Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for July 2005

New and Notable..

  • UK journalist Chris Edwards has a new blog called For More Information, looking at technology and the media amongst other subjects. He has an interesting post on PR Pitches and Tim Bray’s recent pronouncements.
  • Steven Silvers in Denver Colorado has kicked of a new eponymous blog.
  • Usher Lieberman of the Usher Group has a blog entitled Usher Blogs. It’s one I’ve missed as it’s been up and running for a couple of months. One of his recent posts on the whole Rustle Beetie affair has a hyperlink to this blog entitled “hypocrites”, I’m assuming he’s not specifically talking about me 😉

Written by Tom Murphy

July 19, 2005 at 8:15 am

Posted in General

A little more on the future of PR…

Anil Dash, who regularly receives badly targeted PR pitches and who in fairness at least took the time to provide some advice to the proponents of these poor blog pitches (even though it’s unlikely the perpetrators would have the common sense to read them), has kindly responded to my criticism of Tim Bray‘s PR Manifesto in the comments section. (Scroll to the end)

I have posted a response to his comment, but at least Anil took the time to read and respond. That at least is conversation. PR people who blog, do take the time to highlight poor practice as we see it. We do try and provide guidance where it’s appropriate, but we cannot and will not stand idly by when indviduals take it upon themselves to be the visionaries for a profession they know little or nothing about. For the record I don’t include Anil in that category.

Written by Tom Murphy

July 18, 2005 at 8:22 am

Posted in General

We don't need no PR control…..

The question for the class this morning is: Can I be bothered to continue with this blogging lark?

I’m all for opinions, everyone has them, and everyone has the right to share them, but has there ever, in the history of man- or womankind, been so many people expressing so many opinions, based on so little knowledge or understanding? [Well obviously one has to make allowances for politicians, but they’ve always been that way inclined and it’s enshrined in most democratic consititutions].

Not that all the recent commentary has been ill-informed. Anil Dash‘s criticisms about ill-judged PR pitches was a fair and constructive criticism of a problem that is often at the root of PR’s perceptional problems. After all, it was OK to inflict appalling pitches on journalists (we like to think of it as part of their job), but when the PR masses descend on Joe Bloggs (pun intended) then the problem becomes more public.

Then Rustle Beetie goes polar. No more needs to be said on that. A quick Internet search for “Russell Beattie” and “Moron” will bring up all the information you need on that particular subject. In fact if you type those words into the search engine you won’t even have to hit the “search” button.

In the meantime the PR herd is restless. Many people are giving out about too much blog-related PR navel-gazing going on. Now I agree there is an awful lot of that. But there’s also some good opinions on other matters, interesting links etc.

I’d also make the point that it’s important we address the nutters. After all they have as much right to a search engine ranking as you or I. A lesson I learned early on was that rumors become fact in a vacuum. So we should be all addressing these subjects.

Then yesterday, all seemed well with the world. The clouds cleared and the sun (the large orange disc in the sky as opposed to the hardware vendor) came out and low and behold the RSS feeds were quiet with no bad tidings for the PR business.

This morning was similarly calm. I even discovered a sensible post written in response to Rustle’s meanderings from Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg:

“Let’s face if it. If you’re a popular blogger in the space, you’re going to have PR folks after you. The good ones will be of great help and the bad ones should just be ignored (I get lots of shotgunned emails from PR folks looking for coverage from folks who clearly have no idea what I do or cover.). I’ve met Steve a few times and he doesn’t seem like the type to spam inappropriately but then again, we all make mistakes. Bottom line, PR folks don’t waste time with folks that don’t matter so be flattered by the attention, let the good ones help you with what you do and let evolution take care of the poor ones.”

Ah some common sense. There is good and bad everywhere in the world. Unfortunately in the blog world, if a dog bites the hand that feeds, then all dogs must die.

Sorry I digress (well it’s my blog). Anyhow so I’m slipping into a false sense of blog security. I’m thinking that maybe we’ll just get back to discussing the brave new world on online communication. We’ll just have intelligent discussions on the intersection of traditional tools and new tools, have a snigger at attempts at building buzz where 35 year old PR and marketing folks pose as ‘cool’ and ‘rad’ college students. Life is never that simple.

