Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for June 2004

Blog Relations and cannabilism…

Good business practice teaches us that if you don’t cannibalize your own products, someone else will do it for you. It may be hard, it may be unpleasant but it will do you good in the long term.

The same adage can be added to the world of marketing services.  If PR professionals don’t step up to the plate on understanding how the new online tools can (and just as importantly can’t) help your organization or client, then there’s a host of other marketing folks only too delighted to pick up the slack.

There’s a whole range of candidates for consideration here. Think about websites, search engine optimization and of course weblogs. All these tools are involved in communication, yet how many PR professionals drive these disciplines in their organizations? Very few I’d wager.

Angelo Fernando, author of the Hoi Polloi blog recently attended the IABC conference in Los Angeles and was surprised that Microsoft PR director Janice Kaplan talked about a whole range of online communication tools but ignored blogs.

“So I asked her if the several bloggers at Microsoft –with or without corporate approval– frustrate the PR role, or add more slings to her bow. She replied that for the moment, they are watching what bloggers can do, but have no immediate plans to incorporate blogging into their strategy. I am not so surprised, considering how Microsoft ignored the Web phenomenon for quite some time.”

Now Microsoft is a large organization but it is a little surprising that their PR folks are so reticent about blogs, particularly as we know that Microsoft already undertakes quite a bit of blog relations.

In addition to the 400 or so Microsoft employee blogs, the company has kicked off the Channel 9 blog for developers, and over two years ago, Microsoft was already targeting influential bloggers, pre-briefing them on new products and bringing them to Redmond for exclusive briefings with executives.

Of course it obviously wasn’t the Microsoft PR guys, it was the product marketing folks.

When your marketing people have a two year head start it can be difficult to catch up. Be warned….

Footnote:

Jim Horton looks at how Stonyfield Farm, an organic yoghurt firm, is using blogs to communicate with its customers. (The only downside is all the Flash on the site!)

Written by Tom Murphy

June 9, 2004 at 9:26 am

Posted in General

Spam helps your health and your wallet

EMarketer covers a report that found almost 80% of Spam in April was for “healthcare” (I guess you could call this the promotion of hard drugs (ahem)) and “financial services” and poor old porn has slipped from 22% in January to 4.8% in April.

EMarketer also covers a report from Nucleus research that estimates Spam will cost $2,000 per employee in lost productivity this year.

Spam continues to reduce the effectiveness of e-mail, how long before governments take action? CAN SPAM has only proved that legislation alone won’t stop the problem.

Written by Tom Murphy

June 9, 2004 at 8:57 am

Posted in General

RSS and Public Relations….

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is getting a lot of attention once again, this time it seems to be stimulated by the Wall St. Journal’s interest in it. (Aside: It’s interesting how the traditional media outlets continue to drive much of the blogosphere)

PR Opinions was in danger of becoming RSS Opinions last year, but I’ve weaned myself off promoting RSS on a daily basis and instead I am focussing on boring the pants off people face-to-face.

RSS is a typical technology sale.  When you try and explain it to a normal person you can see they begin to lose the will to live.  But when you sit them at a computer and show them how RSS can:

1) Save a huge amount of time monitoring hundreds of websites

2) Provide a low-cost mechanism of publishing content which people can subscribe to

Well then RSS becomes far more interesting.

The Online Journalism Review has an interesting article on the pro’s and con’s of RSS which is worth a read. 

The simple fact about RSS is that it is becoming a useful mechanism for reading and publishing content online.  It means that publishers can cut through the spam filter directly to their readers as long as their content is relevant and well written.  Furthermore, publishers can attract people to leave their RSS Readers to go directly to the source website with a little intelligence.

The downside of RSS is that there is still no means of measuring it’s success.  You can’t easily find out how many people are subcribed or how many unique individuals read your feed. In a world of online measurement that is a serious problem.

Steve Rubel had a conversation with the RSS’ daddy Dave Winer earlier this week.  Dave believes the users should take over RSS and I agree with him.  The emergence of a rival standard “ATOM” has created nothing but confusion and hopefully Google will see the light and fall back to the RSS camp.

RSS is still in its infancy, but it’s incredibly useful. The best way to understand it is to get your hands dirty and use it. Cape Clear has been offering RSS feeds for our news and site updates for quite some time and we’re seeing a lot of growth in the traffic numbers – though I can’t give you specifics!

