Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for November 2002

Wed, 20 Nov 2002 07:46:52 GMT

OK, so this is our twenty third addition to the Flash Hall of Shame. It’s an institution created to recognize truly unnecessary use of Flash to make Websites as unusable as possible.

When we visit websites, we visit them to learn, to find information, in short to discover more about what the company or organization does, is or wants to be.

If you want to find out more about the Zimmerman company, call them. Don’t bother going to their web site because if there was ever a case of form over function this is it. I’m sure it cost a fortune, the music is chic and cool, but as I often think to myself after a trip to McDonalds, where’s the beef?

Make a coffee, slip on your headphones, and enjoy the calm, information free zone provided by the Zimmerman website. (I particularly love the PR section).

Written by Tom Murphy

November 20, 2002 at 8:46 am

Posted in General

Tue, 19 Nov 2002 09:02:17 GMT

There’s been a lot of response to two recent articles.

First up, Thomas Charlton and his career ending interview with Inc. has caused a lot of interest and we’re trying to find out any additional information on his departure. Trayce Zimmermann who’s a boxing publicist loved the mix of boxing and technology! Trayce thought the mixture might have been a bit “tough” for Inc and given the feedback on the magazine’s online bulletin board it would seem that’s the case. Trayce is the recipient of the most interesting PR vertical market award 🙂

I also had a lot of feedback on the story about Springbok PR closing its doors.

James Horton, who looks after the well known Online-PR site, commented that while in the past many in the PR industry had pondered if the conglomerates would fall apart over time, he believes that: “the large firms will remain because they can serve large accounts. They will, however, have offices that fall apart regularly, which they will close or replace with new teams. And, they will continue to buy mid-sized firms to bulk revenues.”

I’d agree with much of that thinking. However during the end of the last decade there were fears expressed that independent firms were becoming a thing of the past. Now, in a difficult economic climate, smaller firms have an advantage over the large conglomerates in terms of flexibility and a smaller cost base. I expect we will see an expanding number of independents who are growing quickly. And that has to be good for the PR business. Full stop.

And on the subject of small independent firms, Phil Gomes who hosts his own PR blog, has jointly founded a new independent hi-tech agency G2B Group. We wish him the best of luck!

Written by Tom Murphy

November 19, 2002 at 10:02 am

Posted in General

Tue, 19 Nov 2002 07:41:30 GMT

It’s been a while since we last nominated a Flash Hall of Shamer. However Ernie Reno’s insightful interview into how he’s single-handedly saving the PR industry deserves a mention. So please welcome Avatar Communications to the PR Opinions Flash Hall of Shame.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 19, 2002 at 8:41 am

Posted in General

Tue, 19 Nov 2002 07:37:38 GMT

> The Council of Public Relations Firms has come to the defence of Nike Inc. in its appeal to the United State Supreme Court, where it is asking that California’s recent ruling that Nike’s discussion of public issues is not protected by the First Amendment and the Constitutional guarantee of free speech be overruled. Read all about it here.

> Just when we thought (sadly) that Corner Bar PR was dying, they have posted some new content. It’s a story on Online customer service.

> The Indianapolis Star interviews Eric Reno, founder of Avatar Communications. According to Ernie, “PR people never understand what we want. Many have no writing skills. They don’t understand how the communication process works. And they can’t explain to companies why hiding the truth only hurts their cause and that telling the truth makes getting their message out so much easier.” Never let a good generalization get in the way of the truth Ernie.

> Fraser P. Seitel over at O’Dwyers explains why timing is everything in his selection of PR Boob of the Week.

> Also in O’Dwyers is the latest PR salary survey, which finds that in-house practitioners are (on average) earning more than their agency brethren.
Lies, damn lies and statistics….

Written by Tom Murphy

November 19, 2002 at 8:37 am

Posted in General

Fri, 15 Nov 2002 09:06:52 GMT

The Dallas Business Journal reports that Springbok (Cohn & Wolfe) the technology PR firm based in Dallas-Fort Worth has closed its doors. While not a tier one dot com PR brand like Niehaus, Ryan Wong (RIP), Springbok was well known and is yet another casualty of the technology downturn…or are they?

I wonder if Springbok had not been re-christened “Springbok Cohn & Wolfe” would they have closed their doors or would they have simply re-structured to survive in a more harsh economic environment? When your parents have standard corporate ‘ratios’ for fees, profit etc., decisions are often taken centrally that would not be taken by independent firms.

Can we expect widespread culling of the ‘independent’ shops that were bought up during the boom – just becuase they don’t meet the new corporate ratios?

If that’s the case, will a new generation of independent firms rise from the ashes to further reduce the return that the Advertising agencies – sorry holding companies – will get from their investment in PR?

