The PR Opinions Review of 2003 (Part Two)

This is the second part of our subjective review of the PR year.  The third and final part will be published on Friday, January 2, 2004.

In the meantime:

Happy New Year!



 The British Medical Journal (in what is the first of a number of such criticisms) raises a question mark over the role of PR firms in the healthcare industry

 A US court finds that PR professionals have an inherent attorney-client privilege that protects their clients

 Mediamap adds bloggers to it’s database of journalists and analysts.

 Embattled Martha Stewart hits back with a new website, ads in USA today and her attorney handling her PR – didn’t they do a good job… natch. Kevin Dugan’s blog has been covering Martha’s fight in some detail. 

 Research suggests that trade magazines are faring poorly in the current economic slump.

 PR Opinions provides a primer on Blog Relations.

 One of the year’s most entertaining corporate battles, between Oracle and Peoplesoft moves into full swing in June providing an interesting PR case study.

 As the number of blogs increase, the issues surrounding how you manage an employee’s blog become more defined.  Corporate blogging policies may provide an answer.

 And in the fight against buzz words, a new Microsoft Word utility, Bullfighter aims to help cut through the hype.

 PR’s role in managing corporate reputation online comes under the microscope.

 In some good news, research finds that PR is the most effective means of driving potential customers to your website.

 Poor Lizzie Grubman, the erstwhile PR jailbird agrees to give a course on PR for $49. Reports on her course are mixed.

 And in June we found out that Comical Ali is alive and well and planning a book… democracy has clearly come to Iraq.



 Some more advice on the mystery of Blog Relations.

 David Strom of VAR Business takes some time to share some common sense advice on media relations. Meanwhile we’ve some other sensible media interview tips.

 A new XML Standard for the Public Relations sector has been created.

 The management team at Financial Dynamics execute an MBO for ï¿½26 million

 Microsoft PowerPoint gets another kicking, this time from the New Yorker.

 AMD commits a PR faux pas by accidentally sending the entire press release plan for the rest of the year to selected reporters. It’ll certainly make any exclusives a little harder to set up.

 Mike Vizard over at CRN explains how he sees RSS taking off.

 Some more tips on dealing with those pesky bloggers:

“Preparation and thought are two much ignored parts of PR.  Think about what you are doing.  If you think you’ll help your client by whacking out a press release to a few bloggers along with your usual suspects.  Think again.”

More on blog relations.

 Jim Horton published an excellent article on Objectivity in PR

 Finally, the Oracle-Peoplesoft Quote War:

“It’s like me asking if I could buy your dog so I can go out back and shoot it.” – Craig Conway, CEO, Peoplesoft

In response Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison quipped:

“I think at one point, `Craigey’ thought I was going to shoot his dog,” Ellison said. “If Craigey and Bear were standing next to each other and I had one bullet, trust me, it wouldn’t be for the dog.”



 Has spam killed E-mail? Lockergnome’s Chris Pirillo thinks so. We’re not so sure.

 Google launches news alerts.. a poor man’s clipping service.. maybe not.

 Interested in best practice blog relations? We have some pointers here and here.

 PR Week published its 2003 Global Technology PR Report. It’s all about globalization seemingly. I don’t think so…

 The BBC released their excellent style guide.

 PR Opinions publishes its beginner’s guide to RSS.

 Meanwhile MarketingWonk unleased their spleen on the shortcomings of PR. We fought back weakly and then lost the will to live.

 According to the Media Reputation Index the top three organizations in the US are:

1.  The Walt Disney Company
2.  Microsoft
3.  Intel

 Mitch Wagner wasn’t very happy with PR people in August and he made his feelings very clear. It’s recommended reading and provides useful feedback.

The PR Opinions Review of 2003 (Part One)

A very subjective review of the year…


 PR Week published the aggregated wisdom of a wide number of practitioners on what they believed were the key challenges for 2003, these included: 

  • Better understanding clients’ pain
  • Ethics and accountability
  • Getting clients to pay for value
  • Diversity
  • Shrinking budgets
  • Managing public scrutiny
  • Working with alternative media
  • Demonstrating PR’s deliverables
  • Demonstrating value
  • ‘Relevant’ media relations
  • Strategic counsel
  • Credibility and ethics

Looks like most of those can carry over to 2004!

 The Internet’s burn out reached it’s lowest ebb in January with a tongue-in-cheek auction on EBay for ZDNET�s entire Editorial Staff

 The economic climate was also reflected in the industry analyst business with Forrester acquiring Giga.

