Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

It's the communication stupid…

Dan Gillmor recently received a blundering PR pitch on behalf of a company that offers online monitoring services.

One of their pitch “ideas” to Dan was:

“What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers”

The post includes loads of comments from Dan’s readers covering blogs, PR, journalism and a combination of all three.  Many of the comments try to re-iterate the standard steroypes of journalists, public relations pros and bloggers.

It’s a great illustration of the common misperceptions that plague this subject.

So here’s my take.

Public Relations is about the PUBLIC

PR does not stand for press relations.  Just because that’s the high profile element does not mean it’s true.  If you are conducting PUBLIC relations campaigns and programs that are aimed at helping organizations achieve specific objectives, you’ll soon realize that while the media are very important, they are one constituent.  Effective PR also reaches out to staff, partners, customers, prospects, analysts, distributors, friends and family, regulators, industry bodies, investors, the local community and yes even bloggers.

Blogging is not THE conversation

Blogging provides a great means of communication.  It can provide a useful means of engaging with your audience in a more personal manner.  It can stimulate debate.  Reaching out to bloggers can help reach your audience.  But guess what, there are other conversations you need to have as well.  You need to build dialogue with journalists, analysts, staff etc.  These conversations will NOT all happen through weblogs. Blogging promotes good discipline on how to communicate in a more personal manner. But if you are only promoting conversation through blogs then you are missing the point.  The widely respected Cluetrain Manifesto pre-dated blogging and it covered all facets of communication.

Revenge and leverage are yesterday’s tactics

The changes in how people receive, use and share information affects every element of a Public Relations campaign. The re-emerging art of conversation provides a fantastic opportunity to re-engage audiences.  Conversation is not exclusive to good news.  In fact, conversation can often be most effective when dealing with problematic or contentious relationships. For example, organizations often publicly keep score with journalists or analysts they believe have treated them unfairly.  Does that make the situation better? Does that solve the problem? No. Building a conversation with your adversaries, addressing their issues is the best way forward.  There will always be battles you simply can’t win, but at least be engaging in open dialogue you give yourself a chance of turning a bad situation to your advantage.

Control is mis-understood

Controlling any audience these days is fast becoming a myth. The free flow of information, the advent of independent bloggers and the pressures on journalists and analysts are fast making control the PR equivalent of Atlantis. It’s a great idea but you’ll never get there. If you approach PR with control in mind you will miss it’s greatest potential – connecting and communicating with your audience.

Remember the basics

Effective PR comes from solid foundations.  Get the basics of your campaign right.  Who are you communicating with? What are your communicating? Why are you communicating? How are you communicating? What are the problems and issues? Understand the challenges and the opportunities.  Tie your programs to your client’s business objectives.  These basic building blocks provide the best way forward for a successful campaign.


I think Dan summarizes these views perfectly in his closing comment:

“No doubt, what’s happening is messy. That makes everyone uncomfortable, especially those of us who grew up in a relatively centralized, top-down media environment. But complaining about it won’t work. Dealing with it — not as a threat but an opportunity — is the only rational answer.”




Written by Tom Murphy

October 28, 2004 at 10:35 am

Posted in General

%d bloggers like this: