Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for December 2004

Consolidation and Fragmentation in the Analyst World….

You go away for a couple of days and the biggest analyst story of the year breaks. 

As you have probably already read, a year after Forrester acquired Giga Group, it turns out that Gartner is acquiring Meta Group for $162 million.

One of the signs of a maturing market is consolidation and this move from Gartner has a major impact on the number of large standalone analyst firms. They’re dwindling.

However, while the bigs boys merge, the absolute number of industry analysts continues to grow rapidly.  Just like the PR business, the analyst business has seen a huge growth in the number of small boutique firms.  These are typically one or two people businesses  – this category doesn’t include well established firms like Aberdeen, Yankee, Nucleus, Current Analysis etc.

Many of these boutique firms focus tightly on specific markets and are generating a lot of revenue from their specialization.

The problem for PR practitioners of course (I include Analyst Relations practitioners in the Public Relations category) is that this fragmentation in many ways makes effective communication with relevant influencers more difficult, particularly if the boutiques in your market segment have attracted a strong end user client list.

Some boutiques provide real independent advice, whilst others have a business plan around attracting revenue from all the vendors in a given market: pay-for-play.

The best advice I can give is that it is more important than ever to understand your market, clearly define your audience and be pragmatic.

The likelihood is that unless you’re a very large company you have a lot of potential firms and very limited budget to share between them. Focus on the firms who can give you value and firms that are successfully reaching your target market. Unfortunately there will always been some boutique firms that will insist on pay-for-play and while these firms are typically fantastic self promoters, if they’re not retaining clients in your target market you may have to turn the other cheek.

These decisions are difficult and important, but like any other business decision they should be based on a clear understanding of your business objectives. That at the end of the day is the most important consideration.

So to finish in full Gartner style:

  1. Absolute number of industry analysts to be reduced by this merger (0.2 probability)
  2. This merger to reduce the total number of analyst firms by more than one (0.1 probability)
  3. Number of small analyst firms to continue to grow (0.8 probability)

Stories on the Gartner-Meta merger:

Written by Tom Murphy

December 30, 2004 at 10:20 am

Posted in General

Did you get that e-mail?

If you have undergone the traditional ‘on the job’ PR training then it’s very likely you have at some stage (or regularly) been told to ring up every journalist you send a press release to, with the most helpful question “did you get the press release”.

This practice, which I am ashamed to admit I did on a number of occasions, is simply the most ridiculous piece of work I ever had to do. I’m sure the motivation for following up the postal system and the fax machine (this was a long time before that new fangled e-mail system) had some basis in sound thinking.  After all it’s the telemarketing approach to PR, ring 200 people and surely someone will bite. You can also tell the client that you’ve been in touch with 200 journalists for their announcement.  But was it successful? I don’t believe so.

One of the common defences of this practice was “the client wants it done”, yet I can never recall a client requesting it or asking had we done it.

Of course if you were an innovative young buck like myself you soon tailored your follow up to ask if they needed photography or something similar…..

Charles Arthur is the technology correspondent of the UK Independent newspaper.  His has written a post on this practice on his blog:

“I made the point that one of the least useful phone calls they make is the one where they say �Did you get that press release I emailed you?� If I�m getting 200 emails a day, I can�t be calling people up to tell them; nor dealing with the phone calls arising from those emails. I need to do some work some time, not just acknowledge receiving the raw information.

�But,� said one, �we get required to make those calls by our clients. They want to get feedback on whether the release was useful to you.� It�s part of �measuring� PR�s effectiveness.

Ohhh, I said. Right. But it still doesn�t make sense. Here�s why. Most emails, I�m not going to act on. They�re just content in the wrong context; they don�t make a story. (On average, 1 in 500 emails generates a story directly.) So if you send it and then ask if it was useful, I�m probably going to say no.

But who knows how useful it might be in a few days, or weeks, or months? I archive my email, and search it on subjects; or read it and note the subject. That can come in useful later. So should I then ring the PR company and say �Mark that one down as useful!”

 

Written by Tom Murphy

December 30, 2004 at 9:53 am

Posted in General

PR and Communications Predictions for 2005

‘Tis the time of year for dusting off the crystal ball and making some predictions for the coming twelve months.

Speaking for myself I’ll be sticking by my predictions for 2004, I think they’re all still relevant for the next year.

 

Written by Tom Murphy

December 30, 2004 at 9:39 am

Posted in General

PR Misc – December 30, 2004

 Podcasting has the potential to add a whole new dimension to corporate communication at a low cost.  Delivering relevant interesting content via MP3 which visitors can listen to at their desk or download onto their MP3 players for consumption at a later point.  It’s a development that you should be trying to find out about today.  I was delighted to discover that two of the more prolific PR bloggers have come together to kick off a PR podcasting effort. Beginning in January, Shel Holtz (with a nice new blog format!) and Neville Hobson will be providing a weekly podcast on all matters PR. They’ve created a new blog for the podcast and you can subscribe to the podcast RSS feed here. Kudos.

 Media Insider has some great quotes on crisis communication.

