Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for December 2006

Merry Christmas

In Ireland, this is without question the best part of the year. 

People return home, families come together and you can’t help stumbling over old friends.

It’s also the time of the year that you can legitimately re-charge the batteries and indulge yourself.

So, Merry Christmas to everyone, wherever you are.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 22, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Posted in General

Five things Meme

Kevin Dugan has tagged me for this five things meme.  Given the season that’s in it, I’m participating :-) 

Clear Vision: I’ve always known what I didn’t want to do.  Before leaving college there were two things I knew I didn’t want anything to do with.  Firstly, computers and secondly, Public Relations.  Fifteen years of doing computer PR tells me that upon reflection I was probably a little hasty… 

First job: After leaving college my first job was fulfilling on-pack promotions for a cereal company – that’s packing envelopes. Soon after I started I was given the job of managing the fulfillment process, I soon realized you made more money doing the packing than the managing.  A useful first lesson.

Teeth: My mother was once told by a doctor to keep a hammer beside my bed and should I start to feel sick she should break my teeth. I should add this was after my jaw was wired shut due to multiple fractures from a rugby match. The teeth breaking was to ensure I didn’t choke to death…. nice thought to go to sleep with.

Microsoft: The very first PR account I worked on, back in 1991, was my current employer. I suppose you’d call that “what goes around, comes around”. On my first day of work I was given a brand new (£1,700) 386 Windows 3.1 PC.  Having never used Windows before, hey it was 1991, I clicked the down arrow on the programme manager, the screen closed and I sat for two hours wondering how I would tell my boss I had just destroyed £1,700 worth of equipment…. I have done some work on my technical skills in the intervening years.

Shrek: I have watched every frame of Shrek from begining to end probably more than 50 times. Luckily my son is now slowly weaning himself off his addiction.  At the height of his addiction, this story emerged … I think we’re OK he’s only two and a half 🙂 [As an aside.. no matter how many people you talk to, or how many books you read, nothing prepares you for the joy of parenthood. As my wife’s uncle once put it; “you can’t explain how you’re willing to die for someone you’ve only met once.”]

I think I’d like to line up: Stuart Bruce, Philip Young, Richard Bailey, John Wagner and Alice Marshall.

PS: The 200th version of “For Immediate Release” discusses the meme.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 22, 2006 at 2:15 pm

Posted in General

Lost comments

If anyone has posted a comment in the last few days which hasn’t appeared let me know.  It appears some comments haven’t been posted as I’ve been fighting barrell loads of comment spam.  If your comment went astray – apologies – let me know and I’ll re-post!

Written by Tom Murphy

December 20, 2006 at 5:23 pm

Posted in General

Best Profnet Queries for 2006

I’m a sucker for creativity, so kudos to New York-based PR Firm Morris + King who have sent out a press release naming the top ten Profnet queries during 2006.  For the uninitiated, Profnet is a service offered by PR Newswire, where journalist submit requests for information or leads for upcoming features. I assume it’s real and in any case it made me smile.

10. Naked Workouts—New York Times (US) I’m doing a story on nude sports—that is, people who exercise in the buff (i.e., in college you see ‘naked lacrosse’ and such). A strange question, I know, but are there any health or physical benefits to this? No phone calls, please. I’m a freelancer.

9. NON-EXPERT: Lemonade and Kidney Stones—First for Women (US) I’m looking for women (ages 25-50) who drink lemonade to relieve pain associated with their kidney stones. If interested, please e-mail me a summary of your experience and photo as soon as possible. 06:00 PM US/Eastern JUN 08

8. MEDICINE: How To Fight Against Indestructible Head Lice—Univision (US) Lice are becoming indestructible. Scientists believe that 80 percent of the bugs are immune to over-the-counter lotions. They found lice were untroubled by the chemicals permathrin and phenothrin, found in popular bug-busting brands. The experts say the process of natural selection means the insects have developed a resistance to the lotions. The findings will not just leave children, parents and teachers scratching their heads. It will almost certainly start a scramble to discover a lotion to do the job better. How to fight against head lice now? We won’t make phone calls or interviews—just need experts to tell us by e-mail how to prevent pediculosis and which treatment is effective against head bugs. 01:00 AM US/Eastern JUN 22

7. TODAY/BEHAVIOR: Shrink—Star Magazine (US) I need a shrink to read something a woman wrote and tell me what they think it means. 03:00 PM US/Eastern JUL 20

