Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for January 2005

The media business facing the innovator's dilemma?…

The media business is facing a challenging competitive market, but instead of the traditional competition from a small number of long-established competitors, the competitive landscape is changing. 

As Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“American journalism is no longer a castle, and you are no longer the serf who cannot breach its walls. The castle doors have been forced open. Other voices have access. Bloggers for instance don’t just walk in and out, they have offices in the castle walls.”

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know that I am a passionate believer in incremental change.  It’s rare for a new development to completely change or displace an incumbent – regardless of the hyperbole.  Instead the new entrant normally takes its place alongside the establishment. Blogs are no different in this regard. Blogs won’t remove the need for traditional media but they are extending the spectrum. I’ve been writing this blog for three years and I still consume newspapers, magazines, radio and TV (as well as innumerous other blogs).

Blogs have created an innovator’s dilemma for the media business.  They (and other technologies such as RSS, podcasting etc.) have emerged because first and foremost they have lowered the barriers to entry. Secondly mainstream media have for the most part, become staid and homogenous, reporting broadly the same news and events.  Blogs on the other hand tackle far more diverse issues and topics and of course provide a wider spectrum of opinion – though this may or may not be good depending on your point of view.

The major challenge for the media business is that as blogs become widely adopted there will be a change in the media mix.  If a consumer reads blogs then they are likely to still read newspapers and magazines, watch TV and listen to the radio – but it’s also likely that the proportionate mix will change.  Perhaps the consumer will reduce TV time or read a smaller number of magazines.  That’s the challenge.

For Public Relations practitioners the challenge is about understanding that mix.  You need to understand where your audience is and how they are finding information. Once you have that valuable information, you need to use it wisely and communicate using the tools your audience prefer. This is why it is so important that this profession steps up and embraces the changes taking place online.

For the media business it’s time to innovate.  It’s time to understand your audience, what parts of your business are meeting your customers’ needs and what elements need to evolve and adapt to the changes happening around you.

There’s no reason why the large media incumbents can’t continue to be successful and prosperous, however one thing is for sure, the competitive environment is extending far beyond the simple measures of ratings and circulation. It’s time to embrace change and meet the market. Ignoring these changes will create a whole new generation of extinct companies.


Thanks to Dee Rambeau for the link to Peggy Noonan’s column.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 14, 2005 at 9:59 am

Posted in General

Now that's a nice computer….

This is a PR blog, though given I am a gadget fiend, I make no apologies for the incursion of technology products from time to time.

At this stage there are few people in the developed world who haven’t seen the Apple’s latest innovation, the Mac mini

Following the recent company-saving innovations of the iMac and the iPod/iTunes combination, the Mac mini looks like yet another step forward and another graphic demonstration of why we need alternatives to the PC clone makers.  The Mac mini starts at $499, though you’d definetely want to increase the memory and hard drive on the basic model.  If there’s any justice it will prove a huge success.

In a vain attempt at linking this post to Public Relations… emmm didn’t they get a lot of coverage? OK I admit it’s pure technology envy…

Mac mini

Written by Tom Murphy

January 12, 2005 at 1:54 pm

Posted in General

Seriously VNRs are real news….

Ketchum would want to re-evaluate their VNR business.  Is the revenue worth all the grief they are getting?

The fact they’ve been using Karen Ryan in the past is worrying to say the least, given the uproar that followed previous VNRs.  As a result the response to the Armstrong Williams appearance can’t have been a surprise.

Tell me they can’t have been surprised. 

Did they even remember the furore around VNRs last year?

This article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has the most daming quote of all:

Meanwhile, at least one descendant of the original founders would rather not hear the Ketchum name again associated with this sort of situation.

Carlton Ketchum, a great-nephew of the two founders, works at an insurance agency in town and has never been a part of the agency business. But the distinctive moniker means people he meets frequently ask if he is related to the firm.

He admits it could be much worse. “I’m glad my last name isn’t Enron.”

