Friday, August 29, 2008

Slacker Luv

I noticed that my former colleague Jada Cash wrote a blog post about my blog this week! Thanks Jada!

A HUGE shout-out to my fellow Slackers in Chi-town. Be sure to check out their blog. It's written by everyone (and I do mean everyone) who works at Slack Barshinger. Hence its cool name!

Love you all! Let's grab a beverage next time I'm in town! :)

I'm back!

I am so sorry for being absent most of this week! I've spent the last six days packing, moving and not having an Internet connection. We're finally finished, so I will be back to all things PR next week! Have a great Labor Day weekend! I can't believe the summer is almost over!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Wow! I've only been blogging a short time and I've already gotten such a great response!

HUGE shout out to Jennifer A. Jones at Speak Media Blog! Jennifer blogged about my Better Rules of Engagement post on Thursday!!! I've been reading Jennifer's blog for over a year and it is a must read for anyone in the MARCOMM/IMC world. Thank you Jennifer!

I've also gotten some great comments from SCA MarCom and Kevin! It's awesome to hear from you and thank you for introducing me to your blogs/points of view as well!

Thanks also to everyone who's e-mailed me directly with questions and comments. The feedback and insight you've provided is awesome. Feel free to post your comments and questions. Some of you are raising great issues and points about the current pitching system and I encourage you to post openly to encourage the discussion on this important topic.

Again, thank you all for such awesome feedback! Now back to PR!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flip-ing Out

I'm in love with The Flip. I want one. I want my clients to get one. Simple, easy and very straightforward. Perfect for showcasing quick interviews with executives (we could have a video quality debate here, but I'm not going there) as well as for video case studies, media training and employee testimonials/discussions.

The latest flip has a rechargeable lithium ion battery or the first models allow you to record up to 60 minutes of video with replaceable AA Alkaline batteries for up to two hours of use. Storage space is 1-2 GB and the the "flip out" USB arm allows you to plug The Flip in directly to your USB port and begin editing video on its custom software which is included.

Now anyone can easily be a video editor. Definitely looking in to getting one to add video to the blog!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Better Rules of Engagement

My post earlier this week reflected on the current state of media relations and whether or not the pitching system is broken. My unwavering stance is that the current system IS broken, but it does not mean that it is not beyond repair or at least tweaking.

Recent trends (listed in my post called the Pitching System IS Broken) indicate a shift in how PR professionals and members of the media are distributing, receiving and more importantly interacting with each other. I alluded to what we need are better rules of engagement to fix or at least begin to salvage what traditionally has been a symbiotic relationship between good PR professionals and media representatives.

For what it's worth here's what I think needs to happen:

Get back to relationship building: This seems to be a universally accepted concept on both sides. Journalists don't want spam and (good) PR people don't want their reputations trashed. For PR firms and individuals that specialize in specific industries (health care, tourism, fashion, etc.) this may be easier than for others. But at the end of the day, we all represent companies with different goals, focus, and services that make it necessary for us to reach out to a wide array of target media within and outside specific industries to demonstrate different relevant aspects of a client's business.

Realize that not all media has the same needs: The media business (yes, it is a BUSINESS - not an information service) has changed. Newspapers are in trouble, ad revenues for some trade magazines are down and even with shift online and to more integrated approaches, publications, bloggers and even broadcast media appreciate good content that goes beyond the typed press release or media alert. Getting (and yes this does take convincing) clients to provide additional content resources (blogs, webinars, podcasts, twitter feed, bylines, white papers, case studies, interactive video, online games, interactive maps, photos, 3-D diagrams, videos, social media , tele and video press conferences, trade shows, mobile (SMS) updates, etc.) takes some doing. Clients aren't always willing to take the risk, but we owe it to our industry to examine some of these ways to present content and information to a wider audience, including the media.

Members of the media now often are forced to address multimedia platforms for their publication. So a newspaper columnist may now have a blog, a regular radio spot or show (with the convergence of media conglomerates this is more prevalent), as well as Flikr page, Vimeo or YouTube channel in addition to their column. The more relevant and interesting content we can provide a member of the press, the more likely and the better chances we have of helping that reporter, editor, blogger, etc. tell a good story to their audience.

