Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for May 2002

Thu, 30 May 2002 19:08:49 GMT

Looking after the details…

Interesting PR anecdote I heard today. A journalist attending the third in a series of different press conferences was delighted to find copius amounts of coffee, water and cookies. When he complimented the PR handler on the provision of the food and beverages, the journalist was informed that the chosen brands of cookies had been selected after testing had revealed they were the only brands not to make noise that would be picked up on the media microphones. Now that’s looking after the details! (and they didn’t make any noise!)

Written by Tom Murphy

May 30, 2002 at 8:08 pm

Posted in General

Thu, 30 May 2002 08:19:19 GMT

Flash Hall of Shame (#5)

PerkettPR…why oh why oh why…

Written by Tom Murphy

May 30, 2002 at 9:19 am

Posted in General

Wed, 29 May 2002 12:58:42 GMT

Reality PR 2.0

There’s a recent article on Silicon entitled ‘Public Relations workforce: Feeling the Squeeze”, it follows on from dozens of stories over the past 6-12 months detailing PR’s fall from the heights and excesses of the Internet boom. There’s nothing new here, but it’s a timely reminder of how the PR industry milked the boom and exposed an extraordinary lack of business acumen.

Let’s not forget that during the boom, PR companies were hosting start-up beauty parades, asking entrepreneurs to justify why they should be added to the agency roster and then asking for exhorbitant retainers. This greed boom in the PR industry outstripped the excesses of every other professional discipline. The fact that the feathered farm animals are coming home to roost for many of these agencies is not a cause for pity or sympathy. As the old adage goes “if you live by the sword….”.

So PR now has to go back to responsibly managing business, working hard at finding new business and working harder at retaining existing business. What’s the problem? Those folks doing good jobs at competitive rates and tying activities back to their client’s objectives will thrive and prosper. Those dealing in ‘black magic’ and charging high unjustified costs will fade into memory. In effect, the market will decide and that is no bad thing.

One quote from the article that sums this up for me was from Upstart’s general manager Patty Lund. Now I must admit I was surprised by it, so maybe it’s out of context but the quote says; “What’s important to companies right now is revenue.” Hello? Revenue is ALWAYS what’s important to companies. The problem during the boom was that companies and the PR advisors lost sight of the importance of revenue. If your PR program isn’t helping directly or indirection to creating revenue – stop, rethink, re-plan and re-execute! Let me know what you think.

Written by Tom Murphy

May 29, 2002 at 1:58 pm

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 14:35:07 GMT

Journalists outline the same old media no no’s

It seems that some PR people continue to commit the cardinal sins of media relations. In an article in O’Dwyer’s today a journalist from Venture Reporter outlines the common issues. Nothing new but recommended reading for anyone not sure of the right and wrong way to pitch…

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 3:35 pm

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 10:22:52 GMT

Weblog now updated!

I have successfully moved all my previous PR blogs here. Unfortunately they are all spread over just a couple of days but that was unavoidable! I’ll be adding more links to the left-hand column. If you have any thoughts on what you read here, by all means drop me a line at

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 11:22 am

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 09:42:32 GMT

Flash Hall of Shame (#4)

Pan Communications has a truly awful Flash intro and to compound its awfulness there’s not even a skip intro. Good to see a PR agency putting all their faith in advertising…


Flash Hall of Shame (#3)

Acclaro International…no more needs to be said


The Internet…Is PR just roadkill?

Any research I find regarding how the Internet will change or affect the PR industry seems to declare that the key change in the post-Internet PR landscape is speed and that the Internet is making everyone’s job easier.

There is something rather worrying about this belief among practitioners. In an ongoing series, I take a look at these findings.

PR people are obsessed with speed on the Internet. But is speed one of the core change agents? I think not. If speed was the ‘killer application’ then pre-Internet agencies would have been boasting that their account executives could type fax numbers faster than any other agency, or they have the fastest stamp lickers on the Eastern seaboard.

There’s no doubt that the Internet is fast and does introduce a new element of speed to all our activities. But speed as the defining change on the Internet? What about communities, changed behaviour, PR’s growing role communicating outside the media? Speed is a charateristic, but not an agent of change.

Making life easier
The Internet does provide tools to automate a lot of activity that previously accounted for much of people’s time in the PR business. But the belief that the Internet will make PR people’s lives easier is misplaced – seriously misplaced.