As I’ve said before, VNRs do have a role to play.  It can provide useful visual background material, but it is not editorial and any parties trying to present it as such have crossed the line between PR and propoganda.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 12, 2005 at 9:15 am

Posted in General

Request for Info: Awards…

A gentle reader has been in touch with an information request.  They are looking for resources on awards in the US.

I seem to recall there was a dedicated website (or was that a firm?) that offered awards listings, deadlines etc.

Anyone got any ideas? You can e-mail me directly and I’ll pass the information on or leave your hot leads in the comments section!

Thanks in advance…

Written by Tom Murphy

January 12, 2005 at 8:55 am

Posted in General

PR Misc – January 11, 2005

 PR firm SHIFT Communications has published some interesting research findings on the ability of PR to deliver sales leads… this is a topic I’ll definetely come back to.

  The Hobson and Holtz Report have released their second PR podcast dealing with PR blogs, PR blog practices, copyright and blogging, IABC and the New Communications Forum 2005. Get your MP3 player out…

 Andrew Smith has some interesting comments on the FT story about PR people moving in-house:

“Certainly in the tech PR sector, things ain’t what they used to be. Gone are the days when agency founders could hope to cash in by selling out for huge sums to a bigger group (and even then, it would be on an earn out basis. The founders would still be expected to stick around for a few years and would only get their pot of gold if they hit tough profit targets). For junior members of staff, long hours and rapid promotion was offset by good salaries and benefits. Maybe even the lure of shares and/or a place on the board at some future point. However, the opportunity to do that now is remote. So with no clear career path and the prospect of being asked to take on ever more resposibility for little further financial gain is leading to many to ask: what’s the point? So no surprise that many are seeking out in-house jobs or changing career altogether.” gives us ten differences between advertising and PR…

 Tech PR job musical chairs continues… Tom Foremski reports that in addition to Andy Lark leaving Sun and Oracle’s VP Jennifer Glass jumping ship to Sony, Jim Finn, Oracle’s head of PR has left the company as well… no news on where he’s moved to.


Written by Tom Murphy

January 11, 2005 at 8:53 am

Posted in General

PR is more complex than media relations…

Shel Israel and Robert Scoble are in the process of putting together what look’s like an interesting new book called the Red Couch, which aims to provide business people with a guide to blogging and business.

They have a blog accompanying the project and Shel has posted some interesting content including a look at how PR (read media relations) has changed in the past twenty years.

Shel also recently posted some thoughts on how blogging affects journalism and PR.

It contains some interesting thoughts and some points I find myself disagreeing with.

First and foremost it treats PR as media relations and as we know Public Relations stretches far beyond the confines of the editorial suite.  Practitioners working with investors, analysts, staff or the local community are ignored when we define PR as media relations.  Its not that simple.

Secondly we are still dancing around the idea that blogging will destroy the media and will become the first and foremost channel for all communication.  I disagree. Just as we thought the Internet and e-mail would become the sole outlet of communication, blogs are a new and important channel, but I believe it is wrong to assume they will supercede what has gone before. Instead it will join the phone, instant messaging, the face-to-face meeting etc.

As far as journalism goes, blogs extend journalism.  They provide interesting op-eds and can serve as useful media aggregators but do they remove the need for traditional journalism? Not in my opinion.

I agree with Shel that Blogs serve a useful purpose in terms of forcing PR people to think about how they are communicating.  There is a definite trend away from corporate speak to a more personal one-to-one style.  However, there are instances where the one-to-one style doesn’t fit.  For example if you’re looking for detailed technical specifications you probably don’t want some folksy introduction, you want the facts.

Blogs are new and increasingly popular.  But in my opinion blogs are an additional tool, an important tool, but not an end in itself.

Public Relations goes far beyond the dissemination of press materials, far beyond the reach of blogs. When we think about how blogs can help us communicate more effectively it is essential that we understand that we live in a complex, fragmented world where one size does not fit all.

