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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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Podcast patois

Yes, I had to look up patois, but I couldn’t pass up the alliteration. This is just a quick post regarding a thought I’ve had about podcast conversations.

We enjoy the podcast because of the subscription, right? I mean, why else would they have become such interesting tools? These audio comments that rode in on the RSS wave have only a few things that separate them from streaming audio and downloadable content, am I right?
So, here we have a subscribable audio file that gets automatically downloaded to my computer and I can listen to it whenever I want, not just when it happens to be on. I get to choose, I get to decide – and best of all – I don’t have to do it standing near my computer. We love the portability, we love the timeshifting. Audio content that we like, when we like it, where ever we like it.

But there are some problems. Most of us subscribe to many more podcasts than we can listen to – even in our daily commute. So we have to wait until a business trip or a vacation stuck on a plane before we can get caught up. At times this means listening to three or four episodes of one podcast two or three weeks after you listened to the last batch. And, worse yet, if you subscribe to a long podcast that is produced daily, you can get really behind. It’s February 27th and suppose you’re listening to six episodes of a podcast that is produced every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from earlier in the month. That’s two weeks worth. Well, they are throwing around phrases like, “as we talked about on Monday’s show” and “We referred to that on Friday.” If you’re not careful, it can get pretty hard to keep track. I listen to podcasts that don’t even count their shows, so they can’t even tell you which show number it is. And that’s what I’m asking for.

Timeshifting has made old broadcast terms meaningless. Hobson and Holtz talk about this every once in a while. “Tuning in,” doesn’t make sense any more, for instance. Also, “rewinding” since nothing is being rewound. Talking about “Monday” or “yesterday” on a podcast is confusing and also needs to be changed.

I’m proposing we think about this. If podcasting is a viable tool for PR professionals now and in the future, we need to eliminate error possibilities and make them easy and simple to absorb. Count your shows, refer not to “Wednesday’s show” but even “last show” or better yet “show #45.” It’s a little thing, but it’s the little things that can easily be improved upon.

Some of my favorite podcasts have just recently started counting their shows…a sure sign that I’m on the right track. Now to get it one step further and quit talking about days of the week as if I’m listening to it when they’re producing it, because I’m not. I’m sitting in traffic, enjoying the company of podcasters and basking in their new podcast patois.

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Laermer’s Vapor Warning & Good Pitches

I read this post and just couldn’t pass up a chance to send it along. Richard Laermer, author of Full Frontal PR and co-author of The Bad Pitch Blog, posted a highly engaging and unique look at pitching, what I would call, fluff. He calls it vapor and I love the way he uses it. My favorite quote is:

Ken will not pay attention because you’ve proven yourself to be a vapor merchant.

Ha, I love it! And that won’t make any sense until you read the post, but you should. Go read it now. It’s a clear cut description of what – I think – is one of the problems with PR these days. This is especially important for those of us about to graduate and be thrust into the field, forced to write releases about the CEO learning to “reply all” and how Ted went from Deputy Manager of Internal Squeaking to Assistant Director of Corporate Hallucinating. And at first, we won’t have a choice, we’re the “new kids,” we ought to just do what we’re told. But as we mature in the business, we may have to do some educating, the student may have to become the master. For the benefit of you, for the benefit of your company, for the benefit of the future of public relations we may have to take a stand and say, “Sir, not only is this not new, it’s not news. Nobody cares.”

And that will be our task, in my opinion. Find aspects of our clients or organizations and MAKE them news. Not empty noxious vapours, but actually turn organizational happenings into news. It can be done, I think, but there’s the rub, eh?

In addition to the Bad Pitch Blog, which posts educational lessons on both how to write pitches and especially how not to write pitches; there is a new blog is on the block. This one is the Good Pitch Blog by Todd Defren. I haven’t had a chance to read much of it, but what I have read is informative and worth reading.

So there you have it, two resources on pitching. Now go on, try to learn something out there!

It’s public, baby, not private

Still learning a great deal about this Internet, World Wide Web, and the blogosphere. Beth and I learned a few lessons early on when we got comments from influential PR bloggers Jeremy Pepper, Elizabeth Albrycht, and Constantin Basturea. Oh, people are actually reading this thing? Uh oh.
It really exemplified for us the idea that people are out there listening. I have the same chance of being read everyday as does the New York Times or other influential PR bloggers. You laugh, but all it takes is a few keywords in a search engine to produce this post. Scary. What’s really scary is how I find out about this. People can comment on your site directly showing that they are not only listening, but that they are joining the discussion. My blog stats tell me when someone has linked to us. I found out that Robert French was blogging about Graduate Observations that way.

