PR Bloggers go stand in the corner….

Jay Rosen has fired a broadside at the PR blogging “community” – well all oppressed groups should have a collective identity.

He’s upset that the majority of PR bloggers let the whole Ketchum episode slide by.

The only PR bloggers not being sent to stand in the corner are Jeremy Pepper and the class president Richard Edelman.

Trevor Cook may escape censure as he came in with his homework, albeit late, Trevor 🙂

Steve Rubel has a note from his mummy:

“I am square on his MIA list. In my case, I feel like I am free and clear because I blog about the intersection between blogs and PR. Blogs had nothing to do with this episode. I am only blogging it now because Rosen, a journalism professor, is criticizing the  PR bloggers.”

Meanwhile myself and Shel Holtz are sitting are our desks feeling smug and unloved at the same time. 

Smug because we both posted stories on the Ketchum snafu and upset because the teacher doesn’t know we’re in his class.

So, is it a critical failing of the PR bloggers that they didn’t cover Ketchum? Not critical no.

I’d agree with Jay that this is another appalling VNR episode.  He has a point that this probably should have been covered more widely but it wasn’t ignored.

Perhaps after the Karen Ryan episode everyone had vented enough?

Certainly everyone I’ve talked with believes that Ketchum have shown gross negligence (and ethically every single person I have chatted with, has been appalled). 

It clearly illustrates why VNRs are not the way forward. 

However, human nature being as it is, as long as broadcasters are willing to dilute the power of their own content by pushing this rubbish out – it will not stop.

Hopefully this will teach Ketchum (and others) a lesson about the ethical issues around “broadcast” VNRs – but I wouldn’t count on it. 

Also, while the PR bloggers are standing in the corner, I hate to be a snitch, but surely the Council of PR Firms and the PRSA should be taking a stance on this issue?

Anyhow if you need us, myself and Shel will be out playing in the yard.


RSS: Always keep an eye on the ugly duckling….

When compared to the glamourous world of blogs, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) sits frumpily in the corner, it is the ugly duckling in the new exciting world of online communications.

But if Hans Christian Andersen taught us anything, he helped us to understand that first impressions are often misleading.

Having been reading and writing blogs for nearly three years, I have come to the conclusion that RSS has the potential to have, at least, the same if not a greater impact on Public Relations than blogging.

RSS has the potential to go far beyond blogging and in the long term become a key component of Public Relations and marketing.

For the unitiated, RSS can be thought of as a news feed. Using an RSS reader you can subscribe to relevant feeds and as new items are published you are automatically alerted.

Right now you can subscribe to news feeds from publications (e.g. CNET, Computerworld, Infoworld, New York Times) broadcasters (e.g. CNNBBC) and a growing number of companies such as IBM and in a pique of self-promotion Cape Clear.

The beauty of RSS from the audience perspective is that using an RSS reader you can quickly scan the news from thousands of relevant sources in a fraction of the time it takes to use web browsers or e-mail. It also alerts you the moment additional stories are published.

From the publisher’s perspective attracting an audience to subscribe ensures they have the latest information as it happens. It cuts through much of the noise that afflicts e-mail.

RSS is in many ways a trojan horse. As each new weblog is published more RSS feeds are let into the wild. In tandem, publishers are providing RSS feeds from their websites and growing numbers of corporates are making RSS feeds available from their news rooms.

That’s the push side of RSS complete. But what about the Pull?

Well just to take media relations as an example, a growing number of journalists are seeing the potential of RSS for receiving corporate news. Dan Gillmor, formerly of the Silicon Jose Mercury News was a long time proponent of RSS, as is Jon Udell over at Infoworld.

This week, courtesy of Andrew Smith I see that Charles Arthur, who writes for the UK Independent has also called for PR people to embrace RSS:

“What your clients really need to have,” I said, “is to supply information about their new stuff on RSS feeds. Then I could see what they were thinking and doing. Also, if a topic came up and I needed an opinion, I could see what theirs was right away – no need to even call first. And it would be quick, and wouldn�t require lots of pre-approving of emails, and everyone would get your client�s reaction at the same time. Even if it�s a special class of information – say, analyst commentary – you can do that through a password-protected feed. Then only selected people will get to see it.”

