Fri, 28 Feb 2003 15:03:49 GMT

The much maligned baby and bathwater analogy….  


Earlier this week I lamented that many PR people seem slow to embrace and experiment with new technology.  Online PR still remains a specialist niche for most practitioners and few have begun to really evaluate how applications such as Weblogs impact their audience.


While I think our profession is slow to adapt, I certainly do not believe that Online PR is everything.  We all still need to use the same techniques that have been paying our wages for the past fifty years (a little less in my case ) in order to meet PR objectives. Our existing skills are as relevant today, but we need to open our minds to the possibilities that Online PR presents.


Google�s oft-mentioned purchase of Blogger has clearly exercised the minds of the media community.  Blogs are now beginning (and only beginning) to enter the mainstream media, just look at the number of blog-related stories in the non-technical press out there.  The other giveaway that blogging has really caught the imagination is the number of color pieces being written about the leaders in the blog field. 


Every hot trend needs a human face and the blog is no different.  Dave Winer (whose popular Scripting News blog I read most days and whose software is publishing this very article) is fast becoming the poster-child of blogging.  In the past couple of days he�s been interviewed by a number of major media outlets such as CNET and Newsweek about blogging.


What worries me is that Dave is getting a little caught up in the hype.  He has taken a fellowship at Harvard to promote academic blogging which is fantastic – but in the CNET piece he is quoted as saying:

 ï¿½In some areas, like tech reporting, the Web logs (sic) have largely replaced the professionals.�


What? Excuse me?


While there�s no doubt weblogs are very useful for catching up on technology news, to say they have supplanted professional journalism is rubbish.  If I want the latest news I still go to Infoworld, Eweek, Internet Week, CNET, Information Week etc..  If I want more perspectives then I�ll certainly visit weblogs, but replacing journalism?  I don�t think so.


Why is it that humans automatically think that new must replace old?  It�s rarely the case.  In most cases new supplements old.  Think of examples like cars and bicycles, trains and planes and in the PR world TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet.


These have all supplemented not supplanted their �predecessors�.


The dot-com frenzy occurred because people saw the Internet replacing things like stores, newspapers, phones and socializing.  It was revolutionary and this Internet-version of the future was pumped up by �visionaries� and their financiers.  It was contagious.


Billions of dollars later we see the reality.  The Internet is fantastic and like nothing that came before, but it�s evolutionary not revolutionary.  In Europe, recent research points out that while Internet usage is growing it will probably never reach US levels of penetration.


We still have our newspapers, our stores and we still leave the house regularly.


In the same way, the idea that weblogs will supplant journalism is ridiculous.


Let�s try and keep a perspective.  Weblogs are useful.  Useful for people looking to connect with like-minded individuals, useful for people looking for information, and useful for PR people looking to understand an audience or trend.  Weblogs have lots of other uses including sharing information and knowledge inside an organization.


But weblogs aren�t magazines and I don�t believe they ever will be.


History teaches us that pumping up the volume only steepens the fall.  Weblogs are important but they aren�t the printing press. Let�s keep the perspective.

Wed, 26 Feb 2003 12:56:52 GMT

When the founder bites back… 

Capitalism demands that some entrepreneurs will fail, some will succeed and some will muddle along. That’s the free market for you.

When a “start-up” (for the sake of a better term) is bought, and in particular start-ups whose image is inherently connected to the founder(s), it creates some interesting challenges for the acquirer. 

Ben & Jerry’s is a fantastic example.  The company was built, named and grown through Jerry and Ben.  When Unilever purchased the firm, Jerry and Ben eventually went their own way and pursued the same causes that had helped to grow the company in the first place. 

But what if their opinions cause Unilever grief? Ben and Jerry’s (the company not the individuals) press room takes an interesting approach to solving this paradox. 

They clearly poisition the relationship between the founders and the company and then re-iterate the company’s own stance on the issues in question.

I think it’s very very well done…. except…. and it’s a big except.

The last link on the page invites web visitors to view a note from Jerry.

Now it might just be me, but I think this is overkill.  The earlier passages clearly position the issue and clarify the company’s view.  The “note” from Jerry reads like he wrote it at pain of death.

Just my two cents!

Related links:

Wed, 26 Feb 2003 09:48:10 GMT

For Public Relations, read Telesales…

In a surprising piece of news, Burson Marsteller have announced a new service called: “Prospect Lead Generation Support Program”.

As the name suggests, it’s about delivering relevant leads for small and mid-sized B2B companies using a seven-step methodology. 

This is the latest in a trend of the big PR firms looking to expand their services into completely new areas.  Last year Ketchum launched ChannelEdge, a service that offers to support technology companies’ channel strategy and initiatives.

BM’s new service is an interesting departure.  However, I am not convinced they can provide a service that matches specialists in this marketspace such as Technology Sales Leads. I know if TSL launched a PR service I would be equally sceptical.

Anyone know why the PR firms are launching all these new services through their technology practices?  Is it to prop up slow technology demand? Feedback as always is welcome.

Sidenote: I can’t find any mention of this service on the Burson-Marsteller website?

Mon, 24 Feb 2003 14:23:20 GMT

Clear Public Relations objectives….

While many of us can sometimes be accused of not planning with clear objectives in mind, the US military is always clear on the objective.

James Wilkinson, spokesman for Central Command in Tampa, Florida is quoted in today’s International Herald Tribune:

“The goal of information warfare is to win without ever firing a shot.”

Sounds, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely to me!

Mon, 24 Feb 2003 12:18:08 GMT

Is PR closing in on the weblog?….

I was catching up on some blog reading at the weekend, and in particular PR blogs.  Phil Gomes has a passionate and thoughtful piece on PR and Blogs (well it’s actually about the Google acquistion of Blogger) and how our industry is addressing blogs.

He believes that as a profession we fundamentally ignore new developments because we inherently don’t like rocking the boat and anything that might require serious brain power (and displace perfectly profitable existing activities) is to be avoided.

I think Phil makes some very valid points.  I have always said that PR people’s opinions on technology are similar to how a cat views water.  It knows it needs it for survival but that doesn’t mean it likes it.

Some companies (of course Microsoft is one of them) are attempting to influence, inform and educate notable “bloggers” but it would be true to say that the majority of the profession either don’t know about them or are waiting to see what transpires. Blogs (and online communication) remain a “technology” thing.

During a recent PR course I took a straw poll of the attendees. I asked how many people had heard of “blogs”.  The answer? Zero.

I think we have some way to go, but that doesn’t change my view that blogging provides a fantastic example of how online communication requires some different techniques and tactics than traditional channels whilst still remaining true to the basics of good communication.


On a related-matter, Jeff Walsh has a great piece on Blogging and Journalism. It suggests (in a very well reasoned manner) that Blogging is not about Journalism.  It seems to me that we PR people are very attached to the journalism banner, and while it will remain a vitally important element of PR, let me ask you this: How are you communicating with your customers, staff, prospects, suppliers, partners etc. online?