Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for August 2003

Upbeat Tech PR story… natch

Also from G2BGroup a story in the Mercury News on the difficult environment for technology PR. Hey let’s look on the bright side at least it doesn’t have anyone talking about globalization!

“Before, if you could spell PR they wanted to see you,” said George Matthews, a recruiter for Career Consociates. “Now they want people whose r�m�are synonymous with the job description.” That sort of specificity has left a lot of people out of work.

Not unreasonable though is it?

Written by Tom Murphy

August 18, 2003 at 8:38 am

Posted in General

The importance of knowing your PR tools

We all know the Internet has created a host of new challenges in terms of how we communicate.  But sometimes we forget that technology that pre-dates the Internet can also cause us problems.

What about Microsoft Word for example?

The G2B Group points to a story in the New Scientist which reveals that an AT&T researcher has been able to take random Microsoft Word documents off the Internet and in a relatively straight forward process uncover deleted information and comments.

Of course that’s the hard way.

There’s a far more sinister mistake people often make in Word documents, which is forgetting to delete “Tracked Comments”.  Instead of removing them, users often just click the option to not show the comments on screen or in the printed document.

The problem is when that document is sent to someone, they can easily re-enable the comments.

Let me give you two examples.

In the past year I recieved a draft contract from a supplier in Microsoft Word document.  I checked the mark-ups – I do this as a matter of course now – and low and behold there were all the comments from people in the supplier’s company, including their negotiation strategy!

In a more public example, Alcatel published a press release in Microsoft Word format on their website which included a range of damaging internal comments. Read more about it here.

So, the AT&T research gives us another reason not to use Word documents in external collaborative projects.  Furthermore, you should never post Word documents online.  Use good ‘ole HTML which doesn’t include all this additional information.

The first thing I do when I get a Word document is to click on “Tools” “Track Changes” and then reveal any changes.  If you have to send a Word document, that should be the last thing you do before you hit send.  Either that or preferably send a Text or HTML document!

Written by Tom Murphy

August 18, 2003 at 8:19 am

Posted in General

The BBC Style Guide

The British Broadcasting Corporation is in my humble opinion the uncontested global king of quality broadcasting.

So when I found out they have published their style guide online I jumped to it.

Now allowing for local differences, namely the use of International English (and a section entitled “Americanisms”) it includes a wealth of tips and advice.

Worth the download.

Thanks to the ever wonderful I-PR mailing list for the link.

“One of the things that most exercises our listeners and viewers is our use of words and constructions which we are accused of slavishly copying from the United States.”

Written by Tom Murphy

August 15, 2003 at 9:08 am

Posted in General

SCO and the Nigerian 419 E-mail spoof

To put a smile on your face this Friday, have a read of the brilliant “SCO” version of the Nigerian 419.

Further proof (if it were needed) of the brilliance of the Internet!

Written by Tom Murphy

August 15, 2003 at 8:43 am

Posted in General

Maybe Blog Relations is closer to the mainstream than we thought…

Dear reader,

I hope your electricity is on.

It is human nature that when people are interested in a subject it becomes very important to them.  As a result they spend a lot of time thinking about the given subject and as a result they lose perspective.

This is why many bloggers have been going on about how blogs are now mainstream, when in fact, they are still in their infancy.

Any new technology goes through a series of well worn steps before it makes it into the mainstream.  After pioneers and early adopters, products then move into the wider market before finally “laggards” or late adopters take the plunge.

Blogs are a good case in point.  They’ve been adopted by the pioneers for two or three years now, and there are signs they are beginning to move into the wider market.  One sign of this movement has been the migration of politicians into blogging – “hey a place on web I can rant!”

Another sure sign that blogs are becoming accepted is negative press.

The New York Times has a piece questioning is the Internet over and uses blogs as an example. And the Register has a sharp look at the changing face of blogs.

The pioneers don’t like these pieces.

So are blogs mainstream? Not by the patented TM mainstream index they’re not. (e.g. my mother doesn’t have one 🙂 but they are maturing nicely.

I personally love the quote from ex-Presidential candidate, Gary Hart, who is blogging but says he doesn’t read other bloggers:

“If you’re James Joyce,” he said slyly, “you don’t read other authors.”

Written by Tom Murphy

August 15, 2003 at 8:31 am

Posted in General

Technology PR – Global, stagnant and depressing?

PR Week has released its 2003 Technology PR Report and it makes for some interesting reading.

The report is headed with doom and gloom.  Reduced sales and cut backs – that’s to be expected, but there are some more interesting angles in the report I’d like to address.

When the big PR firms began to really expand across the globe, when advertising groups started buying up PR firms, suddenly the message was that one global agency is the only way to go.

They tell us it will save costs, bring uniform reporting etc. etc.  In fact everyone should have one.

The quotes from the large agencies in the report underline this inevitable trend. In fact there is not one small agency quoted, not one rebuttal.  It’s accepted as fact that one global agency is the only way to go.

Eh. Excuse me?

I don’t pretend to be with world’s greatest PR practitioner.  I don’t have an intimate working knowledge of every PR sector, however I know quite a bit about global technology PR.  I have worked in both the in-house and the agency side of the fence on a global basis and I have the scars to show it. 

