PR Misc – January 21, 2005

With the New Communications Forum taking place last week it�s no surprise that there�s a lot of content from the event and a lot of excellent insights into the challenges and opportunities facing PR � check out the links below…


 However, before I get to that, aren�t the reports of the US government�s spending on PR most interesting?  The fact that Ketchum has received over $95m is hard to believe!  No wonder there are doing VNR�s – I�m surprised they haven�t launched their own TV channel with revenues like that coming in the door. Other agencies should find out who does their business development�


More related comments from:


 So, onto New Communication Forum�. The show was a great success by all accounts and brought together a lot of knowledge on how communications and blogging will develop and impact Public Relations and journalism.  Here are just a few links to content from the event: 


 Jim Horton links to the Lex Files memo that gives recommendations on how the media can intersect with blogs 


 Trevor Cook has a review of the new book Tailspin – PR disasters.


 Robb Hecht points to a new book from Linda VandeVrede entitled �Press Releases Are Not a PR Strategy�.


Stand up and fight for… errrr… Public Relations?

As you are probably aware Public Relations is a euphemism.

Whenever someone is caught doing something underhand, whenever a diaster strikes, whenever someone’s ethics are called into question you can bet that the two little letters that will appear in the reportage and/or the discussion are P & R.

PR’s image problems are no secret.  The profession is hounded by the dual problems of ignorance and a small number of high profile “practitioners” who bring the profession into disrepute through their behavior and their practice.

For the unwashed masses it doesn’t matter that the vast majority of PR people (many of whom have nothing to do with the media) are hard working, stressed individuals who try their best to communicate honestly on behalf of individuals, groups or organizations in an ethical manner.

Nope.  Once those two little words pop out, a whole pandora’s box of preconceptions flood into the minds of the uninitiated.

If you want a graphic illustration of this, just read the comments posted to Jay Rosens much maligned recent post. ‘Cover up’, ‘spin’, ‘they’re all the same covering each other’s backs’ etc. etc. etc.

Oh please.

For too long I believe that PR people have let this perception problem slide.  It’s up to individuals and industry organizations to address these misconceptions.

Shel Israel, who no longer practices PR, has a great posting on this very subject.

“I was in PR for more than 20 years, and am proud of the work I did. The majority of people I knew and worked with were good and honest people who, if anything, were guilty of trying too hard to please both clients and the media. PR people generally counsel clients to come clean on controversial news.  Get bad news out and get on with it. Tell the public your sorry, when you’ve done wrong and make sure you repeat the mistake again. Cover ups never last–so come clean up front. Yep, we had our shady characters and over a beer and in private I’ll share a few stories with some of you. Every industry has liars. Every industry industry has people who open their mouths and display ignorance.”

I have been working in PR since 1991.  It’s an exciting, rewarding career that requires hard work and dedication, but it’s worth it.

Let’s put a line in the sand and from this point on address the ignorance and the prejudice.  If there is justifiable cause for concern at the practice of our peers then let’s highlight it and criticize it, but let’s stop letting the unjustified criticisms float by.  

We are not doing ourselves any favors.

More and more and more and more PR blogs….

Well the PR business (thank the lord) continues to sprout new blogs.  The more the merrier, in my not very humble opinion…

 Morgan McLintic a VP at Lewis PR (Flash Warning) has kicked off a new blog looking at PR in Silicon Valley. He’s already got loads of posts up.

 Eric Schwartzman has kicked off his blog.

 Voce Communications, home of PR bloggers Mike Manuel and Matthew Podboy have launched their agency’s blog Voce Nation. (They boast a most impressive intellectual blogroll)

 Drew also points out there are two new UK IT PR blogs:

Both are very new and very anonymous for some reason I can’t work out…. IT PR is not a job for the secret service…

More payments.. non-disclosure… I blogged it…

Andy Lark has pointed out yet another snafu around undisclosed payments. It seems Maggie Gallagher who was a media advocate of the recent civil marraige legislation was paid over $20K by the Bush administration.

