Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It Only Takes One Error 

This is a timely reminder that it only takes one bone-headed error for a PR person to lose a job.

Yet Another Warning 

This is yet another warning that the internet is running out of addresses, and something needs to be done. Don't expect action: Few are listening. There are times when humans don't want to hear the facts because facts are inconvenient -- like building homes next to fire areas in California or failing to raise levees around New Orleans. Yes, commissions study the problems and create thick reports, but nothing happens until a disaster occurs. Then, everyone points a finger at the other guy. It is one more example of reason limited by behavior. If humans were primarily rational, they would act. They aren't.

Still Waiting 

PR starts with basics -- doing what you promised to do. I am reminded of this because Kodak is close to failing in basic PR with this customer.

I have a Kodak camera that, sadly, is broken. A control knob on the machine works sometimes and other times, not at all. I wrote Kodak to ask about service last Sunday and received an automated message that Kodak's target for response is 24 hours from the time the message was received.

I'm still waiting and beginning to believe I won't hear from the company. On the other hand, Kodak is sending me its e-mail newsletter talking all about its service capabilities.

I could do without the newsletter, but I need the service. It seems to me Kodak would understand that, but I'm beginning to wonder.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

From Bad to Worse? 

We posted here a short time ago about Comcast, the internet service provider, that appears to be blocking service to some users and trying to hide what it is doing. If this article is correct, the company is still trying to hide its activity and making its situation worse. Does Comcast understand transparency and its impact on reputation in the internet age?

Product Reviews And Reputation 

How important are product reviews on the web to the reputation of a brand? This important. A brand can die quickly from bad online reviews. Organizations that fail to reach out to unhappy customers are hurting themselves without realizing it. PR should be involved in finding and responding to customers who have had negative experiences with a brand.

Corporate Blogging 

If you are interested in the progress of corporate blogging, here is an essay that looks at 15 corporations and what they are doing with blogs. Not surprisingly, results are uneven. Some companies are deeply involved and have hundreds of blogs represented on their web pages. Others have one blog. Some blogs have a clear purpose. Others didn't. Some are kept up to date and others are abandoned. It appears that for most companies, blogging is not yet a standard practice. The essay also includes guidelines for successful corporate blogging.

The article is the 72nd posted to online-pr.com.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Importance of Blogs in Campaigning 

What a difference four years have made to the importance of blogging in political campaigning.

Criticism Deserved 

How not to do PR... Government example.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What Large News Events Have Become 

Large news events have become occasions for massive citizen journalism. Mainstream media have come to rely on it.

Viral Video 

There is a lesson in this story on producing viral videos. It is that developing one is difficult, and there are no guarantees. From a PR tactics perspective, it is not a good technique. There are less risky ways to get a message out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Potenially Good Idea 

IBM has come up with a potentially good idea for tracking participants at conferences. Equip each name tag with a radio frequency identification chip (RFID) that automatically tracks which talks the individual is attending and exhibits the person is visiting. In one stroke, this eliminates all the counting and surveying organizers do to discover what is working and what isn't. The one glitch in the idea is privacy. The conference attendee has to be willing to be tracked like this. IBM's experience at its show indicates that people accept the idea. For PR practitioners who organize large events, this technology might be just the ticket.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PR in a Withering Business 

It's hard to maintain employee morale in a shrinking business. Maybe a CEO shouldn't try until a turnaround is complete even though a company can lose its most valuable employees during such uncertainty. How does one keep employees focused on the greater good and survival of a business when colleagues are disappearing all around?

Harming its Reputation 

A few days ago, Associated Press reported that Comcast, the huge internet service provider, was blocking some software. Further tests show that it is apparently blocking other software as well. It failed to tell anyone it was doing this, and the result is a ding to its reputation at a time when competition for customers is fierce. It is likely that Comcast is doing this to prevent large files from slowing its servers, but lack of transparency set the company up for a "gotcha" and self-inflicted wound.


