Friday, August 31, 2007

A Question 

What kinds of PR campaigns would be needed to change this behavior?

Successful Viral Video 

This series of viral videos has been unusually successful. The videos are short, the product demonstrations convincing and choice of materials sent through the blender imaginative. One watches to the end. The idea behind "Will It Blend?" is not new. It's the old-fashioned product demonstration that has been used forever, but the demonstration is kept short and the sales pitch is the action of the blender without infomercial huckstering. It is viral video a PR practitioner might do. The proof is in the action.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

MySpace Groups 

PR practitioners have asked me how to use social networking sites in their work. Here is one way -- to reach niche groups. We noted some time ago that social networking sites attract like-minded individuals. For one client we had investigated people with diabetes and found several groups devoted to discussing how they live with and manage the disease. As social networking sites officially form groups, it will be easier for PR practitioners to reach them with targeted messages. Of course, use these groups with care and avoid spamming. Go to them only with information that will interest them. But, you knew that anyway.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Everlasting Sin 

On the internet, no one forgets your failings. They are there in every search one does to the embarrassment of individuals and organizations. In that light, it has become more important to protect reputation, first by avoiding circumstances that compromise one and second, by having a good defense from the outset. How, for example, can this senator and this football player live down the incidents in which they have ensnared themselves? Even if they are in the public eye 25 years from now, the internet will divulge their pasts.

In this light, the internet is the modern scarlet letter that hangs on reputation and doesn't allow forgiveness. As individuals and organizations understand the internet's persistence, there will be efforts to wipe out the past (which have started) followed by deeper concern for reputation from the outset, which has yet to begin.

PR has always been concerned with protecting reputation. In that light, the internet is an opportunity for growth through providing proactive defense today that lives in databases alongside embarrassing incidents.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kept in the Dark? 

It is humiliating for a spokesperson to be placed publicly in the wrong. That might be what happened here. About all one can do is to bear it and realize one's personal credibility has taken a blow in the media. At very least it should make a spokesperson cautious about dealing with an employer in the future. When might the employer keep the spokesperson in the dark again?

A Case for Media Monitoring 

Here is another reason why companies should monitor new media daily. When rumors arise, they travel quickly whether they make sense or not.

The Power of Social Media 

This article demonstrates the power of social media and why companies should monitor them regularly. It would have been even more interesting if Cadbury had asked its customers whether to discontinue the candy bar before doing so.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Out of Touch 

For the last week, I was on vacation in a remote part of New York State. What was striking is how out of touch one can be with the news. The local papers reported local events and little more. One could check the internet but it wasn't generally available. The people who live in the region are largely cut off from the news stream one expects in New York City.

The situation struck me forcefully because it is easy to fall into an assumption that others are well-informed about current events. They aren't. Local concerns and issues have more meaning for them. They may pay passing attention to national and international news, but not much more. Hence, one deals with how to bridge the gap between what people know and what one wants to tell them. This is more true than not for much of the country based on my travels. And, it may become even more the case as newspaper editors struggle to adapt to the internet age. There is an old saying that all politics is local. That saying may need modification. All PR is local.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Few Days 

I'm taking an end of summer break from blogging. I plan to be back in a week or so.

Too Soon 

With all technologies, there is a time to investigate and a time to use them. One can jump in too soon and waste money or too late and lose advantage. Second Life appears to be case in which companies are wasting time and money. They are building virtual worlds but few are coming to visit. Perhaps it is good experience for them to understand avatars and what it is like to wander an alternate universe, but, it seems there are better things they could be doing.

It doesn't take long in PR to see technologies come and go to the scrap heap of good and not-so-good ideas that never made it in the marketplace. The idea is to test constantly but to commit slowly. Regrettably, there is a tendency to wait then jump in that loses advantage. Practitioners forget there is gear-up time with all technologies and unless they have experimented with them, they are facing learning time that slows use. On the other hand, there are also judgment calls about which technologies to investigate. Second Life has struck me as a waste of time, so I have avoided using it. Perhaps I'm a Luddite about gaming.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why Old Media Are Still Needed 

Why traditional media with large newsrooms are still needed in society.

