Never Burn A Bridge

A very cool newbiz prospect entered our pipeline this week. A name-brand consumer tech company has extended an invite to their RFP. We've made some great headway in our Lifestyle Technologies Group, with clients such as Shimano, Oakley, Ugobe, etc., and it would be sweet to add this company to the roster, too.

But what is interesting about this prospect is how it came to us.

The PR manager at the client company was a former interview candidate at SHIFT. Interestingly, this person did not get the gig with us (can't remember why - for all I know, we did make an offer) ... But, apparently they were so impressed by the folks they met that when this person landed "the big job" at the consumer tech company, they remembered the interview fondly and subsequently extended the invite to pitch their business.

Never, ever burn a bridge. Be nice to e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y.

A Blog Is Not A Newsletter

One thing that often strikes me as we begin a dialogue with clients about "this blogging stuff" is how often the client assumes that one post per month oughta' do the trick. This is particularly true if the blog is slated to become a CEO-level responsibility. "He's a very busy man, after all. He can't be expected to post more often than that."

Here's my retort:

"How is a monthly blog post any different from a newsletter?"

So many clients still see blogs as a one-to-many communication vs. a participatory dialogue.

The blog is not about making the CEO a star (though it can help in that effort); it's about ensuring that the client execs are engaged in their industry; communicating to-and-fro with customers, prospects, employees, media, friends & enemies.

"Daily posting might be a pipe dream," I say, "But monthly posting is a fool's errand."

When you holler across a canyon, you can't come back a month later and still expect to hear an echo.

Best-Laid Plans

Hawaii waiting out rain to launch sunny PR campaign

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) -- State and county tourism officials hoped to launch a nationwide public relations campaign this week promoting Hawaii's sunny skies, but their plans were postponed for a week because of the rainy weather.

... Buy your tickets now. Prices go up after the agency's invoice comes due.

Wouldst Thou Drink From The Holy Grail?

In response to this age-old post, which briefly described the process that P&G used to determine PR's true bottom-line value (hallelujah!), this week I received a note from Mark Weiner, who heads up Delahaye, the measurement firm that aided the consumer giant:
The method that P&G used is called "marketing mix modeling" which ties multiple streams of marketing data -- including PR, advertising, price promotions, direct marketing, the Internet, sales in terms of dollars and units, and more -- through a multiple regression anaysis by date, market and campaign. By looking at sales results over time and from market to market along with the marketing activities present at that time, the statistical model identifies the extent to which each marketing agent contributes to sales.

Delahaye, the research-based consulting firm I lead, has worked on dozens of similar analyses for a variety of companies. In each case, in categories as diverse as automobiles, telecom, entertainment, consumer package goods, financial services companies and more, we find the same result over and over again: PR works, delivering an ROI that is the best among all marketing agents. Whereas mass-market TV advertising delivers a return of roughly $1.25 for every dollar spent; and whereas price promotions lose a quarter for every dollar spent; PR delivers from $3.00 to $8.00. At the same time, PR in the form of marketing media relations lifts all boats: in a positive PR environment, the advertising is more effective, the telemarketing more efficient and so on.

Typical PR data won't work: simple tabulations of clips, ad value or impressions repeatedly fail. What's required is PR data which are both a) consistent and integratable with GRPs from the marketing world, and, b) representative of PR's unique role within the marketing mix (only semi-controllable at best).

The question is whether the PR profession is prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. As you rightly point out, the advertising trades have broken this story rather than the PR media. The Ad Age story ran months ago and it is only in this week's issue of PR Week that the P&G/Delahaye story appears. The Council of PR Firms published a booklet on the subject but the PRSA, IABC and other leading professional bodies haven't been touting this extraordinarily important development.
As long-time readers know, the subject of PR Measurement fascinates me. In fact our agency developed its own methodology - after a 2-year research effort - to help clients measure PR's impact on Sales. (Our approach is complementary to Delahaye's marketing mix modeling.)

But honestly, as challenging as it was to develop our approach, the HARDER part has been convincing fellow PR pros and even CLIENTS that tying PR to Sales results is not only achievable, but also worth the additional time/cost/effort.

So I am not surprised that Delahaye has experienced frustrating amounts of hesitation on the part of the PR industry. I am saddened, but not surprised.

PR pundits (myself included) spend so much time, lately, debating the finer points of new trends in media consumption, and that's important & laudable... But, I will continue to insist that our cleverness in communications will never gain PR a seat at the Boardroom table if we don't also wise up to the "Measurement Mandate."

You Blog Through The Lifecycle & It All Goes To Shit, Anyway

I think we're maybe getting sick of each other.

Josh Hallett takes us through the lifecycle of a PR blogger, and, damn... it all sounds too true; it is almost painful to recognize yourself with such eery accuracy. (Josh, I'm at Stage 5, I think. But I'll admit to shades of #6: nothing against Steve, but MicroPersuasion seems so Web 2.0 focused; not enough PR content for my taste. Thankfully I sense enough of #7 on the psychic horizon that I think I'll be traipsing right past Stage #6, soon enough.)