RSS for Public Relations means increased efficiency and timeliness in monitoring news and opinions. It also provides an alternate channel for communicating directly with your audience. And it’s (relatively) free. What are you waiting for?

Dan Gillmor wrote last year:

“I wish public-relations people would get with the program, too. If they’d only start creating RSS feeds of releases, journalists and the public at large could see the material they want, and the PR industry would be able to stop blasting huge amounts of e-mail to people whose inboxes are already over-cluttered. Of course, there will continue to be a use for e-mail in PR, but the volume could be cut substantially.” 

Here’s a tutorial I wrote last year on setting up an RSS Reader for the uninitiated – give it a whirl.

Footnote:

Thanks to Darren Barefoot for the link to the OJR article.

Computerworld’s Quick Study on RSS.

Wired on RSS and how it fights Information Overload.

eContent Magazine: Can RSS Reduce Information Overload?

Kevin Dugan evangelizing RSS with PRNewswire’s Media Insider. 

PR Opinions: Why RSS is good enough for PR.

PR Opinions: RSS and Public Relations Redux

Written by Tom Murphy

June 9, 2004 at 8:32 am

Posted in General

Emerging from a personal crisis…

Lizzie Grubman is a very successful publicist who came to national prominence when she mowed down a line of people waiting to get into a nightclub in the Hamptons and then drove off.

Lizzie has been the subject of many postings here at PR Opinions (Post 73, Post 616, Post 646, Post 683) and now it looks as though she is successfully emerging from her personal crisis. Fair play to her.

Here’s a recent ABC interview with Lizzie.

“I can give really good advice to my clients when they go through really bad experiences and when they need crisis management. I was there, and they come to me because they know I can relate to their problems. When someone gets in trouble or something bad goes on in their life, I get a lot of calls, and a lot of new clients because of that.”

Footnote:

Thanks to Jeremy Pepper (who has confessed to a school-boy crush on Lizzie) for the link!

Written by Tom Murphy

June 8, 2004 at 10:03 am

Posted in General

The best PR blogs…

MarketingSherpa’s Blog Awards have been announced.

The winner of the best PR blog, as voted by MarketingSherpa readers, is Colin McKay’s CanuckFlack.

Runner up in the best PR blog category was Robb Hecht’s ever present PR Machine.

Kevin Dugan’s Strategic Public Relations was chosen as the Reader’s Top Blog.

Well done to all the winners, the awards are well deserved.

Written by Tom Murphy

June 8, 2004 at 9:13 am

Posted in General

Privacy violation.. another potential PR disaster.

Alice Marshall over at Technoflak predicts that privacy violations will constitute a major part of future crises.  I think she’s right, as more information moves into a digital format then there will be more breaches.

Of course there have already been a number of the issues, from software companies tracking users’ PC usage to online stores having their credit card records hacked.

No doubt more will follow.

Written by Tom Murphy

June 6, 2004 at 9:20 pm

Posted in General

E-mail facing the middle age spread…

Love it or loath it, most of us spend a large proportion of our working days in our chosen e-mail application. 

Whether it’s writing or reading e-mails or searching in vain for that e-mail from someone which had that data that you knew would be useful at a later point so you carefully filed it away and now your folder system isn’t quite as effective as you thought it was (big breath!).

Wired has an interesting report on the Inbox e-mail conference which is currently taking place.  They point out that e-mail is practically unchanged in thirty years and unless there are some radical changes it’s going to implode.

They quote Google’s forthcoming GMail service as an example of some innovation.  Wouldn’t we all love the power of a Google search in our e-mail. I can’t wait until Google ship a product for my documents and my e-mail.

“E-mail technology has remained virtually unchanged since it was first developed in the early 1970s. But as more and more individuals and businesses have begun to rely on their inboxes to manage important documents — and as marketers have begun to fill those inboxes with spam — the system has begun to show signs of stress.”

Written by Tom Murphy

June 3, 2004 at 5:57 pm

Posted in General

Removing the stigma of PR measurement..

Mark Weiner, CEO of PR measurement firm Delahaye Medialink penned an article (PDF) in the January-February issue of the IABC’s Communication World on the use of Six Sigma techniques to improve PR activties and their return.

Six Sigma is quite complex, but in essence it is a method for identifying defects in a process and thereby helping you to remove those defects to create more effective processes.

