Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for January 2005

PR Opinions is on vacation until January 25th 2005…

Don’t miss me too much….

Written by Tom Murphy

January 21, 2005 at 12:50 pm

Posted in General

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….

 

Written by Tom Murphy

January 21, 2005 at 9:06 am

Posted in General

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

Footnote:

Written by Tom Murphy

January 21, 2005 at 9:01 am

Posted in General

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.

Update:

Written by Tom Murphy

January 20, 2005 at 8:53 am

Posted in General

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?

Footnote:

  • 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

 

Written by Tom Murphy

January 19, 2005 at 11:13 am

Posted in General

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.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 19, 2005 at 9:30 am

Posted in General

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……

 

Written by Tom Murphy

January 18, 2005 at 11:38 am

Posted in General