6. BEHAVIOR: Barbie Mutilated?—Exit Weekly (US/NJ) Ever own a Barbie? Or maybe your sister did. Recent reports have concluded that many children do not regard Barbie as their idol, but rather something to be destroyed or defaced. Have any keen memories of destroying your Barbie or a sibling’s? Share. Bonus if you’re from New Jersey, our local area. 03:00 PM US/Eastern JAN 04

5. NON-EXPERT: Know a Jerk?—Author (US) Tell me about the biggest jerk you know personally, in 200 words or less, for inclusion in a book proposal about the villains in our lives. Go ahead and vent. Names will be changed. 12:00 PM US/Eastern FEB 21

4. CHARITIES: Equine Charities—Horse Illustrated magazine For Horse Illustrated magazine, I’m writing an article on equine charities throughout the world; what they are about and what issues they are currently tackling. Nov 02, 2006 18:11 PM EST(America/New_York)

3. LIVING: Got Poop?—News Journal (US/DE) What’s with all the pooper scoopers? Is this the end of civilization as we know it, or what we’ve always longed for? A lifestyle reporter with Delaware’s largest daily seeks serious and not-so-serious experts to talk about the explosion of personal services, especially the pooper scooper type. No phone calls, please. 06:00 PM US/Eastern JUL 03

2. FEATURES: Plumbers and Paparazzi Photographers Unite—First for Women For an article that is not strange in the slightest, I need to speak with both a plumber or anyone who knows how to unclog a toilet, and a paparazzi photographer or anyone else who spends time trespassing. I’m happy to answer questions about the article and would love to have something set up by the end of the week. Nov 17, 2006 05:00 PM

1. BOOSTER: Ob/Gyn, Tech Guru, Dog Trainer—First for Women I’m working on a story where I’ll need an ob/gyn, a tech guru and a dog trainer to comment on very specific situations in their area of expertise (tips on how to tell if a woman is pregnant without asking, how to ensure e-mail gets sent to the right recipient, and how to teach your dog not to jump on others). Deadline is this week. Thank you in advance to those who respond, but only the three who most fit my needs will be contacted. Nov 01, 2006 12:11 PM EST(America/New_York)

Written by Tom Murphy

December 20, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Posted in General

The importance of personal productivity…

The world in which we work is changing.  We’re bombarded with more information than ever before through more media channels and devices than ever before – and researchers don’t see any slow down.  This new world of work has implications for our professional and personal lives, and it will also have a major impact on the practice of Public Relations. 

To be effective communicators we must understand how people are coping with the increasing volumes of information being thrown at them wherever they go.  One of the major reasons for the lack of understanding of how the online world will ultimately impact PR is that we don’t have a good enough insight into these issues.  We have to do a better job of researching and listening to our audience.

Of course the new world of work also has a profound impact on the life of the PR practitioner.  A profession that deals in the currency of knowledge, that by its nature is “always-on”, is at the coal face of the new world of work.  So how well are you dealing with the pressure?

As I mentioned before I’m more concerned with getting my first life under control before I start worrying about my second life.

The 1950s comic book vision of the 21st century where robots do all the work and we sit around thinking of ways to pass the time has failed to transpire.  Instead, we`re commuting longer distances, struggling to come to terms with the increasing volume and variety of information, and in most cases, failing to address the real problem of work-life balance.  The bad news is that this problem isn’t getting any easier.

I increasingly find myself talking with people who are really struggling to cope with the changing demands of the new world of work.  They are stressed out. 

The fact is we are not doing enough to help ourselves – this is something that’s impacting our audiences – and therefore impacting the practice of public relations – but it also impacts our personal and work lives.

If you`re not thinking about these issues you should be.   In fact you should be taking action to help yourself.

So what about personal productivity?

Some of you may already have tried and tested systems and processes for your daily working life.  If you do, congratulations but I suspect you’re in the minority.

As a profession that is probably dealing with more information, interruptions and variety than any other, we all need to get smarter about work (and play).

The good news for those still operating the “wing and a prayer” organization system is that there’s loads of help and advice out there.  You just have to stop for a moment and look for it.

