Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for September 2004

Good planning today is better than perfect planning tomorrow….

“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.” Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes before posting a story here I spend some time thinking it over for a couple of days and often in the intervening period a related topic will be covered elswhere.

In this case I was thinking over the “Sharpen the Saw” theme that runs through most of Franklin Covey’s time management theories. Although it is a cliche at this point, the thinking behind it is good common sense.

Today, most of us are over worked and under resourced.  We jump from one deadline to the next, frantically trying to complete as many activities as possible. 

However, it is often worthwhile to stop, push away from your desk and think about what you are trying to achieve, how can you do it more productively and at the same time deliver great results.

Now I realize I am in danger of sounding like some sort of self-styled management guru here – I’m not. But how often do you actually stop and think?

While I was thinking about this, Neville Hobson posted his thoughts on how there is less time for planning and strategizing in marketing:

“The reason why time is a delusional luxury is because by the time you’ve strategized, formulated and executed, you’re too late – other, more nimble, people will have got the news or information you’re carefully controlling already out there, free and uncontrolled.”

There’s two elements to this argument.

One the one hand, deadlines are shortening all the time. The fact that we are more productive today, than in the past, hasn’t created more personal time, it’s simply condensed the number of activities you’re juggling at any one time. In most cases it’s all about quantity not quality.

One the other hand, there’s no question that PR and marketing folks can by guilty of overdosing on strategy, messaging and positioning. If you’ve ever sat for hours in a featureless, airless, grey room “strategizing” you’ll know the hell that planning can become.  But that doesn’t mean its unnecessary. 

I firmly believe that you still need to focus on effective planning, messaging and strategy.  To ignore it and jump straight into tactics creates a whole range of issues.

There is less time, planning should be focused and efficient, but in my opinion the current myth around speed is over stated.  The simple fact is that effective programs begin with effective planning.  “Less speed, more haste” is a cliche because it is true.

If your tactics aren’t helping achieve an agreed objective then how valuable are they? Will your program fail because it’s kicked off next week or month rather than today? In most cases no.

The danger with focusing solely on activities is that you may miss opportunities, you may ignore better approaches and most importantly of all, your efforts might not be completely in tune with your client’s or your employer’s overall objectives.

The challenge is to find a happy medium.

Effective planning is essential for success. Effective execution is also essential. Marrying the two is the challenge.

In the meantime, push back from your desk, close your eyes for a moment and think about what you have to achieve, what you need to do and how you can do it more effectively.  You might be surprised with the results….


Elizabeth Albrycht also has some excellent thoughts on this particular subject.


Written by Tom Murphy

September 30, 2004 at 2:15 pm

Posted in General

New PR blog for libraries

Just found a new PR blog called LibTalk, which deals with PR and communications for library communicators.

It’s fantastic that we’re beginning to see PR blogs catering for different markets.

Written by Tom Murphy

September 28, 2004 at 1:50 pm

Posted in General

Technology… let the good times roll (again)

Hot on the news that Silicon Valley PR firms are scrabbling for bodies to meet a strong growth in demand, another indication of recovery in the technology market comes from a research report on technology marketing from IDC.

The report finds that technology marketing spend grew 6% this year and now accounts for 3.2% of revenues, though while everyone’s talking about “branding” marketing is still measured on hard leads….

“The report reveals an interesting conundrum for technology marketing professionals. Although brand building is their top priority, it is not the most common metric measuring their performance. Lead generation statistics are most frequently reported to the CEO, with brand awareness ranking just fourth.”

The recovery continues (hopefully)…

Written by Tom Murphy

September 28, 2004 at 12:57 pm

Posted in General

New online internal communications resource..

Given the importance of internal communications to many practitioners this item should be of interest.

Shel Holtz has launched the Employee Communications Manifesto Wiki:

“Our goal is for the community of employee communications professionals to work collaboratively to establish the baseline of knowledge and skills every internal communicator should have.

In order to make this collaborative effort possible, the Manifesto resides on this wiki. Anybody can edit an existing page to enhance the material already there, add new thoughts or correct mistakes. In addition, anybody can add new pages or even sections.”