The ever-upbeat Jeneane Sessum tells us that we might reach blogging nirvana ... but who cares? It's going to go to shit, anyway.

Not that that imminent shitstorm has put off some of our favorite peers from begging for linklove. You'd think that this blogging stuff was paying the bills, or something. If links = dollars, Scott, let us know.

Last but not least, and speaking of blogosphere whoredom, the entire peer group gets all wiggy over the debut of a tarted-up gossip column that will assuredly run out of ideas before long. If my fellow bloggers and PR pros are at all like me, they are living happy, relatively boring lives compared to what you'd read at Defamer. (See earlier post for details on Strumpette: the clever vixen will get no more linklove from me.)

So.... why are we doing this, again?

This Is Fame?

Strumpette - "A Naked Journal of the PR Business" - debuted this weekend, with a snarky post that suggests that Steve Rubel of MicroPersuasion, the PR industry's uber-blogger, will be on the outs at Edelman within a few months. "Place your bets."

Already, as of this writing, the initial post has 42 comments, of varying degrees of quality and counter-snarkiness. Nice way to get attention, Strumpette. But did ya really think we'd believe that "the chicks" in your office were gossiping about Mr. Rubel?

More importantly: what do you do for an encore? This industry, all $3B of it, is still a small field. For all his "fame" in the blogosphere, there are probably only 500-some-odd people who even know of Steve Rubel. I feel for the guy. Steve is among the very first journeyman PR guys to gain some clout outside the Big Names like Burson, Edelman, Weber, Dyson, etc., and he's just 7 minutes into his 15-minute run at fame when he's attacked...

I tip my hat to the headlong rush of Strumpette to the top o' the meme, but I can't help but smirk at the silliness of it all.

I think I'll go take care of my clients. They are so good about ensuring that we keep things in perspective.

International PR Is Broken

We recently completed a survey (with our friends at Launch Pad) which asked scores of marketers within big companies about their experiences with international PR programming. We have our own thoughts and strategies for global PR coordination, and we wanted to take the pulse of our prospective clients about whether they were happy with the status quo...

Newsflash: they ain't happy.

Right now there are 2 basic models for global PR:

Global Network - "Flip a switch and all the pins on the map light up" - this is a glib way of describing the approach of the worldwide PR conglomerates, who promise seamless, country-to-country consistency.

Sounds swell, but, most of these conglomerates were created via acquisitions, and each country office typically runs its own P&L: so the reality is that these regional agencies have different corporate cultures and are competing with their inter-regional sister agencies for client budget.

Best-Of-Breed Network - "We found the best firms for you in each geography!" - this approach was created by independent firms to combat the so-called advantages of the Global Network model. The small, independent network of firms offers local-market experts who know their culture and media landscape inside-out. However, if you're a busy corporate PR exec overseeeing a global PR program, you're stuck managing multiple agencies in multiple regions.

So if you're an agency person who touts either of these models, your clients have news for you: neither approach is working.

According to our survey, fully 2/3rds of the clients who now engage in international PR programs reported that their international colleagues and global agencies "don’t properly adhere to a single strategy." A lack of effective two-way communication raised these marketers' concerns about "inconsistent messaging and branding."

We've got tri-band cellphones, find-me/follow-me VOIP services, email, IM, SMS, intranets & extranets & blogs ... but when it comes to effectively coordinating an international PR program, agencies and clients are still not able to communicate.

Two Visions of the Internet's Future

Will the day come when you'll be asked whether you are a "Tier One" or "Tier Two" Internet user? That's a frightening thought. I've been following this debate with one eye closed, thinking, "Naaaw, couldn't happen. That's crazy talk." If you live in Oregon, folks, please, vote Democrat.

Not sure this is any less frightening, but, it's definitely an interesting vision of the Internet's future. Honestly, I think that this well-produced mini-mockumentary of "Googlezon" is not far off; in fact, literally you can see versions of this well-imagined future happening today at places ranging from and PixPulse to Google News and other wild, emerging services.

We've been really charged up about where this Web 2.0 stuff is headed... but do we want to pay2play in the Brave New World?

Don't Think; It Can Only Hurt The Ball Club

A fascinating top-of-the-fold article in Advertising Age (registration required) today.

Apparently people who get MBA degrees suck at Marketing.

You think I am overstating it, right? - but read AdAge's own headline: "Don't Study Too Hard: MBA's Fail At Marketing... Surveys Find Those With Degrees Underperform."

The research suggests that the big winners in Marketing work within corporate departments that spend a bit more (marketing accounted for 12.4% of sales vs. 11.6%) and work a bit harder (they're understaffed) than those in the peer group who are underperforming.

The study also found that out-performers tended to be more supportive of their staffers' professional development. Lastly, the outperformers were more generous with stock options - these companies incented their employees by making them stakeholders in the organization's financial future.

It all sounds like common sense: spend money on what's important (brand/reputation/lead gen); keep costs down; work really hard; stay focused; be nice to your people.

The irony is that these are lessons that they ought to be teaching in business school, eh?

Exception or Rule?

This ain't pretty. It appeared in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post (tip o' the hat to Peter Himler). Ugh.

There have certainly been a fair number of similar such examples of bad (tasteless, clueless) PR pitches. Meanwhile, while my colleagues at the Bad Pitch Blog seem to have no shortage of fodder, the pipeline at the Good Pitch Blog is dry as bone. (And frankly I put too much time into this blog - and my day job - to worry about begging for more submissions. Plus Kevin & Richard also cover the occassional "good pitch.")

But it leads me to wonder: Is bad PR the exception or the rule?
  • Do journalists get a ton of decent pitches, from which they pick-and-choose those that best suit their needs - but every now and then are blown-away by a truly terrible pitch that they are compelled to share with their readers? If so, that would make "bad pr" the exception.
  • Or, do journalists put up with a ton of bad pitches, until they can't take it anymore and decide to vent their frustrations? If so, that makes "bad pr" the rule.

"Search" Tells A Story

Should the PR industry be prepared to add Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to its "PR 2.0" bag of tricks?

I've written before about this opportunity. More than once. Thrice, even. But, not as comprehensively as Pete Blackshaw, nor as eloquently as Kevin Dugan, nor as insightfully as Rohit Bhargava.

First thing we need to agree on is that PR folks could reasonably claim this marketing function. Advertising does not "own" SEM. The SEM companies that have sprung up to own SEM don't even "own" SEM (frankly, too many of them come off as carpetbaggers). Skills-wise, an SEM campaign takes some strategic insight, direct-marketing experience, copywriting ability, etc., but the barriers are still low enough, and the sector young enough, to consider SEM "up for grabs."

The question is, "Do we want it?"

Without simply parroting the gents mentioned above, it's hard to move the ball downfield in this debate, but, here's the essence of why PR ought to participate in the SEM landgrab:

Since a majority of online interactions that impact clients start with search, it follows that a large percentage of the clients' core narrative ought to be instantly visible via SEM - regardless of whether the audience is a prospect or customer, journo or blogger, competitor or complainer...
  • A generic search term (simply the "client name") ought to highlight the sales messaging.
  • A search for bad news about the client (e.g., a keyword search appended to phrases like "sucks", "complaints", etc.) ought to lead to an "Official Perspectives" SEM response.
  • Most importantly, even if the client has the foresight to have keywords and campaigns "good to go" based on both generic & negative keywords, they will need to be able to drop everything in a crisis to snap up relevant, specific keywords, as-needed.
A RapidReaction SEM campaign allows the client to tell their side of the story as searches happen (as discussed in the Emerging PR Tactics post, in relation to the mining tragedies of earlier this year).

Isn't it PR's job to help clients tell the story, in appropriate media? Why shouldn't PR pros consider Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc., as media channels? Why shouldn't we offer clients our counsel and tactical support to ensure that their key messages are front-and-center in relevant search results?

We could, we should, we can. But will we?

LongTail Radio

Spend 5 minutes at Pandora, but only if you have 5 hours to kill.

This is, for me, one of the best examples of where the Web will take us. Not coincidentally it's reflective of one of my fave themes, the Long Tail. This site takes a couple of your favorite songs and creates an entire library of songs for you to listen to (and buy from iTunes if you find some new songs you really dig. Or digg, for that matter.)

You can check out my own personal radio station in the lower regions of the right-hand nav bar, if you feel like mellowing out to some great tunes (most of which I haven't even heard yet, but I like a lot of what Pandora's let out of the box so far).

If you're just discovering Pandora thanks to this post ... You can thank me later.

Quick Update: "Press Release of the Future"

Just a quick post to let anyone still interested in the "press release of the future" furor that I've showed it to a few clients and prospects, to take their temperature on whether they are ready to consider a "PR 2.0" approach.

I figure if the clients don't dig it, it won't matter much if the journalists do.

They dig it. My friends, the clients & prospects I've shown it to so far have LOVED it. Very interesting.

Not sure, yet, whether they love the idea just because it is NEW (shiny object syndrome?) or because they think it might really work better. Stay tuned.

The World's News In A "Flash"

This is so cool.

It's a Flash-powered look at the world's headlines in a tag cloud-style format ... A newsmeme-graph?

Click on any item in the cloud and you're connected to the news outlet and article that spawned it... RSS + Flash?

Here's the site owners' official description:

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.

Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. It's objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

"The unseen patterns in news media"? Hmm. Some brainiac ought to figure out how to leverage this somehow. Could it be used to visualize Google's AdSense keywords, for example, or to visualize memes within TailRank or Memeorandum?