It didn’t take long to destroy my little dream world. Soon after I get in today I see a post from long-time PR guru Tim Bray. Tim is a PR veteran, he’s been working in a variety of PR roles for over twenty years, has worked in both in-house and agency roles and pioneered new PR techniques such as…. oh sorry. Tim Bray isn’t actually a PR guy at all. Nope. Tim is an engineer. A fine engineer. One of the pioneers behind XML and now an executive at Sun Microsystem. Not someone you would immediately identify as a guru on the changing face of public relations. But hey, you’re wrong. Tim has seen the future of PR and he likes it.

Now at this point, I should share with you that Tim does make some valid points.

  • He believes the days of big brother command-and-control PR are coming to an end. I agree and while of course it still goes on, the Internet is breaking down those barriers.
  • I think he also has a valid point that there will be changes in the trade magazine industry, as there will be elsewhere, until we find an equilibrium between print, online, blogs etc.
  • Finally, the idea that employees can make a real contribution to the corporate communications efforts is definetely a trend we will see come mainstream.

OK. So it’s not all bad news.

However, Tim then takes a long, deep, drink from the Blog Kool Aid. He believes that in fact not only will employee blogging become more important, it will actually replace the entire PR function. (While his post only really discusses trade magazines, he has framed his post around the theme “The New Public Relations” so therefore we should take him at his word.)

Yes sir, in Tim’s brave new world, PR people will move from communications to event management:

“we still need events—conferences, unConferences, seminars, beer bashes—and they take a lot of organizing and stick-handling and I suspect that PR pros have the right sort of social-convener skills to deliver value from such things.”

Oh my word….

Ahem. So blogs are going to take over the world, kill magazines, remove the need for PR, do remote diagnosis of rare skin diseases and walk the dog for you. What particular part of the solar system is this blog being broadcast from?

So there’s no longer any need for internal communications, investor relations, crisis management, media relations, messaging etc? TV stations will just scan a couple of blogs and read them out? Or will the TV stations just show a screenshot of a blog? Radio stations will move over to podcast programming?

Blogs make communication more important not less important. PR people are going nowhere Tim. Yes blogs are important, yes there are changes taking place, but your picture of the future is simplistic in the extreme. Your argument about PR is about as informed and accurate as my attempt at explaining the benefits of SOAP as against RMI (don’t ask).

Why is that everyone thinks they are an expert on PR because they’ve done a press tour, a couple of press interviews and been quoted in a press release? What is that about?

Thanks for putting up with yet another rant. It’s made me feel better, which although it may not have made you feel any better, was this post’s sole purpose in life. I’ve decided that we aren’t putting out any more press release we’re just going to replace our website with this blog. It’ll save us a fortune on travel, phone costs and IT infrastructure.

PS:
By the way, the answer to the original question posed at the beginning of this long rambling post is “Yes”. (You are probably now scrolling up wondering what the question is).

Written by Tom Murphy

July 14, 2005 at 9:36 am

Posted in General

PR Miscellany – July 14, 2005

  • The Financial Times reports on a study that found that European politicians need to do a better job communicating online. [Thanks to Drew for the link]
  • There’s been a lot of action in the Analyst Relations side of the house recently. Duncan Chapple reports that fifteen former Meta Group analysts have set up a new analyst firm in Germany called Meton Group.
  • OK it’s a little off topic but is anyone happy with the news that Siemens and Airbus have done a deal to allow mobile phones on airplanes? Does anyone really want to sit on a twelve hour flight listening to “funny” ring tones and people screaming into their phones? Can you imagine how awful this will be, when for the first year after this system is in place you will hear everyone start with “Yeah I’m ringing you from the plane…”. Lord help us. [Thanks to Rainier PR]
  • David Parmet has some sympathy for how PR people track the media at trade shows…
  • Rene Blodgett has a good post on how we can measure the performance of corporate blogs.

Written by Tom Murphy

July 14, 2005 at 9:00 am

Posted in General

PR Miscellany – July 13, 2005

  • MarketingProfs have an interview with long-time Marketing maven Philip Kotler looking at the relative merits of PR and Advertising.

  • Dr. Moira Gunn over at IT Conversations has a live chat with Tom Standage, science and technology editor at the Economist. Required listening for anyone looking to get a better understanding of one of the world’s most unique and often influential magazines. [Thanks to Colin McKay]

  • Steve Broback over the Blog Business Summit has published some ad hoc research on the number of times the word “blog” appears on the websites of many of the largest PR firms. It’s interesting but I’m not sure it’s relevant. Some of the firms with a zero word count actually have live blogs…

  • ZDNet’s Steve Gillmor has an interesting post on the changing face of journalism and publishing. I think it’s always interesting to read these views. However, I still remain on the side of the argument that says there a balance will emerge between between traditional media outlets and online channels such as blogging. Of course there could be a lot of tears before that balance emerges… [Thanks to Andy Lark and Elizabeth Albrycht for the linkage]

  • John Wagner ponders whether you might be better advised not to pitch bloggers. John makes some good points, however I think it’s a mistake to ignore bloggers, the secret is preparation, research and your approach.

Written by Tom Murphy

July 13, 2005 at 10:21 am

Posted in General

This is London. We've dealt with your sort before.

Bernie Goldbach points to a fantastic response to last week’s bombings from the London News Review.

I travelled over to London on Friday and it never ceases to amaze me how resilient Londoners are in the face of adversity. This is a city that has experienced more than its fair share of terrorist attention, yet those appalling acts only seem to reinforce their determination to keep going. It’s a trait that deserves our respect as we send our condolences to the victims, their friends and their families.

Written by Tom Murphy

July 12, 2005 at 10:15 am

Posted in General

Call for Corporate Sponsorship Online

Pete Quily [link] was in touch with me about the British Photo Blog We’re Not Afraid which has been inspired by the London bombings and is inviting people to submit their photos:

“Show the world that We’re not afraid of what happened in London, and that the world is a better place without fear. Email your images to pics@werenotafraid.com”

Unfortunately due to the huge demand on the servers the site (which is run by volunteers) is regularly falling over and they are looking for individuals or corporations who would be willing to sponsor the bandwidth costs.

Here’s a chance to do some good. You can contact Alfie Dennan the guy behind the web site via his blog.

Written by Tom Murphy

July 12, 2005 at 9:14 am

Posted in General

PR Miscellany – July 11, 2005

Well, well, well. Looks like we’ll need to keep a damp cloth nearby today with all the mud slinging that’s going on…

Written by Tom Murphy

July 11, 2005 at 1:42 pm

Posted in General

A Blogger Evangelizing Mobile Products is a Moron

Now that’s an interesting headline for Monday’s RSS readers. Of course I took a liberty with it because I’m sure that most bloggers evangelizing mobile products aren’t morons but one of them is borderline.

Now as the few poor regular readers of this blog know, I am never shy calling foul on silly, ignorant or mis-guided attempts at PR and/or blog relations. On the other hand, I also strongly believe that when someone makes ill-founded criticisms of our profession those criticisms should be addressed.

That’s the subject of this rant.

Russell Beattie is a self-proclaimed saviour of the blogosphere. He is on his crusade armed with nothing more than ignorance in his left hand and irony on his right.

Russell tells us in his post last Friday that:

PR People are Morons

“Russell the brave” tells us:

“But arrived they (PR people) have and now the signal to noise ratio seems to be skyrocketing in the wrong direction. I mean, the great thing about blogging is we were finally able to cut out these morons and get to the opinions and ideas of the people who actually contribute to the world! Yet now these bullshit artists are sort of weasling their way back into the conversation somehow and it’s annoying. And don’t misunderstand, these people aren’t trying to participate in the conversation, they’re trying to “influence” it.”

He continues:

“But beyond these morons, are the PR Bloggers who claim to “get it” or at least understand blogging in general and are now spewing uninformed idiocy out onto the world. Follow the links on these pages and it’s essentially, a how to guide on how to manipulate bloggers, or how your company should start a blog and how that would in turn help you manipulate your customers and media. These blogs aren’t worth the kilobytes they’re taking up on some hard disk somewhere.”

Now let’s start at the end.

Ladies and Gentlmen, I am a PR blogger and I have been blogging for over three years. In those three years and thousands of posts I have never, ever claimed that I “get it”. In fact reading other PR blogs in the intervening period I don’t recall any of the hundreds of PR bloggers claiming they “get it”. But Russ (pronounced Russ) never let’s the facts get in the way of a good post.

So here are some salient points for Russ, unfortunately he’ll never read them because visiting this URL would only soil Russ’ clean and ethical browsing experience:

  • Who appointed you keeper of the blog flame?
  • If you took the time to step out from your rash generalizations and (shock horror) did some research you’d find that most PR people share your sentiments regarding untargeted pitches and the sometimes uneducated practices of other PR professionals.
  • Clearly from your post, you believe that you “get” blogging. To be honest that’s hardly a claim to intellectual superiority is it? I mean there are twelve year olds who “get” blogging – it’s not very hard Russ
  • Why is it that you believe that people (not very different to you) working in PR can’t “get” blogging? – Were you bullied when you were a PR intern at IBM? – Were YOU a moron then? Are you a recovered moron now? Were you just not very good at your job?
  • According to your very detailed resume, you are currently an evanglist. Doesn’t that mean your are peddling your employer’s mobile services and products for a living by communicating with people? How exactly does that differ from PR? How is what you are saying more trustworthy?
  • Have you told your colleagues in the PR department that they are morons? Are you a popular co-worker?

OK Russ here’s some reality for your little blog ivory tower:

  • PR has its problems, you can read about them here and on any of the many blogs on the left hand side of this page. We address those problems regularly and constructively.
  • Good PR people are getting involved in conversations. They are helping companies to communicate effectively with their audience(s) using a wide array of channels from internal communications, to face-to-face meetings, to analysts, the media and sometimes even blogs.
  • There is no barrier to entry in blogging. There is no intellectual challenge in starting a blog and sharing your opinions. To insinuate that your world of blogging is superior to someone else’s based on their career is crass and stupid
  • There are many examples of ham fisted attempts by PR people at pitching blogs – there are also examples of PR people who have done a good job building conversations with people via blogs – at least the PR people who write blogs acknowledge these things
  • If you are going to “delete e-mail from PR people and not link to their sites, does that constitute building a conversation Russ? I link to people I agree and disagree with. I don’t typically have my head that deep in the sand.
  • Finally, given you are paid to “evangelize” your employer’s products and services, can you explain to a simple-minded PR blogger how what you are saying is more relevant, trustworthy and interesting than anyone else paid to promote products and services on behalf of their employer?

I don’t expect a response Russ, I am a PR blogger. In your world that means I am a moron. Unfortunately we morons have opinions too and just like you, we can post our ill-informed nonsense on the Internet. This blogging thing is a real bummer isn’t it?

Evangelize that

Written by Tom Murphy

July 11, 2005 at 8:12 am

Posted in General

Blog Relations… it's time to grow up..

It’s fair to say that the PR blog authors you see listed on the left hand column of this page, regularly defend our profession against claims that we are unethical, lazy, unprofessional and dim. This blog often takes a stand to try and educate people that PR isn’t all about spin and Tom Cruise. It’s often a difficult pitch.

For as long as I can remember, and that’s quite a long time, journalists have bitched and moaned about the inadequacy of Public Relations. They are inundated with badly written, badly pitched, irrelevant stories and ideas. No matter how much they give out however, it never seems to change. That’s not to say there aren’t fantastic pitches taking place every day – there clearly are – but there are just as many poor pitches.

As blogs continue to proliferate, it should be no surprise that the art of poor pitching has migrated to the world of blog relations. We regularly read bloggers giving out about poorly thought out pitches. Furthermore, these inept PR pitches are potentially far more damaging than their media counterparts, because bloggers often name and shame the perpetrators – wouldn’t that fact alone make you think twice? Obviously not.

Anil Dash has written about a recent episode and has provided some guidelines on how to pitch a blogger effectively. It would be great if we all took the message on board, unfortunately I imagine the only people who will listen were the same people who would prepare a proper pitch in the first place. Maybe we should encourage an environment of name and shame?

Steve Rubel, David Parmet and BL Ochman have commented further on Anil’s post.

For anyone interested, here are some assembled links to more guidance on how to pitch a blogger:

Written by Tom Murphy

July 7, 2005 at 11:06 am

Posted in General