Writing headlines for web pages.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Odd Psychology 

The wildfires in California with their destruction of homes are an example of odd human psychology, that PR deals with in its efforts to persuade. Southern Californians have known for decades that building houses in zones where there is native brush is an invitation to disaster. Yet, they continue to do so, and when their houses burn, they rebuild in the same spot. No amount of persuasion seems to change minds. The attitude of government is to let them proceed subject to laws, such as using non-combustible roofing material. Still, that doesn't prevent loss of structures in terrible fire years.

This odd psychology also applies to building in flood zones, which happens all over the US, or building next to eroding shorelines, another nationwide irrationality. Hurricanes in Florida and Gulf Coast states have shown time and again that such dwellings are at high risk. Yet, people build and rebuild, as if nature were not a factor. The only control appears to be high insurance rates. Local and state governments appear unable to stop it.

What kind of persuasion campaign would it take to bring people to their senses, if anything could do it? One's "right to live" anywhere one wants is as stubborn a belief as the right to smoke was 50 years ago.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hypocrisy in Action 

What happens when a government body wants to deny an application, but doesn't want to be ridiculed? It asks for more information, then more information, then more information again until an applicant quits in frustration. That appears to be what is happening here. The Cape Cod wind generation project is a nationally publicized example of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). The wealthy who reside there want environmentally generated power as long as it is done somewhere else. It seems clear that they have power over the Cape Cod Commission, and the Commission is doing their bidding. The developer has a weapon too. He can continue to publicize his difficulties to expose deliberate malingering in the hope that public pressure will get the Commission to act. It is a waiting game now -- who can outlast the other.

Peril of Bad Reputation 

What happens when your reputation is destroyed? Things like this. I can't say that I feel sorry for the man. He destroyed himself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Long-Needed Transparency 

Here is an example of a government effort to achieve transparency that has long been needed. The database collects information that has been on shelves and makes it accessible in a useful way to the public. This is a role PR practitioners can be playing in getting data their organizations produce to be useful to constituents. Such transparency can be highly useful in positioning, as I've learned over the years.

A Great PR Person Who Isn't 

This fellow is a great PR practitioner who, as far as I know, has never worked in PR. But, the programs his agency has sponsored are revolutionary and reported worldwide. That should be a lesson to those of us who work in the business.

A Change in the Works 

The IMAX theater I attend makes a public spectacle of changing the huge film reels used in presentations. This will be quite a change to that show but an example of how digital technology has progressed. If you haven't seen a digital presentation yet, it is a better technology than film. PR practitioners should be considering how to use it, if they are not doing so already.

What Publicists Should Be Doing 

This is an old publicist's tactic moved to online and made effective. The creativity is wonderful and an example of what publicists should be doing. I fear that few would know how.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Price Truth? 

Is there a time for lack of transparency when the past is left deliberately obscured?

Activism Now 

This kind of activism is well underway in politics. It is a matter of time before other individuals and organizations become objects of mass scrutiny.

The Common Good 

There is a time when PR practitioners should join together for the common good. Here is a communications issue all can get behind. Sadly, we are past the point where voluntary measures can work. What is needed are real sanctions and not the half measures of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PR Today 

This essay has been posted for a few days, and it is time to mention it. It is an analysis of the PRSA's 1982 description of PR posted on the PRSA web site. In some ways the description holds up: In others, it doesn't. Of course, nowhere in the description is any hint of the media explosion that occurred since that time nor of globalization that brought such tragedies as Bhopal. The description was and is aspirational.

It is past time for the PRSA to update the description, but I suspect it won't. It has become boilerplate to rivet where needed but otherwise forgotten. What is needed is a new description of PR based on the reality of what most PR practitioners do. Unfortunately, neither the PRSA organization nor its members would like it. Maybe that is why the old statement is left in place. It is nostalgic and a reminder of a time when PR had higher goals.

The essay is the 71st posted to online-pr.com.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Testimony to Online PR 

Marketers have seen and understand the power of online PR, at least according to this study. Note that they are increasing marketing PR budgets to foster marketing as conversation.

Classic Use of Online PR 

You may have seen this story, but if not, it is a classic use of online PR and wonderfully creative. If it can save a few dogs lives, it is worth the awareness effort.

