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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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Take THAT, Media Orchard!

Media Orchard is experimenting. Who am I to say no to self-serving, incredibly unscientific and highly questionable blog search related behavior?

Just doing my best to help a blogga out.

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The Haunting of Social Media

I recently had the pleasure of attending the graduation ceremony of my good friend in New Hampshire on May 20th at UNH. It was part of my post-school vacation to visit friends and family in New England. My friend received his Masters in English Literature and I was happy to, so recently, sit through another graduation ceremony. The speaker for this commencement was actor/playwright Mike O'Malley, known for his roles on CBS's "Yes, Dear" and Nickelodeon's "GUTS" show.

His speech was phenomenal. Just enough funny, just enough serious, and a whole lot of insight. One part in particular struck me heavily, heavily enough that I wrote down what he said on my program. He was talking about a show he wrote and starred in during the fall of 1999, "The Mike O'Malley Show," which was dropped by NBC after just two episodes. The criticism was brutal. About this he said,

"I learned the hard way that if you offer yourself up for people to have an opinion of you, they will have an opinion. If you make yourself so noticeable that people will be asked their opinion of you, they will respond in the manner in which they see fit. I was schooled in the ways of the printed word with swift and lasting effects. I learned that Freedom of Speech doesn’t guarantee kindness. Or encourage it. I had thought if I opened myself up and shared my passions, that there would be reciprocity and appreciation from everyone."

But he learned that the opposite can – and will – be true. That's exactly what organizations fear about social media. To put themselves out in the open, to be publicly criticized, to take the bad with the good for all to see is a risk they are often not willing to take. But there are people and organizations that do manage quite well using social media and embracing transparency. Transparency Works is one of my new favorite blogs. It's local (Cleveland based), thought provoking, and deals with this very topic. I've heard people say that strong brands resist openness and transparency (i.e. Google and Apple) and weak brands have nothing to lose (i.e. me). But a quick search will find Microsoft and other strong brands blogging – so that theory is weak. Chris Anderson wrote some worthy reading in Dec 05 about it. But there is such a fear of watering the brand, losing control, and dealing with the unknown. Fear is real. O'Malley also noted:

"Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, 'There is nothing to fear but fear itself.' He obviously didn’t get out very much. There’s plenty to fear. The world, as you know, can be a sinister place. You hold in your pockets devices that can give you up-to-the-second bad news from around the world."

And from the social media standpoint, bad news for businesses can survive in the longtail for a loooong time. Jumping into social media isn't for everyone. It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes confidence in oneself and in one's organization – even if you're a student. But there are benefits to social media; I wrote a post about it and the obvious fact that people are still utilizing them is a ringing endorsement.

So there's fear and hesitation. As PR people we need to promote the best course of action for our clients or organizations. Sometimes that includes using social media and sometimes it doesn't. I always go back to the important question. It's not "should my company be blogging?" but rather "why should my company be blogging?" That little change in perspective makes all the difference between jumping on the bandwagon and strategic planning. That difference will help overcome the fear. If you can decide that social media will help achieve your goals, then the decision should be as easy as whether to pitch a story to an editor; no more, no less.

C.C. Chapman Must be Stopped

I don't know what it is. Is it jealousy? Awe? Entertainment? But C.C. Chapman must be stopped.

C.C. Chapman has become ubiquitous in the world of social media, specifically podcasting. In fact, I haven't listened to a podcast in the last week that didn't have his voice or name mentioned. You want a lesson in viral marketing? Talk to C.C. The guy's brand is all over the place.

His recent intrusions of my world include:

Oh, wait a minute. C.C. Chapman is the creator of and voice behind Managing the Gray. Well, I guess that's okay then. Already a blogger and podcast guru in the world of music with Accident Hash and U-Turn Cafe, C.C. has entered the world of marketing podcasts with Managing the Gray. I suggest giving it a listen. Not only is he knowledgeable, his energy is more potent than a double espresso. The podcast is short, to the point, and vibrant.

What really makes me mad is that I just came back from a vacation to New England. I had really wanted to hook up with some social media folk while I was away. It wasn't until after I was there that I heard that C.C. was based in Boston and was going to be in Germany most of the time I was in the NE. I know, it's my fault for not doing my research. Bummer. I could have saved some money on Peet's Coffee if I just could have spent some time with C.C. "The Aural Energy Drink" Chapman. Next time I'll track him down. Next time. Oh, and incidentally, C.C., you need to add Managing the Gray to your Technorati profile.

Friday Frivolity

Hate getting email junk from friends or family, but are afraid of hurting their feelings? Worry no more. Just let someone else do it for you, reply to their email and send them this link.

Oh, if only we could have websites for all unpleasant things. A few suggestions:

  • Bad breath
  • Breakups
  • Broccoli in one's teeth
  • Your kids are driving me crazy
  • Your blog is an insult to my soul
  • And many more!

Any you'd care to add?

Hat tip.

Dramamercials?

I am really looking forward to this. Live-action commercials on stage before shows? The USA Today article goes into detail:

"I don't know why nobody has thought of it before, to have a live ad on stage for theater," said McLynn, who will perform before a production of "Saturday Night Fever" at the Gaiety.

