New Microsoft Corporate VP of PR..

You probably have already heard that yesterday we announced some changes at the helm of PR at Microsoft  (obviously I use the word ‘we’ in the broadest possible sense :-) ).

Simon Sproule has left Microsoft (or will at the end of August) to take a new role with the Renault-Nissan alliance in Paris.

Frank Shaw has been appointed as the new corporate vice president, and he’ll start at the end of August moving from PR firm Waggener Edstrom. 

Of course the wonder of social media is that you can read Frank’s own thoughts (he is a long time PR blogger) online at his blog here.

And the good news is that he’ll be keeping the blog going after his transition.

To blog or not to blog…

One of the constant questions since the advent of blogging has been the thorny question of whether a CEO/Executive blog should be only written by the individual in question or can be ghost written. Personally I tend to favor the former.  Blogs are about the human voice.

There’s some interesting discussions taking place across the Atlantic on this very subject.

Neville Hobson kicked it off with his post: “Blogging requires personal participation”

Whether or not you think ghost blogging is a good idea – and, for the clear record, let me state my view: I think it’s a terrible idea (although I had a very different view in 2004 when I was still trying to figure out this business blogging malarkey) – you could argue it’s ok as long as there’s open disclosure.

So everyone would know that when you read Executive A’s blog posts, they’re really written by Flack B: The ideas may be A’s but the words are B’s.

And I’d agree – as long as you disclose, there’s no perception of pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes and your risks of reputation damage when you’re found out (there will be nothing for anyone to find out) are minimal.

Whether it’s an effective form of communication and relationship-building is another matter entirely.

Paul Seaman followed up with a post titled: “Corporate blogging: now it’s personal?”

Here’s the detail. I believe that all corporate utterance is collegiate, not personal. We should not expect that a corporate voice is speaking personally. To that extent, one should steer corporate people away from the appearance of purely personal speech (ie, in blogs) because it’s a falsity. But if there is corporate blogging, then one has to accept that it has a corporate mindset and spin (unless it stays bland and covers nothing much). Corporate blogging isn’t personal and PRs might as well get involved, and probably should.

I think Neville’s point is only a little different. He believes (and I rather agree) that a blog is a personal thing in a special way (it is – as it were – a hand-written note) which is different to a speech (which might – as it were – be a typewritten thing produced by a committee). Thus Neville insists that it is wrong for a CEO to have a blog but delegate it. But Neville thinks that a CEO, say, can speak with a personal voice and that his utterance is personal not corporate at that point. And I think Neville believes that the corporate and the personal can be aligned.

The difference between us may be that I think that corporations (and institutions) should steer clear of pretending that they are people and have personalities that are free of corporate ties. They have qualities, and even aspirations, but these are group things. I resist their becoming too chummy, and so I resist their blogging and tweeting as if they are something they are not; I want to keep the corporate voice authentic. Corporates should be too formal to be capable of the mateyness involved in the ’social media’ world – except as part of transparent marketing.

I’m not sure that I agree that Corporations shouldn’t develop a human voice.  I have long advocated the theory that rather than corporate communications replacing traditional tools and channels, we are probably looking at an expansion of the number of those channels.  For example if you are looking for detailed technical specifications for a product, a blog is of limited use, what you really want is a product sheet or whitepaper.  However, there is also the potential for people inside the company to provide some human perspective. A perspective that customers may well enjoy and/or find useful.

It’s an interesting discussion.

Public Relations… five years on

Five years ago this week, a group of PR professionals with nothing more in common than an interest in blogging and social media, came together from various corners of the world to share their views on Public Relations.

It was an incredibly interesting remote collaboration project that was inspired and driven by a large number of people who put in an incredible amount of work (I recall Trevor, Constantin, John, Jeremy, Elizabeth, Philip, Alice though I’m sure there were more).

small_logo_blue_right[1]This anniversary came to my notice over the past few days as I spotted a number of blog posts celebrating the fifth anniversary of first Global PR Blog Week. (There was a Global PR Blog Week 2.0 the following year but I don’t think it ever quite captured the excitement of the first.)

My first reaction was shock that five years have slipped past so quickly.  Where did that go? My second reaction was remembering the great sense of excitement and community that surrounded pulling together so much content from so many contributors.  I spent some time browsing the archive (there are more than 60 articles) and I was very impressed with the quality and depth of many of the contributions.

I started blogging in 2002 because there was so little PR content online and I wanted some way of capturing interesting things that I found.  This event in 2004 was really the landmark that the PR profession found its voice online, and since that time we’ve seen an explosion of PR bloggers. Of course you don’t have to agree with them – that’s half the fun, but many of the contributors are still sharing their views online today and deserve your attention. You never stop learning in this business.

That first PR Blog Week was organized into five key subject areas. If you have some time I’d recommend a browse, five years may have passed but many of the discussions and issues have remained unchanged.

  1. PR in the Age of Participatory Journalism
  2. Corporate Blogging
  3. Making PR Work: Creativity & Strategy
  4. Crisis Management
  5. The State of the PR Profession

Trevor summed it up well in his introduction:

For PR professionals, it (social media/blogs) is creating many challenges and opportunities – we probably don’t know most of them yet. Through corporate blogging, still very much in its infancy, our clients will have many more opportunities to engage with their stakeholders and they will feel much less beholden to the interpretative whims of media gatekeepers. The flow of information will increase to an extent we could barely imagine possible just a few years ago.

These, and many other issues, will be discussed during Global PR Blog Week 1.0.

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I was five years ago, but I still read these contributors and many of the bloggers who have emerged since.  There’s a lot of great PR content and opinions out there if you choose to experience them.

Other posts on the subject: