Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for November 2005

Book Review: (Don't) Read all about it…

Love him or loathe him, Max Clifford has undeniably had a major influence on the UK tabloid press over the past forty years. From Ali to Sinatra, OJ Simpson to The Beatles, Max Clifford has operated at the highest (and lowest) levels of British pop culture. He is also the mastermind behind many of the UK’s most memorable kiss-and-tell episodes – and whether you like it or not – the best known PR man in Britain.

This type of “PR” is outside my area of expertise, but Clifford’s continued success, means that he it someone I’ve had a passing interest in. So when I saw his autobiography “Max Clifford – Read all about it” (co-written by Angela Levin) it caught my attention. I realized that it would obviously be carefully positioned to show him in a good light – after all he is in his own version of PR – but I wasn’t prepared for how much spin would be in this tome. In fact, there’s so much spin I am amazed the book isn’t round.

This book is a complete whitewash, it sets out of position Max as the moral guardian of the UK – remember this is the guy who makes extraordinary amounts of money selling kiss-and-tell stories. It is filled with unintended irony and contradiction. To make matters worse it’s written in tabloid prose – where they assume you couldn’t possible remember simple facts so they re-state them again and again. I have to say I was disapointed and amazed that someone so clearly skilled in the business of positioning could produce a book that was simply a bound company brochure.

There’s little real insight into the world of celebrity PR, little insight into the business, and for someone who has rubbed shoulders with the great and the good for forty years, very few interesting stories. Of course, since Max is still working it would be hard to really get into the hard detail, but maybe he should have held off.

There’s little to recommend in this book, save your money.

Of course not everyone agrees with me see the favourable Amazon reviews.

I leave you with an excerpt, the opening of chapter seven:

At home Max was the rock Louise and Liz relied on as he tried to keep them both strong and positive. But his own anxieties remained bottled up inside him. He became an expert at juggling the demands of his work with those of his chrionically sick daughter. He leaned on no one, but escaped from his worries through his work, playing sport and organising sex-based parties.


Written by Tom Murphy

November 28, 2005 at 7:29 am

Posted in General

New blog from the Sunderland conference..

Well I am delighted to say that the first new blog from the Sunderland conference has emerged. Peter Kerr, who was an attendee at Friday’s event, was in touch to let me know he’s been inspired to start a blog.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 23, 2005 at 8:37 am

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Sunderland Trip Report

I’ve just returned from a great trip to Sunderland where I was participating in an excellent one day conference discussing Online PR organised by Philip Young and his colleaugues at the University of Sunderland.

The trip was great on a number of levels. I finally got to meet a number of fellow PR bloggers with whom I have been conversing with electronically for some time including Philip, Elizabeth Albrycht, Neville Hobson, Stephen Davies and Stuart Bruce (not forgetting Serge Cornelus and Anne-Marie Cotton). It was great to finally catch up and along with some very interesting PR/blogging discussion we also managed to solve many of the world’s more pressing problems over a beer or two.

The seminar included some fantastic content from blog cases studies to measuring and monitoring blogs and podcasting.

But one of the most impressive aspects was the audience. There was only one no-show from all the pre-registered list (I’ve never seen that level of commitment at a conference before) and attendees came from all over the UK and as far away as Latvia and Belgium. There were a load of insightful questions throughout the day and the vast majority of the audience stayed to the very end of the day, which illustrated the interest in the subject matter.

I’ve always been critical of the PR business’ slow adoption and adaption to new technology but it would appear that blogging is an exception. From talking with other delegates and from my own discussions generally it appears that a growing number of practitioners have a clear understanding of the opportunities and are very interested in learning more.

Thanks to everyone who made Friday so successful, including obviously Philip, Chris Rushton, of course my fellow bloggers, Nicky Wake and her team at Don’t Panic and last but certainly not least the audience.


Accounts of the event from Philip, Neville and Stuart.

Elizabeth Albrycht, Stephen Davies, Neville Hobson, Stuart Bruce, Philip Young, Tom Murphy


Written by Tom Murphy

November 21, 2005 at 7:51 am

Posted in General

Common Sense and Blogging… what next?

Nothing makes one’s heart sing more than finding some common sense among the blogging fraternity. It happens so rarely that when it occurs I find my shoulders becoming less tense and there’s even a chance of warm smile invading my grumpy facade… you get the idea.

I, like many others, have grown tired and weary of the self-satisfied, holier than thou, “A-list bloggers” who believe they hold disproportionate sway on the matters of the day. This isn’t everyone of course but the sooner we call time on this endless circle of self-gratification the better.

Jeremy Zawodny (no link I’m sick of this cross-linking nonsense – you’ll find him on MSN 🙂 originally proposed a black list of PR firms (yawn) and now he’s launched an invective against SixAparts’s (Think MoveableType, Typepad etc.) PR firm because they pitched him a story…. jaysus. [Aside: He’s a little bit precious isn’t he?] Of course while he could have just deleted it, he instead wasted time writing a post on it… clearly a much better use of his time.

Anyhow… in the comments section of the post, Mena Trott of SixApart fame wrote the following:

I usually try to stay out of these sort of debates, but since you mention Six Apart in this post and because I’m sick and tired of the mob mentality that blogging sometimes brings out, I’m taking the time to comment.

I find the title of your post to not only be inaccurate but intentionally damaging. We’ve worked with KTA for almost three years and the principals and staff are professionals who have been involved in the Valley for twenty plus years. In the three years we have worked with them, they have never suggested anything that borders on spamming and have worked hard to understand how public relations works well with blogging. To link them with spammers is just ridiculous and really self-indulgent.

I asked someone involved with KTA what happened and it was the address being on the wrong distribution list. These things unfortunately happen sometimes and Barbara (a real person!) apologized.

Blogging is a lot like the game of telephone. We can expect that as more people link and offer commentary, the original message or facts can get distorted. I have to constantly defend blogging because of this reason. And posts like yours make it harder to do so.

Fantastic, well done Mena.

Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of PR muppets out there throwing ill-advised, poorly crafted and irrelevant pitches around. That’s wrong, but the beauty of online communication is that quality is self-regulating. The muppets will be ignored, those who research, prepare and understand will succeed in the end.

Blog spam is the hundred trackbacks and comments linking to Pr0n sites that I have to delete every single day. A couple of e-mails from a PR firm – some of which may be relevant to your blog – isn’t exactly life threatening, even in the rarified atmosphere of the “gurus”.

Well done Mena Trott, the scarcity of common sense makes your contribution all the more valuable.

Thanks to Stuart Bruce for the link. [You see I do link when it’s justified – hopefully my selective linking won’t lead to a disciplinary hearing with the Z-list blogging fraternity.]

Written by Tom Murphy

November 17, 2005 at 1:11 pm

Posted in General

The PR blog sloth

Hello. Well later today I’ll be jumping on a plane to Sunderland to participate in the University of Sunderland’s seminar “Making the News – Blogging, Really Simple Syndication and the New PR” – which is of course being organized by Philip Young.

There are a number of other PR bloggers participating at the conference including Elizabeth, Neville and Stuart (and of course Philip) so it should be a great day. Unfortunately the vagaries of the Dublin-Sunderland flight schedule means that I’ll miss this evening’s speakers dinner.

PR Opinions posts continue to be light, but then as my mother used to say, a little is better than nothing 🙂 (RSS is a very useful tool for the lazier blogger). I’ll post some thoughts from the conference tomorrow.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 17, 2005 at 9:17 am

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PR Miscellany – November 7, 2005

Some interesting snippets and views…

  • The first ever large scale survey of European PR bloggers is underway. EUROBLOG 2006 aims to “provide a comprehensive overview of who is using blogs and for what purpose.” More from Fredrik Wacka and Philip Young.

  • John Cass believes that blog relations is not a responsibility of PR – well not traditional PR. While he has a point that the majority of PR people aren’t thinking about blogs, I think blog relations IS a key discipline for PR, it does require a little bit of brain power to adapt to a different engagement model, but let’s be honest it’s not rocket science. (Thanks to Topaz Partners)

  • Brendan Hodgson has an interesting post that suggests how PR may look in the future. (Thanks to Richard Bailey)

  • Shel Holtz takes a very interesting look at the issues and opportunities of attracting good PR talent – and not surprisingly Shel reckons we’re behind.