 2003 was a very bad year for Microsoft PowerPoint.  There was a lot of negative comment on the preponderance of presenters reading their slides. Read more here, here and of course the Gettysberg Address in PowerPoint!

 Starting in January and continuing throughout the year was the discussion on how the Internet is affecting journalism (and indirectly Press Relations).  There were a wide range of topics from how Blogs won�t change journalism to broader opinions on how the interactive nature of the Internet does offer some benefits.



 In the first big PR mishap of 2003, Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky, a New York-based PR firm, e-mailed confidential client documents to journalists thanks to a virus (and ineffective anti-virus protection)

 Google’s profile reached new highs in 2003, the Boston Globe had a fantastic feature on the company and how its Search Engine is changing online habits. Meanwhile Google snapped up Blogger and was rated the Internet’s #1 brand.

 The discussion on how PR intersects with blogging also kicked off.

 On the agency front, Burson Marsteller made the bold move into telemarketing, while other agencies offered free PR.

 The Blogging versus Journalism discussion continued, PR Opinions comes down on the side of reason…



 In March, the venerable Silicon Valley bible, Red Herring finally closed its doors.

 The role of Public Relations in helping organizations with their Search Engine marketing began to gather some momentum.

 Dr. Pepper’s farcial Raging Cow blog stunt hit the headlines, while Puma fought a losing battle with a whole range of bloggers about some “fake” Puma adverts that were winging their way from blog to blog.

 And there was some good PR news in March!  PR Websites are actually improving!

 Finally, we had our first sighting of how RSS might help PR.

“The last part is having passion about what you do. If you’re an entrepreneur, they are passionate because it’s their lives. I went into another meeting where I spoke, and this woman raised her hand and said, “We’re salespeople. Can’t we fake passion?” My response was, “No. You can fake interest, but you can’t fake passion.” Richard Laermer, co-author of Full Frontal PR in an interview with EMarketer.



 There was only one headline event in April.  The War in Iraq.  PR was never far from the headlines. And of course the War gave us the PR “Character” of the Year…. Comical Ali.

 Meanwhile Nokia showed Puma the correct means of dealing with viral online issues.

 My biggest rant of the year occurred in April, when John Karastamatis stepped over the line in lampooning our poor misunderstood profession.

 It was also the month of the funniest PR satire of 2003 with Atlantic Monthly’s short story on the PR campaign for an American Pope.  And the New York Post offered an Eight Step Program for cleaning up PR’s image.

 On the book front, the enjoyable “The Devil Wears Prada” offered an alleged inside look at the Fashion publishing business.

 CNN unveiled an innovative new service: Obituaries for the living

 Finally, Corporate Blogs were being hailed as a new channel for communicating with diverse audiences.

“A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way.” John Tudor.



 May was the month that Jayson Blair became a household name and the New York Times showed that it’s not bad at its own PR.

 In Australia, Pan Pharmaceuticals showed the danger of ignoring the lessons of the past by making a bad crisis a lot worse…

 Microsoft had it’s own problems with the iLoo while SCO kicked off the greatest PR own goal of the year.

 There were more thoughts on how PR can work with Search Engine marketing and news that a large corporation thinks the best way to address negative media comment is to exclude those media from future announcements…. ahem

 The Blogging and Journalism discussion continued… and the world’s first blogumentary appeared.

 A survey of 700 Business-to-Business marketers found that E-mail marketing to an in-house list (45%), Public Relations (36%) and Postal mail to an in-house list (28%) were the most successful marketing tactics.

 This success didn’t reflect on the salaries of PR practitioners needless to say.  While the salaries of finance and corporate PR practitioners were up, the technology and public affairs practitioners took a 10% percent dive.

 PowerPoint continued to be pasted..’scuse the pun..

“Arthur hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realised there was a contradiction there and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.” Douglas Adams, whose anniversary occured during May.

PR Trends for 2004….


1. Unfortunately I think that PR’s profile will continue to be attacked in 2004 as it has for much of the past decade! (Find out for yourself how much the profession hasn�t changed in the past twelve years).


2. PR agency spending will re-bound slightly in 2004.


3. As PR spending recovers look out for more selective PR agency acquisitions in 2004 to follow the likes of Applied Communications.


