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

Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:16:07 GMT

– Following on from the piece yesterday on ethics in PR. It’s emerged that fourteen leading US PR groups have met informally about supporting PR’s role in business. O’Dwyer’s reports that the group will focus on ethics, disclosure and transparency. The groups involved include PRSA, IABC, NIRI, The Institute for PR, PA Council and Women in PR. More details here.

– PR Week reports that large organizations are increasingly looking for one integrated agency for all their marketing needs. If it really is a trend I’d sell your stock in the large firms…

– In one of the most imaginative agency selections, Hewlett Packard (or HP as they like to be called) has selected Hill & Knowlton (FLASH Warning), Porter Novelli, and Burson-Marsteller as its global agencies of record. Big is as big does…

– Cheap PR? Throw a good party

Written by Tom Murphy

November 12, 2002 at 9:16 am

Posted in General

Mon, 11 Nov 2002 09:47:32 GMT

If like me you earn your living providing Public Relations services for your client or employer, I’m sure you get annoyed with the macabre covert activities of self-proclaimed ‘spin doctors’. The questionable ethics of many PR ‘verticals’ affects us all and makes our jobs harder and more mis-understood.

During the weekend two particular articles brought PR ethics into focus. Firstly, Richard Bailey provided a link to this article in the UK Observer newspaper that looks at the dawning of an Age of Integrity. (Wouldn’t that be nice).

Secondly a friend passed on an article that appeared in Ireland�s Sunday Tribune newspaper. Unfortunately they don’t post content online, but I was so stunned by it, I thought it would be worthwhile to post some of it here.

First by way of introduction, Graham Norton is an Irish-born comedian who has a very popular show on UK TV. He is very talented and very entertaining. (IMHO).

Recently he gave his first ever stand-up performance in New York and the Sunday Tribune (a national Irish newspaper) was interested in reviewing the performance.

Marion McKeone was given the assignment and she contacted Karpel Group (Warning Flash Intro!), a New York-based PR firm retained to look after Norton�s New York appearances, to obtain tickets for the event (as it was sold out). After weeks of phone calls, Karpel informed her that there were no press seats available.

McKeone attempted to contact Norton�s UK representatives, TalkBack Management, a firm that represents sixty leading UK and Irish writers, actors and other performers � and represents Graham Norton.

Melanie Coupland, head of (McKeone said of Coupland, �(Coupland) isn�t only a graduate of the KGB school of Media Relations � she�s probably its star pupil.�) TalkBack Management was travelling with Norton and was �way too busy to deal with the matter� if McKeone needed any further assistance she was told to contact TalkBack directly.

After contacting TalkBack, McKeone was told that no tickets would be available because they want �British� media to focus on Norton�s new UK TV show and not the stand-up performance. Although McKeone pointed out that the Tribune was an Irish newspaper, the TalkBack rep insisted that there was no difference and that they considered the Irish media as part of the British media � a terrible international faux-pas.

McKeone thanked him for his time and told him it�s OK because a friend of hers had a ticket for her anyhow.

Five seconds later, the previously unavailable Coupland was on the phone. The conversation was at first very civil. Coupland pointed out she�d prefer if McKeone stayed away and if she complied, she would consider allowing The Sunday Tribune to review a future unspecified Norton performance in New York. She also pointed out that any attempt to review the current event would certainly prove �unhelpful� regarding future access to Norton.

McKeone then asks Coupland why she is so determined that McKeone doesn�t review the event � at this point Coupland explodes. Here are the excerpts from the conversation as printed in the Sunday Tribune:
�Who the hell do you think you are? Don�t think I don�t know what you�ve been up to, ringing up everyone, trying to review this when we�ve made it clear we don�t want reviews. Why are you doing this to us? I�m going to sort you out�

McKeone at this point tells Coupland that she�s taking notes and provides a sample of what followed:
�How dare you. How dare you. Don�t you dare interview me. I don�t want to be interviewed by you. Don�t you dare, you� you��

– �I�m not interviewing you I�m just taking notes.�

�Yes you are interviewing me. You are. Stop interviewing me. Stop interviewing me now. Stop it now. Now. Do you hear. You�ll be sorry. How dare you interview me.�

– �I�m not interviewing you.�

�Yes you bloody are. Stop it. Stop it now. Who do you think you are threatening to interview me? You�re finished. Given me your editor�s name. Now.�

– �Certainly it�s M..�

�Give me his name. Now. Now. How dare you threaten me.�

– �How did I threaten you?�

�Don�t� you talk to me. Don�t you even think about speaking to me. Give me his name now.�

– �It�s Matt Coop��

�His name, his name, his name. Give me his name, his number, what�s his number. You�re going to be sorry. His name, give it to me now now now.�

Finally the details are passed on.

McKeone contacted TalkBalk before publishing the story in order to provide Coupland with an opportunity to respond. She was on holidays. McKeone suggested that the exchange would be included in the piece she was writing and therefore, she really might want to call her to provide her (Coupland�s) perspective on the incident or to put it in context. She never did.

After I managed to close my mouth, many thoughts ran through my mind.

I think there is a lesson and a reality check for Public Relations practitioners.

The strong arm tactics, which seem to be rife in the entertainment business globally, are a dangerous path to thread. They will work as long as your client is in vogue, but when things go downhill, there will be a lot of journalists only too happy to redress the balance. You can imagine the conversation when the ‘star’ asks their publicist, “why are they writing this about me?” and the publicist shrugs, knowing full well that it’s the result of their bullying approach to media relations.

I look forward to the day that these �publicists� are exposed for what they are. I look forward to a time when entertainers have to play by the same rules as everyone else. I thought this piece was a welcome first step in the process.

We should all remember that what goes around, comes around. If you don’t treat people with respect, you won’t get respect in return and when things turn nasty it’ll come back to haunt you.

Let me finish with some advice for Graham Norton. Your representatives are doing you a disservice. Get a grip on them before they destroy your reputation.

What do you think?

Written by Tom Murphy

November 11, 2002 at 10:47 am

Posted in General

Thu, 07 Nov 2002 15:12:11 GMT

The economic downturn causes a number of issues for PR. Obviously the large reduction in magazines and staff is one result but so is the explosion in telesales advertising/conferences/supplements calls – particularly for the in-house PR people.

Now don’t get me wrong it’s a very hard job and I wouldn’t fancy it, but after your fifth pushy telesales call of the day your sympathy levels fall below zero.

Recently we’ve started having some fun wth the pushy reps using the telesales ‘counterscript’. It’s a bit of fun, though your ‘assailant’ may not enjoy it.

The Counterscript is here.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 7, 2002 at 4:12 pm

Posted in General