Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for April 2005

PR Miscellany – April 18th 2005

More on lovely VNRs..

 Further to the story on VNRs below, a report from an investigation into the now infamous Armstrong Williams affair has found that senior education department officials showed poor judgement..


Blog relations..

 Shel Israel has posted an interesting story on how English bespoke tailor Thomas Mahon has been blogging and enjoying a significant business boom.  It also talks about how PR blogger David Parmet recently undertook a very successful New York media tour with Thomas.  


PR Content..

 Jeremy Pepper looks at how the essence of good Public Relations still depends on good content.



 Shel and Neville have release episode #24 of For Immediate Release, their excellent series of PR podcasts.


Eating one’s own dog food..

 Interesting story in the Philadelphia Business Journal on how PR firm FCF Schmidt as using PR and integrated marketing to boost their business. Now if only they could get rid of the Flash on their website…


Written by Tom Murphy

April 18, 2005 at 11:40 am

Posted in General

FCC attacks the freedom of the press…. well not really….

Well it looks like the whole Video News Release (VNR) epidsode is set to run and run. 

News that the FCC has sent a notice to newscasters and producers of VNRs reminding them of their disclosure responsibilities, coupled with a recent Senate vote to prevent government agencies from funding ‘re-packaged news’ unless it contains clear notification that the content was funded by a federal agency has raised some concerns.

First up let me state that I am no expert on Video News Releases (VNRs) or on the FCC.  However, it seems to me that these actions are to be welcomed by anyone who values ethical practices and transparency.

As a consumer, I want to know that if I give a broadcaster my attention, that they make damn sure they disclose if a news story is including paid-for content in the same way the print media are supposed to flag advetorial. I don’t believe any organization or individual has the right to have their opinions broadcast as de-facto news without such a disclaimer.

However, while this all makes perfect sense to me, some others don’t agree.

Timothy Karr who is a campaign director at Free Press (‘a nonpartisan organization working to involve the public in media policymaking and to craft policies for a more democratic media system’) and has a blog call Media Citizen, was in contact to tell me that VNR producer D S Simon is completely against the idea.

In a press release, D S Simon railed that:

“Misdeeds by PR Firms and government PR people are to blame for yesterday’s FCC Public Notice on sponsorship identification rules of Video News Releases (VNRs), and it could have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.”

Douglas Simon, CEO of the company continued:

“While misdeeds by PR people (including government PR people) should be cracked down upon, I am concerned with government efforts to control the content of news programs. The notice points out that this disclosure is required on “controversial” stories not just VNRs and could limit the media’s right to quote whistleblowers or rely on unnamed sources–a significant blow for press freedom.”


Read that again.

So forcing organizations to disclose the source of a VNR being used in a television program is affecting free speech and could limit the media’s right to quote whistleblowers?

Reality check.  How in hell can they make that leap?

Last time I checked, it wasn’t whistleblowers who were peddling biased VNRs at the unsuspecting public. No.  The purveyors of VNRs and the broadcasters that run them as editorial content have misled their audience and in my opinion it’s right that this content should be clearly labelled.

I understand D S Simon’s need to protect their business but this message wasn’t thought through, just like all the best VNRs it’s missing that essential ingredient: credibility. 

It is interesting to note that in the recent PR Opinions survey, VNRs where listed as one of the major issues harming the image or Public Relations.  It that’s true then we, as a profession, should welcome better disclosure. VNR’s can provide an organization’s opinions on a given topic, they probably serve a useful purpose, but they should be clearly labelled.  After all, if the VNR is so effective, I’m sure the disclosure won’t be a problem….

As always I welcome your comments and thoughts..

Written by Tom Murphy

April 18, 2005 at 10:42 am

Posted in General

It's the media Jim, but not as we know it?

Like many people. I am becoming increasingly bored with the concept of the ‘new new thing’ sweeping away all that went before.

I sometimes wonder if people were paying attention to the whole Internet bust episode.

Change is inevitable, but how change takes place and how it affects what’s gone before is never certain. As soon as I read anything along the lines of “blah is dead”, I switch off because my credibility sensor is ringing.

The future of the media has been the focus of much debate since the Internet moved mainstream (ten years ago).  This focus has been further honed with the advent of new tools such as blogging.

