Some PR reading for the weekend

Here are some common sense posts on various aspects of Public Relations.

Heather Yaxley has a nice post on PR Conversations: Future leaders need more than digital PR:

The beauty of building your career around knowledge and skills gained in public relations is that you have transferable competencies that offer a solid basis for extending your career laterally or progressing upwards. Indeed, the multi-direction potential is substantial – enabling you to craft a career tapestry that is individual and original. Undoubtedly digital PR will be a thread weaving through organizations going forward – but if you are to look back on a successful and rewarding picture of your working life, I recommend, you don’t rely on this talent alone.

The irrepressible Jeremy Pepper tells it as he sees it, as usual, in his post Has PR Lost the Fire in its Belly?

We’ve become so tired of the good fight, that we just go with the flow. And, yes, that’s a lot of what is happening in public relations nowadays: the real seasoned communications veterans who wear their battle scars with pride are getting tired of the fight, and the new "senior" people – more like junior staff without the experience to do what is needed and right – just going along for the ride.

Elena Verlee has a honest to goodness common sense post on building long-term PR relationships in a digital world:

Thought leadership doesn’t happen overnight. Neither do relationships in business or with the media. Taking the time to sow good seeds, nurturing them carefully and with patience, will allow you to reap the return of a bountiful harvest — sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

Jason Falls’ post on The PR Guide To Email Pitching and his follow up The Blogger’s Guide To PR’s Email Pitches are worth a read:

Yeah, I know it sucks. I used to think PR was easy, too. I’d download my list of 400 outlets that qualified under my target parameters, copy and paste my press release and hope like hell for some pick up. I’d follow up and call about 15 key media outlets and develop the relationship part, maybe get 5-6 of them to bite on the story, along with the 2-3 dozen small town newspapers that were so starved for content they copy-pasted my release, and made my clients or bosses happy.

Relax, PR will be around long after the hype has gone

Sometimes you happen upon a blog post title in your RSS reader (yep I’m old school) that grabs your attention. 

Great headlines work.

Unfortunately you then read the post and find it has the consistency of a marshmallow, it’s gooey and melts away pretty quickly and has little substance.

That was my reaction to to David Armano’s post: Does PR have a Future?

Now let me say up front that I’ve read and watched a lot of David’s content and opinions and I’m not questioning that he brings a lot of insight, and value to the whole social media discussion, but this post isn’t one of his high spots.

I thought it was a good excuse to address some of the PR and social media related observations you see expressed regularly.

Social media is increasingly being used across business – yes it is because social media is a set of tools and channels that can add business value in a number of areas including marketing, investor relations, research, sales and customer support.

Social media is the most important thing to business – no, I’m afraid not.  It is of course important and useful, but you’ll find that financial management, creating great products, attracting and retaining great staff, providing great services and many other functions remain as important as ever – and arguably more important than some tools and channels. Will we no longer need sales people because ‘we’re all sales people’ and we’ll just put the products up on Facebook? Really?

Marketing/PR is dead, dying or going away – are you mad? Yes social media provides a great human interface to a company, yes it’s a powerful set of tools to reach and engage with people, but guess what, we still need people focused on the strategic imperatives of an organization, we still need people thinking beyond 140 characters.  When someone has an issue, what will they do? Will it be a great experience to send a random tweet in the hope it reaches someone who can help them? Really?

Everyone is a spokesperson – Firstly, I really marvel at how we make comments that ‘each employee becomes a representative of the company every time they engage in public’ like this is something new. It’s not. Of course social media amplifies the impact, but it’s not a eureka moment.  It presents opportunities and challenges for employees and companies, but how does it negate the need for professional communicators? Is this the transformation of product planning to an infinite number of employees in a room banging away on social media?

Businesses are becoming more social and rigid job descriptions will go away – OK businesses are becoming more social, but do we really think that everyone will move into a mass of generalist roles where we spend some of our day doing different jobs? How do we think that’s manageable? How do we think that’s a great idea? Why do we think that social media tools outweigh the value of real world experience, insight and knowledge? It doesn’t.