The Internet provides a new environment that sits alongside, not replaces, traditional media outlets. It fosters new behaviour among audiences, and opens new opportunities for the PR profession to communicate with these communities. But these opportunities are challenging and potentially make all our jobs harder and longer. The Internet may have made our job easier in the mid-90’s, but in 2002 a new agenda is brewing and it’s not going to be easy.

Let me know if you have any thoughts by clicking on the small envelope on the right, I’ll be adding more to this stream of consciousness in the coming days and weeks.


PR Topic: Online versus Offline Coverage

There’s a great article on the Online Journalism Review (a definite addition to any PR person’s Favorites) on how some magazines are responding to a difficult commercial environment by moving online, either as a temporary measure or for good. The three magazines profiled are Darwin, Gadfly and LiP. From the technology sector you could also add Internet Week to that list.

The article was brought to my attention by Adam Sherk on the Adventive I-PR mailing list, where he asks what is the perceived value of print versus online coverage. It’s an interesting question, particularly given our industry’s less than stellar record on bringing PUBLIC (my emphasis) Relations online.

I believe measuring the value of coverage online or offline involves the same metric. How many of your target audience are reading? That’s the measure that matters. A well positioned piece in an online site with 10,000 readers in your target market is, in my terrifically humble opinion, far better than a similar piece in a national newspaper read by 1 million people where none of them are in the slightest bit interested. (I will accept this is a simplistic comparison).

Finding out where your audience is offline and online is the biggest challenge. If publishers can successfully attract the right audience using an online zine, a print version or both – they will thrive.

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 10:42 am

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 09:37:17 GMT

PR is absolutely fabulous

The PR profession leaves itself regualrly open to multiple forms of abuse from the media and others. The barriers to offering ‘PR’ services have always been low and the advent of the Internet has lowered them even further. The other problem for PR is the breadth of its service.

PR is employed in every field of commercial (and non-commercial) endevour. From Haute Couture to nanotechnology, PR people work hard to promote their clients’ brands. Many of these sectors demand fundamentally different type of PR activities, so different in fact, they might as well be different professions. And that’s the problems.

People typically group us all together in whatever PR-field they percieve PR. For many it’s the Absolutely Fabulous, gin and tonic swilling party-goer, for others it’s the percieved sinister political spinning. Like any profession these are the extremes, not the norm.

I found an article (registration required) in last week’s UK Sunday Times that made my blood boil. It’s a piece of journalism that illustrates why some journalists need to get their own house in order before they high-handedly attack PR people. The article, and I use the word advisedly focuses completely on the world of ‘fashion’ PR. It doesn’t explore the diversity of PR, just focuses on parties and giveaways. In summary it doesn’t in any way reflect the career I have worked hard in and enjoyed for well over a decade.

Yet while it only represents one small piece of the PR industry, it purports to profile ‘PR’ as a profession. There’s no balance, no third party views.

Its a great example of a journalist, who in attempting to mount a crusade against a profession on the basis that it’s lightweight and fickle has in her efforts highlighted the fact that her own profession is not without reproach when it comes to standards.

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 10:37 am

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 09:34:50 GMT

Moronic Opinions on Spam

Browsing some weblogs over the weekend I was reading and came across a link to an article by Barry Dennis of NetWeb Inc. on CNET. To summarize, Mr. Dennis believes that spam is OK, doesn’t hurt anyone and we should fight for people’s rights to use spam.

Rather than simply taking my point of view on this article, I’d advise you to read the article for yourself. (There’s also some very good analysis of it online)

My take is that Mr. Diller is one of the reasons that marketing and public relations pro’s get a bad reputation. His argument is facile, and looks to me like it has been written to purely provoke response. I can’t believe he really believes what he has written. PR people who have their e-mail address on websites and press releases automatically get added to thousands of spam lists. These lists sell products and services of no interest to the vast majority of recipients. Collecting e-mail on the road now takes three or four times as long, the volume continues to grow and e-mail software rule engines struggle to manage the deluge.

Mr. Diller compares traditional direct mail with spam, but the two have little or no similarity. Spammers incur relatively no costs and I have never received porn offers in paper spam – thank god.

As the volume of e-mail climbs so too does the volume of untargeted spam. Anyone who advocates spam, is in the words of my four year old nephew, a complete muppet (FLASH warning).

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 10:34 am

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 09:31:01 GMT

Ever wonder where your press packs go?

