Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PR Tools and Bag of Tricks

Okay, a lot of times I get people asking me what are the super-secret tools in my blogging/PR bag of tricks.

I usually refuse to tell them, because it is about me and my tools and my skill set. It is not about making the industry better, but about pushing myself forward as the numero uno dude.

Oh, wait, that is not how I work. Damn. Well, if it was, I would totally beat down people. Totally.

Okay, really, I work with the interns here and try to teach them the best tools that I have found on monitoring the blogosphere. Why? So they have the skills here, so I can send them work to begin, and then when they go off to their career, they will be able to use some of the tools I taught them here, and then pass on the knowledge to other PR people. It's all about learning.

So, what do I use to find appropriate blogs? Easy: Blogpulse, Technorati, PubSub. Those three are great free tools to monitor and find information on blogs. Yes, they are not perfect, but they have been perfectly good tools to do what I need to do when finding and tracking and monitoring - they get the job done, for free.

And, there are other tools that I love to use, such as Biz360 and Buzzlogic. I got a demo of Buzzlogic, and think it is a great tool for PR and marketing folks to follow the conversation thread in blogs.

Because, that is what it is about - the conversation. The conversation can start anywhere - a bike messenger board, a low-readership blog, in the real world - and it can steamroll. That is the whole point with new media - that it is the conversation that starts, and can take a full whole new life on other blogs with trackbacks, which are easily monitored.

But, that is just half the conversation. The deeper conversations are taking place in comments, and beyond the ego-fulfillment to see if someone has responded to your comment, you want to be able to monitor comments merely to see what people are saying and because now too much happens within comments. And not much works well there so far.

So last night, I met up with Assaf Arkin who founded Co.mments. We had a long discussion on everything Web 2.0, dotcom boom and bust, surviving the bubble (and surviving the next bubble burst), and Co.mments.

And that is the interesting part. He tracks the conversations through the comments submitted through his service. Instead of looking at the full ginormous blogosphere, he is able to look at the conversations that his users are finding important. Think about that: he's getting a magnifying glass view of the blogosphere, through the comments.

But beyond ego-tracking, the tool is a necessary tool for PR people. It's in my bag of tricks, because it is not just enough to track blogs, but you need to track conversations. Well, baby steps for PR firms and clients - first let us at least track the conversation. Then we will get to the next step on tracking the conversations within the conversations.

Monday, May 29, 2006

New Paths

Close to three years ago - July 2, to be exact - I started this blog. At the time, it was supposed to be about starting my own agency, POP! Public Relations, and what I was going through.

That got old. Fast. If I did not want to read about it, why would anyone else?

But, in those three years, I have done and gone through a lot with my blog and my career. The blog has gone through a few looks and revisions, and no time seemed better for the new look than the impending third birthday.

And, well, over time it evolved into my mouthpiece for what I view as wrong or needed fixing in PR, best and worst practices, and ideas and interviews. At times, I have been ahead of the pack by glomming onto issues - libel, Ketchumgate, convergence of PR and marketing, among others - and sometimes, I have been silent, such as the guilty verdict for Fleishman Hillard's Doug "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" Dowie, where the silence came down to more time constraints than lack of an opinion. My opinion, by the way, is that it is no shock, and that I would not be surprised if there are more cases, but the case for correct billing is more than just a management issue, I think Dowie was a scapegoat, and we all have a responsibility for correct and truthful billing, beyond Sarbanes-Oxley issues.

In these three years, I have also screamed against being called an expert. There are no PR blogging experts, because you cannot build an expertise in three mere years, or less. You can build expertise, but that does not make you an expert. In my time of blogging - and what I have concentrated on in this blog - I have learned best and worst practices, including those of my own steps and mis-steps. Through this blog, I fully believe that no company should launch a blog because a so-called blogging expert says launch a blog, but should go through a long, internal process and ask "why" - like why should we blog? Do we need to blog? Do we have thick enough skin to blog? It is through practice - hypothetical and real - that I have built up some knowledge of blogging, and why I try to move beyond blogging to podcasts and other mediums, to give the best advice possible.

