Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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A view of the changing face of journalism and PR from a motorsport perspective

August 16th, 2013 · Off-topic

I should preface this post by pointing out that I spent many of my childhood weekends surrounded by racing cars.  When I wasn’t watching my father trackside, I was watching the sport on TV.  While my brother has continued the family tradition, these days, besides the annual trip to Le Mans, my motorsport habit is mostly sustained through traditional and social media.

Maurice Hamilton is a veteran journalist who has been covering Formula 1 since the mid-seventies.  In the video below he talks about how he got started in journalism in the 1970s and how that world has radically changed over the intervening decades.

For anyone with an interest in motorsport it’s recommended, for others, well your mileage may vary Smile.

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Great communications is built on the basics..

July 18th, 2013 · Public Relations, Social Media

I recently had the opportunity to review a ‘report’ by a social media guru analyzing the ‘social strategies’ of a number of household brands. The report had some lovely visuals, some interesting examples of tactical executions, but overall it was a great example of what is too often missing from discussions on social media and often PR.

The report had many opinions but was light – read non-existent – on how these programs were tied to clear business objectives and more importantly how well the campaigns actually performed against those objectives.

In other words, in the real world, where a marketing or communications professional is building programs to drive against business objectives, it was value-less.

This is often where I find the industry of social media punditry fails.

Of course, social media is important, but before you get to the interesting, execution, you have to stop, understand your business, your industry, your  objectives, your competitive challenges, your internal challenges, your audience, your resources, and when you have a clear understanding of those elements, then you start planning.

If this is obvious to you, that’s great. If you’re not taking this approach, then there’s a real opportunity for you to significantly increase the impact of your work.

Let’s extend Mr. Ogilivy’s thesis – 50% of advertising is useless but you never know which 50%- to the world of social media and Public Relations. If we’re looking for what’s useless, I’d be willing to start with programs that aren’t tied into a set of defined business objectives.

Measurement can be a thorny subject – though at least there’s beginning to be some consensus – but executing campaigns not tied to business outcomes is at best madness and at worst negligent. Communications requires a balanced scorecard that encompasses a range of measurements from the basic inputs, outputs and results, to qualitative measures over time. And this work all starts with the business objectives.

These processes don’t mean you can’t experiment or move quickly – or indulge in ‘real-time marketing’.  Actually it’s the complete opposite.  If you know your business, are clear on what you need to achieve and are actively measuring outcomes then you’re in a better position to experiment and in a better position to learn and evolve your execution.

We may live in a troll producing always-on, always-connected world, but engaging with people, building relationships and trust takes time.  There isn’t a shortcut. In fact, as people become more sophisticated in how they use media and struggle to manage the ever increasing volume of information they come across every day, the process takes longer and is indeed more difficult.

There isn’t a silver bullet, but there are some tried and tested things that help us frame communications campaigns and put us in the best possible position to not only have impact, but to demonstrate that impact.

On a related topic, I strongly recommend you read Alastair Campbell’s speech at the Center for Corporate Public Affairs Annual Oration in Melbourne. In my opinion he does a great job explaining why objectives, strategies, and a commitment to long term thinking are so essential in the changing world of communications:

But you do it (communication) within a clear strategic framework, you engage the public in a much more sustained way, and you run co-ordination systems that work, so that over time your messages get through, over time your changes are understood and they deliver, and over time people become much more reasonable in their analysis. What you do is more important than what you say, but how you say what you do will help you if you are doing the right thing. Every time you say or you do, you land a dot.

While social media may appear immediate and tactical, successful social media, like the rest of communications, requires planning, insight, strategy, measurement and commitment.

That’s the starting point for great communications.

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PR blogging–what are you reading?

July 2nd, 2013 · Public Relations, Social Media

I’ve always been a big advocate of the productivity benefits of RSS.  It’s a simple technology – though not always understood – that is an incredible aid for anyone who needs to keep on top of vast swathes of content whether it’s breaking news, updates or online opinions. 

The death of Google Reader has many of us RSS users trolling around for an alternative way to keep our RSS feed consumption synchronized across our various devices.  (Personally I’m still in mourning for the untimely demise of FeedDemon by far my favorite RSS reader.  The good news is that you can still use it – and I will – but the lack of support for updating feeds across my PCs, phone, tablet etc. reduces it’s utility somewhat.)

So in preparation for this change I’ve been reviewing my RSS feeds and specifically the PR blogs I’ve been tracking and reading over the past 10 years.  I’ve built up a list of about 120 PR-related blogs. 

It’s interesting to note how many of those PR blogs, like this one, are dormant or dead. (For the record this one isn’t dead but definitely could be mistaken for dormant).

So that begs the question, what am I missing? What active and useful PR blogs are you reading? What should I by adding to the list?

