Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for December 2005

A post for the unwashed….

Before I begin, I should point out that if you’re a member of the righteous blog police, then it’s probably not for you, instead (folowing official blog usage guidelines) click on this outgoing link.

Ryan McGrath sent me on a link to Kathleen Parker’s syndicated column (in this instance published in the Chicago Tribune). Kathleen’s story which has already probably stirred up a nice nest of moral outrage among the blogistas is, to me anyway, based on common sense.

“Although I’ve been a blog fan since the beginning, and have written favorably about the value added to journalism and public knowledge thanks to the new “citizen journalist,” I’m also wary of power untempered by restraint and accountability.

Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right…. Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. Some bloggers also offer superb commentary, but most babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation’s inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive.”

You can see why some of the high church will be spraining their fingers as they bash vitriol at what they call the MSM or Mainstream Media – I really don’t like that term.

But I think she has a great point, while there are undoubtedly thousands (or more) of great bloggers out there, there’s also a lot of dross, a lot of people grinding axes and a lot of verbal diarrhea. I fell sorry for her with all the barbs that will be sent her way for giving an opinion, but it’s no harm to pull away from the Koolaid on a regular basis.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 30, 2005 at 8:47 am

Posted in General

No 2006 PR predictions but a thought on fragmentation…

I have in the past used the Yuletide period to provide a whole range of predictions on what’s going to happen over the next twelve months. You’ll be relieved to know that I’m going to skip it this year.

There are a number of reasons. First and foremost, there are a whole range of people already publishing predictions and to be honest they’ve put a lot more thought into the matter than I have. Secondly, I don’t have anything particularly insightful to offer on my last predictions!

However, there is one trend I wanted to share. A trend that I believe will have major repercussions for PR not only in 2006 but probably for five years beyond that. That trend is fragmentation.

The media landscape is changing in every market and geography. We’re seeing major changes in trade journals, national newspapers, business magazines, local freesheets and online media. These changes have an impact on our profession and they are closely related to the other great fragmentation taking place: how people find and share information.

Good communication begins with the audience. If you want to inform an audience you must understand how they like to receive information, what influences their behaviour, how do they use the information they receive ?

In the past, using technology as an example, you could pick the five top trade magazines and be sure that you’d reach at least twenty percent (and maybe more) of your target market. You knew which magazines were best to reach CIOs, developers, IT managers etc. While those same trade magazines, even with shrinking staff numbers, are still vitally important – and on a personal level I am a big fan of trade media – people now have a variety of information sources. The question for you, as a PR professional is do you know what they are ?

People are more selective these days. They want information where and when it suits them. If you don’t know where and when then you are running the risk of an ineffective campaign. How well do you understand the changes taking place in your media outlets? What other sources are your audience using ?

I believe that today our profession cannot answer these questions. We still operate in a mass-communication environment – and while it still works, I believe its effectiveness is slowly being eroded. Be clear, I am not one of the scaremongerers. I believe that the traditional media still has a vital and mainstream role to play and will in the future. But I think we all realize there are other media becoming increasingly important and we must embrace those as well. It’s one of the reasons why PR people are quickly seeing the potential of blogs as a communications medium. Contrary to what some of the bloggerati would have you believe, PR’s adoption of blogs is taking place rapidly, but blogs aren’t the total answer. In fact we can expect the fragmentation to continue for some time and we will undoubtedly be left with a combination of traditional media along with face-to-face and online communication.

There is no one single answer to fragmentation, but I believe there’s a way of navigating the changes that are taking place and that starts, as it always should, with our audience.

To understand the changing landscape, we must understand how people in your audience are finding and using information. Magazine rate cards are no longer a sufficient means of surveying an audience. Instead we must obtain primary knowledge of the audience. Only when we begin to understand the changes that are taking place can we truly make PR an effective means of reaching the mainstream audience.

To begin we should start to reach out to customers, meet them, add PR-related questions to customer outreach. Why not set up an customer audience group where individuals give first hand advice on how and why they like to receive information. This would provide useful data on an ongoing basis highlighting changes in behaviour and unearthing new media. Using other online tools such as search engines, web site statistics etc. also provides useful information sources.