"It will be a real thrill for the people who are here, as 1,500 people are going to have been at a world first, they will be able to go home and say not only did I see a great show last night, but I saw the first-ever live ad."

I think they can really get away with this. It's truly surprising that noone has made this popular before. Perhaps it was too sacred a place, but I think they can make a go of it if it's done properly. By "properly" I mean, of course, cleverly with humor and panache – and with the right product. Mr. Clean products? I don't think so. Trips to London? Could work…I'm hoping YouTube gets ahold of one of these as I'm keen to see what they look like.

My guess is that the novelty of them will make them permissable for a while, and by the time people get tired of them, they'll be commonplace.

Hat tip to Population Statistic, thanks, Costa.

This is acceptable, in stark contrast to this article from The NY Times about people who buy movie tickets online getting text requests on their phones to review movies they've seen. Now that's intrusive and people won't stand for it for very long. That's one to watch, too.

Newspapers – nothing new here

This post originally appeared on the Forward blog

Newspapers. We’ve been hearing about their demise for years now. But, seriously, is that ever going to happen? Let’s see, the only medium I can think of that really went offline was the telegraph. And that was a rare case.

As Shel Holtz is fond of saying: “new media don’t kill old media, they just force them to adapt” and I believe it. Radio changed the world, and forced newspapers to change. Television changed the world again, but radio and newspapers adapted. Now we have the Web, which is forcing everything to evolve again. The demise of newspapers? I don’t think so.

Readership may be declining, but enrollment in journalism schools is on the rise. This article from Seelye in The New York Times is outstanding. Witness:

“Students are also driven by the very changes that are upending the old media. For one thing, many do not read the print version of newspapers. As Dustin Hodges, 22, who is graduating from Missouri in August, put it, ‘I don’t pick up a newspaper unless it’s in front of me and it’s free.’ For the latest news, he hops online, where he spends three or four hours a day anyway.

Today’s students have grown up immersed in the Internet and with the ability to adapt rapidly to new technologies, giving them a comfort level with things that newspapers are just discovering, like blogs, podcasts and video clips.”

You bet they are. And they’ll be blowing in on the winds of change when they come. The Boston area is working on a new program. And Philadelphia is working on something as well, figuring out how to tap into the online readership revenue. If this article from the USAToday is right, Philadelphia might be on to something. I think they are.

And it’s when old media don’t adapt that they run into problems. When certain news organizations figure out that when they are reporting is no longer news they will be fine. News is called news ‘cause it’s new. Today’s newspapers are reporting yesterday’s news. That’s not news, it’s…a story, a fact, a bit of trivia, human interest, local information, or in-depth coverage; but not news.

Of course, I’m reminded that there is a growing divide in our culture. We have folks without Internet access being left behind in the digital divide. We have people who choose to use the Internet for e-mail – and that’s it. We have people who could have Internet access and choose not to.

So as PR professionals we have the added challenge that the newspaper industry is facing: how do we get our messages to our target audiences? Newspapers are using the Web to do this in conjunction with hard copy. PR people are using media relations to secure hits in trade magazines, word-of-mouth campaigns, conversational blogs, and advertorials. When you need to reach a target audience, you need to use the channel in which they are accustomed to getting messages. For teens it could be MySpace or TXT. For college grads, blogs, podcasts, and the web.

And I’ll stop there because in my mind it’s not about age. I know grandmothers using Flickr and I know teens who are unable to recognize anything Web 2.0. It has nothing to do with which generation; it just happens to fall that way many times. PR has to adapt and evolve as well. Many Forward readers are aware of this, but there are many, many more PR pros out there that choose to ignore the reality of the changing landscape. If only just to offer clients a new channel to reach target audiences, it’s important. At the lowest level, monitoring the ‘net for mention of your clients’ brands is a must. But some remain blissfully ignorant.

So how do you keep abreast? Pardon the pun, but you have to stay relevant and current. And if that doesn’t work, you could always do this to get some press.

Todd Defren Wins! (sort of)

A while back we posted that we'd be having a contest to change the name of our blog. We received a few comments and suggestions, but none so thoughtful and encouraging as those of Todd Defren who authors the PR Squared blog and The Good Pitch blog. Now, we didn't actually use any of Todd Defren's suggestions, but we liked his style, his creativity, and his willingness to give it a shot. We did like nearly all of Todd Defren's suggestions, but googling some of them showed us the competition.

Not wanting to water down our strong, fierce brand, we've decided to go with something very similar to our original name. We spent hours pouring through academic PR books and combining the suggestions with obscure literary references. We finally decided that we really liked our original name, but just felt the one word was no longer relevant. So we dropped it. I tried to change "Graduate" to something like "Super Awesome" or "Two-Way Symmetrical and Excellent," but Beth thought it was a little wordy. So there we have it. We observe and report. That's what we do, that's who we are.

Thanks to all those who contributed and tracked back to us. It was fun getting comments, silly or serious. Congratulations, Todd Defren, for sort-of winning our contest. Now if only we'd posted some sort of prize…I guess having "Todd Defren" splashed about on our blog will just have to be reward enough. Right, Todd Defren?