Here’s Maggie’s response.

The story doesn’t interest me terribly but just in case Jay let’s another one blow in a week of two, it’s important we all have the moral high ground.

Now, that’s myself and Andy sorted….

Actually having said that, if Jay doesn’t cover this in the next five days maybe I can log a post:

Bloggers are missing as journalist takes cash bung for Bush

We’ll just keep this between ourselves for the moment, I don’t want to miss my chance…

PR Misc – January 26, 2005

The problem with going away for a couple of days is the backlog.  There’s been a lot of great content over the past few days, here’s a summary….

 There’s been some interesting new posts on the whole Ketchum affair. In no particular order of preference:

 The New Communications Forum kicks off today on the West coast.  There’s a great program planned and you can expect a lot of blogging from the conference.

 Trevor Cook has some interesting posts on What is PR? and some words to avoid in your communications.

  Elizabeth Albrycht tackles PR’s perception problems and there’s some excellent commentary and discussion following the post.

“My credibility issues with PR have nothing to do with blogging.

They have to do with usefulness.

I get 50 pitches from PR people every day. I get about a half-dozen a month I can use. So when I get a cold-call from a PR person, my first thought is, “This conversation is going to be a waste of my time.” Mitch Wagner

 Shel Holtz asks does the public need to be guarded against Public Relations?

“I know I�m beginning to sound like a broken record, but individual bloggers are not going to turn the tide. The profession as a whole�as represented by its associations�need to point out these failings and, where appropriate, take action. (Ethics policies, for example, provide for sanctions against violating members, including expulsion from the association.)”

  Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz have released their fourth weekly PR podcast, this week covers the new Boeing blog, PR and blogs and the Ketchum stuff.. 

  Bob LeDrew offers some advice on managing PR partnerships.

  Sally Saville Hodge over at MarketProfs offers guidance on using Op-Eds effectively.

“A single op-ed will not change the way you or your organization is viewed overnight. But combined with other related initiatives�from informational or tutorial bylined articles to systematic survey development and dissemination�they are an integral part of an expertise-oriented PR program that will help solidify your firm’s standing as an expert in its field.”

 Fredrik Wacka over at points to an interesting review by Michael Cote of how his company use their internal corporate blog.

What People Post

  • News stories in our industry and about our company.
  • Status of various test and performance clusters. So, instead of having to send out emails or answer phones all the time, you can say, “just subscribe to the performance cluster weblog. It’s always up-to-date with performance test status.”
  • Brain-storming about strategy, feature sets, and process.
  • Sharing customer visit/phone call notes.
  • The “I exist” posts. Like I said, a lot of people just post one initial, “I’m here!” post and then disappear.
  • Soliciting ideas/help. For example, one person recently posted the age old question, “when should I use wikis vs. weblogs?”
  • Off-topic posts, like pictures of stars (the space ones, not the Hollywood types) or what the frozen burgers in the freezer look and taste like.

     Mike Manuel points out an interesting blog from start-up Jambo networks on their preparation for the Demo event which will launch their product.

     Melody over at Mark Borkowski’s blog points to new research which finds that the UK public still believe that journalists make a positive contribution to life in Britain.

    Open Source Analyst Relations?

    The Internet has created an unique environment for the transfer of information and ideas and it brings like minded people together to develop those ideas.

    This collaborative process has, on the one hand, the potential to fundamentally change established norms, while on the other hand it has the inherent drawback of creating an unrealistic expectation of change among the online community, the Internet reality distortion field if you like, while the silent majority watch and are unmoved.

    The challenge for everyone is to try and identify both where real change is necessary and possible. There is no doubt that these changes are taking place. For example, the open source software movement would probably have never occured without the Internet – so what other changes are headed our way? There will probably be many more but what they are and how they will impact traditional business and traditional thinking is the great unknown.

