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    Online observations of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media; the occasional frivolity; and The Rundown show notes. Jump in, the water's fine.

    Please Note: Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its constituents.

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Bent out of Shape by Staples

Steve Rubel posts an interesting quiz for us on his website. Staples has apparently been charging customers for virus scanning on files that people come in to have printed. $2.49, Rubel reports, and it’s creating quite a stir in the blogosphere. Check out Steve’s post and we’ll create our own discussion here.

FOLLOW UP: Steve Rubel now contends that Staples is a blog winner. Recent developments indicate there was some confusion about what the fee was actually for, as Beth notes in the comment section of this post. Excellent work, Beth. Rubel notes that BoingBoing posted Staples’ response. My favorite part of this whole fiasco was what Jeremy Pepper wrote on Rubel’s follow up. This has been my complaint of the blogosphere since I started paying attention to it. And guess what? I fell into the exact same trap that I’ve been complaining about. I’m going to add “Lessons Learned” to the categories of this post…because it was a HUGE lesson for me. Pepper’s comment indicates the lack of professionalism in bloggers’ methods. Attacks are made with little fact or research and it is allowable. We’d never allow a traditional journalist to get away with this without being flayed. Somehow the electronic medium makes us forget to think or have consequences. I posted something similar in response to Tom Murphy’s Blog in his December 12th post titled Crossing the Tortoise.

I’ve learned something valuable here. I actually thought about calling my local Staples to verify this, but didn’t. The rumor mill sucked me in and I got ground up. Lesson learned.

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On your Mark Get Set…It’s Beth.

Hi, this is Beth, one of Luke’s PR colleagues at the University of Akron. You will be reading some of my posts on Graduate Observations of Public Relations. Feel free to comment, criticize, and join in the conversation.

I am entrenched with learning about new social media’s PR cababilities for nonprofit organizations. I believe blogs are powerful communications tools especially for orgs with mimimal resources. Check out these really cool blogs by the Walker Art Museum

I spoke to the director of new media initiatives and not only is she great, but informative. She said that social media can break down the white walls of an institution and provide a human element to an organization or corporation. Wow! Think about that.

Blogs don’t fit in everywhere just like how a press release has to match the target audeince and publication. New media fits with Walker Art Museum because it is a modern progressive organization where free thought is welcomed and celebrated. When looking at blogs as a PR tool ask yourself does it fit with the culture, mission and image of the organization.

The recent New Media Initiatives blog talks about their use of PMWiki software allowing several authors to post. They also talk about program called UThink. Uthink a project at the University of Minnesota allows students, faculty and staff to have a blog and use it for scholary discussions and more. View the New Media Blog to find out more.

Walker Art provides a model for museums and nonprofits looking to use blogs or other new media to publicize their programs.

Your Opinion: Food Marketing Attack

A new study out from the Institute of Medicine puts the marketers of certain foods under direct attack. The study is titled: Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?

IOM Study

If you haven’t read the study, surely you’ve seen any number of the news reports generated by the study. Yahoo Finance, PR Newswire, ABC News, and many others have reported on the study, which came out on December 6th, 2005.

So, if you are a member of the communication team for the food marketing industry, or a PR person at any number of the companies under attack on this issue: What do you do? How do you stop the bleeding on this? Your comments and opinions are welcome…

Martha did it right

I sometimes watch The Apprentice, but only the Martha Stewart version. That’s not true, I’ve actually watched both, but you’d never see me putting that in print. What a minute…

Anyway, I watched the episode that aired on December 7th where the teams had to come up with 30-second spots for a new flight from Song Airlines. If it’s still sitting in your TiVo waiting for you to watch it, then I suggest you quit reading this. If you already saw it or don’t care, then continue reading.

I came in just after the program started, so I missed the beginning where they set up the task. I only had to watch about 3 minutes to know there was going to be trouble that night. The first thing I saw was one of the teams describing their commercial vision. It entailed sports. It was actually all about sports. Then I saw this same team call the execs at Song to discuss the target audience of their airline. They proceeded to describe a woman, in her 30s or 40s, who travels a lot. A red flag went up in my mind. Then the second team member said something to the effect of, and here I am paraphrasing: It didn’t matter what their target audience was, Ryan already decided what our concept was. At this point I wasn’t even sure what their task was, but I knew there would be trouble. I said to my wife, “oh, this is going to be good, they’re both going to get fired!”