Health PR 

Here is the reason why PR practitioners working in health and medical PR need to be online.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Content is King 

From the beginning of this blog, I've ranted (sadly) that content is the most important element of the web -- not flashy design. This study affirms that point of view. People go to the web to find information. Hence, a key task of the public relations practitioner is to make sure that web information is updated and easy to access. In the normal course of operations, web sites should be updated at least monthly. Most aren't. Hence, one can find instances even with major corporations, as I did the other day, in which a key statistic was given as two different numbers on two pages of its site. I had no idea -- and still don't -- what was the correct figure, but I needed the data for a document I was writing. It's frustrating when that happens, and it damages the credibility of an organization. One has to ask what else is wrong on the site and whether any of its information can be trusted.

About Time 

I feel sorry for the reporters in this case, but it is about time that government employees hiding behind anonymity are exposed for bending of the rules. I have no idea whether Mr. Hatfill had anything to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, but the government had no right to destroy his reputation through a whisper campaign. I am willing to bet that public affairs officers were not involved in the backgrounding. It came from lawyers and law enforcement officials who were using the media to try to "smoke" Hatfill out. They blatantly ignored presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and regrettably, they still do.

An individual's reputation is precious and once it is destroyed, there is little the person can do to remain a productive member of society. Government bureaucrats, of all people, should understand that. Obviously, they don't.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Journalists now are not writers or TV personalities or bloggers. They are all of the above. In fact, it is so much so that some reporters squawk about it. For example, this column on sports writers. Reporters today are multimedia practitioners who produce copy, appear on TV, voice podcasts and keep up blogs all in the same time span they once used to produce for one medium. Something has got to give in this kind of pressure.

That is the reason for this essay on how to work with convergence journalists. It stresses the importance of being accurate resources for the media and for changing how we approach them given their new tasks.

As usual, I look forward to your comments.

This essay is the 69th posted on online-pr.com.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tough Crisis 

There are few crises more difficult to handle than a mine disaster. The crisis unfolds over time. Rescuers try to reach the buried men but it takes hours, days and sometimes, weeks. Families keep vigil at the mine along with dozens of media. Every rumor raises hopes or dashes them. Rescue managers are under huge pressure to get to the men before methane and carbon dioxide kill them-- that is, if they aren't dead already. Most of the time, there is no news. Drills have to chew through rock. Rescuers have to cut through tunnel walls. There is just waiting, waiting, waiting. The strain of it is unnerving. In this anxiety, someone has to go before cameras and microphones periodically and tell everyone what is happening. Dry statistical details of how far rescuers have proceeded fail to answer the question whether the buried are alive. No one knows until they get there. In a situation like this, any slipup will generate anger among the miners' families and be magnified in the news. One cannot afford a mistake. It takes strong, personal control and careful use of language to tell the facts without raising or dashing hopes.

I'm not sure how one trains anyone to handle communications at a time like this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

More Wages of Hype 

I've had a bad attitude about the two-wheeled Segway ever since its mammothly over-publicized introduction. It's poor luck since has been richly deserved. Here are more wages of hype. Even its fan club is falling apart.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Important Experiment 

Google in its news gathering is trying an important experiment. Here is a direct quote:

We wanted to give you a heads-up on a new, experimental feature we'll be trying out on the Google News home page. Starting this week, we'll be displaying reader comments on stories in Google News, but with a bit of a twist...We'll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we'll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as "comments" so readers know it's the individual's perspective, rather than part of a journalist's report.

This means that PR practitioners have a new source for correcting mistakes in articles about their organizations and people. It's a good idea, and I hope it works. My fear is that people will abuse the feedback to make silly points rather than serious commentary.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Inconvenient Truth 

What happens when a researcher discovers an inconvenient truth? The researcher can accept it and/or argue with it, as this fellow is doing. He doesn't like that he has proven diversity makes for a worse community, not better. The greater the diversity, the fewer people vote, "the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings."

This conclusion is against the tenets of the liberal mind. It is hard to accept, so hard that the professor looked at his data over and over to make sure it was correct. It goes against conventional wisdom that diversity is better for society. It feeds the worse instincts of anti-immigration advocates, although immigrants built US society. What to do? The first step is to accept facts. That may be the hardest task of all.