4. With the volume of spam still rising, RSS will continue to proliferate as a means of communicating with journalists, analysts, staff, customers, partners and communities, it may even begin to break outside the technology business � though it�s a couple of years away from mainstream.  Also, PR people will increasingly use RSS throughout 2004 to monitor what�s going on in their clients� markets.


5. Look out for blogs and weblogs to move beyond the technology business into other business-to-business and consumer markets � more targets for you to track.


6. Your favorite magazines will begin to swell again as Advertising spend begins to recover.


7. However, staffers will continue to be overworked as publications refuse to spend until absolutely necessary.  All the more reason to keep tight tabs on the freelancers in your market � they�ll be busier this year than at any time since the dot bomb.


8. Consumers will continue to become more sophisticated, which translates into more work for PR.  They�ll use multiple sources for decision making and that means you�ll have to work with multiple sources to help your clients make sales.


9. 2004 will be a time when online measurement becomes commonplace and affordable � track the success of your tactics in real-time.


10. The next twelve months will demand a host of new skills from PR practitioners � search engine optimization for one will be an increasingly important skill.  Also don�t forget you own communications, make sure you are involved in how your clients can effectively communication across all media from press releases to web sites�


Any trends you’d like to add?

New Year's Resolution: Bad Grammar

One common theme that permeates most conversations I have with PR people these days is the decline in grammar and punctuation.

If you are one of those who bemoan the continuing failure of good grammar, then I have the perfect book for you.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves takes an amusing look at the growing problem of poor punctuation and I highly recommend it. It has been one of the surprise hits of the Christmas period in the UK.

To illustrate its style here’s the “fable” of how the book got its title:

A panda goes into a bar, orders a sandwich, fires a gun and heads for the door. Why did he do that? The barman calls after him. The panda tosses him a badly punctuated wildlife manual. “I’m a panda,” he says. “Look me up.” The barman finds the relevant page, which says, “Panda. Large black-and-white, bearlike mammal native of China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

It’s not available on but you can order it from  You could do worse than mandate it as required reading for all your colleagues!

It's oh so quiet….

Well the Christmas Season is upon us and wow is it quiet.

There’s very little going on out there and I myself am signing off for the Yuletide today (at least until Monday).

But in case you’re stuck in the office here’s a few morsels to keep you going….

Network World looks at RSS (c’mon it’s been aaaages since I wrote about RSS) as a cheap media monitoring tool.

Now I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this story, I mean you get what you spend for and RSS isn’t going to solve your media monitoring needs for the simple fact that you have to manually subscribe to feeds – and more importantly the majority of outlets still don’t provide them, however, it’s a really interesting application. RSS is one to look out for in 2004 – but I guess I would say that.

 Following on from The Age’s piece on PRSlate has weighed in on the debate on the role of Public Relations in the drug industry. Kick the dog.

Well that’s it until the full excesses of the Season have been sampled and enjoyed. I’ll be back before the New Year and I guess like any opinionated blogger I’ll have to come up with some predictions….


The top then PR gaffes of 2003

It’s that time of the year again.  Lists, forecasts and reports on the year gone by and what to expect in the coming twelve months.

Fineman PR has published its ninth annual list of what they consider to be the ten top PR gaffes of 2003:

1. Fox News

2. The Pentagon

3. Dennis Kozlowski

4. Michael Jackson

5. The Dixie Chicks

6. American Airlines

7. Kentucky Fried Chicken

8. The Ghettopoly Game

9. Richard Grasso at the New York Stock Exchange

10. Verisign

You can read more detail on the PR Newswire link above.

[As an aside you may have noticed I haven’t included a link to Fineman PR.  Well that’s because there’s not much point.  For some undisclosed reason they don’t publish their annual list (or keep an archive) on their website.  I’m sure this decision was based on the premise of not offending past, present or potential clients but it seems like a terrible waste of a good online marketing opportunity to me.]

Update: Euro RSCG have also released their annual trend forecast.  They expect more activities based on location (ie. trend towards anti-globalization), blogging to continue it’s growth and a greater focus on yourself! [Thanks to Elizabeth for the link]

The underside of marketing…

While Australia’s The Age is “exposing” what they consider to be shady practices in the healthcare marketing sector, it pales into insignificance when compared to the tobacco industry.

A new website, Tobacco Papers provides an online repository of UK Tobacco companies’ marketing plans and reports through the 1990’s.

It makes for fascinating reading.  A summary report on these documents entitled “Keep Smiling, No one is going to die” is available for download.

The title was taken from the closing lines of a document written by an Ad agency to its tobacco client… nice.