Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for February 2004

Some sane PR people…

At last some sane (in my opinion) commentary on the whole Super Bowl nonsense courtesy of the Lansing State Journal in Michigan.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 23, 2004 at 12:52 pm

Posted in General

Are press releases spam?

Stuart Bruce has been writing about a potential client in Europe.  The client’s legal people have challenged him that since he sends press releases electronically, it could be construed as marketing materials and therefore spam.

Whilst I personally believe press releases can’t be classified as spam (though if I were a journalist receiving 400 such e-mails a day I might have a different opinion) I think we should all take ethical steps to ensure we protect ourselves from any such charges.

Based on the recent CAN-SPAM legislation in the United States, I have added the following information to the end of our e-mailed press releases:

Company Name
Address, State, Zip

Please Note:
You are currently subscribed to “Company’s” PR newsfeed as
firstname.lastname@domain.com, if you would like to be removed from this list please send an e-mail to pr@companyname.com with “Unsubscribe” in the subject line. Thank You.

Of course anyone who wants to unsubscribe is dealt with immediately and notified as such.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 20, 2004 at 9:00 am

Posted in General

Why we must embrace the changing PR world

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”

Livy, (Roman Historian)

As I posted yesterday, the Internet has had significant change on how every PR practitioner achieves their professional objectives.

Last week I was cleaning up my office when I happened upon my first business card.  Examining it, it looked very bare and simple, then I realized why.  There was no e-mail address, no mobile phone number, no web address.  It was just a name, title, address, phone and fax number.

In the past decade we have adopted to e-mail, web sites, discussion boards, instant messaging, reality TV and a host of other innovations that impact our daily lives.

More importantly from a PR perspective, we now live in an environment where good communication is more important than ever before.  It’s a world where organizations communicate directly with their audience every day and it provides PR with great opportunities.

However, as a profession we often seem to yearn for the days when things were more simple.  We often seem to fear change.

Tough.

Public Relations is about communicating with audiences.  Your job is to understand how to reach those audiences, how to deliver information to those audiences in a format that they find acceptable.  We’re not just talking about the media here. PR is about good communication to every audience, that includes customers, partners, staff, suppliers etc.

If you are not trying to reach and communicate with the relevant audiences for your organization or client, then in my humble opinion you’re not doing you job.

This post was prompted by a link provided by Constantin Basturea to a posting by Robert Scoble the Microsoft blogger. Scoble is a speaker at the Demo 2004, which is a (expensive) showcase for demonstrating new technologies.

He mentions that:

“… one of the industry’s top PR pros came up to me after I was on the panel and she said “bloggers scare the heck out of me.” Wrong way to look at it. PR is all about relationships, right? I’m sure she charges a lot of money because he knows the secret to getting five minutes with Walt Mossberg for her client, right? Well, yes, blogs can certainly mess up a good PR plan. Or, are blogs the new PR? I now have a stack of business cards from the world’s most powerful tech journalists and the biggest VC firms. It’ll be interesting to see how blogs change the work that PR professionals do.”

Blogging is not exactly a highly technical, specialized skill.  Blogging is simple web page publishing.

Why would a PR person fear blogs? Here’s a theory.

We have been trained in managing communications.  Typically, though not always, that communication is aimed at our audience through an intermediary.

That is still a valid model today.  After all the media remain a vital constituent of our practice.  However, increasingly PR people have to understand how to communicate with an audience directly. A lot of practitioners have a fear of that.

Blogging is an opportunity for Public Relations, not a threat.

Blogging provides a unique means of providing your audience with the human face of your organization. Your customers can read the actual thoughts and opinions of your staff. On the flip side, consumers increasingly want to see the human side of your organization, beyond the corporate speak.

If you don’t believe it, try it. Host a corporate blog. It works and you’ll be amazed at the positive feedback you’ll get.

The other side of the blogging movement is of course the thousands of independent people who provide their views on events and news. As these individuals garner an audience that is relevant to your company, then your job is to communicate with them.

As Livy wisely states, the more ignorant we are of something the more afraid we are of it.  Understand the changing balance of PR communication, embrace the change and get rid of the fear.

It’s your job.

PS: Why not share your opinions on the changing face of PR in our survey.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 19, 2004 at 8:33 am

Posted in General

More social networking…

Just in case you weren’t already confused with the existing array of online social networking choices, Always On (which was founded by Tony Perkins of Red Herring fame) has launched its own social networking environment.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 18, 2004 at 3:19 pm

Posted in General

PR on the Internet….where are we now?

The Institute for Public Relations has released a “Primer for Internet Audience Measurement“.

It’s a well timed piece of research which provides an introduction to the various means of online website measurement from hits, to unique visitors and page views. 

If you’re experienced in measuring website traffic there isn’t a huge amount of new advice here but it is a good introduction and includes an interesting comparison of the metrics used online and in traditional media.

The reason I believe it’s well timed is that the Internet has now been a popular medium for about ten years.  I know many of you have been using it longer than that and while it could be argued the launch of Windows 95 really sparked the Internet’s incredible growth, 1994 was probably the year the Internet began to move from the academia and engineers to the public at large.

So from a Public Relations standpoint where are we?

The Internet creates an environment where crises breed at a far faster rate than in the real world.  Any perceived control we had over information is gone.  Any e-mail communication is open to the world either through leaks which occur every day or disclosure in legal process. This universal disclosure is coupled with instantaneous information delivery practically anywhere on the planet. Geographic boundaries are increasingly meaningless.

Furthermore people have never had a better opportunity to share their thoughts, both positive and negative about your organization.  Newsgroups, consumer websites and mailing lists have all democratised opinion. The new arrival of weblogs has further complicated the picture.

