Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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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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Are you a communications professional or a pundit?

April 25th, 2012 · Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media

The recent ‘conversation’ on the death of blogs forced me to sit down and write a blog post.  It takes a lot to encourage me to blog these days,  but then upon reviewing my wise, well written draft, I realized I didn’t want to post it.

Last month marked a full decade that I’ve had a blog. What started with an explosion of posts about everything PR-related, has matured into a trickle of rants and opinions mostly due to the increasing demands of family and work. The prioritization hasn’t been difficult.

Over the past ten years there have been incredible changes in marketing, PR and communications. New tools and channels have emerged, we’ve seen people finding and sharing information in new ways. But there’s also a lot of hot air.

Too many people have a predilection to declare the ‘death’ of something, or the compulsion to add the word ‘social’ to every noun in the dictionary, or the desire to critique things without any knowledge or insight.

This is where I see the difference between professionals and pundits emerging.

Professionals think about their objectives, their environment and audiences, their goals, their strategies, their tactics and their measurement.  They think about the return on the investment from their programs and campaigns.  They have to marry pragmatism with creativity, to balance costs with invention.  These are challenges they face every day. This group includes educators and academics who invest time, energy and insight into reviewing the real impact of social media.

These people don’t focus on the tactic, the tool, or the navel gazing. 

That’s the pundit’s job.

There’s a place for pundits.  We need people looking beyond the day to day grind.  We just don’t need so many.

When you think it can’t get any worse you read this:


If true, this only serves to confirm there are a lot of villages out there missing their idiots and perhaps some of their pundits too.

Klout is the perfect example. It’s simple to understand (in theory), doesn’t require any significant investment of time to analyze, and because it can be inherently gamed it’s useless as anything other than a measure of someone’s noise online. It’s like when you come across a ‘marketer’ you’ve never heard of with 75,000 followers on Twitter.  Sure you do. No really. Sure….

Ten years on, I’ve never regretted starting a blog or embracing social media. I’ve met some incredible people I probably would never have met without social media. I’ve reconnected with long lost colleagues and friends and I have a better view of what’s happening around the world than I’ve ever had before.

From a professional perspective social media has opened exciting new opportunities. It’s encouraging more creative ways of communicating, it’s revolutionizing our focus on storytelling and it’s enabling us all to engage and have conversations.

It’s just a pity there’s so much fluff and hyperbole inside the echo chamber.

C’est la vie.

PS: For the record, blogs are a tool.  They offers a range of benefits for many organizations, but they are a tool not a strategy.  If you’re not getting the appropriate return on your investment in blogging (and to know that you are of course measuring it) then you should absolutely reinvest your resources where you will get a greater return.  It’s not about death, it’s about professional decision making.  There’s no drama here no matter how much some wish there was.

PPS: If you’ve gone all old school and are – god forbid – thinking of starting a blog, two pieces of advice.  Firstly don’t underestimate the commitment and secondly for the love of all things holy put some thought into a compelling and memorable first post….


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Good marketing is hard but not necessarily expensive

March 7th, 2012 · Marketing

If you ventured out on the internet today there’s probably two things that popped up in your feeds, namely Kony 2012 and the Dollar Shave Club.

I first heard about the Dollar Shave Club through a tweet:


Well I had to click didn’t I?

Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed. 

It’s the combination of a clever business idea and a clever creative marketing execution. It’s  well scripted, well targeted and a great example of effective (and humorous)  storytelling.

The website draws on the same humor:


Will it be successful? Who knows? Success will depend on a wide range of factors, including the business model.  But over 700,000 views of the launch video is a good start.

Regardless, it’s a good illustration that creativity doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money, and great storytelling that’s relevant to your audience is a winner.

And the answer to the question you’re asking yourself right now?


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You better hope that journalism makes it

March 7th, 2012 · Public Relations

For all the talk about the death of media, mainstream media, traditional media, broadcast media, print media and online media, since the turn of the century, they’re still hanging on. Sure circulations are down, many traditional papers have closed down, slimmed down or moved online.  But thankfully we still have the media, we still have journalists.

Social media has been great giving people a platform to share their opinions, but it doesn’t negate the need for journalists.

This isn’t a post about bloggers not being journalists by the way.


The world isn’t that simple anymore. 

Some bloggers are journalists, some are not. Regardless everyone has opinions and thanks to social media they can share those opinions.  On the whole, and in view of the alternative, that’s a good thing.

However, after twenty years in the Public Relations business, I remain more convinced than ever that journalists are an essential and valuable asset that we must support and protect. 

Their cause hasn’t been helped by the confusion surrounding business models in a world that has a cacophony of often free content. But the value of free content is often tied to the cost. 

If you catch my drift.

As I’ve often said before the great thing about opinions is that everyone has one, and the downside is the same.

We need journalism because we need someone to be looking at our world in an objective manner. Yes I know there are sometimes issues, as I already mentioned, I’ve worked in PR for over twenty years.  I know the issues.

However, in a world of vested interest, give me traditional journalism any day.

I read a lot of blogs.  I read them with a filter.  We know that people (present author included) write blogs for a reason, and it’s not often to do with the finding the truth. People want to showcase their knowledge, share insight, push an agenda, sell their wares. There’s nothing wrong with any of these motivations, but let’s not pretend that it’s a replacement for journalism, it’s an adjunct – at best.

The bottom line is that society needs journalism regardless of your views or leanings.  The medium may indeed be the message, but it doesn’t matter if  journalism is in print, video, audio or online.  What matters is that we have people involved in looking at our world with an objective lens.

Blogs are a tool, they aren’t a replacement for the practice of journalism.

We should all try and remember that.

As the old song goes, all god’s creatures have a place in the choir.

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Do you get bad grammar off people?

February 17th, 2012 · Public Relations

I blame my grandmother. She loved providing real-time feedback on my grammar and her favorite was the difference between ‘off’ and ‘from’.

If I innocently reported to her that I had received something off someone, she would immediately respond that “you get fleas off people, but you get things from them”.


While I am a huge fan of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (and have a well thumbed copy on my bookshelf), I am also sympathetic to Stephen Fry’s tirade on language purists.

However, there is a happy medium.

Today well written, simple, plain English is the exception. Too often we descend to the lowest common denominator where we all proactively leverage robust, strategic solutions to global world-leading paradigm shifts.

Worse, in a deluge of meetings and conference calls we are routinely subjected to a verbal assault of meaningless phrases and buzzwords. This unscientific blog survey captured a few of the more common ones, although some of my personal favorites like ‘grok’ and ‘running it up the flagpole’ didn’t make the list.

Dan Pallotta put this very well in a post he published on the Harvard Business Review in December:

I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me. The language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. When I was younger, if I didn’t understand what people were saying, I thought I was stupid. Now I realize that if it’s to people’s benefit that I understand them but I don’t, then they’re the ones who are stupid.

So, what is the point of this post?

I want to promote a balanced approach to language.  Let’s encourage each other to speak and write in plain, simple English and avoid the buzz word madness.

In that spirit here are two bonus links:

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