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Moving on in North Carolina…

April 26th, 2013 · CSR, Public Relations

I’m in beautiful sunny Charlotte today to speak at the third annual conference of the Center for Global Public Relations at the University of North Carolina, which this year is focused on the Millennium Generation.

I gave an overview of Microsoft YouthSpark – our initiative to create opportunities in education, employment and entrepreneurship for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years.


Henry Doss, Brook DeWalt, John Paluszek and Dr. Alma Kadragic discussing the global challenges facing youth at the conference today.

There are a great collection of people here today and some fantastic hallway discussions.

This is a nice and indeed natural end to my time working on the Citizenship team at Microsoft.  From getting formally involved in our Citizenship efforts when I joined Microsoft in Ireland in 2005, to moving to the United States in 2009 to take on a global communications role for Citizenship, I’ve had a fantastic opportunity to learn, work on amazing projects, with amazing partners and of course an amazing Citizenship team at Microsoft.  And there’s been a lot of fun on the way.

All good things must come to an end, so in the past month I’ve taken on a new role joining our Windows team, where I’m leading a wonderful team of creative, smart people working on PR and storytelling for consumers, commercial customers and application builders.  Today’s event is a great way to mark a new phase in my working life.

If you were attending the session earlier today here are some useful links and resources I referenced:

And don’t forget for all the latest news you can follow Microsoft Citizenship on Twitter: @msftcitizenship.


I’m also looking forward to attending the UNCC PRSSA Region 7 conference on Saturday.

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Why I’m (not) leaving <insert social media channel>

March 12th, 2013 · Social Media

The Pew Research finding that the reaction to an event on Twitter is often very different to actual public opinion isn’t a big surprise is it? It seems to me that spending any time on your chosen social media channel – and specifically Twitter – makes that fact self evident.

It’s one of the great things about social media, anyone has a voice, and also one of the drawbacks of social media, anyone has a voice.

From a marketing perspective social media often resembles a big virtual medicine show. Along with news, humor and sane views there’s a universe of self-styled gurus peddling their miracle cure to your personal or organizational ills. It’s easy to spot.

Whether it’s the  wizard who offers advice on how social media will drive organizational change for example in HR, even though they’ve never worked in HR; or the endless Monday morning quarterbacking on other people’s work, when the quarterbacks often have absolutely no experience of dealing with the issue they’re dissecting or no insight into the specific issues the company is dealing with.

These people are better known for words than deeds. In Ireland there’s a great old adage that captures this: ‘show us your medals’.

So this week when I read about two such ‘thought leaders’ leaving one social media tool or another for a multitude of reasons which included things like ‘doesn’t match my personal values’ I sighed.

In a good way.

Social Media companies, on the whole, are in business to make money or get a juicy exit. That’s how the capitalist system works. Most of you are not willing to pay for it (look at the limited success of with 11,000 backers) up front, so these channels will make their money through advertising and the advertising is based on, surprise, surprise what you do and say on social media. There are privacy concerns of course, and most of the sites have to be up front on privacy and how you can retain yours, but you know what? Nobody seems to care a lot.

So normal people use these social tools, as tools. They find information, share information, connect with people, keep up with breaking news and issues. It’s not rocket science. It’s social media.

The findings from Pew Research point that marketers would be well advised to focus on understanding who and where their audience is, and spend less time worrying about the hot air.

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Epic Video Storytelling

February 2nd, 2013 · Public Relations

My colleague Steve Clayton shared this video from McLaren F1 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the team being founded.

In my opinion it’s a wonderful production.

It’s atmospheric and it’s epic and all in under four minutes.

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Reality Check: All views are my own

October 19th, 2012 · Social Media

It’s interesting to see how many people add phrasing like: “all views expressed here are my own and don’t reflect the views of my employer” on their Twitter biography.

It’s especially interesting to see PR people including it.

Why is it interesting you may (rightly) ask?

imageWell because nothing is further from the truth.

If you’re a Public Relations practitioner (and you could argue any employee) and you’re tweeting, then it’s all on the record.

I’m not debating if this is right or wrong, I’m just pointing out the reality.

Next up: Why adding “RT isn’t an endorsement” to your bio makes no sense, because a RT is an implicit endorsement (unless you happen to add some sarcastic commentary – and in that case refer to the first point).

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PR needs Jacks and Jills of all trades

October 5th, 2012 · Public Relations

One of the wonders of the English language is that it’s always evolving. For example, according to Wikipedia (disclaimer: it is Wikipedia so the following information may have no basis in fact and could actually have been made up by a seventeen year old sitting in his bedroom, but because it serves my purpose I’m going with it) the figure of speech “Jack of all trades, master of none” actually started out as “Jack (or Jill) of all trades” and was meant in a positive way about someone who was a master of integration.