People no longer accept “corporate-speak”, they don’t want formulaic answers, they want organizations to talk to them as individuals, to treat them as individuals.

On the plus side, the ready availability of a corporate presence online provides a unique opportunity for organizations to engage with their audiences – of course many decide not to do so. Recent research found that in times of crisis, consumers visit the organization involved as a primary source of information.

We now have tools that enable us to reach audiences at a fraction of the time and cost of our historic tactics. When you couple this reach with the Internet’s ability to offer cost-effective measurement it opens up a new era of accountability for PR. If we have the time.

The 1950’s comic books that forecast that we’d all be lounging around today letting the computers do all the work were all wide of the mark.  The advent of the Internet, e-mail etc. has made certain tasks such as research faster and easier, but overall we are working harder and longer today than in the pre-Internet era.

Another trend is the connections betwen like minded individuals.  Special interest groups can be quickly created online posing a range of challenges and opportunities for PR professionals. Furthermore, while the early stars of the Internet were global websites, there is now a growing trend among consumers of looking for local content, news and information.

The Internet has completely conquered certain markets.  The technology business, as you would expect, now runs over the Internet.  For most technology companies the majority of sales leads are now captured online and only supplemented with traditional activities such as trade shows and sales calls.  Other markets such as travel and books have seen similar growth .  However, it would be misleading to say everything has moved online.

For example, people still like shopping locally and in many cases phenomena that have grabbed the Internet’s attention have failed to have a similar affect of the attention of Main Street USA.  The most obvious recent example is the Howard Dean campaign.  The Dean organization did a fantastic job of reaching out and mobilising the online community, finding cash online and exploding to the top of every pre-Caucus opinion poll.  However, as soon as the campaign moved into the real world, the wheels came off the wagon.  Dean went from the Democratic mover to the Democratic loser in less than two weeks. The Internet, it seems, doesn’t mirror the offline world in every respect. We must be careful to balance the two.

Finally, the Internet is alive.  Unlike, for example the Print media, where the major innovations in one hundred years were better distribution, lower cost production, color and the introduction of the tabloid format, the Internet is constantly in flux. New tools and practices are emerging all the time.  Whilst e-mail will remain a major form of communication once we have solved the problem of spam, new technologies such as weblogs, RSS, Atom etc. are being created every day which directly impact how you reach your audience.

So the Internet isn’t a fixed target.  It’s useful, it’s hard work and for most industries it is only one of many audiences.

After ten years of PR on the Internet, a useful summary might be, in the words of the Irish Prime Minister..”a lot done, more to do”.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 18, 2004 at 10:43 am

Posted in General

New PR Blog

Marc Snyder has started a new PR blog, you can read it here.

Meanwhile Trevor Cook has moved his weblog to Typepad.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 18, 2004 at 8:17 am

Posted in General

PR Survey Reminder…

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to complete the first PR Opinions PR survey.

If you haven’t given us your thoughts, why not stop by today, it’ll only take a few minutes.

Full results will be published here next week.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 17, 2004 at 5:41 pm

Posted in General

PR and Contact Management

Brian Carroll hosts the B2B Lead Generation Blog which deals with matters surrounding the challenging task of feeding the sales force.

He has recently been discussing the problems with bad lead information and the fact that it’s estimated that 20% of contact information changes annually.

We rarely discuss the more mundane parts of the PR Process, but database or contact management today is a bigger challenge for PR professionals than ever before.

Certainly in my day to day existence I have to track more contacts and preferences than ever before. Services like Vocus and MediaMap provide a useful source of contact data but the sheer numbers of media mean that it’s still a major job to keep up to date.  And of course we all know the dreaded bounced e-mail syndrome after your latest press release.

The phrase that best sums up the contact management process is “garbage-in, garbage-out”.

We host our own internal database of contacts and contact information which we supplement with MediaMap. I don’t use MediaMap’s own contact management features because I prefer hosting my data locally. Contact management is a big and important job.

How do you track your contacts? Any tips you want to share?

Written by Tom Murphy

February 17, 2004 at 9:17 am

Posted in General

Moving to PR Education

Richard Bailey was one of the first PR bloggers and it’s now a year since he moved from the practice side of the business to academia in the UK’s Leeds Metropolitan University. 

He critiques his first year in PR education.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 17, 2004 at 8:58 am

Posted in General

The case for nuts and monkeys…

The Chicago Sun-Times has published a news story that takes three facts and tries to weave them into a sensational story. 

  • Fact number one, Edelman makes political contributions in Illinois.
  • Fact number two, Edelman was recently re-awarded the Tourism account for Illinois
  • Fact number three Edelman wasn’t the cheapest PR firm on the tender.

The headline reads:

“Chicago PR firm wasn’t low bidder, but got state deal”

The opening line reads:

“A Chicago public relations firm that has contributed $32,600 to Gov. Blagojevich was awarded a new multimillion-dollar state contract even though it wasn’t the lowest bidder.”

So, Edelman, like most corporations of any size make political donations (that are on the State records) and the fact that they have won a re-pitch of an existing client is that big a deal?

Give me a break, I’ve no connections to Edelman, but I think that’s sensationalim at its worst.

A call to any PR agency in North America (or 98% of them) and the journalist would have discovered that PR services don’t equate to paperclips. Service and performance outstrip cost in relative terms for clients every time.

Look out for the next big story in Chicago:

“PR Firm wasn’t the biggest consumer of Big Macs, but got McDonalds account.”

or

“PR Firm bought $20,000 of computer equipment from IBM, and got the PR account.”

My final thought on this is, that if it only costs $32K to, as the journalist is trying to insinuate, buy a tender process that has already garnered $12.2 million why aren’t we all doing it?

Give them a break, Jeezzzz…

Written by Tom Murphy

February 16, 2004 at 2:50 pm

Posted in General