There’s no silver bullet to fragmentation, the starting point is to be aware of it. For many industries the trade media will remain the single most important element, for others the balance will shift. They key is to get a good understanding of what’s happening in your audience.

Oh and before I forget, let me wish all of you a happy and a prosperous New Year!

Written by Tom Murphy

December 29, 2005 at 8:20 am

Posted in General

Promoting your blog (not) Tip # 234

I am aware that I sometimes come across as a grumpy old man on this website, but honestly I’m not… well most of the time. But I thought for those who are starting off with a new blog it would be good to pass on a tip about e-mail. Specifically using e-mail to promote your insightful prose.

I am always delighted to recieve e-mail from people who are starting new blogs, it’s a great way to let people know your site exists and is arguably a lot more effective than trying to subtly lovebomb trackbacks and comments (IMHO). Ideally a nice personalized note would be fantastic, however I realize that time is limited so I’ll even accept the old “no one in the to-line” e-mail informing me of your new PR testament. That’s absolutely fine. No problems. See I’m not always grumpy. Ahem.

Now once you’re underway you’ll find that posting a blog entry is a rather simple exercise. It’s not terribly difficult as the world’s ten year old bloggers and my good self can attest. So at this point stop and have a think BEFORE you send another e-mail saying “Hey I’ve written something on my blog”. That’s the wrong answer. There are over 200 PR-related blogs online. If everyone sent an e-mail everytime they posted a story I’d be getting over 1,000 e-mails from PR bloggers a week… not a nice thought.

Of course if you’ve written something you think is extremely noteworthy or relevant to other bloggers then by all means drop them an e-mail, we do it all the time. But there has to be some RELEVANCE. Remember that many people are now using RSS feeds, so once you’ve published your entry they’ll see it anyhow.

Given the Season that’s in it, I’ll refrain from naming and shaming the high profile newbie who e-mails me (and ten thousand other people no doubt) every time he hits the publish button, even though the content isn’t relevant to me – and isn’t particularly interesting. However, in the spirit of online learning, if he keeps sending, I’ll make this a more public tutorial with a real-life example – something blogging needs more of.

Maybe I am a grumpy old man after all…..

Written by Tom Murphy

December 29, 2005 at 8:05 am

Posted in General

Seasonal Miscellany of odds and ends….

Some links, ramblings and facts for those who should be making better use of their spare time…

  • Anyone who believes that there is any type of accepted uniform measurement system for PR is also probably shopping for a nice bridge. There are of course many approaches to PR measurement, some of them even make sense and add value. But the reality is that PR people are poor at measurement and the lack of an agreed measurement framework is holding the business back. Shel and Andy share their thoughts, while undoubted PR measurement guru K.D.Paine makes an unfortunate analogy between the availability of useful, relevant and accurate PR measurement and a mythical figure in a red suit…. There’s now a page dedicated to measurement on the NewPRWiki.
  • Constantin Basturea is the go-to guy for a good summary of interesting PR posts.

  • This is the 1,337th post to PR Opinions which has now been running for 46 months.

  • My favourite Belgian, Serge Cornelus now has a blog.

  • Stuart Bruce’s blog has moved to a new address

  • If it’s true that those that can, do; those that can’t, teach, could the same be said about bloggers? 🙂

  • The Bulldog Reporter provides some useful pitching tips. [Via Bob LeDrew]

  • I believe the PR industry would be better served by less talk about new media and more action in the real world – you know, the one that pays the bills.

  • As always the Onion hits the target, this time it takes aim at the overweight thirty something marketers whose goal in life is to pretend they’re not thirty something overweight marketers [Via Colin McKay]

  • If you’re wondering why ‘you don’t get no respect’ check out CMO’s great press release quotes from 2005.
    “Some of my clients are searching online for different types of dog clothes. My job is to find one place to send them to. I’d like to discuss an arrangement with you about this.”
    [Courtesy of Andy Lark]

  • I’m in two minds whether this is relevant or not, but it’s certainly interesting [More from Trevor Cook]

  • Steve Lubetkin pens a very interesting post on PR’s continuing loss of credibility. I think it’s an important issue and until PR people recognize that we are in the communication business, it’s one that will continue to haunt us – probably forever.