Now to put this in perspective, as I try to stress with all new technologies, RSS won’t replace the telephone, the fax or your beloved inbox.  I’m not suggesting this means an end to the use of wire services or your e-mail database.  RSS is an adjunct.  

Current estimates are that 5% of Internet users (or six million people) use RSS (compared to 27% who use blogs) so it isn’t ubiquitous, but it is a means of efficiently communicating electronically with staff, customers, partners, media etc. And thankfully it’s growing fast.

Just as weblogs are challenging how we think about communication, RSS is offering an additional channel for distributing and finding information. Time will tell just how successful RSS will become, but on a personal note, it’s already saving me probably an hour or more a day. Why not give it a try?


  • Some of my previous meanderings abour RSS.
  • A very basic tutorial on getting up and running with RSS.
  • Trevor Cook points to research which estimates that RSS usage is growing about 1% every day
  • SiliconBeat looks at the continuing success of Bloglines – an online RSS reader
  • MarketingVox points to a new book on the subject: Unleash the Marketing and Publishing Power of RSS


CEOs and the blog…

As blogging continues to grow, the question of corporate blogging and more to the point, CEO blogging, is becoming more prominent.

Blogs do, I’m sure you are all sick of hearing, provide a human face on an organization to its stakeholders and audiences.  Blogs do promote interpersonal communication rather than dry corporate or technical writing – not that either of those skills will disapear you understand.

The question of CEO or even Executive blogs is more complex.  I think the majority of CEOs will not blog.  They won’t blog because they won’t have time or becuase it’s something they’re not comfortable with or it’s something that they believe other executives are better qualified at doing. That’s the reality in my opinion.

Bill French has written an interesting piece on the role of PR in CEO blogs.  He has a number of interesting points including how PR people can coach CEO’s and measure its success.

My belief in this matter is as follows.

The value of an executive blog is that it provides your audience with an authentic, personal, inside view on the thinking of a company. PR people need to be very careful in getting involved with this endeavour.

Obviously executives need to be aware of the legal restrictions – though as officers of the company this should be fairly obvious to them – they should also be aware of any other restrictions regarding pre-announcing products and initiatives – but ultimately they should be themselves.

I personally don’t agree with a blogging process where the CEO runs his posts past the PR department.  I don’t subscribe to ghostwriting – after all the CEO has to stand behind what they’ve written and opinions are all part of the process.

My recommendation is that once the CEO is happy to start a blog and is aware of the statutory and competitive limitations let them at it.

Certainly it would be a useful exercise for PR to have editorial meetings with the CEO if that was relevant, but hands on control is a no no in my opinion.

PR Misc – January 18, 2005

 Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz have released their third PR podcast. This week’s program covers RSS, iPod Shuffle,  New Communications Forum 2005 and blogging in the workplace amongst other topics. In a related subject, Steve Rubel recommends a podcast with Robert Scoble on how blogs are impacting business.

 Colin McKay has two very interesting posts.  First a look at how Unilever handles the marketing of a consumer food product that generates passionate fans and detractors in equal measure. Marmite is a spread made from yeast extract (mmmm..).  Its distinctice taste is not for everyone, but rather than ignore this love-hate divide, Unliver uses it very cleverly with seperate websites for people who love and hate of the product. The Guardian has an article on the 100 year anniversary of Marmite.

Secondly, Colin points to a story (Free registration required) from the Guardian on how media planners are going to greater lengths to secure new business pitches… and how basic slip-ups can undo all the hard work:

“In another, following a successful pitch, an agency director left his notepad, on which he had jotted, “We’re going to have trouble with the c*** in the glasses”, under the nose of the said bespectacled client. Needless to say, the business was taken elsewhere.”

 Mark Borkowski writes in the Guardian (that’s a lot of Guardian links today…) about the growing democratization of PR…

There is no doubt that People Power is getting stronger and corporations more jumpy. So they should be. We’re all more in tune with what is a stunt, hatched for publicity, and what are genuine product benefits. In future, when a human voice cuts through the robotic chanting of advertising copy and the blandness of today’s political rhetoric, we must cheer it wholeheartedly.”