But, no I am not an expert. And, if anyone calls himself or herself an expert in blogging to you, run. Well, first spit at them, and then run. There are no experts, just people that are learning but began a couple years earlier (or later) than others.

But, besides the time needed for the blog, I am glad I started it. I have met many wonderful colleagues and like-minded individuals that I would never have met without starting the blog. I have had the chance to speak at various events, to push forward my views on blogs and blog outreach that might put me in the contrarian camp (as Sam Whitmore said to me during a meeting), but a contrarian view that likely will be mainstream view in the not-so-far future.

I was able to start Third Thursday with other like-minded PR bloggers - Phil Gomes, Mike Manuel, Giovanni Rodriguez - who are more interested in pushing forward the industry rather than pushing forward their own agendas. Because, let's face facts: the industry will fail as a whole, and not succeed individually.

I have been given the opportunity to work with Auburn students, and been grateful to meet their pretty damned good instructor, Robert French and his work for the industry as a whole with PR Blogs, some great students, like Erin Caldwell, whom I am so proud of (like a big brother type proud) because of her job at Edelman and her work on Forward. Heck, I even got to meet students that are not at Auburn, like Casey Westlake, and have made other good connections with students whom I am almost always happy to help out (remember, I work).

So, now about the new paths. I left Phoenix for San Francisco, and started working at a large firm to hopefully get them to embrace this new medium, and continue on working with big companies on embracing new avenues for programs. And, I relaunched the blog with a new look - a thuggish look - that hopefully will be reflected with posts on the industry. The design is by Jeremy Harrington of CrawlSpaceMedia, and the CSS and Implementation by the beloved Josh Hallett of hyku (I even have the sticker on my computer - and I love the design, so no Crunchnoting it.)

None of this would have happened without this blog.

This is not a shameless plug - I am just not into that - but I have not been as good about blogging as I should be, but I am also dead set against just throwing stuff up here that is vapid and has no value. I have posts queued up about Net Neutrality, Jessica Cutler, and other issues that should be on the mind of PR professionals and their clients - but are probably not there yet. Keep an eye out for that new thuggish tone that the stare down should present.

Until then, thank you for continuing to read. There are many of you that have become friends of mine via this blog - and the Joker to my Batman - and I look forward to continue working and meeting you all out there in the real world. It should always be about high-touch, not high-tech, so go out there and live a little.

Photo by 3rd Coast Chick, some rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I <3 BlogHer

While I do not write often enough about BlogHer - okay, I have never written about them before - I cannot put into words how much I love them.

Why? Because they get it. They get how the blogosphere is set-up, they get how important demographics are, they get how people work in the real world. The one outside blogs, where people buy products.

Plus, they get that there is a good mix between content and advertising, and that is why I am all hyper-excited about their new advertising network. First category is parenting (or what I prefer to call the Mommy bloggers), and I have been told some of the upcoming categories (but I am being good and keeping my lips zipped).

And, well, I am going to go to the conference. I am not speaking, because I'm a dude, not a dudette (it's BlogHer for a reason, people). But, I am looking forward to seeing the event, and have been telling clients or potential clients that if they are targeting women, BlogHer is where to sponsor and be.

One thing is interesting about BlogHer and its advertising network. This came up during a dinner party a couple weeks ago, where someone said to me (a well-connected and wired guy) that bloggers are too lost in their blogs. They do not see outside the blogosphere, and cannot see the forrest for the trees, but just the tree for just one small leaf at a time. I call it the Bay Area blinders affect - that people get caught up in blogs and the Bay that they forget about the flyover states and life outside of blogs.

Another point was that blogs are siloed. There are the PR blogs, the Web 2.0 blogs, the foodie blogs, the Mommy blogs, the Daddy blogs, the candy blogs, the blawgs - well, you get my point. And, rarely, do those silos cross. And, that is just sad and wrong and probably does not help much.