  • Shel and Neville continue to deliver the PR podcast goods with episode 96!

  • Piaras Kelly is hosting an Irish PR Directory.

  • As an unabashed fan of Dilbert, one of my favourite blog entries of 2005 is unsurprisingly from Scott Adams’ blog:
    “If you are new to the Internet, allow me to explain how to debate in this medium. When one person makes any kind of statement, all you need to do is apply one of these methods to make it sound stupid. Then go on the offensive.”
    [Via MS&L’s BlogWorks

  • I couldn’t help but laugh at Satirewire’s interview with a Search Engine [Via DrewB]

  • Irish journo John Collins paints a depressing picture of the Irish technology media landscape.

  • 2005 PR blog launch award goes to Mike Paul. Out of hundreds of new PR blogs this year, PR Week chose to publicise Mike’s. Fair play…

  • Laughter is sometimes the best medicine [Courtesy of Guillaume de Gardier]

  • As a rule I don’t like anonymous blogs but Clogger is worth a visit.

  • I’ve three speaking enagagements coming up in the next couple of months:
    January 23rd a talk on Technology and PR in Cork
    February 9th a Public Relations Institute of Ireland workshop on PR and New Media
    February 15th “Delivering the New PR” a follow up event to the recent conference in Sunderland with Elizabeth Albrycht, Stuart Bruce, Neville Hobson, Chris Rushton, and Philip Young. The event takes place at the Lancashire Cricket Club in Manchester

  • Am I a bad PR blogger if I don’t bother to use Technorati tags?

Written by Tom Murphy

December 28, 2005 at 1:24 pm

Posted in General

A visit from the ghost of Christmas future…

Well belated Christmas greetings to one and all. As you can see from the most brief perusal of my date-based archives I am still struggling with the whole Work-Life-Blog balance and as a result posting continues to be lighter than I’d like, but that’s the way it is, for the moment anyhow.

The recent blog hiatus has provided me with some useful perspectives on the world of blogging in general and PR specifically. On the plus side the PR blog ecosystem continues to grow nicely and the new and existing PR bloggers are publishing some very interesting content and viewpoints. On the negative side there’s still far too much navel gazing going on. In my not so humble opinion too many people continue to be distracted by the shiny new new thing rather than getting on with life and using the tools already in place. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong keeping an eye of what’s going on, but if we’re in the business of public relations let’s start driving best practice on what we already have before running off like a child on Christmas morning.

That leads me to the to my second observation – nothing terribly new here but it should be re-stated – if bloggers want to assume the mantel of “citizen journalists” then they damn well better be willing to take the responsibility that comes along with it. It’s one thing to publish a stream of conciousness (I do it all the time) but it’s another thing to be reporting things as fact when the only research you’ve done is a quick Technorati or RSS scan. I have always maintained that the quality of online information will be self-regulating. If all bloggers do is re-print unfounded accusations, or give their opinion on something they know nothing about or haven’t bothered researching, then the wheels are going to come off the blog train sooner than you think. The problem with blogs is that everyone thinks they’re an expert and everyone believes their *views* represent the truth. They don’t. If you want to provide readers with your opinions, then the least you can do is a little research.

Man re-reading that I sound like the grinch! But at least I researched this post. I asked myself a number of questions and I then verified the answers with myself. So you see I do practice what I preach – unless I’m tired or bored. That’s my disclaimer.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 28, 2005 at 10:36 am

Posted in General

They giveth and they taketh away…

Now kind reader you may be a little surprised by the following disclosure, but it’s true, honest. There are some PR people out there who think this little piece of the Internet is worth pitching. Well, not the site obviously, but you, the kind, under-served reader of PR-related topics.

I get a variety of pitches, some very very good and some downright awful. But even if authors don’t admit it, vanity often means you are flattered by the attention of the PR pitch. At least your writing matters to someone you tell yourself as you eagerly read the press release about online gambling….

My policy is straightforward, if you have news that’s relevant to PR or marketing people directly or indirectly and you are interested in reaching the handful of insomniacs who sometimes wander by, then by all means give me a shout. I’ve often written pitched items here – though it’s currently running at about 95/05 in favour of rejected pitches. I’m a long-time blogger but even I find it difficult to work the wonders of a new online casino into a PR blog.