Bloggy Lube

Hey, this blogging stuff seems to really work!

Earlier this week I was bitchin'-and-moanin' about prospects who seemed to get stuck in the sales funnel. Since then, 2 of the 19 leads called up to apologize, share a good-natured laugh about my online whining - and ask for contracts.

"All things come to he who waits" (and blogs about it).

Stop "Over-Thinking"

I was sitting in a meeting with an account team, fly-on-the-wall style, and my emotions ranged from bemused to concerned as I heard these highly competent, self-motivated rock-stars spend umpteen minutes talking about HOW to present some much-needed but hard-to-swallow advice to their (curmudgeonly) client.

"If we say THIS, then they will probably say ..."

"Maybe if we present it THIS way, they will be more open to it..."

Ugh! I finally pounced from my chair.

"You are OVER-THINKING this," I pontificated. "This is your job:
  • "Provide the best counsel you can, based on your experience, with very little nuance;
  • "Be prepared to present pros & cons of the situation or suggested approach, along with your defensible recommendations; and,
  • "Work your butt off on the tactics."
A good client will appreciate smart, straight talk. A bad client is a bad client.

Waiting For Godot ... Sucks

So, the good news is that we have something outrageous like 19 prospects in our pipeline. For a mid-sized PR agency, that's a lot of leads.

The bad news is that you take a meeting - you make your pitch - you do a good job - you get a big smile & a handshake and promises of "a decision by (date)" ... and then ... NOTHING. A gaping void of silence. You follow-up politely, once or twice; leave messages. NO response.

The smart PR Guy sighs, "Oh well, I guess we lost."

But actually, more often than not this complete lack of basic courtesy has had no hidden meaning: because, in fact, usually we found that we've WON.

Either way, I say: whatever happened to Courtesy? Professionalism? The Niceties? Whether leaning one way or another, how long does it take to give someone a quick head's-up? Even if all you have to say is, "Sorry, the decision was delayed - stay tuned," that's like manna from heaven these days.

You know, I think the Internet might have killed Business Courtesy.

Basically, everyone is moving too damn fast, don't you think? Too fast to remember or care about professional commitments, except to their immediate superiors. The always-on economy has turned us all into worker-bee juggernauts. We are always fighting fires...and as any firefighter would tell you - they don't show up at a fire worried about tromping mud on the carpet.

Similarly, as we tear through our to-do lists, we often forget the simple things that make a life in business more palatable. So, as for me, I'm putting: "Return every phone call within 1 business day" on my own list of to-do's.

(Just don't call me 'til April... I'm awfully busy!)

Who's Zooming Who?

Honestly I can't add any additional value to this post by Peter Himler at The Flack. This bit, from the excellent WaPo article by Howard Kurtz, really hit home:
"Google News offers access within two clicks to 14,000 stories, but really they are accounts of just 24 news events."
It's a small world, after all.

Bloggers did not make the universe of stories any bigger; they made the need to track & react to stories bigger.

Wall Street Lukewarm To Corporate Blogs

Hill & Knowlton has released a study of Wall Street analysts' perceptions on corporate communication channels.

Only 17% of the surveyed audience see blogs as even "fairly important," compared to 71% who viewed "articles in the business media" as being important, and 85% who voted for a company's website.

This is good news for those PR souls who fear a slow "death by disintermediation." But don't get too excited, not before you chew on this ironic tidbit from the study:

"For analysts what is most important is the strategic direction, progress against milestones or success against strategy and changes in the senior executive team. They are followed by changes in company structure, new product or service developments, plans for mitigating risk and customer satisfaction data. One to one meetings, quarterly earnings conference calls, company presentations and annual reports are the top four most important methods of communications. Analysts want regular communications with most specifying the preference of monthly or quarterly communications."

Maybe I am stoopid, but I can't see a single thing in that Wall Street wishlist that could not be handily covered in a CEO blog (and perhaps sundry additional official, and less-than-official, insider blogs).

My guess is that the keys to the kingdom of Wall Street communication will ultimately come from the jewel-boxes of Transparency and Regularity. A corporate website is neither transparent nor regularly-updated. A news article has the benefit of 3rd party context and value-added reporting - but only a handful of FORTUNE 1000 companies can rely on regular reports in the MSM; and even so, these media clips cannot be relied on by financial analysts to guide their estimates.

Will the corporate website become a catch-all for a company's various bloggers?

"Click here for the CEO blog...Click here for the product manager's blog...Click here for the customer support knowledgebase and blog..." ???

I think PR pros will be able to help companies create and sustain communities for each of these blogs, in addition to maintaining their traditional role in MSM relations.

Tip o'the hat to Steve Rubel for workin' weekends and noting this one.

Wal-Mart+Edelman+NY Times: Perfect Storm or Tipping Point?

