Yes, in some sense that is scary - but the funny thing to me is that it's a big "fuck you" to those bloggers that were all up in arms about the at&t billboards, and the whining that ensued. So what if "blog" or "podcast" do not come up on its Website? Is that really going to end the day, or does the backend technology that enables this stuff just as important as the stuff itself?

At the end of the day, would I rather be a captain of industry or a captain of blogging? Dell Hell turned out to not hurt the bottom line much, did it? The FedEx fiasco turned out not to hurt the bottom line too much either. Blogging does have power - and viral is viral and WOM is important - but let's not put a bigger emphasis on things when at the end of the day the captains of industry still chug along.

So blog does not appear on the at&t Website. They are the pipeline, and they'll be owning more of it if the deal gets regulatory approval. For better or worse, that switch can be flipped when a pesky open source bastard annoys too much.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Shel Israel and Robert Scoble at New Communications Forum

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, the authors of Naked Conversations, closed out the New Communications Forum speaking about, well, about blogging and how it's changing communications.

Scoble and Israel are talking about how lists do not matter much, but what does matter is the viral aspect of blogs and social networks. If you like to fly kites, and want to blog about kites, blog about kites - it does not matter if you have five readers that enjoy your blog, they still are enjoying your blog. To be successful, you don't need 1000's of readers, but to just have passion ... and it will still be viral.

Another interesting point that came up, though, was that marketing is moving from mass, to a mass micro-marketing. With all the research we have, companies know what the customer wants, but it is about delivering the products. It's about knowing what the customer wants geographically, and then able to provide the right product to the right places.

The closing line was: What happens after listening?

Well, what does happen after the listening? I am sure that many, many corporations are out there listening to the conversations on blogs and forums, but is that enough any more? Not really - if you are not taking part in the conversation, what good is the listening? And, on the flip side, if all you are doing is talking and not listening - eg, have no comments, not responding to comments, not taking criticisms well - well, that's just as bad, if not worse.

One other thing that is interesting is that there is this talk that reaching out to bloggers is not PR ... um, so what is it? If Foldera speaks to Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington, isn't that still public relations? If not, what is it....

So, what's next? Is it all about blogs? No, it's about conversations.

Random Thoughts at New Communications Forum

Sitting here today, as I came down on Caltrain (pretty fast ride) to do a podcast with Brian Oberkirch with other PR bloggers, and then sit and attend today.

The other PR (and not PR) bloggers were: Josh Hallett, Shel Israel, David Parmet, Mike Manuel and sickly Phil Gomes. And, joining us toward the end was Evelyn Rodriguez.

It was a good roundtable on the good and bad of PR and blogging, and where we all see the industry going. I gave the boombastic comments, naturally, but we were all in agreement that it's about social networks ...

Which lead to Charlene Li's keynote address was about social networks, and how the industry is changing for marketing and public relations to social networks. We don't control anything - not that marketing and PR really has controlled much - but that it's about giving up control. It's the new tools out there that are helping change things - it's email, instant messaging, RSS feeds (which can be more important than a blog itself), a blog. And, not all tools are the right fits, and depends on the kind of relationship you want to build. You want to speak to consumers, you can blog. You want the consumer to speak to you, you build online forums.

In the end, the new paradigm is about letting the consumer drive the brand. For good companies, that is not a problem. For bad companies - or companies that have major detractors - this could be bad. That's the risk companies need to take to grow the enthusiast base, and possibly convert the detractors.