Don’t worry if you don’t know what a Wiki is, it’s effectively a website that can be edited by any visitor through their web browser. It’s a great initiative and already has a lot of content online looking at the various types of communication.

Shel has built it as a Wiki to encourage practitioners to contribute as well as learn.

Written by Tom Murphy

September 28, 2004 at 12:50 pm

Posted in General

Fall: Time for some old PR chestnuts…

There are a number of issues around the practice of Public Relations that seem to come around again and again and again.

Top of these issues is the ability, or lack of it, of PR practitioners to properly use the everyday tools of the profession. It never ceases to amaze me that a small number of practitioners in the year 2004 still don’t know how to use the most basic tools.

If you hire a plumber or a mechanic you expect them to be au fait with ratchets, spanners etc. Surely a client expects that their PR consultant is similarly familiar with the basic elements of Public Relations?

It seems not.

It seems incredible to me that there is still misunderstanding on using word processors, virus software and e-mail. I’m not even including relatively new inventions such as blogs, RSS and Instant Messaging.

Mike Manuel points to a post on TechDirt, which in the past has documented a wide number of PR mis-steps, concerning a press release sent to them by a PR, which included marked-up changes from the original Word document….

“This time, however, the PR person had taken a word document with an old press release and just dumped in the new stuff while thinking she had deleted the old. She then let Word “save as HTML” and sent out the press release as an email. Unfortunately for her, I don’t let my email client display HTML email, so what I got was nearly unreadable — but just readable enough to note that when Word saves in HTML, apparently it includes all the changes. So from what I could see, I have a “mash up” of two press releases, complete with random strike-throughs and insertions, showing all of the edits made on the existing press release. So, for example, I can see that whereas they originally described the company’s solution as “unique,” that was later crossed out. Not that I would be writing about this announcement anyway, but now I’m left wondering what happened that this company’s product is no longer ‘unique’.”

Oh my word (scuse the pun)….

Of course mistakes happen. That’s the same in every walk to life.  But we work in the reputation business and while it’s hard to build a reputation it’s very easy to destroy it. 

The Internet is an inforgiving medium. Once you press the “send” or “publish” button it’s live and it’s too late.

We need to understand the medium and understand the implications of sloppy practices. Put in place stringent quality control mechanisms, invest your time and money in understanding how to use these tools effectively and safely. If you don’t then do not be surprised or upset when your mistake comes back to haunt you.

As part of my contribution to helping reduce these errors, here are some useful links:


Written by Tom Murphy

September 28, 2004 at 8:41 am

Posted in General

PR Misc September 27, 2004

 It’s that time of the month again. MediaMap’s, sorry Bacon’s Expert PR newsletter has crossed the ether.  This month’s issue has articles on using publicity as a creative marketing tool, why you shouldn’t pay for radio interviews, successful launch events, tips for live interviews, the importance of customer testimonials, tips for successful media interviews, tips on corporate naming and finally the difference between advertising and PR.

“So which is the most appropriate tool to use to reach your target audience, advertising or PR? The truth is, both. By combining their strengths, you minimize their weaknesses. Don’t make the mistake of trying to get one to do the work of the other.”


Mitch Wagner over at Internet Week, gives the journalist’s view on the tips offered in the Expert PR article on successful media interviews.

“This is great advice for getting me to completely ignore what you’re saying. Nothing gets me to tune out and shut down an interview faster than a source who is focused on delivering a message. I’m not interested in receiving messages–I’m interested in getting stories.”

 Mike Manuel has an interesting quote from Giovanni Rodriguez of PR firm Eastwick Communications on the changing face of PR messaging:

“It’s not the end of messaging, but perhaps the end of messaging as we know it. We may never stop doing SWOT analyses and positioning statements, but we recognize the importance of constructing those messages in a way that motivates people to do something. While we can debate whether movies and sports involve people actively or passively, there should be no such debate in the world of marketing. We live in an action-oriented world; we all play a role � businesses and their audiences alike — and good communication pros, like the best dramatists, can provide the motivation.”