Sometimes you find out in unusual ways who is “listening.” I subscribe to the daily PRSA PR Issues and Trends e-newsletter. The first line in the February 15th edition read:

Armour and Farrell’s presentation on Social Media, from the February 8th meeting of the University of Akron’s chapter of PRSSA, are available for download at:
http://homepage.mac.com/lukearmour/PRSSA/FileSharing8.html

I was stunned. “How did they find out about that?” I wondered. Well, duh, it’s on the Internet; it’s public, baby, not private. We had intended that information to be a resource for the people at that PRSSA meeting and for those who couldn’t make it. We never intended for it to be broadcast to the national PRSA and PRSSA membership. It immediately made us a little nervous. What if the presentation was a dud and people are out there pointing and laughing at us. Well, I guess next time we’ll think about that. Robert French tried to persuade me that PRSA wouldn’t have posted it if it hadn’t have been good. He’s assuming that they downloaded and viewed the presentation and the handout, but I appreciated his reassurance all the same. Thanks, Robert.
So what does all this mean for PR?

  1. You never know who’s reading. Monitor the Internet, someone complaining about your product/ service/ company has the same chance of being read as The Wall Street Journal.
  2. Watch what you say. I try to keep this professional, but every time I get a comment or link from a PR person whom I respect I break into a sweat wondering, “have I written anything embarrassing. To be blunt: don’t put yourself in that position if it’s something you worry about.
  3. Have something to say. Bloggers blog to blog. I have a personal blog where I rant and rave and say outrageously ludicrous things. Who cares what I say because my mom may be the only person reading it. It do it for me. But if you’re a business or someone trying diving into social media because everyone else is doing it: remember that having a strategy will indicate if it fits into your plans or is just something you want to do. It will do more harm than good to blog or podcast about something no one cares about or is hastily put together. It’s kind of like a news release. Would you send one out without any actual news? (Of course you would, but it’s never a good idea, that was to be a rhetorical question.) What’s the point? You could save everyone a lot of time, bandwidth, and money if you just wrote newsless press releases, printed them out, and put them directly into the trash yourself.

And another lesson learned.

PR + Digital ART=Evolution

Okay, you are probably wondering where on earth I am going with this or why I am mentioning computer generated art a.k.a digital art in a PR-focused blog. Digital art like social media is interactive. It uses the web as a tool to generate discussion, comment on society, and exchange art, culture, ideas. Galleries and museums now have digital art exhibits and online gallery spaces. For example, Spaces Gallery: Virtual Spaces, showcases digital art. The online exhibit “Unofficial Communication” by Collette Gaiter challenges us to think about graffiti art as a form of communication that is not warranted by the public and is seen by some as obtrusive and dirty. I personally like her opinions section which starts off with the 1st Amendment and merges into various images of graffiti reading “TV is king” and “police.”

Gaiter’s exhibition lead me to thinking about how every medium starts as unofficial, as an innovation, as something unwarranted, but as more and more people begin to accept it and use the medium it becomes mainstream so much so that it eventually loses its original format and ingenuity. We look at so many web pages a day, digital art gets our mind-juices flowing and challenges us to think about the medium we spend so much time devoted to for communication. I discovered Feed 1.0, which unravels individual web pages into text, pixels, and graphs. I had way too much fun watching Reuters.com become mere lines and boxes.

How is PR tied to digital art? Can PR or even marketing harness the uniqueness and creativity of digital art as a way to engage their publics in a conversation using art? I feel that this can happen. Imagine you are an agency or corporation and you want to conceptualize a virtual space where your clients or publics could generate an interactive story where each person visiting the site could create a character and tale using digital images about how they used your product. (Obviously there would have to be some sort of monitoring-I am copyrighting this idea!) I know this may seem like some lofty-idealistic vision of merging PR with digital art, but hey why not?
The Natural Life Cycle of New Media Evolution was the impetus for this post. The author’s Lehman-Wilzig and Cohen-Avigdor (2004) created a model for the evolution of new media. They proposed that a medium begins at birth then moves through the following phases: market penetration, growth, maturation, defensive resistence, adaptation, convergence and then obsolescence. And when I contemplate digital art, blogs, and other social media, I look to this model as a way to think about the future of the medium and how PR and the communication field have to constantly be aware of new forms of media and where they might be in a life cycle or phase.

