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  • May 2006
    S M T W T F S
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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.


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.


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?

PRSA Akron Steppin’ Up

I'm pleased to announce that the Akron Chapter of PRSA joined the blogosphere in March. Even Constantin made note of it. Sponsored by Akhia Public Relations (and hosted by Six Apart's Typepad) the blog is titled, "A side of Blog."

First of all, I'm thrilled to see that NE Ohio has entered the "conversation", as it were. When I read the email my friend sent to me about the blog, I nearly fell off of my chair. I was so excited. I have, for eight to ten months now, been very disappointed not to see more PR firms or professionals in this area engaged in the blogosphere. Not to say that these people aren't doing great PR work, it's just that I felt like our area was lacking an online presence. I must not have been paying close enough attention, as I note that Chris Thompson of Edward Howard has a blog, too. I'm interested in other NE Ohio new media communication efforts. Anyone? I applaud Ben at Akhia for stepping up to the plate to spearhead the Akron PRSA Chapter project and I applaud the professionals that are taking an interest. 

The news and announcements for this on the PRSA Akron Website reads:

Blog! Get Your Blog Here! Hot off the press!
Posted: 3/13/2006
Ok… hot off the keyboard may be more like it. Akron PRSA has started our very own blog! We are proud to announce the addition of one of the latest movements in information sharing to our bank of communication methods. So stop by, check it out. Read as our chapter members discuss everything from movies and sports to PR ethics and government.

I'm a little concerned about the topics listed here. Not to say we don't need a little levity, humor, and water cooler talk in the PR world from time to time (because we do), but – well, the idea of discussing government frightens me a little. Does that mean politics? I was happy to see an email sent out to PR pros that clarifies it a little and asks for contributions. It reads:

Visit http://prsaaa.typepad.com/akron/ and check out the…posting, "A Day in the Life of an Intern." Add it to your favorites and check back often for updates and new postings. It's a great forum for you to submit feedback about your PRSA experiences, offer reviews of local vendors, exchange information with other PRSA Akron members, and more.

Since its inception on March 6, Chapter President Carrie Kandes posted, Ben from Akhia posted three times, the Akhia Intern has posted twice, the Chapter VP sent a thank you to professionals who helped with our PRSSA Student Development program, and I sent in a post. Lots of hits to the site, the email had said, but I think more content and more focus is required. Judging from the blockquote above with a list of topics. I'm wondering if a discussion board or Yahoo! Group wouldn't be more applicable for creating an online community for PRSA Akron members. This goes back to the question of "when is a blog a blog?" Just because it uses blogging tools? I don't think so, and many in the blogosphere would agree. This shows us that new tools can be used to fulfill important functions, but should not be used just because they're cool. PR bloggers have been telling their clients that for months. "Do we want to blog?" is not the right question, the proper one is "why should we be blogging?"

So, my observations:

  • What's the purpose? Answering this question will determine the blog's direction.
  • Who can write? I believe that everyone has the right to contribute in some way.
  • Who can post? Ben is clearly the moderator for this. And he already told me he's not going to censor things, which is great. But this adds another step to the process. Like all PR pros, Ben already has a full plate, why make it more difficult for him?
  • There aren't many links.

In sum, what I'm seeing is that A Side Of Blog is currently like a meeting with no agenda and no scheduled speakers. Conversly, a blog is more of a virtual conference with one or more presenters who take requests and suggestions from the audience to start a discussion. It is not an open forum. That's what Listservs and Usenet groups are for. Not surprisingly, I have a few suggestions:

  • Find the purpose. This will give direction and life to the blog.
  • Post more often and give it one voice. The benefit of a blog is that it's a way to conversationally share information that invites discussion. If everyone can post, there's no discussion, just random thoughts. What would readers gain from it?
  • If you don't want one voice, maybe give a handful of select people rights to post. Sharing the responsibility among a few will push them to write. Friends and colleagues of these few will visit and participate in the conversation. Soon, word will spread and a community will form. Develop a page of contributors that list each person, her job, and her background. Have the authors write about industry trends, interesting asides, lessons learned, and chapter information.
  • Have one person do the posting, Ben is the logical choice. The Forward Blog, for instance, works because Erin Caldwell has assembled a crack team of pros and student authors. But only one person posts to the blog, which ensures proper timing and minimizes overlap of topics. It works, it works really well. There is no shortage of posts and the content is excellent. In the spirit of disclosure, I'm one of the contributors to the Forward Blog.
  • Link, Link, Link!
  • Have fun.