It is easy as PR practitioners to accept "truths" and never question them. It is facile and wrong. As middle persons between organizations and audiences, we must first look hard at what is there before we attempt to persuade anyone of anything. It may be, and often is, that the "public" is nowhere near where we or an organization thinks it to be. Our job is to tell the organization what is and not what the organization wants to hear. It takes skill to do that -- and courage. It is easier to duck issues and mouth a party line, but it is also ineffective and wrong.

Public relations is a difficult business when done right. It is as difficult as the job of a social scientist.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Fact of Life 

Deferred maintenance is a fact of life. It is easier to get funds to build something new than it is to maintain something old. The reason for this is part of human psychology. It is a major challenge for PR practitioners who are tasked with persuading citizens to pay for upkeep. The tendency among voters is to turn down increased taxation for road and bridge repair, for fixing school buildings and government edifices. It usually takes an accident or a crisis to get their attention -- a sad way to perform persuasion.

A PR Person's Dream 

Here is a story that is every PR person's dream for how to handle an investigative reporter. The organizers of this conference went out of their way to help the reporter who didn't want to be helped, so they got revenge. It must have felt good to watch the reporter fleeing the hall with 150 or so attendees converging on her and shouting questions. I suspect there are plenty of PR practitioners who wish they had been there.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Imitation is flattery except when it is satire. That was the case for Apple executive, Steve Jobs, when an individual started a "Fake Steve" blog that became a must-read of Silicon Valley. It turns out that "Fake Steve" wasn't in Silicon Valley and was an editor of Forbes magazine in Boston. His 14-month satire worked well, and no one was hurt. But, that doesn't mean that others can't be harmed by writers lifting their persona. It is another reputation threat that PR practitioners need to monitor, although rare. Usually in cases like this, one effort leads to others and the victim will be a high-profile individual, as Steve Jobs is. I wouldn't be surprised to see a "Fake George Bush" blog, a "Fake Dick Cheney" blog, etc. Badly done efforts won't gain much credence and will disappear. Well-done satire can, however, generate a following and wound.

Friday, August 03, 2007

What Blogs Are For 

This story about Dell taking a public flogging on its own blog for a product delay is what blogs are about. Customers can express frustration as much as support for a company. In this case, the blog became an outlet for customers enduring unacceptable delays in getting their high-end computers. While the episode is painful, Dell could have had its customers expressing their rage on their individual blogs and on bulletin boards all over the internet. At least, customer dissatisfaction has been captured and the company knows what it needs to do to get on its customers' good sides. Blogs are not only for good news.

Great PR 

Great PR is what you do as much as what you say. That is what makes this an excellent example. IBM, to use the industry's argot, is eating its own dogfood and proving that it can save space and hundreds of millions of dollars by installing main frames to replace thousands of servers. That proof becomes the case example it will take to its customers. "We did it: you can too."

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Maybe this time the technology for videoconferencing has reached the quality needed to supplant face-to-face travel. This article has a good synopsis of the failed attempts from the past while discussing the new high-definition technology. I'm still skeptical, however. The function of face-to-face meetings is not just the meeting but the environment surrounding the meeting. One gets a feel for a location and people in context versus images in an antiseptic room. On the other hand, anything that can save one from air travel is worth looking into.

Campaign Wiki 

One sign that the internet has arrived as a major campaign tool is a wiki listing the names of internet staffers for each candidate. Some candidates now raise the majority of their funds through their web pages in the form of small donations. There are plenty of lessons to be learned in how campaigners are using online tools.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

So, What's New? 

This article in The New York Times science section seems to be obvious and an insight man has known since the beginning of mental awareness. People's thoughts and actions change in the presence of sensory cues. Why were there cave paintings? Why were ancient temples built the way they were? Why were royal buildings magnificent and larger than what the average citizen lived in? Man has understood intuitively since the beginning that communication is a whole body experience.

Years ago, I used the example of gaming floors in gambling casinos. They are structured to disorient the senses and to keep players focused on the fun of gaming with lights, bells, whirling slot machine cylinders and enclosed spaces that shut out the world. Retail sales floors are filled with visual and aural cues to encourage buying. Churches and temples today communicate a sense of the infinite in their design

I suppose it is good that science is documenting what any communicator already knows, but was it worth such a lengthy piece?

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