    An example of this new thinking is an intriguing “conversation” that has been kicked off by James Governor of Red Monk on the possibility of an alternative model for industry analysis.

    He is wondering can the same motivation that created the open source movement have a similar impact on the industry analyst business?

    Theory: Technology+Analysis=Sale

    If you’ve ever worked in the technology sector you will understand the importance and influence of industry analysts. In a hyped market filled with complex products, built from complex technologies with complex features, industry analysts such as Gartner (& now Meta), Forrester, IDC et al offer business and IT executives and oasis of calm independent, insightful advice. As a result, analysts often have a direct influence on the technical purchase decision.

    The influence of the analyst community in the technology purchasing decision is a much coveted resource. It is one of the reasons that technology vendors are anxious to access, inform and influence these analysts. Typically the bigger vendors spread their analyst budget around a large number of firms. However the smaller firms, with limited funds have a far more difficult time and often budget decisions are driven by broader marketing requirements. With this market dynamic there is always risk.

    I have been working with industry analysts in North America, Europe and Asia, on and off, for well over a decade. In my experience, the majority of analysts and their firms, offer impartial, informed and valuable advice to their clients – whether those are vendors, end-users or a combination. But as with any market (think Public Relations ladies and gentlemen!) you always have rogue elements who offer biased, “pay-for-play” services which are about as valuable as you’d expect.

    It’s a big diverse market with different business models, where the big firms are very large (e.g. Gartner revenues for 2003 were $858M) and the smallest analyst shops have one man and a dog – but size isn’t necessarily everything.

    A new analyst model emerging?

    In explaining the need for a new model of analyst services, James looks at the changes taking place in the software market with the growing emergence of open source and makes the somewhat tongue-in-cheek comparison between the mafia and the analyst business:

    “Suffice to say that sometimes the industry analyst business looks something like the Mafia… some analyst firms appear to run a sophisticated version of the protection racket. If you pay up we let you do business – if not we can make life real hard for you by smashing the place up/downgrading your products. Its an open secret in the business, the corpse out in the backyard we all catch occasional whiffs of…It is becoming increasingly clear that the industry analyst business is ready for an overhaul.”

    Red Monk’s open source analyst concept began to mature following an experiment where they decided to release a report (PDF) under a Creative Commons license. Their report included the core content from Red Monk and then was extended and influenced from discussions with a wide range of vendors and end users and made available free using Creative Commons.

    Drawing on Eric Raymond’s seminal (from an open source software perspective anyhow) essay “The Catheddral and The Bazaar“, James believes there is an opportunity for an analyst firm which steps outside the security (and comfort) of the Cathedral and instead embraces the Bazaar’s more dynamic marketplace of ideas and people.

    James’ partner Stephen O’Grady offers five reasons why this open source analyst model might work:

    1. Open Source is as Applicable to Industry Analysis as it is to Software
    2. Great Ideas Come Can Come from Anyone
    3. The Group Mind is Smarter than the Individual
    4. An Idea’s Power is Proportional to Its Audience
    5. Proprietary Analysis is a Myth
    6. Open Source is About More than Source Code

    Impact for Public Relations?

    I think this is a very interesting idea and it has a lot of merit. There’s no question that the typical analyst firm business plan – like most industries – is traditional and hasn’t changed much in the past twenty years. There isn’t any reason why an open source approach to services and consulting couldn’t develop in the same way as software and through the creative commons movement, content.

    In common with both of those movements however it’s unlikely that the approach will unseat the incumbents in the medium term, but that’s not the discussion at this point.

    This initiative is one of the many reasons I try to explain to fellow practitioners that the biggest challenge of the Internet is tracking and understanding change. The Internet isn’t as simple as a newspaper, it’s alive with ideas, trends and opinions. It will continue to change and develop.