The challenge for PR practitioners is to understand all the channels that are available, understand how to use them effectively to communicate with their audience and understand each channel’s inherent limitations.

There is no silver bullet. If there was we could all get by working a couple of hours a day. Blogs are important, interesting and potentially very powerful, but they are not the only answer.


Written by Tom Murphy

January 11, 2005 at 8:28 am

Posted in General

The greatest PR challenge for 2005?

So are you bored with your job?

Not enough challenges in your current position? 

Are you looking for a role that will challenge your mental health?

I have just the position for you….

Microsoft’s plans to launch an anti-virus product could be one of the toughest PR jobs around.  Just think of the crisis planning around that product…

Whilst I’m sure Microsoft will sell large volumes of the product – in a word association test which word pops into your head when you think of Microsoft: Anti-Virus or Virus?

Every hacker in the planet will be waiting for Microsoft’s product. If you’re looking for a challenge I’d send your resume in right now. There won’t be a dull moment.


Written by Tom Murphy

January 7, 2005 at 9:30 am

Posted in General

Do you know who is attacking your reputation online?

Melody over at Mark Borkowski’s blog has posted a link to a story from the New York Times that appeared back in the December that I missed at the time (enjoying turkey sandwiches probably).

It examines the rise of “Determined Detractors”.  People and groups online (and offline) who focus on attacking individuals or organizations. It’s a very interesting read. It reports work being undertaken to categories these detractors.  For example the “hear me” group have real issues, but those issues can be dealt with through acknowledging an issue and dealing with the problem.

As we know the Internet provides the perfect medium for connecting like-minded individuals, (for example PR or Marketing people reading my forlorn meanderings) as a result these online groups will continue to grow and proliferate.  Finding them, understanding their issues and communicating them will become more important for PR people everywhere.

“One determined detractor can do as much damage as 100,000 positive mentions can do good,” said Paul Rand, managing director at Ketchum Midwest in Chicago, part of the Omnicom Group. “In the same way that we need to understand who the positive influencers are, it is becoming even more critical to identify and manage determined detractors.”


  • The New York Times story is a fantastic PR coup for BuzzMetrics


Written by Tom Murphy

January 7, 2005 at 9:11 am

Posted in General

Not all the "interactive" groups are gone….

In response to my post yesterday regarding the need for blogs to be adopted by all practitioners and not placed in a “special” group as the Internet was in the past, Niall Cook informs me that Hill & Knowlton’s “interactive” division is still alive and kicking and indeed is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year:

“The main reason for this is exactly as you say – because PR is about communications. We have somehow managed to be the “ivory tower” and the internal awareness raiser. As a result, more of our practitioners have the basic knowledge needed to create programmes that work across both traditional and online channels.”

I agree with Niall’s sentiments, though I still maintain that many of these divisions were established in the past as part of a desperate attempt by agencies to latch onto something they didn’t (and didn’t want to) understand. I have no problems with specialist groups within PR firms, as long as it doesn’t hamper other practitioners gaining a strong understanding of techniques and tools that are important to the success of their clients.

Blogs are one of those tools (oops I used the tool word).

Written by Tom Murphy

January 6, 2005 at 10:29 am

Posted in General

New PR Blog and a great online newsroom…

I recently came across another PR blog, this time from high tech PR firm New Venture Marketing.

They have a two really interesting posts on Cisco’s newsroom which has been leading the way for online press rooms for a long long time.

These posts are definetely worth a read for anyone interested in building compelling online press rooms: Part 1, Part 2.

“The company also uses the RSS feeds to provide security alerts. While RSS syndication is passive (customers must sign up for your feed), it is a robust technology, highly granular and customizable.

Moreover, the company gets triple the value from its content: First, when the material is released as news. Second, when it is archived as part of a rich resource of searchable information, and the third, in the form of links to the site which help drive search engine rankings.”


Written by Tom Murphy

January 6, 2005 at 10:13 am

Posted in General