PR blogging–what are you reading?

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?

You better hope that journalism makes it

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.

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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.

When you’re communicating be true to yourself

Shakespeare wrote that when words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.

It’s not a problem we typically encounter these days. In fact verbal flatulence is everywhere.


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Back in olden times (early and mid 1990s) one of the favorite journalist tricks was the pregnant pause. Sit and look at your interviewee. Peer over your spectacles. Say nothing. Watch them squirm at the uncomfortable silence, until hopefully they break and in a vain attempt at appearing interesting and relevant they fill the silence with some nice juicy morsel of previously unreleased information. Having seen this trick work at first hand, I now think its time may have passed. Today the likelihood of a pregnant pause is unlikely.

Silence may indeed be a virtue, but it’s a seldom used virtue. Instead we try our very best to inject noise and volume into everything.

I speak in general terms here, no specifics, just an observation.

It appears the marketing response to the increasing noise of our always-on world is, ironically, more noise.

Shout louder.

Shout more often.

That’s not to say frequency isn’t important. It is. But the big question is the frequency of what. Not to over indulge my Shakespearian theme, but 400 years ago he wrote:

Where every something, being blent together turns to a wild of nothing.

That could be a motto for communications today.

Too often we just decide we need a blog post, with little thought about what we’re trying to achieve, what we’re trying to communicate and how we’ll make the information relevant, interesting, or memorable.

Too often we just write, proof, hit publish and move on.

It’s not just a social media phenomenon. Going back to olden times there were many proponents of getting a press release out regardless of whether there was any actual news. I imagine they’re still asking for press releases and now their poor downtrodden communicators will try and palm them off with a blog post or a tweet. Something that will be dispatched into the cloud -  more in hope than expectation – never to be seen, read or thought of again.

So, the alternative is to take a strategic approach to communications. Get an understanding of your audience, where they are, what they’re reading and sharing and invest the time and energy into creating something memorable. Not once a year for a special occasion or the one time you have some real news, but as part of your daily routine.

So next time you’re asked to ‘create’ a blog post about something no one cares about, remember:

This above all; to thine own self be true.

PR Blogging old timers

Earlier today I learned from Jeremy Pepper via Twitter that Phil Gomes has temporarily suspended his blogging activities.

Phil was one of the first PR folks (along with Jim Horton and Richard Bailey) that I came across when I started blogging many years ago.

In a trip of pure nostalgia I searched my old blog archives to find out when I first connected with Phil, and discovered that unknown to me, today is the eight anniversary of my first blog post.

Like Phil, my recent volume of writing has (and many would say thankfully) slowed to a trickle, but I’ve decided to keep promising myself that I’ll do better in the future.

We’ll see…


Bloggers Note: Guest Posts

General note to all those people kindly sending me offers to write guest posts.

Unfortunately this blog only gets about 5 visitors a month (and that’s if I hit refresh a couple of times) so you’re probably better spending your time pitching and writing for a real blog like the Huffington Post or Engadget or something like that.

That approach has the upside that there’s a chance that someone other than you and me will read it.

Secondly, even if this blog did get visitors and I did take contributed posts, I’m not sure hands-on tutorials on scripting, or business transformation really float my boat, so to speak.

If the policy changes, I’ll let you know, don’t worry.

Thanks

PS: Thanks to everyone who keeps sending me random press releases. I read all of them, they are a constant source of solace in a sea of irrelevance.


PR, Blogging, RSS and Twitter…

Wow, it’s August. I must be getting old, because the weeks, months and years are beginning to fly by.

It’s been quiet on this blog for a while and (in tandem) my RSS reading has been sporadic at best.

Of course I have a defense. I’ve been pretty busy.  Egypt was an experience, and I’ve moved to a new role at Microsoft (Corporate Citizenship since you ask).

Yesterday I installed the latest FeedDemon beta and rediscovered why RSS is such a great way to track news and opinions about anything you’re interested in.

Revisiting your RSS feeds is like re-discovering old friends, it’s fantastic. It’s also interesting to find out there are so many people still talking out the back of their trousers but then that’s one of the great things about the Internet and social media – the diversity.

Couple of posts to consider:

I will be back.

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:

It’s a question of trust

Forrester’s Josh Bernoff has published some interesting findings from a survey they undertook in the second quarter (April-June) of 2008 to find out the most trustworthy information sources.

Interesting, good old e-mail comes in a #1, traditional media is holding up nicely and the poor blog (particularly the company flavour) limps in last.

image See the original image and post here.

Of course if you’re a PR practitioner you know all about statistics :-)

The interesting validation for me is that the results point to a crazy mix of online and offline tools.  It’s not just about social media, it’s about understanding your audience, getting an insight into where they are, and then using the appropriate tools to communicate with them.

This doesn’t mean corporate blogs are a bad idea in my humble opinion but that if you want to communicate with people you need to be thinking of a broad set of tools.  Blogs are part of that discussion in my humble opinion.

Hat tip to Neville via (ahem) Twitter.

Interesting PR-related stuff

There has been a drought of interesting things in my RSS feeds recently, the majority of content seems to tirelessly (and boringly) focus on “blah blah is dying or dead” or “blah blah is going to change the world”.

The good news is that today I came across some interesting items I thought I would share.

In a move that will cause widespread dismay among the digerati, the Economist claims blogging has gone mainstream. This would explain the spate of “blogs are dying” posts that have wobbled onto the internet recently.  Of course one could argue that this story appearing in the Economist means that blogs are nearly mainstream but not quite there yet. Hat tip to Mr. Bailey.

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While the re-invention of the wheel (or the reinvention of the wheel as something not quite as useful as the wheel) is a passion for many people online, often I find that the simple suggestions are best.  For example what about David Berlind’s suggestion of including a shortened URL in your press release.  Simple, yet makes the link portable across blogs and the shortened world of Twitter. Hat tip to Alice Marshall.

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Speaking of Twitter*, Andrew Smith has a nice aggregated post with loads of links to Twitter-related content, including a list of UK journos and a list of UK PRs on eh Twitter from Stephen Davies. [Aside: the UK PR list looks like a most wanted list… and I don’t mean in a good way :-)]

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Neville Hobson points to a new list of the Top 150 PR oops sorry Social Marketing blogs. My rule of thumb is never trust a list you’re on, so given I’m at #89 that’s not a good sign.  The good news is I normally drop off them like a stone… so keep an eye on the list, it’ll probably get better with age.

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I am a firm believer that you never stop learning.  That’s why I love Dave Fleet’s list of top twelve communications, marketing and social media podcasts.  It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree it’s great to hear different perspectives.

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PS:

If you reading this in a somewhat confused manner then you are probably someone who has clicked on the Moofer link from the New York Times blog. I feel something of an link-love charlatan as the originator of the Moofer theme is this blog!

PPS:

Can I ask…  is there actually anything more annoying on a blog or website than those pesky widgets that pop up a browser preview when you hover over a link.  For the love of jebus…

PPPS:

*Twitter: Innocent or Guilty? Interesting or Boring? Indulgent or Philanthropic? The jury is still out having lunch…