So those are my thoughts. Don't let me fool you, I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to joining the Akron PRSA chapter in the future. But I have some concerns about the blog. A great idea that needs a little molding and Ben is already leaning that way. His most recent post brings me hope, except that he doesn't link to the blog where he got his info. A blogosphere faux pas. This initiative is new and I'm hopeful. I'm on board. I'm ready and eager to listen and contribute.

The Gap, A Digital One

Yes, the elusive and sometimes controversial topic of digital divide. It’s a hot issue especially, since Web 2.0 is bursting-at-its seams. Yvonne DiVita’s interview with AT&T’s Spokesperson Claudia Jones over at the Lip-stiking blog strikes a match to the conversation. They discuss AT&T’s Project Lightspeed, which connects rural communities to the Internet at a faster pace. Diva Marketing‘s post “Bridging the Gap” furthers the conversation on digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have a lot of access to the Internet and those who have little to no access. Typically, the discussion revolves around the ‘haves and have nots’ or ‘wealthy vs. poor.’ Toby’s post on Diva Marketing points to relevant articles and projects working to eliminate the digital divide. I suggest parousing through them, they are very enlightening. I was intrigued with Washington State University’s Digital Divide Project, which works with and provides resources for teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

A similar project is The George Lucas Educational Foundation (edutopia) whose mission is to “celebrate and encourage innovation in schools.” They support several programs that are working to close the divide. Community technology centers provide access to multimedia tools, like video cameras, editing equipment, computers, and the Internet to students in inner-city neighborhoods. In my past life I was an inner-city public school teacher and part of me is still really passionate about urban education. My students had access to computers and the Internet at school, but may not of had access at home. My class spent time doing assignments on the Internet and I believe it enriched their experience while learning about the infamous Shakespeare. I think that projects like Street-Level Youth Soar, a Chicago nonprofit, make a tremendous and positive impact on student’s lives. What is imporant is that through education and projects focused on inner-city youth the digital divide can be bridged.

I really like what David Warlick of the blog 2 Cents Worth has to say. It is totally on point.

“There are lots of digital divides, each with its own seeds for danger. What I was thinking about was the digital divide between tech-savvy students and students with little or no access to networked digital information outside the classroom — and to some extent, the digital divide between tech-savvy students and less-savvy teachers. …

Today, the divide has multiplied, because people with contemporary (digital/21st century) literacy skills not only consume content, but they are the content. Being literate means being part of the network. The difference is not merely the individual who can read and individual who can not. It’s the difference between networked communities of power, and individuals who are cut off. This is a distinction too broad to ignore or postpone.”

A new form of literacy has emerged, as David points out and how we go about breaking this alternate form of illiteracy will change all of our lives.

For further reading check out:

Blog Search Update

I had been planning to do a review of blog search engines since I posted about Sphere the other day. Well, now I don’t have to. Tom Raftery beat me to it. His review is brief, but thorough.

First off, let me mention that both he and I were testing subscribed searches, mostly. That’s when you go to a blog search engine and tell it look for a search term like “weasel bucket,” and sign up to receive emails or RSS feeds when that search engine finds your term. For PR, that would be a great way to keep track of what people are saying about your clients or brands.

Tom and I agree on a number of things. My conclusion is that, therefore, we must be right. While he tried to search for things important to him, I did the same. I pretty much came up with the same results, using several different search terms. Here are my thoughts:

  • Sphere is good, very good for being so new. If it continues to improve, it will be contender.
  • Technorati still reigns in this area, in my humble opinion. The most thorough results regardless of what I was looking for. I did miss a few, though, and those were usually picked up by Sphere.
  • I haven’t personally tried IceRocket, yet, but will have to add it to my collection. Tom indicates that it produces the most results, but that the results are filled with spam. Like we need any more spam, right?
  • PubSub. I had high hopes with PubSub, but it appears to be falling off the radar. Tom agrees. Ironically, I became aware of all the services PubSub had to offer during a podcast interview between Tom and Salim Ismail, [then] PubSub CEO.
  • Google Blog Search. Tom didn’t review this, either because he finds no value in it or just didn’t think of it. I’ll have to post a comment and ask him. Another person did comment on Tom’s post about GBS, but Tom hasn’t responded. GBS is what my WordPress uses to tell me when people are talking about GOPR, but it misses a lot. Way more than I find acceptable.

So, in conclusion, do what Tom suggests. Use a combination. For subscribed searches – or for any search – a combination approach is best. If you tinker with them enough, you’ll find each has its own strengths and weaknesses when you’re using a real-time search. I haven’t made time for that, but I’m sure others have and I’d be interested in their thoughts. I’ll have to keep track of my searches in the future.