Without question, the most talked about personal productivity systems online is David Allen`s “Getting Things Done”  or GTD which is widely supported on web sites across the Interweb. Allen provides a methodology for handling everything you have deal with in your work and personal life. His process is neatly summed up in the GTD work flow chart and you can find a vast array of resources online.  For those Outlook users there`s a GTD plug-in and if you want to use Outlook as the centre of your working day Sally McGhee has a similar system specifically for the Microsoft PIM.

There are other well established systems such as Franklin Covey which are also well worth looking at.

If nothing else these systems can help you to put in place effective systems for handling the deluge of information you’re faced with on a daily basis and hopefully give you the tools to look at the bigger picture rather than keeping your head down on the treadmill all day.

Invest some time in yourself.

While it’s true technology has enabled the explosion of information, it also provides fantastic capabilities to help tame it.  But how well as we using it? Are we putting in place acceptable usage policies that respect work and personal balance?

Most of us use tools in the way we always have.  But how well do you know the features you`re not using?  We’re not taking full advantage of features that aid productivity that are already on our computers and (Smart) phones. Spending some time better understanding how you can make better use of what you have would be another wise investment.

Then there are new tools from RSS readers to collaboration tools.  These can have a major positive impact on our personal and team productivity.

For example, I`m staggered at how many PR people still aren`t using RSS even though practically every major news organizations is now publishing breaking news and content on RSS (even Ireland`s major media organizations for the love of Jebus) not to mention blogs, Wikis and forums. RSS can save hours of time and it`s free.

The subject of personal productivity is far too big to solve here but you need to start thinking about it.  Investing some time will not only make you more productivity but might give you some insight into how the modern work place is impacting your audience.

Open your web browser and do some research.

Start by stopping
Stop rushing, stop and think about what`s important to you.  Start by thinking about what you want from life.  This isn`t a rehearsal, this is it.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you clear about your personal and professional priorities?
  • Are you using a system to sort through and manage the growing volume hitting your desk? If not, why not?
  • Are you making the best use of the tools you already have? Including your PC, your PDA, your phone, your pen and notebook?

Some Resources:

Written by Tom Murphy

December 19, 2006 at 9:43 am

Posted in General

Predilection for Predictions – Themes for PR 2007

“My doctor has advised me to cut back on predictions.”

Conor Cruise O’Brien (1917 - )


It’s that time of the year again when we start to see reviews of the year just passing and predictions for the year to come.  I’ve made predictions in the past, but I’m no better qualified than anyone reading this post or able to operate a web browser to predict the future.

So instead of predictions I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve been mulling over about PR in general and Online PR specifically over a couple of posts. 

The emergence of the Accidental Audience

In PR we think about communication in a linear model.  We communicate with an audience either directly or indirectly (hopefully) via an intermediary such as a media outlet.  That’s communication.  But what if online communication extends beyond that model?

One of the most common questions I hear from PR people is when do blogs, wikis, RSS etc, hit critical mass? When does blogging become mainstream outside the technology and political spheres?

It’s a good question.  But for the sake of argument, what if we’re asking the wrong question?

The theme of death is a common one among the digerati.  This new blah is going to kill that old blah.  PR is dead, the press release is dead, mainstream media is dead etc. etc.  Most of these predictions – which have no basis in fact – work on the assumption that the “new new thing” will replace what went before.  This is human nature. 

I’ve always argued that these new technologies, services etc. are in fact an adjunct to our traditional world not a replacement.  I think that makes more sense when you look at the lessons of history. But what if the “critical mass” question is wrong, because while we are thinking of critical mass in traditional terms – i.e. the number of regular readers or subscribers to a blog equals its importance – a different user model emerges.  A model that doesn’t meet those same criteria.

While listening to the ever excellent For Immediate Release (#197), Shel Holtz recounted a recent get together with some senior communications practitioners from the IABC, and how they have no awareness or interest in blogs, wikis, RSS etc.   I’m confident this is mirrored across the senior ranks of most professions.  However, then you see that a large proportion of the  visitors to YouTube are in the 36-64 age bracket, the same group that doesn’t know or care about blogs and wikis. What does that tell us? Maybe we should stop thinking about blogs as a “medium” or an “online newspaper” and instead just think about content and syndication.  Does it matter that a visitor just finds your blog through Internet search? 

Does it matter that they think your blog is a website? What if your audience will come not through loyalty and RSS subscriptions, but by random Internet searches for specific information? Surely these visits remain valuable even though they’re not in the realm of traditional newspaper measurement.