Recognize the news cycle has changed: A few years ago, PR people were "jazzed" about the twenty-four hour news cycle and how that created more opportunity for their clients to be covered. Yes, we still have the perpetual news cycle, but what we have more now is an inclination to report stories more in-depth and with better tools (think CNN's use of Google Earth and touchscreens for election returns). This means that the news cycle isn't as wide open or inclusive as we would like to think. Instead it means that more resources should be devoted to exploring different angles of larger stories with a strong consideration and emphasis on how a client can be strategically positioned.

Warnings need to be given and heeded: As a reporter if you feel you are spammed, issue a very short e-mail saying you do not wish to receive this type of information and you wished to be removed from the list. If you are interested in the company, but not necessarily the current news, issue a short e-mail saying "interested in your company but not recent announcement, please keep me on list. Particularly interested in information regarding (insert relevant topic here)." This is helpful and much appreciated.

PR Peers: let's agree if you receive an e-mail from a reporter saying to take them off your list you DO IT. Even if the reporter/editor is on your client's "must get" or "short list." We may not always get (and we certainly aren't entitled to) an explanation as to why this reporter doesn't want to hear about a company, service, product, financial disclosures, corporate responsibility campaign, etc. (It would be nice, but we're not entitled). This becomes an issue of self-respect in the industry. Media are smart. If a company is purely "trolling for ink," they can tell and probably aren't interested. If we fail to heed reporters or hound them like dejected two-year olds ("But, why?") Then we deserve to be outed on PR spammer wikis and have e-mail domains blocked.

That being said, there also needs to be room for redemption. One bad pitch should not end a PR person's career (unless it meets the criteria mentioned in my previous post). There needs to be a meaningful dialogue between media and our profession to fix this problem. It means it will take work from both sides. It means as PR professionals, we need to discuss alternative types of media relations strategies with our clients, and manage their expectations. It also means that media (within their ability) needs to communicate directly to PR people about what is unwelcome. I am certainly not advocating that media respond to every irrelevant pitch (they don't have time), just respond to those individuals aren't necessarily off-topic but may be a resource (not just a source) for you down the road.

What are your thoughts on ways to reform the pitching system?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Pitching System IS Broken

Last week the PR blogosphere lit up with a debate on whether or not media pitching is now a broken system. Steve Rubel's post touched off a flurry of comments and backlinks on other blogs about how PR professionals currently contact the press. Citing many reasons, Wired's Chris Anderson and Lifehaker's Gina Trapani (creator of the official PR Spammers Wiki) gave before they outed bad PR professionals via their e-mail addresses, Rubel takes it a step further pointing out journalists and bloggers enjoy the thrill of the chase and self-discovery when it comes to finding news or information about a company, product or service and asks does it make PR professionals obsolete? Rubel points out that if we don't adapt, we may be.

Steve, I couldn't agree with you more.

This conversation though got me thinking about the nature of media relations had how the last nine months indicates a shift (if not a departure) from the traditional outreach plans and the overall state of public relations. Some observations:

1. Journalists and high-authority bloggers' inboxes are out of control. It used to be "No follow-up calls." Now it's turned into do not e-mail. The worst part of this is that the bad PR apples are spoiling the bunch. If you take the time to craft a perfectly relevant pitch only to have it never to be seen by a journalist you know would be interested because of all the "off-topic pitches" in their inbox - that's annoying. The fact there's really no way to follow-up except to call or send a follow-up e-mail is equally annoying. No one's happy here (especially if you are representing a new client and they are just trying to make introductions and send contact info so a journalist knows how to reach you or your client directly - it is about building relationships).

2. PR people (and clients) are reluctant to change old habits. Yes, let's admit this. I do see progress being made. People are using twitter to announce press releases just posted to a client's blog and in their online newsrooms. Some journalists are beginning to use Peter Shankman's (HARO) and of course there is always ProfNet for inquiries. But echoing Steve Rubel's observation about self discovery, PR professionals need to take a strong look at how we are advising clients to disseminate information. I don't believe the press release (in any form) is dead, but working at an integrated agency has taught me to consider other options. Blogging, interactive tools and even guerrilla marketing and WOM tactics are increasingly discussed when developing strategic communication plans and outreach strategies. The challenge then becomes how do we attract media and key stakeholders to experience and learn our client's business? It's about staying above or out of the noise (the creation of good, relevant content).