“The three virtues of an effective crisis communicator are responsiveness, accuracy and honesty. When folks fade away from these qualities, they’re setting up both their clients and themselves for a huge fall — one much greater than if they had done the ‘right thing’ in the first place. Nobody — not even reporters — can anticipate a company to be perfect and crisis-free, but they do have every right and reason to expect the highest level of responsiveness, accuracy and honesty.”

 Mike Manuel points to a very interesting article in Wired written by Adam Penenberg, assistant professor at New York University which argues that the media embargo has outlived it’s usefulness and is now hampering effective, timely reporting.

“Until they (Editors) refuse to abide by them, however, embargoes will continue to hold sway, to the joy of publicists everywhere. And that’s a shame, because it makes no sense to sit on life-altering news when we have the web at our disposal.”

 Tom Foremski has an insightful post from Mark Coker of Dovetail Public Relations who mulls over the dilemma facing PR agencies who do a great job with small clients only for the client’s success to lead to an acquisition and therefore a lost client…

 Kevin Dugan has published the second part of his interview with Richard Laermer and he has some fresh thoughts on blogs…

“I like the myriad of PR blogs, I admit, because they unlike toothless political ones from the last harsh election tend to be a nice news source on the hype businesses and the media itself. I tend to spend a lot of my time reading about the media and how much they love their antics. Whew, boy. It�s a party every day in that clique!….. Rant over. However, since powerful and decision-making folks use blogs as a way to become informed � yes, unfortunately � I think PR folks have a whole new slew of publishing sources they can go to with their own correspondence and angles/hooks/story lines/what have you.”

 Fortune magazine has an interesting story on blogging.

“The blog�short for weblog�can indeed be, as Scoble and Gates say, fabulous for relationships. But it can also be much more: a company’s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it. Blogs are challenging the media and changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs. A few companies like Microsoft are finding ways to work with the blogging world�even as they’re getting hammered by it. So far, most others are simply ignoring it.”

 If you’re interested on doing some blog-related reading over the next week here are some lists of recent blog stories.  The Corporate Blogging blog has five stories and Amy Gahran has five others.

 Shel Holtz points to some research from WordBiz Report that found that while 68% of e-mail marketers are worried about the declining effectiveness of e-mail only 23% have even used RSS. This is no surprise but hopefully RSS will continue to grow in 2005. 

 David Davis undertook some ad hoc research on the training plans for 25 PR agencies in the US and the UK.  Among the findings was that 90% of respondents said training is the first line item to be cut, 68% of training will be carried out in house and only 5% of senior management will be expected to undertake training…

 Kevin Dugan has some advice over at WebProNews for PR people looking to pitch bloggers.

 MotorTrend reprints an article from Public Relations Tactics that evaluates whether GM’s infamous Oprah giveaway is marketing or Public Relations.. it seems to me that any successful PR campaign is tightly aligned to marketing therefore is this discussion academic? At the least it provides some interesting stats on the outcome.

 

Written by Tom Murphy

December 30, 2004 at 9:35 am

Posted in General

Season's Greetings…

Well I am off for an extended break over the holidays, so posting will be sporadic for the next week or so.

Have a great one!

Written by Tom Murphy

December 21, 2004 at 5:42 pm

Posted in General

Review: PR Trends for 2004….

The problem with sticking your neck out at this time of year with predictions for the next twelve months is that you have a moral responsibility to review the trends to see how accurate you’ve been…

Last December I suggested….

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).

 

Fairly obvious this one and nothing has changed… 

 

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

 

I don’t have any hard statistics on agency spend in 2004 but from conversations with various agency folks things seem to be picking up. We did get confirmation during the year that 2003 wasn’t a good year.

 

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

 

There wasn’t a lot of M&A activity this year so this was a miss…

 

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.

 

RSS is quietly plugging away and with large companies such as IBM now providing all their news via RSS this is a hit… 

 

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.

 

Blogs are definetely proliferating though I’m not sure their corporate adoption was as fast as I thought.  Indeed blogs continue to thrive in the realm of the individual…

 

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

 

Most magazines are beginning to (slowly) grow again, though as with my other trends not as fast as I would have imagined…

 

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.

 

This is a hit.  Freelancers are accounting for a large and growing proportion of media conerage…

 

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.

 

I am delighted to report this is also a hit. Recent research has found that as consumers in any given market become more educated they use a variety of different means to find information…

 

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

 

There have been some developments in measurement including a new cheaper online measurement tool…

 

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�

 

This depends on your role, but certainly I see a lot more PR practitioners getting involved in SEO even if we’re at the early stages.. 

 

 

Well not too bad. I think for the next twelve months, M&A activity among PR agencies will grow, we should see more corporate blogs and I expect all the other trends to continue also.

 

If you disagree let me know!

Written by Tom Murphy

December 20, 2004 at 10:18 am

Posted in General

"Please welcome our new company blogger…"

Rick Bruner has an interesting interview with Christine Halvorson, company blogger at Stonyfield Farms who currently run four different corporate blogs.

“Our company has experienced phenomenal growth, and we have a certain “personality” in the world–we care about the environment; about healthy food; about supporting family farms.  With growth, we fear losing touch with what is a very loyal and committed customer base, and so our CEO, Gary Hirshberg, saw the blogs as a way to continue to personalize our relationship with our customers.”

 

 

Written by Tom Murphy

December 20, 2004 at 9:54 am

Posted in General