This challenges how PR typically operates.  Where we are used to planning a campaign, executing it and trying to measure it, what if much of our online activity is aimed at a longer term goal?

We could be moving to an online era where a small number of blogs will enjoy loyal readership but the majority will be visited accidentally through web searches, aggregation, RSS etc.  Of course there’s nothing to say that once found, your audience won’t stay.

But how would that model change how you think about online communication and engagement? PR isn’t currently capable of selling the value of Long Tail communication.  Maybe it’s something we should be thinking about.

The era of the accidental audience could be upon us.

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Written by Tom Murphy

December 15, 2006 at 8:11 am

Posted in General

Disasters, leaks, Edelman and the journalist-blog debate…

Blogger Note: I realize that this headline looks as though it’s a post about a disaster and a leak at Edelman – which it’s not. But hey I’m a blogger not a journalist. 

  • In what must be a fairly easy exercise, Gerry McCusker is calling for nominations for the top ten PR disasters of 2006. I imagine the challenge will be in the judging rather than the accumulation.


  • The myth of control is one of the biggest hurdles for PR people embracing the brave new (or not so new) online world.  Digital information is uncontrollable and when you couple that fact with more outlets and less barriers, then  the idea of “control” is soon forgotten – it’s one of the reasons that we’re dealing with more, albeit smaller, crises than ever before.  ValleyWag offers a helpful guide for employees interested in leaking news from their employers… [Leaked via Alice and Mike…]


  • Ireland’s Piaras Kelly is the latest PR blogger to move to the Edelman empire.  Best of Luck with the new job!


  • Josh Hallett reports from the WOMMA summit on a session which asked: “Are bloggers journalists?” It’s not a unique question and I imagine there isn’t a definitive answer. Of course, some journalists are bloggers and vice versa, but are “bloggers” as an entity “journalists”? Not in my humble opinion.  No way.

Written by Tom Murphy

December 13, 2006 at 8:19 am

Posted in General

Something old, something new and something new and something old….

Stuart Bruce has a great example, albeit not typically representative of your standard PR campaign, of why the combination of “new” and “old” media continues to offer the most potent mix in most fields of communication. The sceptic in me still wonders if it’s a marketing trick, but evidence points to the contrary.  It’s also interesting that the combination of billboard and the MySpace site has seen the story picked up in the national press.

On a completely seperate topic, there’s a great example of how the online world can provide a really useful resource.  Following on from Michael Kemper’s selection of the five best PR books, Constantin, Kami and the rest of the online PR crew have pulled together a site where you can suggest and vote for your favourite PR book.  If you are interested in some professional reading material – it’s not a bad place to start. 

Finally Trevor Cook has an interesting post on one of the challenges of the free world of online media – a lack of regulation means that organizations can use online sites to bypass local legal restrictions. A new challenge for traditional regulation – I wouldn’t hold your breath for the solution.


Written by Tom Murphy

December 11, 2006 at 9:16 am

Posted in General

One small step…

We all get caught up in our day-to-day lives  We’re stressed, under pressure, running around to meet deadlines. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to sit back and take a breath.

I had an opportunity yesterday to do just that on what was an incredibly busy day – probably the most busy day of the year so far.

The Irish business launch of Windows Vista, 2007 Microsoft Office and Exchange 2007 took place at Croke Park in Dublin yesterday.  Obviously from a professional perspective it represented the culmination of an incredibly intense period of planning and preparation. That’s before you throw in media and community activities around the event.

The keynote speaker for the launch was Neil Amstrong, the first man to walk on the surface of the moon.

Given that I have never been one to get overly excited about space travel, rockets, magnetic fields, solar flares or turbines, I doubted it would have an impact on me - but it did.

Standing and listening to him talk with a group of 10 and 11 year old school kids in private (this wasn’t a PR stunt) I was blown away by his life experiences.  Seeing his achievements through the excitement and wonder of the kids had a major impact on me. 

When you stop and think about what they achieved – at a time when their only computer had 4K memory – it’s a staggering tale of bravery, intelligence and ingenuity.

It made me stop and think.  Now that’s not a bad thing to do once in a time. 

Then it was back to work…. 


Written by Tom Murphy

December 6, 2006 at 2:56 pm

Posted in General

Global mortification

Let me just say I’m glad it’s over and after all it has raised money for a good cause.  I will never miss a shave in the morning again…

Written by Tom Murphy

December 3, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Posted in General