David closes by saying:

If "everyone" is a spokesperson to some degree—does public relations cease to exist? It’s probably not that simple since the reality is that "communications" will not end up as a free for all activity, but as something which evolves into more than just communicating but also interacting. In my mind—the key is relationships. Manage the relationships between all critical stakeholders who can make or break your business, and you hold the key to a more sustainable way of doing business. Sound like PR?

He’s right no it’s not that simple. There won’t be a free for all.  And yes PR is about managing relationships, it’s also about communications, it’s about problem solving, it’s about strategy, it’s about hard decisions, it’s about many things beyond using tools.

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we focus the discussion on how social media enhances an organization rather than trying to create doomsday scenarios which frankly aren’t based on any insight into how a business works, and shows a complete disrespect for the knowledge, skills and insights of a whole cabal of professional people beyond PR.

Pithy phrases and throwaway opinions don’t move the exploration of social media forward, they just reduce it’s credibility.

But of course, that’s just my opinion and your mileage may vary.


Hands up… all is not well in the world of Public Relations

Earlier this week Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff published a plea to PR professionals to take a stand against unprofessional practices.


Compared to many previous rants on this issue and the shoddy practices we’re all aware of, his plea is rational and completely fair.

If you work in Public Relations, then you should passionately care about the industry’s image – and the damage caused by silly people.

The problem is that there’s so much of it.

Please note that I’m not including simple mistakes in this.  Mistakes happen, that’s why they’re called mistakes. Berating someone for a simple error makes me extremely uncomfortable, we all make them.

But unprofessional, lazy or stupid conduct should be called out.

I write posts in this blog infrequently.  It’s read even less frequently. Yet I am, through the power of online databases – and lazy PR people – inundated with irrelevant pitches every single day. I am convinced some of these databases must have a “spam anyone with a (suspected) pulse” filter.

Of course I also get the odd, relevant, well written pitch, which just makes me feel guilty that they wasted good time on me Smile.

So let’s keep calling it out and hopefully people will start to learn. Don’t hold your breath though….

Additional thought: Arthur Yann of the PRSA gets a star for responding to Josh’s post. However, although the PRSA is an organization focused on supporting its membership, something I think is very important, I do think it’s a little ironic that only members can view their Social Media Policy.

Update: Arthur has kindly been in touch to point out that the Social Media Policy is actually freely available with registration!  Thanks Arthur.


Travelling to Net Impact Event in Michigan

I am off to the great state of Michigan for the first time tomorrow to attend and speak at the 2010 Net Impact Conference at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.


A map of Michigan from Bing Maps (of course)

I’m looking forward to what should be a great event.

I’m speaking on a panel discussing the impact of social media on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The session is being moderated by Nick Aster and will include Justin Higgins from Chevron and Courtland Smith from Angelpoints.

Stop by and say hello if you’re at the conference.

Tom’s Bumper Summer PR Miscellany…

Here are some personal picks from my most recent trawl of the RSS feeds…

What is PR?

  • OK this is late (from last February) but worth a listen.  It’s a podcast from the BBC World Service program The Bottom Line, with some well known PR executives having a lively discussion on what Public Relations is. Recommended.

Traditional Media…



Issues Management…


PR Skills…

  • Liam Fitzpatrick has generated a lot of discussion with his suggestion that writing skills shouldn’t be prioritized over other communications skills. 

I’m not suggesting that a communicator should be allowed to get away with bad writing. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t make sense to prioritise writing over any other skill – if a single skill is all that matters why shouldn’t it be film-making, web design or spamming twitter?

Dave Fleet [@davefleet] and Shel Holtz don’t agree.


PR thinking….

You should listen to this interesting CIPR interview with Seth Godin for this quote alone:

“PR is a human form of spam”




Great Storytelling…

This is a phenomenal example of great corporate storytelling…


Changing face of PR….

  • If you’re working in PR, you really should spend some time on the PR on Facebook page. No really. You should.




  • Really interesting research from a HP study on Twitter and influence that found that the number of followers on Twitter doesn’t necessarily translate into influence.