Mark includes a case study of how GE used this approach to measure their PR efforts.

“Essentially, the purpose of Six Sigma is to gain breakthrough knowledge on how to improve processes to do things better, faster and at lower cost.”

Footnote:

Thanks to John Porcaro for the link.

Written by Tom Murphy

June 2, 2004 at 10:37 am

Posted in General

That gorilla marketing is very effective…

Guerilla marketing could be defined as marketing programs that attempt to achieve successful outcomes through using innovative, non-traditional tactics that attempt to encourage “buzz” or word of mouth communication.

It became a hugely popular pursuit towards the end of the 1990’s to the present day, though the vast majority of “guerilla” marketing could be filed in the “what were they thinking category” from beautiful people using mobile phones to artwork on the pavement.

Of course clever guerilla marketing can be tremendously effective, but like most marketing disciplines, the greater the volume, the lower the quality and the less effective they become.

A colleague, commenting on my recent post about JBoss and their attempts to promote their products anonymously on message boards, pointed out that such ham fisted attempts at Guerilla marketing should really be called “Gorilla Marketing” because of its unimaginative fumbling efforts at creating buzz (a term I’m not hugely fond of).

That got me thinking and I am delighted to announce that JBoss is the first winner of the sporadic “PR Opinions Gorilla Marketing Award”.

All nominations welcome.

 

Written by Tom Murphy

June 2, 2004 at 9:46 am

Posted in General

Are Blogs replacing journalism as we know it? Nah…

Steve Rubel points to an article written by Scot Petersen, News Editor at eWEEK on blogging and journalism.

I wish there were plants as hardy as this old chestnut. If there were, gardening would be a far simpler pursuit.

My views on this “conundrum” surrounding blogs and journalism are well documented on this blog, but indulge me while I revisit the topic one more time.

I personally don’t believe that blogs are a replacement for journalism.  I’m wary of claims that there is widespread disenchantment with mainstream journalism.  There is some, I’ll grant you that. But I think that the people with strongest feelings against journalism are the same people who have a distinct agenda that doesn’t mirror that of the editorial writers.

That’s all good right and true. Each to their own. But it doesn’t add up to the end of journalism as we know it.

Let’s look at Public Relations by way of illustration.

On the top right hand side of this weblog there are over thirty PR-related weblogs.

Each of these weblogs offer a slightly different take on Public Relations.  Each includes insights into the personal views of its author and each is an amatuer effort at publishing PR-related links and content.

Are the PR blogs good?

Absolutely, I read every single one of them.

Do they remove the need for O’Dwyers or PR Week?

Nope.

Those magazines are professional publishers, with wide resources and huge readerships that do a great job covering the PR business at large. If you want to keep up to date on everything that’s happening in the business, you should be reading them.

The PR blogs bring additional, and very valuable, insights into the profession.  They act as online repositories of information, views and links to PR-related content.

But they don’t replace the professionals, they supplement them.

There are also a growing number of “professional blogs” such as MarketingVox which have a team of people bringing together loads of marketing content and opinions in a weblog format. But I don’t consider these sites as blogs, they are online marketing news sites. Their competition is AdWeek etc. and they provide a valuable online alternative.

But for me personally, a blog is about individuals writing and linking information that is of interest to them and their readers. 

When you begin to put procedures, house style and agreed publishing practices in place, which you need to do in a collaborative publishing process, then you are moving down the road to journalism.

There are millions of blogs. Some will survive, many will die and many new ones will emerge.  They present alternative views and content which is very valuable.  But although I read them, I still read my magazines, my newspapers and listen to the radio.

We always rush to the new shiny object in the full expectation that it will replace what went before, but history teaches us that such dramatic shifts are rare.  Usually these new shiny objects represent a subtle shift, a supplemental change.

If journalism takes some inspiration from weblogs then that is a great development for everyone.  Many journalists are already thinking along these lines.  Look at Dan Gillmor’s “Making the News” or how EWEEK and Infoworld are using blogs to supplement traditional journalism.

My one word of advice is that we should leave the baby where it is and remove the water using traditional methods!

Footnote:

Jon Udell on High Tech PR in the age of blogs and how blogs impact his day job.

 

Chad Dickerson on how Infoworld are using blogs

Written by Tom Murphy

June 1, 2004 at 9:52 am

Posted in General