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  • February 2006
    S M T W T F S
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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.


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:

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


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.”

PR has its own shoes

Big nod to Steve Rubel for finding this juicy article from the Economist about PR filling the shoes of the stumbling advertising business. At the onset I was enjoying it. But the more I read the less inclined I was to not grit my teeth and clench my fists. The unsettling began with this phrase, “PR is an increasingly vital marketing tool” and then proceeded to offend me even more. I took particular issue with this segment:

The goal of PR is usually to secure positive coverage in the media, and the well-worn tactics include calling a press conference, pitching stories directly to journalists, arranging eye-catching events, setting up interviews and handing out free samples. But as PR profits from advertising’s difficulties, it is taking up a host of new stratagems—and seeking to move up the corporate pecking order.

In his book Value-Added Public Relations Thomas L. Harris admits that PR is a great tool for marketers because it gives marketing the credibility factor. Well, yeah!

I don’t know what your personal definition of public relations is, but I do not define it by how it is used by marketing. Can marketing and public relations work together to achieve some great goals? Yes. But I get really tired of people – marketers, advertisers, or any other communication people – who refer to public relations when what they are really talking about publicity. Is publicity a part of public relations? Yes. But I also consider advertising a subset of marketing. I mean, doesn’t advertising belong to one of the Ps? Promotion? Can public relations be used for promotion? Yes, excellently so, but that doesn’t mean that public relations is a marketing tool. It’s making the role of PR subservient to other parts of an organization and I disagree with that. PR is an entity in and of itself. PR is about communicating with the organization’s publics – all of them – not just consumers. Excellent PR affects the environment in which an organization exists, but not just to sell or create buzz about products. The article also goes on to say:

Some PR firms see an opportunity to move up their clients’ hierarchy—becoming not just service providers, but also purveyors of strategic advice to senior management.

Yes. PR is a strategic management function. Management function, not marketing tool. I do wholeheartedly believe that PR should have the ear of senior management; PR should be at the table. But it is not a tool for any specific part of the an organization, like a hammer, it is the arm that swings the hammer, that works in tandem with the rest of the organization.

The article, in my opinion, covers some interesting ground and makes a good point. Advertising is struggling and PR is stepping up to fill those shoes, but I just disliked the wording of the piece. Maybe I’m being oversensitive or unrealistic, but that’s just how I feel about it. Someone convince me otherwise. PR has its own shoes.

Kryptonite II – I blinked and missed it

I hate to rehash what amounts to an enormous and severely beaten topic, but I just have to know. Where did I miss the second half of this debacle? From a PR standpoint, this certainly takes a revisit. Apologies if you’re tired of the subject.

For those of you who don’t know (and I imagine a fair many of you don’t, so that’s okay), I’ll try to sum it up for you.

This is an incredibly simplified version. See the links below for more detailed information.

Kryponite Lock is a company that makes, you guessed it, bike locks. In 2004 several videos circulated across the Internet demonstrating how to defeat a certain type of lock style with a typical ballpoint pen. The news originally broke on an “online forum,” and this is important later on. This spells bad news for Kryptonite, right? Well, the blogosphere went crazy and there was quite an uproar even in some traditional mediums. Things got blown out of proportion – as I hope to detail in later posts – because of the mob mentality of parts of the blogosphere. I say “parts of the blogosphere” not all. But I’m digressing.

So to make a long story longer, this went on for some time and finally Kryptonite offered a lock exchange program to replace (here’s a interesting note) not only the pickable locks, but many other locks as well at a significant cost to the company. Sounds great. Word is that Kryptonite suffered irrepairable losses because of this crisis, which could have been avoided if only they had been monitoring the blogosphere. Is this true? Could it have been avoided? Were they not being constantly vigilant?

Well guess what, maybe they were.

Kryptonite has become the poster child for “Blogosphere Monitoring, how NOT to do it,” and why not? Well, because Donna Tocci, Public Relations Manager for Kryponite, argues that they were watching, they knew about it from day one. I did some online snooping and came across several blog interviews with Tocci that range from April 2005, to December 2005 (see the links below for more information). Here are my new thoughts about the issue:

  • Too slow to see? No. Tocci indicates they knew about it from day one. The interviews go into chronological detail (especially the Naked Conversations blog post). Good eye, but it’s what you do with that information that matters.
  • Too slow to talk? I say yes. Donna admits that maybe they could have communicated better. It’s a relatively small company and they had various angles to contend with during this and it affected their communications. Could be trouble.
  • Too slow to act? I don’t think so. Donna makes some great cases for not implementing a plan until they had every aspect covered. Sounds good and I agree. You can’t institute a lock replacement program until you can figure out distribution, storage, costs, etc. This takes time.
  • Too slow to get the real story out? I might have to agree. The initial story broke in September, 2004. The first mention I see of Tocci out in the blogosphere trying to get the real story out is April 2005, then July 2005, then December 2005, and into 2006. In my email conversation with Donna she wrote, “This was just the time frame that we were able to start some conversations.” Again, back to the fact that they had scads to do during the crisis. Is that a good reason to drop the communication ball? No one would agree if asked, but it’s the pressure of the situation that really determines what kind of communicator you are. Let’s all remember this: no matter what happens, you must still communicate. Either way, Tocci did go out and get the truth out. Maybe late, but she was tenacious about telling Kryptonite’s story. All last year she was doing interviews, on blogs, posting comments, replying to emails, being available. That’s good communication. She even answered my email to rehash what they consider a closed topic. And who am I? Just a student, trying to learn the truth, trying to share a case study that everyone already assumed had gone wrong. But I maintain this: It wasn’t as wrong as people said it was, not by a long shot.

I posit that the blogosphere is like TV or Radio News at times. If it isn’t sensational, it’s not going to make the cut. Bad news is always news, but good news is fluff. (At least that’s how some journalists make communicators feel at times – oops, my PR is showing). My point? When it hit the fan for Kryptonite everyone and their grandmother was writing about it, but when the real story comes out, people don’t care. I indicated this to Tocci who wrote, “This is a very big generalization. The news of our lock exchange program did get out lots and lots of people through the internet and traditional media sources. But, yes, as in most mediums controversy ‘sells’.” And that’s why I actually had to search to find the second half of this story. You couldn’t read a PR blog, listen to a PR podcast, or read books about the blogosphere without hearing about this mess when it first came out. But after that I had to search for it. And – oh boy – it’s out there.
There is also a thread of information in the following posts that Kryptonite knew about the faulty locks since 1992 when a British publication wrote about it. I’ve read enough articles to gather that Kryptonite Locks weren’t specifically mentioned, so people are putting too much emphasis on that article. However, brand name listed or not, why didn’t they check it out? Do we have a problem here? In crisis PR we call that a prodrome, noticing circumstances that have the potential to become crises. None of the Tocci interviews go into detail about that, she states the article never mentioned Kryptonite Locks.

But the myth remains, blogs nearly destroyed Kryptonite, blogs discovered the ineptitude of a shoddy company, you have to monitor the blogosphere, Kryptonite did a lousy job, etc etc. You can think whatever you like, I don’t care. What I care about is researching the truth. How many other people did that? From a PR standpoint, It’s true that you need to monitor the Internet, it’s true you need to know what your publics are saying about you. But it’s also true that you need to communicate as often as possible, especially during a crisis. Maybe Kryptonite knew from day one, maybe they could have done more, been better communicators. Even in the aftermath, why does it take so long to get the real story out, over so many channels, over so long a period of time? PR is about communicating effectively, right?

Check out the links below to read interviews with Tocci, opinions and all. If you read on, make sure you read all the comments as Tocci usually follows up to people’s questions. PR flack or honest communicator? I’ve formed my opinion, but let me know your thoughts.

No Luv 4 Google

I decided to continue the story about Google, because it relates to what we have been discussing about PR and social media. Apparently, Google set up a search engine for the Chinese Government to censor searches controlling what people read, write and view. The Communist government polices the news, Internet and media. It is their law, their government and they have a right to their sovreignty. I guess it depends on your beliefs. If an American company wants to do business in China they have to follow their laws. The problem many people have is the fact that Google is working with the Chinese Government to promote censorship. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California) said “They caved in to Beijing for the sake of profits.” ( From the The New York Times)

And because of their business with China a protest has commenced by The Students for a Free Tibet called No Luv 4 Google. Valentine’s Day is Google boycott day. People are signing up and pledging to boycott Google. Here is the campaign’s purpose, “We want to provide an outlet for the widespread outrage people worldwide have expressed since the launch of Google.cn. We want people inside Tibet, China and other Chinese-occupied territories to know that we respect their right to the free access of information just as much as we value our own. We want Google — and all other international companies doing business in China — to know that there is a basic human obligation to uphold higher standards than those set by the Chinese Communist Party. We want Google to end their partnership with the Chinese government and stand on the right side of history.”

The group has posted some catchy taglines, like “Google break up stories…break up here.” You can click on the icon and e-mail Google and tell them why you are breaking up with their gmail and “just google it” services. You can even include your picture.

What should Google do? How can they or any company effectively respond to a potential boycott? Respond, sometimes that isn’t enough. The Students for a Free Tibet have a decent PR campaign going on. Activist organizations rely on the Web to communicate, advocate and find other volunteers to rally their issue.
Google has provided reasoning for launching Google.cn, which can be read on the Google Blog. I think that Google needed to make a statement.
Anyone interested in studying the impact of social media should look to activist and advocacy organizations blogs and web sites. They can be powerful tools that impact businesses and influence others to act.
Some examples are: Exxpose Exxon, Sierra Club’s Compass, US PIRG and Greenpeace’s Weblog.