    I personally think this is an innovative approach to a business that has operated in a very structured (and tired) format for a long time. [It should be noted that Tom Rhinelander’s New Rowley Group is also exploring new ways to address analysis]

    How would this new model affect Public Relations (which in my world includes Analyst Relations) practitioners? That’s an interesting question… it’s not clear at this point, other than that traditional models of engagement would need to be re-evaluated.

    Furthermore, there are some outstanding questions for James and Stephen.

    In appears to me that the biggest challenge is attracting end-users to this model. After all, if you have them, the vendors will follow like sheep – so how will you reach out to the customer? What will the vendor:end-user ratio be in contributing to this research? Finally amongst all this collaboration and sharing of ideas how do you ensure you can provide your clients with clarity and independence from vendor interests – surely something most end-users are looking for?

    Finally I’m interested to hear how James sees this approach changing the existing relationship he has with PR and marketing folks.

    This is one to watch….


    The ole Ketchum-Rosen-Gate wrap up…

    Yesterday there was a great example of the potential of blogs.

    Jay Rosen (the post has since been edited) made a flawed attack on all the people who write PR-related blogs (see the list on the left of this page) for not covering Ketchum’s recent VNR incident. The problem was that Jay’s thesis was created, breaking one of the cardinal rules of journalism: check your facts.

    The incident was in fact covered by many PR blogs and what followed yesterday was a whirlwind of content, e-mails and comments.

    If you get a moment I warmly recommend you read through the links in the footnote of this post and also the many links in the previous post.

    This response is a better illustration of the power of blogs than Jay’s original thesis on the failure of PR blogs.

    “A blog is simply electronic paper on a network. Other than the laws on libel, invasion of privacy, and copyright, bloggers have no obligations. That is the beauty of blogosphere, it is entirely up to the reader to judge what, if anything, is worth reading.”

    Alice Marshall

    “Part of me is thinking what the f_ _ k, when did I sign up to become a PR industry watchdog? I didn�t get that memo. And quite frankly, I don�t have the time to police the industry. I�m having a hard enough time making time to walk my dog.”

    Mike Manuel

    “So. What’s the takeaway for PR bloggers?

    1. Some of us should have reacted to this issue. Myself included.
    2. Our associations have been silent/obtuse on this issue.

    What’s the takeaway for Mr. Rosen?

    1. A Technorati search is not sufficient research.
    2. Maybe an update/correction to that first post is in order?

    Marc Snyder

    “Rosen and Technorati stuffed up. At least four prominent PR bloggers posted on the subject and apparently didn’t get picked up in the Technorati seach. Dave Sifry of Technorati is looking into this, see PS at the end of the previous post on this site.”

    Trevor Cook

    “My apologies, Mike (Manuel). You are certainly part of the PR Blogging Mafia and will be a keynote speaker when I organize the PR Godfather Summit (think 1950s Appalachian Mafia Summit) where the boss’ will agree on PR territories and which industries we control moving forward. Steve Rubel won’t be there since he’s graduated from blogging only about PR to focusing on the intersection of PR and blogging. Perhaps he, Scoble and Doc Searls will be part of a similar summit on controlling blogosphere territories.”

      Matthew Podboy

    “Thus, the assumption Rosen makes that all PR bloggers who failed to address the Ketchum story are culpable is flawed. Only those who position themselves as watchdogs of the profession should suffer that rap. Second is the issue of accuracy in reporting. Like many in the PR business, I got my start as a journalist. I have a degree in journalism and put in time at weekly and daily newspapers. I was trained�both in school and on the job�to check the accuracy of my reporting before I submitted it for publication. Then my editor would question statements to ensure they were correct. If I were covering the tale of the failure of the PR blogosphere to report on Ketchumgate (sorry), I would have contacted some PR bloggers and asked if they knew of anyone who had posted on the topic. In short order, I would have had a list of names. Rosen, however, conducted a Technorati search, found two posts, and went to press.”

     Shel Holtz