Google - Built on PR 

This is an interesting story about Google's marketing budget. It seems the mighty advertising sales firm relies on word of mouth and media coverage more than advertising to make itself known. That is classic public relations. Google, of course, is in a class by itself. Other companies aren't so lucky in their marketplace positioning. Google won't be that fortunate forever either. Still, it is good to see a great firm growing through following PR principles.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Time Is Now 

Internet games tied to TV programs have trained audiences to be interactive. It is time for PR practitioners to think the same way, if they are not doing so already. I don't mean allowing remote questions at press conferences but allowing an audience to rate what it hears during a press conference, for example.

Real-time voting has existed for more than 15 years at meetings. Those are the devices that allow one sitting in a room to record opinions while a presentation is occuring. There is no reason why it shouldn't be available remotely with webcasting as a regular feature of presentations.

Interesting Thought 

This is an interesting, if overstated, thought on the role of the internet in helping Al Gore win the Nobel prize. The writer emphasizes its PR value in getting people to understand global warming and its impacts and to raise initial awareness of his movie.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Two PR Embarrassments 

Here and here.

No-Win Good Deed 

Hunting for charity to supply meat to the poor seems like a good idea. But, from a PR perspective, it is a no-win good deed. Animal activists, the "bambi crowd," are furious that hunters shoot deer, even if they give the meat to soup kitchens. Yet, there is no argument that the US is over-populated with deer, and it is unhealthy for the deer and the land. Activists oppose without reasonable alternatives and are not open-minded. (I write this because they have been a force in my community.) Public relations cannot reach them. It takes leadership to override their objections and to allow thinning. As has been written here several times, public relations should not assume everyone is happy in the end.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sabotaged by Employees 

Organizational policies mean nothing if employees don't follow them. And, in this case, employee violation of medical privacy records turned into a public relations embarrassment for a hospital. The hospital's punitive action was warranted. It needs to make an example of those who transgressed the rules and to state publicly that it won't tolerate such behavior. It would be good if more organizations reacted this way, but too often they don't. We witness almost daily businesses that call themselves customer-service organizations whose employees don't give a damn about customers. Someone is failing to enforce rules for how to treat customers, and no one in management seems to care. It is a recurring PR headache. The more a company claims it is a customer-service business, the more hypocritical it becomes.

New Worries for Campaigners 

This is an interesting article on political dirty tricks online. The fear is that such untraceable tricks will become prevalent in elections. Essentially the roster of foul play comprises everything we see already on the internet but directed to ruining the reputation of a candidate or confusing voters.

It won't be surprising if we see a growing number of online pranks in this presidential election. As the article notes, at least one has occurred. The concern is that pranks will turn serious. And, if such underhanded tactics are used in elections, there is a possibility they will be emloyed in the corporate world as well. Are PR practitioners ready to detect them when they occur and to react quickly to combat their effect?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Losing A Market 

The recording industry has been fighting a losing battle for years to prevent listeners from downloading and sharing music. Its claim has been that it is defending artists under contract to recording companies. Now, however, it is losing its artists who are giving away music free. What is left? It has a PR problem of the deepest kind -- lack of relevance economically. Executives in the industry are watching the recorded music business go the way of carriages and spinning wheels, and they are paralyzed over what to do. They aren't the only ones. Auto dealers face the same problem. Customers are moving toward purchasing online away from dealerships.

PR in dying businesses is hard and often unrewarding. On the other hand, it can be liberating because old practices no longer work, and creativity is essential. It comes down to how far one is willing to challenge the assumptions of a business. In the end, few survive because most businesses are unable to step out of their economic models. They expect consumers to continue their old patterns, and they try to compel behavior as the recording industry has been doing. That never works.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


This article is filled with paranoia about efforts of unethical hackers to use information as a weapon of mass destruction against society. The author says hackers are practicing "black hat PR" by manipulating information to harm reputations. There is certainly some of this occurring, but there have been no instances of which I am aware of a PR firm setting out to wreck a company's reputation. The idea that a business would be organized to do this is a bit far-fetched. If it were to occur, it would most likely happen first in political campaigning where "dirty tricks" are a part of the environment. Usually, however, these are small and shrouded operations because, once exposed, they can ruin a candidate's chances for election. So, while misuse of information to harm reputations will grow in the information age, it is more likely to be the work of small organizations and entrepreneurs who have moved to the dark side. It means, however, that the work of guarding clients' reputations will get harder.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Right Publics 

