Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for January 2008

Cross-Post: Engaging with Bloggers in Ireland

Damian Mulley asks the question: "How should PR companies engage with Irish bloggers"

I think the unfortunate term “new media” had made PR companies think (lazily) that the same rules of engagement apply to bloggers as to existing journalists. Not that existing journos are very happy with the way some PR companies bombard them with crap. And as I wrote that last sentence I get a press release from an Irish PR company about the opening of a Conrad hotel in China. Jesus.

I’m glad Damian is throwing the question out there, because blogging still has some way to go in Ireland.  It’s growing strongly but we’re still not on a par with the UK, don’t mind Spain, France or the US. Just look at the number of Irish PR bloggers on the right hand sidebar.

Bernie has also posted his views on the subject.

I’m re-posting my comment for posterity:

Tom Murphy Says:
January 22nd, 2008 at 8:01 am


Good post, it’s no harm to get this question out in the local market.

I’m a PR person (and a blogger) and to me it’s quite simple, Public Relations, when you boil it down, is about good communications (yes I know there are shady practitioners and practices – but in 99.9% of cases it’s about communication).

Good communication, regardless of the medium, era, channel or tool is about understanding your audience.

Blogs are no different in that regard.

If PR people wish to communicate with a blogger – and by doing so reach their readershop – the basics of good communication remain valid:
1) Does the blogger accept communication for PR people – or do they see PR people as the spawn of satan?
2) Is your information relevant? – not only to the blogger but their audience
3) Is the information valuable?
4) How does the blogger prefer communication?
5) Have you talked with the blogger before?
6) Have you taken the time to read the blog?

The problem is that often people get lazy and just spam irrelevant information to anyone they can find.

That’s not PR, that’s not communication, that’s just laziness.

Of course the rules have changed, so where, in the past, journalists often just cursed the PR people and binned the press release, bloggers can now name and shame. That should be a deterrent against spamming – but it doesn’t appear to be.

If it’s any consolation I get spammed with press releases all the time – which I suppose serves me right!

When you boil it down, “blog relations” is about good communication, it is about common sense and it’s about common courtesy. Any PR people following those rules will be fine.

PR people aren’t the spawn of satan but often they don’t help themselves through lazy communication. I don’t apologize for them. If you get lazy, irrelevant pitches then call them on it.

@Dennis makes a good point, don’t take any communication at face value, always do your own research. That’s good journalism :-)
As @Bernie points out there’s no excuse for PR people not to understand this stuff, there are hundreds of blogs and podcasts covering these issues every day – do some browsing
@Orlaith – I disagree that the relationship between bloggers and PR people has to be antagonistic. Yes there are silly PR people, yes there are silly bloggers, but on the whole this is about communication. Just like the real world, some people will like your client/company and some people won’t. That’s life…


Written by Tom Murphy

January 22, 2008 at 8:07 am

Posted in General

PR & Twitter…

I have spent a lot of time knocking Twitter over the past twelve months. (In fact I think it’s fair to say that I’ve probably been less than complimentary about it in every single talk I’ve given…)

About a month ago, I decided to delve a little deeper into it.  I downloaded some software and have been lurking ever since. (Not very Web 2.0 of me I admit).

It’s certainly interesting.  There’s some good discussion and you get a lot of fantastic links to information, blog posts etc. You could think of it as an additional "RSS" feed if you like.

Having said that, I haven’t yet mastered the whole "participation" element. I am still struggling with yet another channel, more information and I’m not sure I have anything terribly interesting to add in between e-mail, RSS, meetings etc. But that’s a work in progress….

The reason for the post, is that if like me, you still don’t get Twitter then there’s two interesting posts about how Twitter might be useful from a PR perspective – I think the jury is still out on the longevity of the medium, but these are worth a read in terms of putting some perspective on how Twitter can help in online communication/networking:

I will never tire of saying that you need to build your network, and its trust in you, before it can work for you. Any venture into Twitter starts with a small network, and an unclear view of how you will get value. However, as you stay with it, and find more relevant contacts through your current group.

For me the biggest issue remains time.  The biggest challenge of "Web 2.0" (sigh) isn’t "…the death of <fill in your choice here>" but rather the management of time, resources and brain power.