So, as I was saying, there’s something flattering about getting pitched, flattering that is until you find out what you’re worth. How much will it take to purchase a mention on PR Opinions? Well according to my most recent pitch I’m worth $23.95. Not a lot is it? Very depressing if you ask me. Seemingly if I mention a particular book I’ll get the book free. Fantastic. Not only that but they gave me loads of fantastic promotional ideas for promoting (the free book I got for selling my soul) it on my website… competitions etc. etc.

If there was any danger of me losing the run of myself that put an end to it. So keep the pitches coming, but it’s going to take more than $23.95 to slip in a sneaky mention.

I have accepted books for review in the past (at no cost) but that is on the understanding that I’ll provide an honest review and that I’ll reference the fact that the book was provided free of charge…. honestly! I doubt I’ll get Mr. Clifford’s next work for review either.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 13, 2005 at 9:02 pm

Posted in General

PR Strategy: Crossing the Tortoise

Humans are creatures of habit and sometime that works for us and sometimes against us. I’ve previously mentioned how impressed I am at the understanding, interest and adoption of blogging by PR practitioners. Unlike previous technology waves, it appears that the profession at least see the potential of blogs in communications. Many are embracing the concept, or at the very least investigating it. That’s excellent news for our profession – though as I’ve said before there’s more to online communication than blogs – but that’s for another day.

So what has this to do with habit?

The Internet has created an instantaneous environment. When we want the latest news we can find it and read it in a few keystrokes. When we need to find some specific information we can similarly discover, scan and digest in seconds. The Internet provides fast online communication with tools like instant messaging that not only enable us to connect and communicate in real time, but inform us whether people are available.

This speed and simplicity has spoilt us somewhat. It has become a habit. A couple of weeks ago Stephen Davies posed the question of what PR was like in the pre-Internet age. My response, and it’s similar for many of the other PR dinosaurs out there, is that one of the major differences was that a lot of time was invested undertaking tasks that today we can accomplish in a fraction of the time – think research. As a result we’re getting more work done, but more importantly it changes our expectations of how long any specific task should take – and that my friend is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes it’s advisable to invest some time rather than rushing headlong into a task.

Let me explain.

Blogs are a great example. We can identify and contact bloggers on any given subject in minutes. We can quickly and easily scan their blogs to see if their content is relevant and we can use tools like Technorati or BlogPulse to try and gauge their influence, but do we stop to understand the blog?

Two separate conversations this week have led me to believe that the Internet has spoilt us and has put unrealistic expectations into our heads. Two different marketing/PR folks were in touch asking my opinion on undertaking blog relations. Both saw the value of blog relations, but wanted to know how they could pull together an outreach campaign quickly. Both mentioned they were under time pressures. You see, given you can find anything online quickly, you can communicate quickly, well then you must be able to communicate well quickly. It’s the Hare’s approach to online PR. The reality is somewhat different.

Rather than racing to throw some bloggers into the e-mail hopper, I believe you would be better advised to follow the tortoise’s example. Take a deep breath, slow down and let that wonder of millions of years of evolution, your brain, take over from the speed of the Internet. If you really want to effectively pitch bloggers, then just like journalists you need to identify them, understand their audience, understand their policy on PR pitches and then tailor your pitch to effectively communicate with them. I call it crossing the tortoise – not because it makes any sense, but simply because coining these ridiculous phrases seems to make people lots of money. I must remember to trademark it. Anyhow I digress…

The Internet is fast, easy and available (there’s so many potential one liners there), but that doesn’t mean that your approach should share those characteristics. If you are serious about online communication, have something to say and value the opinions and readers of a blogger then invest the time in understanding the blog. Mail merges or “tailored” press releases may hit hundreds of bloggers, but I believe your success will be limited.

I had a couple of interesting Hare pitches recently. Just today I got two “tailored” pitches from two different people at the same PR agency about a client that had little if any relevance to this blog. Now I know you’ll have a hard time believing this, but the the tailored pitches were identical, what are the odds on that? Well you know what they say about an infinite number of monkeys. If you ask me they would have been better sticking with the tortoise.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 12, 2005 at 9:32 pm

Posted in General