3. Corporate communications is having an identity crisis. How does this fit in? In my experience, agencies are rarely reporting to or working with in-house corporate communicators. This means there is a great deal of time in agencies spent trying to understand the goals of the client who may be unable or unwilling to listen to alternative methods for reaching the press. In recent years, several high-profile and Fortune 100 companies have completely restructured or done some very strange things to their corporate communications divisions. Last December, Chrysler fired the head of PR and reassigned their corporate communications division to report to their human resources department. At some companies, corporate communications is solely devoted to internal and employee communications with heavy emphasis on analyst and financial relations, while all "external press relations and communications" are left to agencies or the CMO. What has happened to corporate communications in corporate America? Do CCO's or Directors of Communications still have seats at the executive table? Or have agencies become the substitute for strong public relations initiatives outside of the marketing division?

4. The agency structure makes it hard "to get it right" every time. This is the hardest one of all. Many of the comments posted in response to Chris Anderson's blog post and open letters from PR people to Gina Trapani following the creation of the PR Spammers Wiki indicate that some of the e-mail addresses listed were young PR professionals (AAEs or ACs) who did take the time to try to learn as much as possible about the editor or blogger before pitching what they thought was relevant information. The reality of it is that very few agencies (boutique or large PR houses) take the time or have the time to review the media lists created by less experienced employees. There seems to be a perpetual "passing of the buck" on media list oversight and accountability by account directors, account supervisors and even yes, vice presidents.

The current system is an imperfect system. Mistakes are made. Repeat offenders should be outed and punished on a wiki or blog. BUT there should be room for error and more importantly redemption. One bad pitch SHOULD NOT end a PR person's career unless it is libelous or breaks other laws (dissemination of trade secrets, etc.). Keep in mind that media relations is a two-way street. PR professionals deserve one warning about potential spamming before being listed on PR blacklists. Anything less than a warning and condemning the whole profession (read: "I've had it with PR people") means that we need better rules of engagement - not diatribes (yes, like this one) that bemoans the current state of the industry.

Agencies information and quality assurance issues aside for a moment, we now live in age where virtual contact is a substitute for handshake, where vcards replace business cards, and even if a journalist is my "friend," I still must respect the rules and hopefully recognize that I should not be pitching them on Facebook (unless they say its OK), the same way I would not want to receive questions about a client on my wall (that's not OK, by the way. E-mail me).

My thoughts on what we can do to fix the pitching system later...what are your thoughts on the current state of media relations?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Technorati

Just registered my blog on technorati!
Technorati Profile

Social Media 101 2.0

Last Thursday evening I attended an IABC event in Rosslyn. The topic of discussion that evening was Social Media given by Denise Graveline, President of Don't Get Caught, a communications consulting firm in D.C.

Denise gave one of the best overviews of social media that I have ever attended to a crowd of about 100 communicators from government, private industry, non-profits and associations. Denise has summarized key points from her talk here. What stood out for me are the examples she gave about the ways social media are evolving and the next "trends" or uses. This includes more CEO blogging (if Bill Marriott can do it, no CEO has an excuse); the emergence of blogs for employee/internal communication (McDonald's Station M); the "specialization" or targeted social networks arising in the 2.o stage to address an individuals specific need or interest (Disaboom and Bakespace); and the continuing popularity and importance of online video.

While social media remains popular and more clients ask for "best practices" on how to implement such a strategy, it's important to emphasize that there is no "one size fits all" approach. A fellow IABC member at the meeting shared with us his company's recent investigation into starting their own employee social media site. He said they surveyed current associates to determine the interest and desire of a company-specific social networking site. What he found is that 100% of his associates already had Facebook accounts and almost 90% of them did not want their employer on Facebook. As one male associate he surveyed said, "Having your employer on Facebook is a lot like your parents chaperoning the high school dance." I thought that was a great analogy. Now my fellow IABC member is deciding what to do next - spend the capital for an internal (and yes, more benign) employee only networking site or focus its efforts elsewhere for employee morale and brand communications.

As companies try to make inroads to reinforce their brand, does it make sense to start a vertical social networking site for employees? Should employers be allowed to view employees social networking pages on Facebook?

Getting on my soapbox

I love the public relations industry. I am extremely happy and blessed that I get to do what I love for a living. I also recognize our industry is changing, evolving and everyone has an opinion on where it's going and what's next.

What prompted me to get on my soapbox? A few things:

1. Colleagues telling me to put my ideas out there instead of having long-winded debates in their offices.

2. The ongoing state of public relations today and the dynamic between agencies and clients in the wake of these changes.

3. The transformation of media relations.

4. The resurgence of corporate communications.

5. I need a place to vent/praise and generally discuss our industry.

I'm on my PR soapbox.

Let's start...