Twitter is certainly interesting and *perhaps* it  will become an essential for all PR pros.

In the meantime I need to start thinking what I’ll get rid of.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 18, 2008 at 8:23 am

Posted in General

Who needs the PR overhead?

Sally Whittle poses the question: "Who needs PR agencies, exactly?"

Is any headline as likely to cause a feeding frenzy? [Well maybe one is more likely]

Her point is summarized as:

So, here’s my question: what do these companies miss out on by not working with a PR agency?  I must admit, as a hack, I love the idea of not needing to go through that intermediary when I’m following up a story. But I’m not an expert in what PR agencies do over and above this stuff, so I could easily be missing something.

So what does a fat monthly retainer get you?

Having spend many years in an agency, and even more outside, it’s a great question.

[For this discussion we’re assuming PR is press relations rather than the broader Public Relations definition.]

Hiring a good PR firm, that will do a great job for your business is hard. Full stop.  PR is about people and good people are hard to find.

But there are also a wide array of different approaches to PR management.

At one end of the spectrum you have the "complete in-house" model and at the other you have the "completely out-source" model and there’s a lot of wiggle room in between.

If you’ll forgive the rash generalizations:

  • In-house staff often bring more company and product-specific knowledge and sometimes more passion – a much underrated quality.
  • Agencies often bring valuable perspective and potentially a broader reach into the media market.

There’s obviously more than that, but I think it’s a useful way to outline the divide.

In my experience a mix and match approach often works best.

I believe you do need communications expertise in-house, but agencies do provide a useful means of scaling your reach and providing context on what’s going out in the real-world.

So, to summarize I provide the ultimate PR answer: it depends. 🙂

Written by Tom Murphy

January 17, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Posted in General

The changing world of journalism

My online (self) interest isn’t necessarily focused on the widgets or the hyperbole, but more about where we’re headed and how it’ll look when we get there.

There’s no doubt our world is changing, but the big questions is how?*

My view is that while the Internet is heavily laden with people’s opinions, it’s light on facts.

PR firm Brodeur conducted a survey (PDF Press Release – sigh…) of 180 journalists and their views of the impact of blogs on traditional news coverage.

Some findings:

  • Blogs are a regular source for journalists (75%)
  • A quarter of journalists have blogs (28%)
  • The majority believe blogs are having an impact

Some may view this as the online equivalent of surveying turkeys on Christmas, but I don’t.

I still (currently) believe that ultimately we’ll see a re-balancing of online and off-line but we won’t see the death of either.

Chris Thilk has a very interesting post on the report.


*It goes without saying, but I’ll type it anyway: I don’t buy the PR doomsday scenario.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 16, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Posted in General

The Changing World of Work

Regardless of your position on whether PR is dead, dying, changing or staying the same, there’s no debate that we’re all facing the challenge of dealing with more information, from more sources than ever before.

This trend, along with the capabilities of new technologies and the appearance of new work practices is challenging our perception of a traditional work place.

Work is changing and so is the work place.

As with all these things, the changes will take place slowly, but they are relevant all the same.

There’s some very interesting writing appearing on the subject, and given the importance of focusing on your audience, I think it’s incredibly relevant for every PR professional.

Have a look at this post from one of my favourite Moose ticklers, Darren Barefoot who points to some interesting posts on the subject.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 16, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Posted in General

Well it's Friday… Don't blame the tools

We’ve all been there, the guy who thinks reading the slide is the secret to stunning presentation success….

Don McMillan shares his favourite PowerPoint presentation tips… [Thanks to Piaras]

Thanks to Piaras for the link.

Technorati Tags: ,

Written by Tom Murphy

January 16, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Posted in General

Well it's Friday… Tradeshows

Have you spent days on end, standing on your poor sore feet, talking about things you don’t understand, to strangers who are really only talking to you on the off-chance you’ll give them a t-shirt?

I remember my trade show days all around the US and Europe very very well.

Digression: Once attending a UNIX trade exhibition at the Jacob Javits Centre in New York during the Winter in the ’90s – this was when there was no pre-registration, you could just walk in off the street – and the organizers were having problems with unfortunate homeless people who were wandering through a UNIX trade show (you can bet they weren’t there by choice!) to get out of the cold. 