Do practitioners use the newest form of a medium to appeal to niche audiences or continue to use the one at ‘maturation’ where the medium becomes commonplace , status-quo and is at its pinnacle? What is better to use the medium everyone is using because it’s safe, comfortable, controllable or go beyond and look to other, newer media to communicate with publics? What is more valuable and how can emerging forms of media really be evaluated as effective and profitable?

For further parousing:
Check out Walker Art’s Gallery 9 and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s E.Space

PR ROI PDQ, WTH?

How many articles have I read on the subject, how many podcasts have I listened to lamenting the lack of it, how much time is wasted talking about ROI and measurement for PR, when no one can seem to come right out with an answer? Well, there’s probably a reason for that. It’s hard.

By why is it so difficult?

Don’t ask me, I’m a student. So I’m going to list a few resources to check out and then maybe we can have a discussion here about it. I’d be interested in how you or your organizations measure the effectiveness of public relations. What measurements do you use? What metrics? How do you justify your position, your work, your daily activities. I’ve worked for a company that basically called any free publicity “public relations” I use to grind my teeth to stubs every time they did it, but I just kept my mouth shut. I was freelancing, invited in, and not working there very often. Obviously they were looking for publicity, client’s name in publications anywhere, for any reason. What this was doing, I’m not sure, but it was what I was getting paid for. I also recently interviewed with an organization that clipped articles, counted column inches, and told their clients that they were getting ten times worth the advertising space for a fraction of the cost. It was a vehicle enthusiast industry, so it worked for them. But what else?

So we’ve put together case studies, metrics, checklists, lessons learned articles to get you through the day, the week, the year in PR. And we’ve also culled experts from corporations, agencies, consultancies and academics to share their expertise on the subject.

  • Dr. Linda Childers Hon has done extensive research on the subject. I’ve read a few of the articles. Good case studies, excellent ideas, research, and metrics.
  • KD Paine’s PR Measurement Blog is an interesting read. There’s a link to this site on our sidebar.
  • PR Newswire’s White Paper “Using Media Intelligence Tools to Drive Communications Success,” by Nancy Sells, vice president, PR Newswire is also a good resource. Go here to request the free whitepaper.

So there are some resources to check out. I’m VERY interested in what others have to say about this. Do you work someplace where they measure the PR? Do you have metrics for your work? How does your dominant coalition (management team) view the role of PR or communication? Are you married to marketing and the sales determines success? Let me know your thoughts on this measurement, evaluation, justification issue…we’re listening.

Presentation Notes Posted

Hello all!

The presentation notes from Armour and Farrell’s Social Media presentation at the PRSSA meeting 2.8.06 have been posted here. The link can be permanently found in the Fun Links side bar to the right of every page.

The post currently includes the PowerPoint presentation and the Hot PR blogs and podcasts handout we…handed out. Thanks for letting us speak with you, we had a great time.

UPDATE: Constantin Basturea sent a comment (see comments below) about the Bloglines PR page located here. Another great resource with some other great blogs in addition to the ones we posted. It’s global and broken down by category (education, government, business, etc.) Thanks, Constantin.

Lego Letting Go

This article by Daniel Terdiman titled Hacking’s a snap in Legoland from CNET really gives one pause. Can this really be happening? Can a company really be letting go and allowing consumer evangelism to help them?

Personally I find this a) great and b) really surprising. Joseph Jaffe had quite a problem with the Lego brand last September (2005) because Lego didn’t seem able to let go. Jaffe took issue with the fact that Lego had (i.e. posted on their website) insisted that people refer to the wonderful colored put-them-together plastic bricks as Lego bricks, but not as “legos.” As it turned out, Lego was just trying to defend their brand name.

Allen Jenkins sums it up nicely on his site or you read more on this topic at Jaffe’s original post. Either way, check out Jeremy Pepper’s commentary on the Lego brand situation.

That aside, this may seem surprising that Lego – or any company – would hand over so much control to its consumers. Or, should I say, allowed them to hack with such passive pleasure. Read Mr. Terdiman’s article and get back to me. One excerpt from this article that hits the PR nerve is this:

Scherer [senior producer in Lego’s interactive experiences group] explained that Lego has to walk a fine line when it comes to allowing access to its systems but that the company recognized the value of letting users adapt the tools to their needs.

Wow. So, the trend is letting go and sharing control. Will this continue? Will others follow? From a PR perspective, how do you counsel this? How do you keep people from freaking out about control? Better yet, should you? I’m certain the answer, like most others, is “it depends.” But it depends on the situation today. Yesterday it would have always been a resounding “no.”