  • Neville Hobson points to a interesting story on blogging from PR Week.

  • Meanwhile, Alice Marshall links to a prominent blogging story in the Financial Times.

  • Alice also discusses the use of XML in PR. For anyone interested in the subject, there is a PR industry body already working on building PR-specific XML formats. You can find our more about here.

  • Long time PR blogger Elizabeth Abrycht has a number of new initiatives underway including the Society for New Communications Research, see the press release here.

  • Robin Stavinsky has an interesting post on online press rooms and another on RSS.

  • Ben Wilson, one of the PR handlers on the Lions tour to New Zealand earlier this year, recounts his experiences. (Thanks to Richard)

  • Duncan Chapple extends his post on how to manage an analyst crisis.

  • Trevor Cook has some interesting findings from David Davis on what are the most pressing problems for PR people. Fears over job security and mistrust of management promises come in at the top.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 7, 2005 at 7:51 am

Posted in General

New contact details and the wonder of online love…

For the most part blogging is a solitary online activity (no sniggering down the back), but it’s (for me in any case) made worthwhile through feedback, both positive and negative, from the poor souls who wander innocently onto the HTML pages you see before you.

Recently the comments have been overwhelmingly positive, phrases such as “awesome”, “humourous”, “witty”, “intelligent”, “insightful” etc etc. There’s too many to cover here and I’m simply too modest to share some of them. The funny thing is, all these fan comments and e-mails come from a community I hadn’t originally envisaged as a core audience for a blog on Public Relations and marketing… namely the pr0n industry, spammers and other peddlers of useful rubbish on the Internet. Unfortunately as my IQ does (sometimes) reach double digits, I’ve had to delete these wonderful comments before I could share them with you dear reader. But I just thought you should know there’s millions of spammers out there who love this blog….

On another topic, I’m a big fan of dog food. Not in the culinary sense obviously, though my dog seems to enjoy it, I mean in the sense of using the products and services of your employer, and so you’ll notice there’s a new primary e-mail address for all correspondence and it’s also my MSN IM ID. tpemurphy AT hotmail DOT com. I’ll continue to check the other account for a while but then I’ll get lazy…. and will probably miss all those opportunities to win millions of dollars online…

Written by Tom Murphy

November 4, 2005 at 12:33 pm

Posted in General

No honestly the sky is falling down Foxey Loxey….

Well as expected the usual hysterical blog backlash greeted the recent Forbes piece on the risks of blogging.

While I was reading much of the commentary a couple of thoughts came to mind, and as usual I thought I’d bore you to tears with my own little opinion.

First and foremost everyone needs to chill-out a little.

  • Was the article a little sensationalist? Yes

  • Was much of the advice it provided on managing a blog-related issue ill advised? Yes

  • Was it an interesting read? Yes

  • And did it raise a potential major issue? Yes

Do we think it is a good thing that we only highlight the positive aspects of blogging? Surely there is a carrot and a stick approach to blogging. Organizations should be keenly aware that while blogs help build conversations, promote understanding and help with promotion and SEO, there is a much darker side to the democratization of opinion. There are dangers and risks.

In addition, I believe it’s good, right and true that consumers should become more educated on blogging and that they question the source, agenda and bias of blog authors.

People’s reputations are being legitimately and illegitimately attacked through blogs each and every day. To ignore that aspect of blogging – and I personally haven’t seen a lot of people writing about it – is unwise.

It appears that for many of the blogging community the only acceptable editiorial on the subject is the same sugary puff pieces, that in another sphere, they would mercilessly attack as proof that “the traditional media is dead”.

The sky isn’t falling down here. The fact that Forbes covered the subject means that blogging is maturing, this is a standard phase for any new tool, technology or channel. Debate of these issues is healthy and to be welcomed.

I would point out that it is good professional practice to provide clients with a holistic view of blogging. It’s clear that the Forbes piece was scare mongering but it’s no harm adding a bit of balance to the blogging utopia available on millions of sites around the Internet.

P.S. I’m sure you’ve already read it, but Richard Edelman has an interesting take on the Forbes article. I don’t necessarily agree with his recomendation that we should (only) put forward the positive view of blogging, but it’s well written.

Written by Tom Murphy

November 4, 2005 at 11:45 am

Posted in General