  • Josh Bernoff proposes a new model for PR and influencers. The problem of course is that people who would avail of this model are probably already doing a great job of reaching and engaging with folks.  The muppets sending irrelevant spam, well they’ll keep doing it.


An antidote for social media twaddle…

  • If like me you get grumpy reading the twaddle many of our self styled social media gurus peddle on Twitter as expertise, then this is the site for you.  The URL isn’t for the faint hearted.



You also have to love these modern retro posters, via BuzzFeed.




Struggling with LinkedIn?



Have pity on those of us with a stationary problem.  For us this is real innovation.

Is the online world growing up? What about PR?

Interesting news from New York that a supreme court judge has ruled that Liskula Cohen is entitled to information that would help her to identify an anonymous blogger who called her a “skank”.

If she follows through that could be a very interesting development indeed.

Meanwhile Mark Creaser is pondering if PR agencies are redundant in 2009.

Digital Agencies are already elbowing PR aside, and within a couple of years, a traditional PR agency will be fairly niche. Times change, and in 2010 people will want to feel increasingly engaged with the brands and people they choose to do business with.

Now I think Mark makes some interesting points, but I don’t buy it – his argument that is, not PR agency services. I do buy them.

If there’s been one consistent PR-related theme on the interweb over the past five years it has been the death of PR and the death of PR agencies.

From what I am observing, there is a lot of innovation taking place inside PR firms, probably not enough, but it is happening.

Yes I am also seeing “digital” agencies stepping in and driving online campaigns, which in my opinion, is a huge missed (revenue and mindshare) opportunity for PR firms, but if PR agencies are smart and continue to develop their services and skills, then over time you could see PR firms taking back much of that budget.

Great communications is all about understanding your audience and engaging with them.  The idea that we’re facing into a time where we do all our outreach in-house just isn’t credible in my opinion.

Firstly let’s not forget that online is one (albeit a strong growing) element of the communications mix.  Secondly, while I am not by any means an apologist for PR firms, they do bring a range of benefits to companies from an outside-in perspective, to reach, expertise and much more.

PR firms aren’t going anywhere.

Communications in an age of social media is arguably more important now, than ever. Firms who invest in their people and their expertise, who spend time understanding the impact of online and how it sits with traditional channels (not just media folks) will continue to thrive.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I’d be much more worried about the future of “social media” gurus than PR firms…. but that’s for another day.

PR gives PR a bad name..


Welcome to Tuesday. 

I had a lovely week off (thanks for asking).  Travelling around the North Cascades is to be highly recommended.

Of course returning to civilization also means dealing with a backlog of post, e-mail and voicemail – and for you cool social media kids, loads of unread RSS feeds. (I remained joyfully unconnected for the week – something I would also heartily recommend).

It is of course ironic, and often humorous (but in a sad way), that PR people are the single greatest cause of negative perception for this “profession”.

Skimming my RSS backlog threw up loads of examples.  My favorite is Phil Gomes’ account of e-mail correspondence with a PR spammer.

Sammy: Thanks Phil, it would just take me ages to find your addres in our database.

Phil: Probably no more time than it took for me to fish your note out of the trash and find the link, I’d imagine.

Read it.


Also raising a smile is Nick Blakin’s guest post on the ever-reliable Bad Pitch blog.

Speaking of lessons, these are absolutely the only ten you’ll need throughout your entire professional life. Remember, PR isn’t all smoke and mirrors, and name dropping, and hot parties, and lookin’ good while you sip your free martinis at the lowliest dive on the block. That’s only 95% of what we do. To make it in this business you have to one day get your hands dirty. And that, I’m afraid, is the one really ugly truth.

Read it (and read the comments, they made me laugh).


Shel Holtz has some nice common sense on why PR and Marketing remain as relevant as ever.

If your reading was restricted to social media purists, you’d think that PR and marketing had no role left to play, that the rise of the trusted peer has so marginalized the communications profession that agencies everywhere should just fold up their tents and encourage their employees to learn a new trade.

Read it.


Typical isn’t it?  You go away for just one week, turn off the WiFi and… well nothing changes…