 Still struggling with RSS? Still trying to understand what it is and how it could possibly help in PR? CNET has a very useful overview. And of course if you’re interested in trying RSS out read the tutorial on getting up and running.

 Steve Rubel points at a list of weblog resources from Heather Leigh at Microsoft.

 The New York Times magazine covers blogging and the election as its cover story.

 Robb Hecht points to a report on branding guru Jack Trout’s recent talk at Interactive World on brand differentiation. While Jack shares some good thoughts on the marriage of branding, brand differentiation and marketing, he broke some of his own branding rules when he completely ignored the audience at his talk. Although he was speaking at Interactive World, he completely ignored the online-offline challenges…

“Ending his keynote, Trout pointed out that the interactive industry is an enormous factor in differentiation primarily because it is a new tool. It delivers information in a brand new way about the points of difference. Trout warned the audience: Just don�t overdo it. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Did the audience know this already? Yes, but we can thank him for reminding us.

As Trout exited, some attendees whispered, “That�s it? Aren�t we at an interactive conference?”

Once again, proof that too many traditional marketing experts aren’t comfortable speaking interactive marketing’s language.”

  The New Zealand Herald questions the rise in government spending on Public Relations.

Written by Tom Murphy

September 27, 2004 at 10:05 am

Posted in General

Insecure crisis communications……

Business 2.0, who if memory serves me correctly broke this story, has an excellent article by Thomas Mucha on the Kryptonite drama.

It serves as a good example of poor crisis management.

“I won’t be backed into an apology,” Kryptonite’s public relations manager Donna Tocci replied when I asked her if the company is sorry about what happened. Worse, the company’s main strategy seems to be centered on deflecting blame. “This is not just a Kryptonite problem,” Tocci repeatedly said. “It’s a concern with other companies in the industry. At this point Kryptonite is the only company that’s addressing its consumers’ concerns.”

In fairness to the Kryptonite PR people, crisis management is a function of the entire company and at this point we don’t know if management are simply ignoring good advice..

Written by Tom Murphy

September 24, 2004 at 2:46 pm

Posted in General

Off topic: The ultimate PowerPoint application…

We have finally found PowerPoint’s killer application.


Link courtesy of Good Morning Silicon Valley.



Well is seems that the PowerPoint link above was hijacked temporarily (see the comments for more details) however the original content has thankfully been restored.  Thanks to Andrew Denny and Mitch Wagner for the vigilence!

Written by Tom Murphy

September 24, 2004 at 2:23 pm

Posted in General

Customer care?

Alice Marshall has posted a great analyst quote on Microsoft’s decision that it will only fix a security problem with Internet Explorer on Windows XP:

“It’s a problem that people should have to pay for a whole OS upgrade to get a safe browser,” said Michael Cherry, analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

In effect they are saying that if you are one of the millions of users running previous versions of Windows, tough, buy a new computer that will run Windows XP, pay for a new copy of Windows and then we’ll give you a (probably temporary) secure browser.

Now I use Microsoft’s products, I admire the company in many ways but this is an un-wise move on their behalf.

It’s the equivalent of Ford saying that they’re only fixing the braking problems on the latest model… I don’t think so.  If your product is found to be flawed and you have charged people good money for the product then it is your responsibility to fix the problem.

To ignore your customers is poor public relations and could even be mistaken for arrogance.

Written by Tom Murphy

September 24, 2004 at 9:40 am

Posted in General

Advertising the new PR…

Jim Horton’s beginners guide to Media Relations which I mentioned earlier in the week includes a quote from Wal-Mart on the folly of their policy of exclusively focusing on communicating with customers directly while not engaging with the media.

So it was with some interest I spotted a story in Silicon Valley Business Journal on Wal-Mart launching a PR offensive.

Only one problem.  The “PR Offensive” is in fact an advertising campaign….

Written by Tom Murphy

September 24, 2004 at 9:17 am

Posted in General