On Friday, Jim Horton at Online Public Relations Thoughts pointed out this "Doh" moment about how bloggers have impacted business-as-usual in Detroit.

I made a comment over at Jim's spot that felt worth transporting to this blog, i.e., I think that the Wal-Mart/Edelman controversy from last week will be looked back upon - by the mainstream media (MSM), by the PR industry, and by the rest of the blogosphere - as either the tipping point or the perfect storm for the critical storyline about blogs merging and competing with the MSM.

If it's a Perfect Storm - which you could argue for, given the negative tone of many stories and the inimitable cast of characters (Wal-Mart, world's largest retailer + Edelman, world's largest independent PR agency + NY TIMES, the Gray Lady of journalism), that will mean that a harsh light will shine on the PR industry, in which we'll be "exposed" (unfairly) as cynical spin doctors with questionable intentions and tactics.

If it's a Tipping Point - which is what I'd suggest it is, for the record - then we will see the "influence of blogs" meme (a la the story out of Detroit, above) continue to grow in prominence. This meme is less about "how PR influences blogs" and more about why we're reaching out in the first place, i.e., "citizen media is an influential outlet" for corporate/marketing outreach.

Is It E-Z To Be Popular?

I love Scott Baradell over at Media Orchard. He was the first guy to make my "Technorati Favorites" list. Know why? 'Cuz he asked! (By the way, Scott, you've moved from 98 to 89 since your post of this morning, asking for more Fave picks. 'Grats!)

So, I go on to check out the Technorati "Most Favorited" Top 100 list and note that #100 has been "favorited" just 17 times. (Note that this is not just PR blogs - it ranges the gamut of the Web!) Given that Technorati appears to be the de-facto leader in blog stuff, for me this begs the question: Is it currently that "easy" to be popular in the blogopshere?

Let's try something. Do me a favor and click this link. (Take the 2 seconds to create a Technorati account, if you don't already have one. It's a good thing to do, in any case.) Let's see how far and how fast we can go. Believe it or not, this is less about ego and more about the current state of the blogosphere.

And if we pick up a few new readers along the way, yeah, sure, that'd be cool too.

UPDATE: Hey, cool. From "0" to "69" in under 24 hours. (And Scott's at 62, up from 89 on Friday!) Thanks, gang. Such "fame" won't last long - frankly, to see "PR Squared" above Lawrence Lessig's blog is just kooky. But this has been a good experiment for "blog relations," I think. It is surely a reflection on the embryonic stage of the Technorati "Favorites" feature - and the youthful stage of the blogosphere, for that matter.

Fending Off Dilbert-itis

I was perversely fascinated by the FORTUNE article about the evolution of the workplace and, specifically, the soul-sapping nature of CUBICLES. Apparently even "the father of the cubicle, Robert Propst, hated his invention.

This was a timely read for me because we've doubled our office space in downtown San Francisco; we now occupy two floors in our funky building (next up: world domination). So, the hard part is: you've got a blank slate - what kind of place do you want to work in?

I've visited the offices of agencies around the world. Just in the past 6 months I've grabbed coffee with the principals at firms like bite in San Francisco and Axicom in the U.K. These 2 firms swear by the "bullpen" model for office space - i.e., an open, no-cube environment. Downsides: no privacy, kinda noisy. Upsides: more collaborative and transparent.

But in taking a poll of our SF peeps - despite being a highly collaborative bunch, most seem to still want "a little bit of privacy." I can't blame them. Feels like we all already know too much about our office-mates, eh?

So do you go with something funky like this? Do you go with traditional cubes? What does your spot look like? If you could start over, what would you do differently?

TrackBack Blogger Hack! Finally!

I love our tech guys. Our account rep overheard me complaining that the Blogger service doesn't do TrackBacks and within an hour he found this post from Radiant Marketing, which led to deploying the FREE trackback service from HaloScan.

Lo & behold! PR Squared now has TrackBack functionality. Finally.

Blog As Memory

Your blog is your life. Your life is your blog. Now you can document it all, on the go, via the Bloggerphone!

Until the day comes when a computer chip embedded in our brains will act as our "memory," we can count on newfangled ideas like this one to make sure that our id is adequately nourished.

"This is me at the restaurant. Yum."

"This is me at the car wash. Booooring."

"This is Jimmy, kissing the porcelain at the keg party. Eew!"

"This is the cute salesclerk from the Gap on Chestnut St. Bet they didn't expect me to blog about them! Do you see those slacks in the foreground? I bought a pair."

I am being cheeky, of course, but actually there is a lot of evidence that such services will be a big part of the New Media future. MySpace and up-n-comers like (a client) are all agog over this intersection between mobility, presence, location and pictures.


Am I the only person who thinks that this was the wrong picture for Vanity Fair to use for their cover story about actress Teri Hatcher's intimate revelations of childhood sex abuse?