Let’s face it, the establishment of a new PR firm (outside expertise and bringing clients on-board) is trivial in terms of cost and time. Maybe the Ad Agencies have been duped.

Certainly by closing these PR firms they are directly increasing competition against their remaining brands. Consultants made redundant in this environment will look to take some of that business with them.

Maybe we can look forward to a new generation of independents rising from the ashes. I believe diversity is good. Diversity breeds innovation and competition. If the survivors of Springbok and other firms decide to strike out themselves I wish them the very best of luck. [Comments]

Supplemental: Since I posted the Springbok story is has emerged that UK firm/conglomerate Chime, the third largest ‘Marketing Services Group’ has warned of dismal financial results…..mmmm

Written by Tom Murphy

November 15, 2002 at 10:06 am

Posted in General

Thu, 14 Nov 2002 08:39:37 GMT

Once upon a time, in a sleepy land far, far away from here, there were two public relations companies. One firm was called Silly & Sons and the other was called Clever & Sons.

Both firms needed more revenue and so they decided to look for new business. Silly & Sons spent lots and lots of money on expensive printed material and sent it to every company throughout the kingdom. They then followed up their direct mail with a phone call. When talking to a prospect, let’s call her Ms. Innocent, the firm’s representative, let’s call him Mr. Silly, was told that no material had arrived. Mr. Silly found this hard to believe and told the prospect so. Ms. Innocent reaffirmed that no direct post from Mr. Silly’s firm had arrived. Mr. Silly questioned whether Ms. Innocent had carefully checked her mail. Ms. Innocent had and was sure no direct mail had arrived, and wasn’t too happy that Mr. Silly had insinuated during their conversation that she was a little incompetent managing her mail.

It was all to no avail however as Ms. Innocent didn’t have an immediate requirement for Mr. Silly’s PR services. A couple of days following their call, Mr. Silly’s package arrived – it had been delayed because of insufficient postage. That wasn’t the end however. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Silly sent more direct mail, this time to Ms. Innocent’s boss, Ms. Boss. Ms. Boss forwarded the package to Ms. Innocent who was amused to see Mr. Silly had sent a form that allowed Ms. Boss to rate her current PR campaign and staff and insinuated she’d do better with Mr. Clever’s help.

While all this was going on, Clever & Sons’ representative, Mr. Clever, also sent some well produced direct mail to Ms. Innocent. He followed up with a well targeted e-mail and a courtesy call. Ms. Innocent told Mr. Clever that she didn’t have an immediate requirement for Mr. Clever’s PR services. Mr. Clever was disapointed but finished their phone call by passing on an editorial opportunity he had found while researching Ms. Innocent’s company.

Now I hope you have been listening to our story carefully, because here is a question. If Ms. Innocent has a PR requirement in the future, who do you think she will add to her short list, Mr. Silly or Mr. Clever? Just in case you’re confused it’ll be Mr. Clever. He may not have done enough to win the business outright but he’s certainly on the short list. Poor Mr. Silly will never be retained by Ms. Innocent.

I know I have written this before but it NEVER ceases to amaze me how poorly PR people commuicate. It really beggars belief.

Here’s another examle, a colleague of mine was recently recruiting for a PR position (a unique task in today’s environment) and he received over sixty applicants. Of the sixty, only three took a couple of minutes to find out the name of the person in charge of recruiting the position, and only a couple more did any research on the firm before submitting their application.

If we can’t effectively communicate our (or our firm’s) USPs, how do we intend to do it on behalf of a third party? These aren’t isolated incidents…..nor are they fairy tales.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 14, 2002 at 9:39 am

Posted in General

Wed, 13 Nov 2002 16:33:01 GMT

I have stumbled across a fantastic story that I am amazed I haven’t seem posted elsewhere.

The November 2002 issue of Inc has a cover story entitled “Are you a tough enough boss?” accompanied of a photo of Thomas Charlton, CEO of Tidal Software.

The story has some outrageous quotes and anecdotes and tells of how Charlton broke into cupboards, forced long hours and a whole range of other stuff he did to ‘revitalize’ the company. He comes out of the story a little too testosterone for me but…

I head over to Tidal Software’s website and bing! there’s an announcement that the company’s founder Gary Leight has taken over as Tidal Software’s CEO on November 8 2002!!! While Charlton’s face is plastered on the front of every copy of Inc.

But worse there’s NO mention of why, how, or where Charlton is. He’s been purged from the website (including Google’s cache).

The message board at Inc is full of lively comment and even includes a posting purportedly from Shelly Gordon the external PR consultant for Tidal. But while she says that the article misrepresented Charlton she doesn’t mention his disappearance from the company.

Anyone know any more? It’s intriguing!

Written by Tom Murphy

November 13, 2002 at 5:33 pm

Posted in General