Nothing is that simple.

The success of any PR campaign is dependant on one thing and one thing only – People. This is where the “one global agency is the only way” argument falls down.

Successful global PR using one agency firstly depends on the client’s internal organization chart supporting that structure.

In companies where there is decentralization, you cannot successfully force unified Public Relations on your outposts for a prolonged period. Sure you can put it in place, but if the locals are restless and they have power they will make sure it fails.

Secondly, can these global agencies prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are the best agency with the best people in each local market? Or do you take on their local agency because it’s easier? I know I want my dollars being spent on the best, not the path of least resistance.

Global agencies do (or should) offer savings in terms of systems, uniform billing, knowledge managemet etc. but it’s not free. You are paying for it.

For some companies a global agency works very well, but contrary to what PR globalists will tell you, it is not the only way to do PR.  Furthermore I have yet to see a firm ROI study that evaluated the actual cost-benefit analysis of a global agency versus best of local breed with a client-side management function.

I sympathize with large agencies that want to get synergies from their large global presence.  But when that synergy is at the expese of recognizing that no firm is the leader in every market, when that synergy fails to acknowledge the fundamental importance of good people above everything else, then I shout stop.

I recognize that global agencies do work for many firms, just let’s not pretend it’s for everyone. It’s not. Ask to see their bruises.

This brings me to the next Red Herring (RIP) in the report. Consolidation.

“Oh the technology industry has consolidated we’re going to be left with a few big players.” Mmmm.  I think I heard this before. The last time was 1994 I think when the PC market for software was “dead”.

There is still a host of innovation taking place.  The Internet, wireless, person to person communication and open source is throwing up new opportunities every day.  There are thousands of new start-ups. Where’s the few players?

The nature of technology is change. That’s a reality.  If the market is stagnant where did Google and Salesforce.com to name but two, come from?

I think the point being made here is that there are few big players left.  That is, few large companies who will pay the large retainers for large firms. This is the flaw of excluding the medium and small sectors from an industry study like this.

The technology market is going through a difficult time, it is changing, but it’s not going anywhere for the moment.

One of the other major themes that comes from the report is the importance of PR focussing on the bottom line.  This I completely agree with.  We as a profession can be sometimes blamed for losing sight of the actual impact of our work on the health and success of our clients/employers. ROI is king, measurement is essential.

Now while the report talked about ROI, I was amused that in the same breath it was talking about branding.  I’m not sure branding and ROI are synonymous bedfellows. But let’s not get into that old branding chestnut just now.

I feel much better now.

Written by Tom Murphy

August 14, 2003 at 1:59 pm

Posted in General

Why SCO has no understanding of the PR implications of its actions

News is slow these hot long Summer days, as can be evidenced by my past few posts.

However, even sitting in the dark, cool shade, one PR mistake that just keeps growing is SCO’s lawsuit against Linux, IBM and the industry.  We first tackled this back in May.

Phil Gomes, a committed Linux user, points to an opinion piece on CNET that examines the implications of trying to tackle a “movement” rather than a product – in this case the movement is Linux.

It contrasts IBM’s concilitory approach to Linux with SCO’s flurry of Linux-related subpoenas.

It’s an interesting PR concept and not one necessarily tied to technology. 

Getting back to SCO, I think their agressive stance is illustrative of how you can lose the battle for public opinion. Their partners are already distancing themselves from the fall-out.  Witness Intel pulling out as a top sponsor of their user event.

Compete in the market, that’s what it’s there for.

Written by Tom Murphy

August 14, 2003 at 11:29 am

Posted in General

Golf and online journalism..

 Interesting look at PR around the PGA

 The Online Journalism Review has a lot of interesting articles on how journalists are using and adopting to the new Internet tools:

Written by Tom Murphy

August 14, 2003 at 11:03 am

Posted in General

Another Microsoft product bites the big one

Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would cease regular updates of Internet Explorer for Windows and cease development for the Mac version entirely is a silly move.

Now Internet Explorer for Windows, will only be updated with new versions of Windows. This is obviously a vain attempt at adding value to new Windows releases and therefore buttress declining growth in Windows sales.  But from a marketing perspective this is very strange. Internet Explorer is already lagging way behind new browsers like Mozilla and Firebird (my favorite), it doesn’t make much sense (unless you have a market completely dominated..).

Now Microsoft is ceasing all development on Outlook Express, arguably the world’s most popular e-mail client. If you’re using Windows, maybe you should look at Eudora again!

Written by Tom Murphy

August 14, 2003 at 7:23 am

Posted in General

Kind of off topic: Finding your corporate alumni

Sean Gallagher points to a fascinating new online database which trawls the Internet and builds profiles of people based on websites, press releases, SEC filings etc.

The Eliyon Corporate Alumni database is currently in beta test and while it’s not perfect, it’s very very interesting.

Search for a company you worked in and it returns people known to have worked there and where else they have worked. All based on data it’s spidered across the web.

It has the potential to waste hours of productive time.

Written by Tom Murphy

August 13, 2003 at 9:44 am

Posted in General