And I was right. This wasn’t even a PR situation, but the lesson here is obvious. Know your target audience. Besides the fact that Ryan’s ad was incoherent, poorly acted, and drunkenly produced, the target audience was all wrong. Marcela knew right off the bat there was a problem, but guess what? She didn’t say anything to the contrary.

One thing I’ve learned from watching the show is that the execs (Martha, et al) insist on members telling their project leaders when they’ve gone astray. I’m not sure how much they would agree with that if one of their own subordinates were chirping in their ears, but I got the point. They like it when others are getting heckled. But that’s not my central point.

Lesson learned: Know your audience. Especially in PR where we can have enough trouble evaluating what we do and justifying our existences to a dominant coalition that doesn’t get it. Know your publics, know who they are made up of, and know how to reach them. And that’s a good start.

The Future of PR

FIR

I just finished listening to “For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report” Podcast #91. What a powerhouse. If you have an interest in knowing where PR may go with some degree of educated accuracy, listen to this podcast. Outstanding comments, opinions, and details from some really credible sources. Those of you in PR academe will be excited to see Shel pulls out Grunig’s IABC Study research, specifically the Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management book. Whether you love or hate Grunig, you’ve got to admit he’s hardcore and well focused.
Anyway, I’d like to get some discussion going about the podcast, so later I’ll be posting some details about certain sections of it for comment.
As PR practitioners or as students, it’s important to know where the field is going and what is expected of us as time goes on. This podcast tackles some of these issues head on. It’s a great resource, check it out.

On your mark, get set…

Hello everyone. My name is Luke Armour. I’m a graduate student of the communication discipline getting my Masters in the area of Public Relations. Interestingly, I’ve found that many people have a misunderstanding of that job description. It seems intangible. People want to know what you do, they want to see something. Unfortunately, PR has often by judged by what it does, rather than by what it is. If I’m a DJ at a radio station, people understand that. They can mentally picture what I do all day, see in their mind’s eye my job, label and put me on a shelf. Done.

But PR is so different, so multi-layered, so broad and so deep. Another interesting point is that even people who claim they work in PR or are PR professionals have very different ideas of what the job entails. That fascinates me as well as provides a little bit of confusion on the part of the everyday student who thinks they’re getting a job in PR.

I believe Stuart Smith, CEO of Edelman PR Europe, said it very well to my class in London this past May (2005) when he said there were two types of PR, the arms and legs bit, and the brains bit. The arms and legs are the functions of PR that write news releases, that call reporters trying to pitch stories, that create the daily pieces that you eventually see in action. The brains consist of the strategies, the communication plans, the goals, objectives, and matricies that make it all go together.

I suppose one could say any job entails these characteristics, but there’s something about PR that seems so elusive, so intangible, so ethereal, that it really helps to talk about it.

And that’s why I’ve created this blog. I’m hoping to turn this into a discussion, a conversation, not just a spouting of personal beliefs or reiteration of information. I have a feeling that there are other students of PR, or practitioners of PR, or general members of the electronic community who have questions about PR. With that in mind, I’m going to write what’s on my mind and what I think is important…for starters. I’m going to enlist the help of fellow students to help generate discussion and open the floor to comments, questions, and concerns. Feel free to join in.

As a disclaimer, I have to tell you that what I’m really intrigued about these days is electronic communication, thus the blog. I find that PR mixes in so well with electronic communication for so many reasons. In fact, I’m writing my graduate project on the subject. What also interests me is the growing gap between the early innovators of new media and those who are laggards in the adoption process. I’m hoping my colleague Carol can shed some light on that subject. My point is, in NE Ohio where I’m located, we appear to be far behind in the technological aspects of electronic communication in our departments, and in many of the industries and organizations in the area. I may be wrong, but it certainly appears that way to me.

With that in mind, I’m signing off for now. I hope to see you again soon, participating in the discussion, and learning, and sharing your knowledge with others. There is so much going on out there…we need to keep up. Help me.