Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Archive for January 2011

links for 2011-01-30

Written by Tom Murphy

January 30, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Posted in General

links for 2011-01-17

Written by Tom Murphy

January 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Posted in General

Book Review: Out of many, not enough

Harold Burson’s 2004 memoir E Pluribus Unum – The Making of Burson Marsteller was my second book of 2011 and to be honest I was looking forward to starting it. 

Mr. Burson is one of the few giants of the Public Relations business.  In 1953 with Bill Marsteller he started Burson-Marsteller and drove its growth and expansion to eventually become the biggest PR firm in the world. He continues to go into the office today in his 80s and he has his own site and blog.

I had high expectations for the book, I was looking forward to insights into the PR business from the 1950s to today, but to be honest, I was disappointed.

The book opens brightly with an account of how he found himself in a career in Public Relations, but it soon descends into a potted company backgrounder on B-M’s growth around the world.  There’s little narrative or insights into the business but instead it becomes a collection of cities, people, dates and office openings.

I really struggled with it and I actually considered not finishing the book, but I was glad I did.  The last third of the book provides a little more insight into Mr. Burson’s working life such as his work with Coca-Cola and some of the high profile issues he managed.

But overall I’d have to say that this was, sadly, a missed opportunity to get a better insight into the career of one of the most successful Public Relations executives who worked with many of the best known organizations in the world over five decades.

The lack of a compelling narrative and limited insights into the practice or business of Public Relations mean I couldn’t recommend it.

A pity.

Posted by Tom Murphy@tpemurphy

Written by Tom Murphy

January 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Posted in General

Credibility means walking the walk

Two things triggered this post.  First, a couple of weeks ago I was talking with someone who expressed despair at who in the PR/Marketing sphere should she be following/reading and how would she know if she could trust they were talking sense or not.

I’ll address that first. There’s a fantastic, rich reservoir of opinions, insight and advice out there.  There’s also a lot of hot air and no shortage of people proffering opinions as fact.

To find blogs, the AdAge Power 150 list is a good place to start though it’s more marketing focused than it used to be. Also jump on Twitter and do some searching for PR – and make sure you download an RSS reader which will make tracking the blogs you choose simple and fast.

You’ll quickly find writers who are providing good insights – and there are many – and those who aren’t.  The key element for me is credibility.

This brings me to the second trigger for this post.  On the run up to the New Year, one of the more widely read social media commentators sent a mock-humble – bordering on patronizing – tweet thanking his followers from the bottom of his heart for allowing him to share his wisdom with them. (I’m paraphrasing Smile.)

After the heaving in my stomach had subsided following reading this tweet, I decided to see if this magnanimous global leader ‘walked the walk’. This is one of our cherished experts who preaches about how social media is changing the world and we can no longer broadcast messages but instead we must engage with me, have one-t0-one conversations.

I clicked on his profile – for it was a he.

He failed the test.

For someone who preaches about engagement I was pretty surprised to find that he was following 0.8% of his followers. Doesn’t sound like he’s living the whole engagement dream there. Sounds like he’s broadcasting.

Of course there are people from the entertainment and sports world who have millions of followers and broadcast to them.  I follow some of them and I’ve no problem with that.  But if you don’t practice what you preach, then sorry, you’ve failed the credibility test and been removed from my RSS feedreader.

Posted by Tom Murphy@tpemurphy

Written by Tom Murphy

January 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Posted in General

The joy of… language

During a meeting earlier this week I spotted a well thumbed copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves on an office book shelf.  This discovery sparked an enjoyable conversation on the power of language. Of course if you’re working in Public Relations then language is occupational currency.

Later in the week I was absent mindedly browsing Netflix and happened upon an old gem, the entire series of Yes Minister.

For the uninitiated “Yes (Prime) Minister” is a 30 year old BBC television comedy that follows the career of a Minister in her majesty’s government (and later as he assumes the role of Prime Minister) and his daily struggle with the powers of the civil service.

If you love language then this is something you should watch.

“No buts,” the Minister snapped. “All I get from the Civil Service is delaying tactics.”

“I wouldn’t call Civil Service delays “tactics”, Minister,” Sir Humphrey replied.  “That would be to mistake lethargy for strategy.”

In today’s climate of “transparency” and “plain English” the use of language in the series – purely for the sake of obfuscation and deceit – is truly a joy!

From a PR perspective there’s an interesting potential parallel between the Minister’s relationship with the Civil Service; and a dysfunctional client-agency relationship.  (Obviously this doesn’t reflect any of my client relationships when I worked on the agency side, or god forbid my agency relationships since I crossed the table :-))

Witness a memo between two Civil Servants:


A Minister’s absence is desirable because it enables you to do the job properly:

  1. No silly questions
  2. No bright ideas
  3. No fussing about what the papers are saying

One week’s absence, plus briefing beforehand and debriefing and catching up on the backlog on his return, means that he can be kept out of the Department’s hair for virtually a fortnight.

Furthermore, a Minister’s absence is the best cover for not informing the Minister when it is not desirable to do so – and for the next six months, if he complains of not having been informed about something, tell him it came up while he was away.

Substitute “Minister” for Client and “Department” for Agency 🙂

Watch the series or better yet, exercise your mind and buy the books which give you time to savor the plots, the thinking, but most of all the language.


Written by Tom Murphy

January 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Posted in General

Productivity Tip: RSS

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog yesterday and saw his post in defense of RSS following the usual echo chamber discussion on the subject:

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. It’s not particularly difficult to keep up with 200 blogs you care about in less than hour using an RSS reader.
  2. RSS provides home delivery. Instead of remembering where to click, or waiting for a post to get all buzzy and hot, the good stuff comes to you. Automatically and free.
  3. Subscribing to a blog is easy. Just click here for my blog, for example. In Newsfire, you can paste the URL of any blog and it automatically finds the RSS feed for you.

I could not agree more.

What’s RSS?
In simple terms it’s a technology that tells you when a website has new content.  The beauty of RSS is that you can browse the latest content from hundreds of sites in a fraction of the time it would take you to do it through your browser.
Feed Computer icon.

If you have to read, monitor, surf, or browse large amounts of content every day.  RSS is an INVALUABLE time-saver.

I am a long time user (and fan) of the FeedDemon RSS reader. It’s a Windows application that makes reading, organizing and searching RSS feeds fast and easy.

There’s a free and paid version of FeedDemon – it’s worth every cent.

If you’re stressed about trying to keep up, get into RSS, it will save you time and money.

Written by Tom Murphy

January 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Posted in General

Quick Tip: Fixing video

OK, this one is off-topic but I thought I’d share. 

I’m sure you are far more clever than I, but last night I shot a video of my daughter with my phone.

When I finished I realized that I had shot the video in portrait rather than landscape, which meant when it was posted online you’d have to cock your head to one side to watch it:


To try and rotate the video I had visions of having to surf through forums, download some specialized software etc.


Thankfully it was far easier.

It turns out Windows Live Movie Maker (free download) fixes it with one click of the mouse.



For what it’s worth Smile

Written by Tom Murphy

January 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Posted in General