I believe being a ‘Jill of all trades’ in PR is something to be embraced and encouraged.

One of the challenges and great characteristics of Public Relations is change. While many of the core tenets of good Public Relations practice remain, the actual day-to-day work of a PR professional today is a sea change from when I started working in PR just over twenty years ago. We’ve new tools, new challenges, new demands, new opportunities.

A PR professional today must have the ability to build compelling, long term strategies, understand their (and client’s or employer’s) business and the broader business environment, be conversant in new tools and approaches, be pragmatic about choosing the right tools for the right job, and be creative.

Having a broad set of experiences is a benefit not a disadvantage. Great PR people can integrate and use traditional and social tools, they are comfortable analyzing data, good writers, great connectors, have the ability to scenario plan, to think quickly and clearly. The list goes on and on. But ultimately you need a broad set of knowledge, skills and experiences to succeed in the profession today.

There are of course people who operate as ‘specialists’, but the vast majority of successful practitioners have developed a broad set of skills and continue to drive themselves to broaden their knowledge whether its new tools, new ways of engaging audiences, new ways to measure impact or the lack thereof.

For today’s PR professional, being a Jill or Jack of all trades, and master of none is often both an advantage and a compliment.

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Does your CEO have to be active in Social Media?

October 4th, 2012 · Public Relations, Social Media


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Nothing beats a different perspective on your world

June 23rd, 2012 · Public Relations

I’m a big believer that whenever you get the chance to look at how PR and Marketing is executed in a different industry you should jump at it. I’ve always enjoyed viewing my profession from different perspectives, you always come away with some new ideas. 

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to travel to France for the 24 Heures Du Mans, one of the world’s most famous motor races. I was there to support my brother’s team who were having their first crack at this toughest of all endurance events. While I was there I made it my business to meet and swop war stories with a number of people who spend their working lives in motorsport PR and Marketing.


From a marketing perspective the event had two major manufacturers competing to own Le Mans and each took a different approach – though both clearly spent a lot of budget.

On the one hand you had Audi, whose strategy appeared to be very focused with incredibly sophisticated hospitality facilities around the track (and cars on display) while relying on the dominance of their cars (which finished 1, 2 & 3) to drive excitement and media coverage.

P1050629   On the other hand you had Nissan taking a different approach (at least it seemed that way to me). They were everywhere at the event and seemed to be targeting consumers and businesses in equal measure. From a racing perspective they were providing engines to a range of different teams and had probably the biggest media draw outside the race itself with the Nissan Delta Wing which drove global media coverage before, during and after the race.

It was hard to call the winner, but perhaps trackside it was Nissan.

At the other end of the spectrum was my brother’s team – Murphy Prototypes. Established earlier this year, working on a fraction (if even) of a budget, they’ve focused on PR and social media to build awareness and, albeit on a tiny scale compared to the industry titans, they’ve made outstanding progress.



After the car retired nearly 14 hours into the race – and after leading their class for nearly 3 hours and running as high as 6th overall – I took a walk around the track at about 5am and the number of fans (there are over 350,000 spectators each day over the weekend, many camping around the circuit) wearing Murphy Prototypes merchandise was astonishing.

They’ve started using Facebook and Twitter to engage fans (Emma Buxton was tirelessly driving PR and social media all weekend) and the level of engagement they’re getting is incredible.

One of my favorite moments over the weekend was when Massimo Favini appeared in the paddock. Massimo connected with the team on Facebook and was sent a team cap.  When he was recently climbing in Italy he took his cap with him and sent on a shot from the summit.   image


The team worked incredibly hard during the week of Le Mans to give the fans as much access as they could and it was clearly appreciated.

Like other industries, motorsport is increasingly using social media for engagement and sharing news and information, but media (print, online and broadcast) and traditional marketing remain front and center.

One thing I did notice was the thoroughness and creativity in preparation and execution across the marketing and PR activities at the venue. 

They’ve thought of everything from having their own photographers bringing the latest photos from around the track to the media center (and driving media photographers to any part of the track where there’s an incident), to creating subtle photo opportunities – such as the parking spot for the Delta Wing – everywhere.  


From a professional perspective, the most illuminating part of the event (beyond the racing) was the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of motorsport PR and marketing folks.  There were many interesting discussions about the changes they’re seeing in their sport, the emergence of social media and the differences between an endurance event like Le Mans and the high church of motorsport, Formula 1. Where Formula 1 is about access, exclusivity and control, endurance racing is about creating a bond between the teams and the fans, giving them better access and insight, perhaps how Formula 1 was in the 80s and 90s – with more marketing.

The 24 Heures Du Mans is an incredible experience. I highly recommend it and I’ll be back.

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