That's where BlogHer's network gets it - they see the silos, and the common thread is the female blogger. And, they take that common thread and are building networks across different silos that make sense.

And, that's where PR needs to get it. Blog outreach (aka pitching) is not about a mass pitch, but about targets that make sense. I am not going to pitch hardcore tech to a candy blogger any more than I would pitch a new candy bar to a techie blogger.

But, BlogHer? That's going to be fun.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Day Without Immigrants and PR Dogs

It is always amazing to see how public relations is viewed in the media and by corporations. Some media understand how PR works, and when PR has gone wrong, and the work we do to work with the media.

And, some corporations just do not understand PR, and think that a blog will take the place of all that is needed.

Last week, a (surprising) column appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle that was anti-A Day Without Immigrants (yep, a relatively conservative column in the Bay). Well, anti might be a strong word, but the columnist goes point-by-point through the day and how A Day Without Immigrants was a PR nightmare. If it was supposed to shut down all of the city of San Francisco, and other cities with high immigrant populations ... it did not. Unless you were on Market Street in the City, you had no idea what was going on. In the Financial District, everything was opened, I could not hear any protests or marches or slogans, and the day was like any other day. That, in a word, is a failed PR campaign - when it really has no affect, when everyone was supposed to be affected. Oh, and in the 21st century, most of the US isn't too hep on the hammer and sickle imagery, or the socialist whine. Well, outside the Bay Area, and even here I don't think it plays that great outside the fringes.

Now, corporiations that just do not get what PR is. Well, this seems to be a Web 2.0 extravaganza, but they will learn ... and come running to PR when the shit hits the fan. Trust me, they will.

Or, they will appoint their dog as the PR person. While cute - and, well, Labradoodles are cute, if not the sharpest knives in the dog drawer - it is also insulting. Let's shove our dog out there as the PR representative! Well, reading the site, I guess the dog is also the copyeditor. I hope he has his own copy of AP Style Guide, and if not, he needs one fast.

Monday, May 08, 2006

USC Annenberg GAP Study - ¢¢ on the $$

As teased on Friday, the Annenberg 2005 GAP report is out today at 3.00 AM PDT. Does this mean I stayed up to hit publish? Of course not - I figured I'd get up in the middle of the night anyway, so left the window open and hit publish during a water break. Sleep is very important to this kid, moreso than blogging.

So, I read the press release - have not downloaded the full report yet, because the media (and that includes us bloggers) do not have access until today.

But, the points I found in the press release that I think are noteworthy are thus:
  • Budgets increased by 4 percent, on average
  • Based on a PR budget to gross revenue, that comes out to $646 for every $1MM for Fortune 500s, and $962 for the Fortune 1001-2000s
  • On average, the PR budgets are looking to increase 5 percent in 2006 - smaller increase for larger companies, bigger increase for smaller companies
  • 25 percent of respondents report into marketing
  • 11 percent of respondents report into HR, Legal, Finance or Strategic Planning
  • 79 percent of Fortune 500s are working with a PR agency, down 9 percent from GAP III
  • The AOR is dead - most Fortune 500s work with at least two agencies
A few points do pop out of me, and I want to highlight them separately, particularly as my last post was about PR losing its seat at the C-suite table.

This is why we need to get that seat back at the table ...
PR is seen as a contributor to the bottom line, especially if it reports to the C-Suite. 64% of all respondents, and 77% of Fortune 500 respondents, reported to the C-Suite (CEO, COO or Chairman). They were much more likely to indicate that their CEOs believe PR contributes to market share, financial success, and sales, than those reporting to other parts of the organization.
And, then this one gem of a line:
... respondents reporting to the C-Suite were significantly more likely to report that PR is taken seriously within the organization, gets a higher level of support from senior management, and participates in organizational strategic planning; ... .
On May 15, the full report will be available for download (although, going to the site, it looks like it's available now.) Hopefully, every internal PR person prints it out for the argument to get that seat at the C-suite table, and every agency uses the data to better serve clients.