If accurate, this story is a clinic in targeting the right publics at the right time. Barack Obama might draw the crowds but Hilary Clinton appears to be getting the votes. This is something that is easy to forget in PR. Even in broad public efforts, such as campaigning, there are only certain groups one must reach at times. In presidential primaries, the essential voters are only those in key states who are likely to vote, and they are a minority of the population. With the movement of primaries earlier next year, the equation of which voters to reach is more complex, but it is certainly not anyone in my state. The nomination process will be decided before we get to vote in New Jersey. So, while we read in New Jersey about the presidential campaign, we don't see it except in TV news and laughable "debates" that cluster candidates on stages where they vent rhetoric rather than engage on issues.

Political campaigners have mastered the craft of targeting, but apparently some use it better than others.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Plenty of Room for PR Online 

Advertising may be essential to the future of online, but as this story notes, there is still plenty of room for the implied endorsement and credibility gained through PR.

Right Step, No Win? 

Microsoft's new online health record site is a step in the right direction, but it also might be a no-win situation from a PR perspective. Privacy advocates are nervous. It is known and understood that computerization of health records will be a major leap forward in more accurate medicine and in cost control, but it isn't happening. Privacy is one issue that is preventing it. Cost is the main culprit. The dumb result is that the most computerized country still depends on paper records stuffed into folders and jammed into drawers.

Change is difficult, but the role of PR should be to facilitate change. There is a need for a citizen-driven effort to get computerization done.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Novel PR Problem 

This is a novel PR problem -- a class action suit against Target stores from blind users of web sites. It seems that one has to have sound to describe what is on a page for the blind. Who knew?

Dueling Credibility 

This is interesting. It comes down to a simple question. Who do you believe? Microsoft or Google? Based on the history of the two companies, Microsoft's argument about the dangers of monopoly is ironic. Ultimately, the credibility of the two firms will sway the decision, and it will be fascinating to watch the process and the outcome.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wise Advice, cont. 

A week ago I noted the advice of a blogger who suggested that newspapers stop thinking of themselves as printed media and start considering about what they are -- news gathering and distribution operations. My colleague, Mike Millican, found this criticism about US newspapers and blogs, which emphasizes that newspapers still don't know what to do with them. Right now, blogs are shoveled into online editions without much editorial reason for where they are. My guess is that this will continue until editors stop thinking about newspapers as printed objects.

From a PR perspective, should we care whether clients are discussed in a blog or in editorial columns as long as we know there are readers for both? There is an issue of greater accuracy when copy has gone through an editorial process, but if a client's message reaches the right audience, does it matter if it comes with a dose of opinion?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Long Day 

It was a long day yesterday, but whenever one wants to complain about time on airplanes, there is sure to be someone who has spent more. And, there was. On the leg home last night, I met a young couple on their third flight of the day. The first was from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco. The second from San Francisco to Chicago and the third from Chicago to Newark. At the point I met them, they had spent about 17 hours in the air, and they had an hour and a half to go.

Even though yesterday's flights were on time with only one 10-minute delay, it struck me that airlines today have opened themselves up to any competitor who can offer legroom and some minimal comfort to passengers. The flights I was on charged an additional fee for more leg room, another fee for business class and still another fee for first class. Those of us who rode in coach were crammed in without apology.

Airlines have destroyed their relationships with the public. Some of the destruction is not their fault, but much of it is. They never adjusted to an era of open competition. On the other hand, neither did passengers. We assume certain levels of comfort on airplanes that, perhaps, we have no right to expect. The result, however, is that passengers are unhappy with cramped seating, minimal service, delayed flights and an attitude that implies "live with it." They'll move to other carriers when they have opportunity. The only safety for many airlines is that the opportunity for their passengers to leave is not there -- yet.

It's an odd way to do business, and I wouldn't want to be the PR person at an airline who has to explain all this to the public.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?