Don’t get me wrong, change is good and discussing and understanding how the media will change is essential for every single PR practitioner whether they’re involved in media relations or not.

However, the media shares a common trait with PR, resistance to change.  The publishers haven’t put a lot of thought into how their organizations will evolve to bring the best elements of their traditional business and merge those elements with new online techniques.  This reluctance is fast becoming irrelevant as they are being forced to make these changes in any case.

I don’t share the view that the media is “dead”.  That’s just unrealistic.  The media is an important part of society and will remain so.  But they are going to have to examine their business and start to think about how they can take advantage of the potential of the Internet – not the threats. They have a fantasic opportunity to merge the online and offline worlds.

Editor and Publisher has a very interesting report on a talk given by media mogul Rupert Murdoch at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference earlier this week.  In the speech Murdoch calls on newspapers to embrace not fear the Internet.

“Unless we awaken to these changes, we will as an industry be relegated to the status of also-rans,” Murdoch said. “There is an opportunity to improve our journalism and expand our reach. Not one newspaper in this room lacks a Web site, but how many of us can say we are taking maximum advantage of our Web sites?”

There is no doubt they are going to have to change, but disapear?  Do people really think that the only place we’ll find news and opinions is Google News’ archive of press releases and blogs? C’mon everybody, get a grip.

Instead of the usual Internet doomsday scenarios let’s bring some realism to the debate.  It’s an interesting debate on its own without any of the hyperbole.


  • CNET‘s Molly Wood gives her views on “Big Media”
  • Thanks to Trevor Jonas over at Bite PR‘s blog for the Murdoch link.

Written by Tom Murphy

April 15, 2005 at 11:13 am

Posted in General

New and notable….


  • PR Agency Connect PR have a blog up and running entitled NextGen PRose.

Written by Tom Murphy

April 14, 2005 at 12:28 pm

Posted in General

PR Miscellany – April 13, 2005

To Embargo or not to Embargo:

Andrew Smith points to an interesting story about a broken PR embargo.  Seemingly the Financial Times (FT) broke an embrago for an announcement from the World Bank. The embargo is a mutual PR-media tool where the media get time to write up a story so they can run it as the news breaks.  From a PR perspective obviously it provides a means of getting the media interested in an upcoming story.  However, as Andrew points out, there’s no legal barriers to stop the journalist running with the story ahead of the launch date – it happens all the time.

So how as the World Bank responded to the broken embargo?  It has banned the FT from their online briefing center for six months….



Andy Lark has made his presentation on measurement from the Media Relations 2005 Conference available online.



iPressroom have made a number of interviews with various PR and media pros available as podcasts [Registration Required].

Meanwhile, Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have released PR Podcast #23  and a bonus podcast on open source marketing with James Cherkoff and Johnnie Moore.


Country PR:

EurActiv takes a brief look at how Turkey is using PR in an effort to increase its chances of joining the European Union.


PR Thai Style:

Interesting article from the Bangkok Post looking at the winners of a recent competition for PR students in Thailand.


Written by Tom Murphy

April 13, 2005 at 10:37 am

Posted in General

More good e-mail advice…

Hot on the heels of my earlier post on e-mail.  Keith Jackson has posted some great common sense advice on good e-mail practice on Trevor Cook‘s Corporate Engagement blog.


Written by Tom Murphy

April 13, 2005 at 9:39 am

Posted in General

PR spam and RSS

In the comments on my post regarding PR e-mail, Jeremy is concerned about his press releases getting caught in spam filters. 

One quick way to check whether your press release will probably get through, is to use a free online service called spamcheck:

Send your press release to:

Put the word “TEST” at the beginning of the subject line and you’ll get an automated response in a couple of minutes rating the “spam-content” of your press release!

Also Tate asks if there are any good resources for illustrating the benefits of RSS to journalists.

I don’t know of any specific resources.  I include our RSS feed in my e-mail signature and at the bottom of our press releases, I’ve had some good feedback from journalists on both.

There are a number of good media stories on the benefits of RSS which may help:

I’d be interested to hear other PR people’s experiences “selling” RSS….


Written by Tom Murphy

April 13, 2005 at 8:50 am

Posted in General