Beautiful woman. Beautiful, provocative photo.

But who decides to "tease" a horrible story about child molestation with a beautiful, provocative photo? I dunno. Just struck me as wrong.

PR Industry's Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation

The blogosphere is abuzz about the NY Times piece that describes Edelman's blogging campaign for Wal-Mart.

I tend to think that Edelman's intentions and approach were, for the most part, appropriate - but as often happens in a Wild West-style new market, mistakes are made and rules are broken.

Edelman's intent was laudable: to create an ongoing dialogue with bloggers who have shown Wal-Mart some sympathy, and to incent further blog-love via the promise of news tidbits that they would not find in the mainstream media.

The approach was spot-on: Edelman first took the time to READ the bloggers' works (much as the journalism community implores PR to do more often!), and then fed into the bloggers' egos by promising them some scoops. I wonder how MSM journos will respond to this revelation!

Where I think the PR industry at-large is going to get tripped up in "blogger relations" is in expecting this woolly new media to behave itself. When I cheekily suggest that Blog Relations could be akin "Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation," my point is that we are dashing headlong and happily into a provocative new sphere, with little foresight into "where this could take us."

In the case of Edelman/Wal-Mart, I can't say for sure whether mistakes were made, nor that rules were broken, by the agency or its client. But it's a 3-way relationship: client, agency, media. In this case, the media contacts are "amateurs" who not only don't need to play by MSM rules, but in fact will purposefully flout them.

In the end I think the PR industry will look to this as a case study for "how snafu's happen." And we ought to privately thank Edelman's crew for going bravely where we all have just begun to tread.

For Richard Edelman's take, click here.

Adventures in Transparency

We are doing some consulting for a cool company called BzzAgent, a leader in Word Of Mouth Marketing. As part of our research, we were intrigued by the company's dedication to transparency, best exemplified by the "90 Days Blog" found on their website. This blog is written by a consultant hired by the company, commenting on his day-to-day findings during a 3 month stint on-site.

Most of it is pretty standard stuff, but a quickie, seemingly innocuous post set off a firestorm inside the company and among its constituents.

First off, you need to know that BzzAgent "employs" volunteers to help "spread the word" about BzzAgent clients, e.g., "Did you read the latest book by XYZ? It's part of my gig at BzzAgent to talk about stuff that I really like. I read this book and loved it. If I report back on my conversations, I might get a (reward) for helping out..." (certainly an actual Bzz chat would not sound so fake & wooden!)

Anyway, it seems that there was some left-over "free stuff" from clients hangin' at the BzzAgent hive, and employees helped themselves. The blogger posted on this, and bzzzzzzzzzzzz! - every BzzAgent who felt as if they'd been under-rewarded had plenty to say about this topic. It got pretty heated. Ahh, a return to the Usenet flamewar days!

Long story short (and to their credit), the BzzAgent management team felt compelled to revamp their "free stuff" policies.

This is the beauty and the peril of the blogosphere - and the Web, for that matter. Everyone thought that the ubiquity of networked connections would create the paradigm shift. That's surely the accelerent. But if you ask me, "transparency" is the fuel that will enflame momentous change.

Can The Web Make You Cry?

On NPR this week I heard an interesting give-and-take on "Advertising 2.0" themes. Defending "the old ways" was advertising industry icon Phil Dusenberry of BBDO. Dusenberry may be Old School but the guy's still on top of his game; he understands the intrigue, promises and threats of New Media - but remains unconvinced that the Web will unseat conventional broadcast advertising any time soon.

As one of those guys who dig any and all "2.0" themes, I could not help but think that Dusenberry was playing defense, but, one thing he said struck me as interesting. Paraphrasing, he suggested that, "The Web does not pack the emotional whallop of TV."

Before we continue ... time for a Pansy Alert: Ever since I had kids, I have been known to mist-up during those "Reach Out And Touch Someone" ads. (And no more slasher movies for me, either.)

But I can't remember ever having my eyes well-up over anything I've seen online.

When we are online, we are ACTIVE. We are SEARCHING. We are ENGAGED. We are the hunters, on a mission. We are more accepting of unpolished crap, as long as it is useful in some way, because we know we can take what we need and move on quickly. Even if our "mission" is simply to stumble upon something new, online we are always masters of our domain.

When we are flat-out on the couch in front of the toob, we are PASSIVE. We are RECEPTORS. We are OPEN to what comes, but the "price" of our willing surrender is that we expect some quality entertainment.

Online, we are amusing ourselves. We don't expect much (and we ain't gonna cry). Offline, we expect the content provider to do all the work, and to do it well. That's a huge shift in responsibility.

I wonder if this is the realization that they had over at Yahoo? No one wants to watch TV (or TV-style advertisements, for that matter) on the Web, I don't think. Look at StupidVideos for the best-of Web-as-TV. Most of those clips are all of 5 seconds long, and yet if you're like me (and Richard Edelman), you still won't be able to tear yourself away for a good 10 minutes.