Anyway my boss at the time briefed all of us to escort any homeless interlopers off the stand.

I avoided this duty for the first two days as I was doing presentations on UNIX development (don’t ask), but on the last day this massive homeless guy was thumbing the literature on the stand and I was despatched to politely ask him to leave. 

He was your typical steroetype of a homeless person.  Mad matted hair, big coat, huge bushy beard, plastic bags, sandals in Winter…

I put on my nicest smile and very nicely asked if he wouldn’t mind leaving the stand.  Then I spotted his delegate badge, he was a college professor….

There’s a lesson there somewhere.

As someone who used to make "presentations" on C++ development I can honestly sympathise with the victims of Gizmodo’s CES prank.


But it’s still pretty funny – and not a homeless guy in sight (see digression)…

Written by Tom Murphy

January 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Posted in General

No more excuses for not using RSS…

NewsGator has announced that they are releasing their FeedDemon (Windows Desktop), NetNewsWire (Macs) NewsGator Inbox products free of charge.

I’m a long time FeedDemon user and these are fantastic products for using RSS – which let’s not forget is a fantastic time saver.

Neville Hobson posted about how he uses NewsGator last week.

Do yourself a favour and go to the NewsGator site.

Award-winning RSS readers are now FREE!

Written by Tom Murphy

January 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Posted in General

Twitter this… Good content is worth the time.

I have an issue.  That issue is time.

Like you I’m busy.

This week I’ve been thinking about the hassles of keeping up with all this online stuff.  Even with the wonders of RSS…

Then I made my fatal error… I decided that after deriding Twitter for a year I’d start to delve a little deeper. [Apologies to Paull, Susan, Kevin and Alice who replied to my random Twitters (I can’t use the Twe*t word… I must feign cool uncoolnees) I didn’t discover that they had replied via Twitter until Monday – some 286 days after they hit the return key. Sorry about that.

I’ll write about my Twitter experience at a later date – it’s an experiment in progress.

Anyway, that was a rather rambling introduction to say that I just spent a very enjoyable thirty minutes watching a good old grumpy discussion among journalists about the changes taking place around us.  `image

I mean this in the nicest possible way. I’m grumpy. I like being grumpy.

It was a recent edition John C. Dvorak’s videocast "CrankyGeeks" and includes  John Markoff and Gregg Zachary from the New York Times and Sebastian Rupley from PC Magazine. [Thanks to Mr. Holtz

It’s excellent, interesting and intelligent – even if there are glimpses of naïveté (if you’ve worked in PR for more than 4-5 weeks you’ll spot it) – I don’t necessarily agree with all their views, but what did hit home was that as time is fast becoming your most valuable asset, you’ll invest it where you’ll get a return.

Not a bad (if obvious) thing to remember as a communicator.

Anyhow, watch it. It’s good.


Written by Tom Murphy

January 8, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Posted in General

'Tis the time for lists

I realize I’m probably coming to this late but PR Week has published its Book of Lists for 2007.

You can read it online here or download a PDF version here.


5 corporate blogs that built buzz

Dell continues its return from online comms purgatory in the second year of its Direct2Dell blog. The posts are a mix of promotional and troubleshooting advice, perfect for the customers who love the products, but hated their customer service for so long.

J&J’s blog reached a high point when Ray Jordan, VP of public affairs and corporate communications, honestly explained why the company was engaging in a reputation-threatening lawsuit against the American Red Cross.

The StonyField Farm Baby Babble blog is a perfect example of company as content producer. This blog is solely dedicated to providing information about rearing children. As such, visitors will instinctively think of the company as an expert on child health.

Yes, yes – a picture is worth a thousand words. And a blog that ties closely to Kodak’s goals is worth a million. Giving staffers a photo blog – even if they’re not the greatest snapshots in the world – is a simple way to boost employee passion and humanize the company.

Zillow’s blog manages to accomplish great synchronicity between promoting the Zillow product and providing valuable information. The service that Zillow, a provider of online real-estate services, can provide through its blog is very important, considering the uncertainty and lack of sensible information in today’s real-estate market.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 3, 2008 at 7:48 am

Posted in General