I think we may have found the answer….


PR Navigation Hall of Shame (#1 of an occasional series)

Liberty Communications…you’ve got to love navigation that forces you to run your mouse over un-titled or coded dots in order to find your way around the site….


Politics, spin and Public Relations

What is your opinion of ‘spin doctors’? Personally it annoys me that these ‘practitioners’ are categorized as Public Relations practitioners. Does their job specification, activities or mores mirror those of any mainstream PR consultant?

I don’t think so. Maybe it’s time to move this ‘profession’ to their own category. At least then their questionable ethics and activities would cease to taint the rest of us, who spend our time working to promote communication in legitimate ways and have to deal with the backwash from their carry on.

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 10:31 am

Posted in General

Tue, 28 May 2002 09:30:27 GMT

Blogging on the agenda

In a recent series of talks I gave concerning PR on the Internet, there was a distressing lack of knowledge and awareness of weblogging among the audience. However, after doing some research on Daypop this morning I noticed that some ‘bloggers’ are indeed getting pitched by PR pro’s. I think that’s a positive development – for PR anyhow!


When PR people become the story

My belief has always been that PR people shouldn’t get in the way of the story and by extension should do their best to not become the story. My mini-rant about ‘Political spin doctors’ earlier today is a great example of the dangers of PR people getting in front of the story. I can only reason that these people cross/annoy too many journalists so that the wronged decide to wreak some revenge. Of course I could be wrong.

Another example of a PR person becoming the story is this piece on Donna Morrisey who is the PR handler for Cardinal Law in the midst of the horrible revelations in Boston (and elsewhere). This is a very strange piece moving from positive to negative about Ms. Morrissey and including some bitchy remarks from those ‘brave’ unnamed sources – why journalists allow us to provide these comments is beyond me – but that’s another day’s rant. Have a read of the Morrisey story and see what you think. My mother always complained “but you’re never mentioned in the papers”, reading this I’m very glad!


Marketing is about online AND offline

A study released last week by the Online Publishers Association confirmed there is a benefit to a mix of online and TV advertising.

This study is equally applicable to Public Relations, where it is already clear from campaigns I’ve been involved with, that there is a dual role between online and offline media – and of course this is extended to any 1-to-1 communication the PR campaign carries out with other audiences online.

As we’ve been saying for a long time, the Internet isn’t a replacement media – it’s a supplemental media just like radio and print, and TV and radio.


Does size matter?

I’m sure if you regularly read the PR/Marketing press you will come across op eds written by agency owners about why large/small/integrated PR agencies are the best kind. The quality of argument in these articles makes me question the quality of the author’s work.

There was a great example of this earlier in the year on The PR Network mailing list where one week a small agency owner penned a piece (I am puposely not naming him) on why small is better and the next week a senior executive in a large agency published a line for line rebuttal.

It strikes me that if the best justification for your business is a ‘my daddy is better than your daddy’ line then what are you doing on behalf of your clients?

The simple fact, in my opinion, is that companies chose large/small PR agencies in the most part, based on the personalities they have met at those firms. PR is a people business. Good people deliver good results and poor practitioners don’t. That’s the bottom line. There is no golden rule. The core is if the PR investment is making a contribution to the business objectives it doesn’t matter whatsize or type of agency it is. On the other hand if it’s not contributing – look out….


The chickens are coming home

Following on from the story about the Advertising groups not enjoying much return from their PR investments, Euro RSCG is announcing a widespread re-structure, combining many of the PR subsidiaries into smaller groups. The PR agencies on roster will join either Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners or Euro RSCG Tatham Partners.

Two (not necessarily relevant) thoughts pass through my brain at this news. Firstly who comes up with the naming conventions for these conglomerates?

I realize that they try and keep their traditional names or heritage, but ‘Euro RSCG MVBMS’ is absolutely ridiculous. What is that all about?

Maybe I am on my own, but I find trying to understand the holdings of these marketing services groups unintelligible – and ironically its BAD branding and bad communications.

The second thought is that while merging these agencies makes a lot of sense in terms of administrative cost and streamlining services, it does present an issue in terms of the types of new business that can be tackled by these larger entities.

The days of clients accepting ‘chinese walls’ as an argument for hosting competitive accounts under the one roof has long since gone.

Written by Tom Murphy

May 28, 2002 at 10:30 am

Posted in General