This Is Good, Right?

I generally try to ignore this kind of stuff, but someone pointed out to me this morning that PR Squared was #11 on the 30-day rankings at PR Community List at PubSub. This was news to me.

According to the PubSub crew,
PubSub's Community Lists are miniature roadmaps to ... influential sites. They combine human expertise with LinkRanks, PubSub's method of comparing sites to one another by scrutinizing their links. A Community List tells you which sites to keep an eye on and which sites are leading the conversation from one day to the next.
So, the good news is we're in the top #20 for the past 30 days. Damn near top-10, which will impress Mom, at least.

Bad news is that I'll probably be a slave to this PubSub list from now on.
"Am I helping to 'lead the conversation' this month?"
Cursed ego.

Anyway, thanks for indulging this shameless bit of self-promotion. We'll move on quickly.

Mange On The Long Tail

Catching up on my late-night blog reading. When you track a gazillion interesting blogs, each of which post daily (or more often!), ya do tend to fall behind now and then.

On the plus side, a post from a week or two back is still kinda relevant, eh?

It ought to be when you are Jeff Jarvis, anyway. Jeffis a top blogger, the man behind the curtain at BuzzMachine. Jeff is also an unapologetic Howard Stern fan. So am I. ("All I want for Christmas is a Sirius radio," was my plea of 2005.)

So I was fascinated by Jeff's recent piece on the "Howard 100" news team. Jeff used his on-site experience to pontificate on the surge of navel-gazing going on in news rooms across America, but for me the work effort and production quality that's going into an "All Stern, All The Time" newscast speaks to the power of the Long Tail.

As Jeff says, "Is this news? Sure, it is. This is stuff that matters to Stern fans..."

Isn't that quintessential Long Tail thinking? - A niche of devotees create a profit zone for original creative works.

You don't need to be a Stern fan to find this to be a sexy concept.

What Should We Measure?

I received a much-belated but very welcome comment (in response to this post) from measurement guru Katie Delahaye Paine over the weekend.
I'm as enthusiastic as anyone about P&G's new measurement system. In fact I named it one of the "Products of the Year" in my newsletter. But I do need to add a note of caution. The type of measurement you need depends on the objectives you set for your program. If sales is your objective, then P&G's solution is great. But if you're trying to build support for your cause, or if you're trying to sell something that costs millions and takes years for a sale to close, trying to tie PR to sales is a waste of time. There are a number of measures of PR success and not all are tied to sales.
Katie - first of all, thanks very much for visiting. Having followed your work for years (whether I agreed with it or not), I am honored that you stopped by.

While I can't disagree with your comment - it is sensible, logical, and thoughtful - I contend that the vast majority of corporations who engage a PR agency are keen on "sales" as their objective.

Short of a charitable effort (e.g., "kidney donation" - one of our pro bono projects), there is nothing in my mind about "building support for a cause" and/or "trying to sell something that costs millions and takes years for a sale to close" that does not loop back to the ultimate question: "Did my PR spend positively impact the company's bottom-line?"

I do not suggest that measurements such as "Share Of Voice" (and related terminology for Media Content Analyses) are worthless. Certainly it is very NICE to know that the client's PR message is resonating, and maybe even gaining traction vs. a competitor. But in the end - with more and more "rival" elements within the marketing mix becoming automated/measurable - as an industry we are going to NEED to know how our PR measures impacted REVENUE.

Red Capes, Roaring Bulls

I love it when Microsoft is put on their heels by an upstart competitor.

It's no secret that Google has been eating up market- and mindshare from Redmond for the last few years (in Search), just as Netscape did in the mid-late '90's with browsers.

Forgetting for a moment how often we've each been kicked in the teeth by Microsoft's ill-conceived, bloated software over the years, I give the company props for still being very much in the game. They are fierce competitors and that is one of the reasons that Technology is still fun.

As a PR Guy, reading the recent bits from Microsoft's Neil Holloway about how "Microsoft will be more relevant than Google in 6 months" gives me a shiver. Google's recent thought about becoming a $100B company also made me rub my eyes in disbelief...

Who is waving the red cape? And who is the bull?

"Bad Advice" About Customer References, 3 of 3

the conclusion of our series of posts about Customer References, this one keys
off of Part 2, a bit. Today’s “bad advice Don’t
ask for a press release.

So many of our clients over the years, and even today, are “all
about the press release.” Press releases
are seen as terrific vehicles for getting the word out. For uneducated clients,
getting the press release out the door is as exciting as a Wall Street Journal hit.

But you need to know, if you don’t already:

Most press
releases suck
, and, many journalists
hate them

You also need to know that asking
for a press release is the single fastest way to kill any chance for what’s
FAR MORE IMPORTANT: the customer reference.