Friday, May 05, 2006

USC Annenberg GAP Comes Out ... Monday

I was lucky enough to The USC Annenberg Strategic PR Center’s GAP IV Study yesterday; while it is embargoed until Monday morning, there is some great data and I am hoping to blog about it for 3 AM PDT (thanks Jerry!).

The full report is going to be online May 15.

As a side note, the purpose of GAP is to:
Advance the roles of senior communications professionals by arming them with the body of knowledge they need to make informed, mission critical decisions on budgeting, staffing, evaluation, reporting lines, organization, the use of agencies, etc.; and, to monitor the health and perceptions of the profession.
Look for my post on Monday morning!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

PR's Killer App

This past weekend, I did something that most normal people do. I met up with some people for a little soiree, then went out to some bars.

They weren't Web 2.0 people. They weren't bloggers. They had no idea that they were in the presence of Internet famous PR hottitude (go vote for me ;)), according to ValleyWag. They were PR people, though. Well, some of them were, and others were just normal people with normal jobs, or even online marketers that just don't care about blogs as they see the click-through value for ad buys.

So, one asked me what I do at the firm. I noted that I am a PR person that specializes in blogging - note that emphasis, as I will get back to it later.

His comment was that blogs are a fad that are going to be killed by lawsuits. Which, well, might be true. Hell, I wrote about the issue of blogs and libel so long ago, I forget what I wrote. And, well, the Maine case makes me seem prescient.

Recently, though, Daniel Bernstein of Bite PR wrote that the killer app of PR is blogging and needs to be handled by the senior counselors of public relations. And, well, he got slammed by some top bloggers - David Parmet wraps it up quite well in a couple of posts, including fisking Bernstein's response - and Bernstein did an okay job defending against the rabid fans of PR blogging.

It's wrong though. Yes, blogs are an important part of PR, and will continue to be. And, blogs are giving way to vlogs (check the SF article) which are an even better form of viral communications. And, while I love being known as a go-to guy for understanding blogs at work, at the end of the day, I am a PR person that has a blogging specialty.

In my pundit post (yes, the Wings ran into a hot goalie), Kami Huyse and Mike Sacks both posted good points and questions. Huyse noted that she disagreed that blogging is going to be its own separate practice area, but that it is important to have the other skills as well. Sacks noted that blogging is not complex enough to have its own practice group, and that the strategy is pretty simple.

Well, they are both right and wrong, but I can agree with their points. Blogging does not need its own separate practice area because it is merely another avenue for media relations. Yes, it's different than straight media relations, but it is about building relationships with bloggers and being smart. This is something that all PR people should have. And, while blogging and consumer generated media seems simple, it is so fraught with land mines it is never simple strategy, but more complex than straight media. It's a mix of guerilla and word of mouth and relationship building ... with a light hand. But, does that mean it needs it's own separate practice area? Nope.

That's what I mean by PR person with blog specialty. It's what we should all be - a generalist with skills in a wide range of PR practices. We should all be able to pick up the phone (yes, the phone) and pitch a reporter. We should all be able to email a blogger and smartly reach out to them. We should all be able to write a tactical and strategic plan for a client. It's all the skills together.

And, that is what matters. The killer app in public relations is not blogging, nor media relations, nor guerrilla marketing, nor word of mouth campaigns. The killer app in PR is counsel and strategy, a part of PR that has gone missing, and a big reason we lost the seat at C-suite table (well, this is my belief). Yes, I have written in the past about that marketing and communications are coming to a convergence, but the seat at the table is more marketing than communications.

Well, we should take it back. The seat should be communications because we tend to be more transparent than other disciplines, because we are at the front lines of public relations (remember, that the P stands for public, not press). We see what is happening - and see it faster because of blogs and CGM - and we know how to react and be smart about it.

The PR seat at the C-suite table should be agencies and people that can think strategically and tactically, understand the new media landscape that is both CGM and mainstream, and be able to talk to all groups. The killer app in PR is the skills we should have - but lost along the way - that we need to find again to push us forward in marketing communications.

Then, we can leave the kiddies table and join the C-suite adults.