 Mike Manuel extends his thesis on the importance of media-facing blogs for PR people:

“When you think about this in the context of PR, you can point at all sorts of audiences where strong and consistent lines of communication are important, including employees, customers, partners, and yes of course, journalists.  In fact, I think the media � especially the tech media � provide PR peeps with a very compelling reason to consider something akin to a communicator�s corridor, or rather a password-protected blog designed exclusively for communicating with this particular audience.”

 Michael Kaplan offers some advice on getting the most from your PR agency.

 Robb Hecht points to another indicator that Lizzie Grubman is successfully navigating comeback trail.

 A (ahem) software solution to writing effective press releases……


Media and marketing lifestyles revealed…

David Davis from Mediabuddies was in touch to let me know that they have released the “first global study into lifestyles of press and broadcast journalists, advertising and public relation people”.

The survey included 256 respondents, 53% men 47% women in the United States, United Kingdom and 29 other countries. 

The survey group worked an average of 43 hours a week with a hard working 5% claiming over 80 hours a week.

88% of PR respondents believe in what they produce, which is good to hear and 83% saw themselves as hard working.

Only 2% of the total sample hoped their children would follow in their footsteps….

You can find more detailed results from the Mediabuddies newsroom, unfortunately they don’t provide links to individual press releases…


PR Misc. – January 17, 2005

 Of all the detritus you often find in large office buildings probably the worst are the “motivational” posters. Mike Manuel provides a great antidote with a link to One of my favorites: Despair: It’s always darkest just before it goes pitch black” – Fantastic. Mike also offers some thoughts on blogs and PR and on a related note Steve Rubel links to Brian Bailey’s “10 steps to building a better blog”.

 Jim Horton is a recommended daily read (and probably the original online PR pioneer).  He provides interesting, real world experiences each week.  Recently he wrote about dealing with the “hatchet reporter” – you know it’s going to be bad but just how bad is in the balance, and an account of a recently saved business pitch.

 Matthew Podby points out an AP article on the use of dreaded buzz words such as experience, scalable etc. in technology marketing. Though in an attempt at a weak defence of technology marketers they aren’t alone, what about all those non-industry specific terms like granular, leverage et al. Technology may be one of the worst offenders but you find them everywhere!

 Randy Wombold looks at the recent Corvette launch from the perspective of the technology PR practitioner.

 Richard Edelman has some sensible comments on the whole VNR saga, as does Shel Holtz.

 BL Ochman has a great link to a post from Seth Godin which includes some interesting comments from Danny Sullivan:

�Search marketing is more than buying ads — SEO is the search world’s equivalent to public relations.”

I wholeheartedly agree. 


PR Misc – January 14, 2005

 The Fleishman-Hillard crisis in LA continues apace with news that a former executive has been indicted on 11 felony counts of wire fraud. The firm gave this formal response in December.

 Matthew Podboy highlights BusinessWeek’s excellent new technology blog. He also has some interesting comments related to my previous post:

“Online communications is a new tool, not a new tool-shed. If you think it’s a whole new tool-shed that can’t share space with the other tools available to PR consultants – then good luck to you.  You’re going to need eyes in the back of your head to deposition the PR consultants who learn this stuff and incorporate it into their on-going programs.”

 Jeremy Pepper points out that the PRSA and the Council for PR Firms aren’t criticizing Ketchum for the VNR snafu.  Just as well some of the PR blogging community are. It’s nothing personal just poor practice and decision making. Ben Silverman has some additional comments and it looks like the drama is set to run.

 PR’s profile is bad enough already without us all being mistaken for advertising executives :-).

 A first for PR Opinions a look at Public Relations in Boxing

“A few years ago I was working a club fight in the Boston area, sitting at ringside near one of the fighter’s corner. At the end of a round the ref looked down at me and said, ‘Get in here and look at him’ I didn’t know what he was talking about. They he yelled at me, ‘For Christ sakes, Doc, get in here and look at him.’ With a somewhat puzzled look on my face, I looked up and said, ‘I’m just the publicist.'”

 The UK’s Brand Republic has an article on “Why advertising, marketing and PR pros should blog” written by blogger Bob Cargill.