Just as I noted about
asking for the reference via the contract, press releases also cause undue
scrutiny at all levels of the would-be reference’s workplace. It is viewed
as an “official” communication and as such riles up lawyers, CEOs, PR flacks,
etc. If the press release will never be approved, the reference will likely
not be approved, either.

As noted above, again, the best “bad” advice I can give
you is that a press release is the LAST thing you should ask for from a prospective
reference. Instead, ask for these escalating levels of referenceability:

  1. “Would you mind if we wrote a bylined article and gave
    you all the credit for it?”

  2. “Would you mind chatting briefly with an industry analyst
    who wanted to ask you about our client?”

  3. “Would you mind picking up the phone if eWeek was
    curious about your deployment of our client’s solution? We’d
    be happy to work with you in advance if you’d like some media training.”

  4. “Thanks so much for talking to eWeek; that went
    great! How often would you be open to these types of opportunities? Would
    5 interviews a year be too much?”

  5. “Thanks so much for conducting all those interviews this
    year! We would love to write-up your successes in a case study – that way
    we would be able to put off some of those interview requests…”

  6. “Did you see the case study on our client’s website? Let
    me send you a clean copy for your records. By the way, what do you think
    are the odds of putting out a press release about all this great work you’ve
    been doing with our client?”

Yes, this “bad” strategy might negate the press release
that talks about the initial win.

But SO WHAT? Wouldn’t
you rather that the client’s competitors read about the win and subsequent
benefits in a series of media features, Q&A’s and bylines? Wouldn’t
the client’s sales team prefer to show prospects a great eWeek article
(with its 3rd party, unbiased validation!), rather than a stodgy,
over-stuffed press release?

Damn right. You know
that old saw, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?” Well,
the next thing we do ought to be to kill off all the old-style press

Is This "The Press Release Of Tomorrow?"

Okay, Tom, how is this for the press release of tomorrow?

Per Tom Foremski's rant ("Die, Press Releases, Die! Die!") about what we agree is an outmoded communications vehicle, the SHIFT team reformatted a press release that had been sent out earlier this month, "Foremski-style."

Tom had asked for lots of links, news-without-spin, photos, financial data, tags to other stories, executive and analyst quotes, etc.

Note that we could have provided more of each of these elements, but in this case were restricted to what'd already been approved for this early-Feb press release.

...But, then again, using the "More information available by request" device builds-in opportunities for agencies to add further value by offering up exclusive content, client interviews, etc. This might not suit Mr. Foremski - he seemed to want everything bound up in a hermetically-sealed package - but, the PR agency cannot abdicate all opportunities to add value to the mainstream media.

Feedback welcome (from everybody)!

And, p.s. - part 3 of the "Bad Advice About Customer References" series will be posted tomorrow.

Feb. 6, 2006: UGOBE launches first product at DEMO 2006

Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications, 617-681-1253

UGOBE, a new company started by Furby co-creator Caleb Chung, today revealed its first product, Pleo. Pleo is modeled after a one-week-old Camarasaurus Sauropod, or long neck dinosaur, and has been specifically engineered to mimic life with organic movement and behaviors. UGOBE’s patented robotic technology enables Pleo to move in a fluid, lifelike way, behave autonomously, convey emotions through motion and sound, and evolve in behavior over time. Pleo will be available in Q3 2006 and will MSRP for $199.

Executive Quote (more available by request):
“UGOBE’s goal is to re-animate life by transforming inanimate objects into lifelike creatures exhibiting organic movement and behaviors. Through evolving companionship, Pleo will suspend disbelief by bringing magic and beauty to life.” – Bob Christopher, CEO, UGOBE

Analyst Quote (more available by request):
“With this flagship product, UGOBE has shown that they are a forward-thinking company that sees the shift within the industry toward interactive organic robotics.” – Tim Bajarin, president, Creative Strategies

Financial Information:

  • Private company
  • Venture capital backed
  • Series A funding: $2.5 million
  • Series B funding: Plans to raise $5 million
  • Investors Include:
    • Band of Angels
    • FMG, headed by Chauncey Shey, president and CEO, Softbank China Holding (SBCH); CEO, Softbank China Venture Capital (SBCVC); and co-founder and director, UTStarcom, Inc (NASDA: UTSI).

Photos (more available by request):


Relevant Coverage To-Date:

UGOBE develops and markets revolutionary robotic technology that transforms inanimate objects into lifelike creatures that exhibit stunning organic movement and dynamic behaviors. Ugobe’s multidisciplinary team of robotics experts, animators, technologists, scientists, biologists and programmers are led by polymath toy inventor and Furby co-creator, Caleb Chung, one of the most successful and respected toy creators in the $25 billion U.S. toy industry. UGOBE’s groundbreaking line of robotic creatures called Life Forms, promise to inspire and entertain the child in all of us. For more information about UGOBE, visit

UPDATE: Well, Tom seems to like it, anyway.