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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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Month One

Well, I completely flew by my one-month anniversary of agency life. Taking a deep breath, I thought I’d provide a little bit of a retrospective of that month.

The most difficult aspect of this time has been pairing my education and experience with the realities of what faces me as I sit in my office on a day-to-day basis. There shouldn’t be a disconnect, but somehow there is. People hand me things or ask me to fulfill requests and I have hesitated. Looking back on it, I can clearly see that I have been properly trained, I was just apprehensive about performing a task for which I’m getting paid as opposed to graded. So, what, I can pay to make mistakes, but don’t want to make them when I’m getting paid? Sounds about right.

But it’s more than that. My reputation is on the line. I have a sincere desire to please my employers and supervisors with my work. I have a vested interest in not getting fired. In case you didn’t know, Ohio is one of those at-will states. So they can fire me at will. Ever hear a movie line where the captain of a vessel (boat, submarine, space ship) yells, “fire at will!”? They weren’t talking about a guy named Will; they were campaigning for easier ways to fire people.

And since I now spend so much time in the car, I can really dive deep into the podcasting world and continue to learn more from the loquacious of our field. These individuals take the time to share their knowledge with anyone who wants to listen. Social media is a beautiful thing, not sure exactly what the benefit to some of the podcasters and bloggers is, but for me it’s invaluable. I have really grown to enjoy the chats with the Better Desirable Roasted Communications team of Jenkins and Hopkins. Lee, best of luck to you in your new venture, by the way. I’m wishing you the best.

And am still completely addicted to the dynamic duo at For Immediate Release, of course. But as agency life progresses, I find myself gaining more and more value from Inside PR. Even though they’re a couple of Canucks, I really find their discussions on life on the agency side fascinating and hugely relevant to my life. So thanks Terry and David for the excellent work. Thanks, also, for addressing my insecurities about hockey and the Habs. I wasn’t upset that you used the word, I was upset because you assumed no one listening would know what it meant. I mean, I know you have a huge following in Indonesia, but people in the States know a thing or two about puck. Well, the cool ones.
So if you haven’t gotten into podcasts yet, you must. My only regret is that I only have so much time in the car a week. I have to limit what I can listen to. New people keep podcasting and I’m having trouble fitting it in. However, if Shel and Neville get the FIR podcast down from 90 minutes to 60 or so – I might be able to squeeze a few more in there. Paull and Donna , I’m listening, I really am. Brian, Mitch, you’re on deck. Oh the agony of it.

Happy belated one month to me, I’m looking to so many more. PR rocks.

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Paper Forts!

Up to my neck, God I love that phrase, because sometimes its just so descriptive! I know I have been away. Currently, I am working on my Master’s project on nonprofit blogs and am surrounded by stacks of paper, print outs, and books. I could make a nice fort for myself. After, scouring the blogosphere for nonprofit blogs here is what I have found. When I am all finished and screaming from mountain tops and doing a little dance, I will post my project to a Web site.

  • Approximately 172 nonprofit blogs exist and 112 nonprofit organizations are blogging. I say approximately because this number changes. Some nonprofits have several blogs, like Greenpeace and some are archived. I did not account for blogs written about nonprofit organizations.
  • Overall, blogs are used for raising awareness about the organization its program, mission, and goals, to provide information as in the form of an online newsroom or on a specific issue, and to converse with constituents.
  • The type of nonprofits blogging run the gamut from environmental and social advocacy organizations to associations and museums. All have found some benefit to the medium.

The exciting thing about my project is that I will also be setting up a blog template for a nonprofit in Northeast Ohio. Time for me to get back to work. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “I’ll be back.”

Things We Used to Do on Grass

Paull YoungGrass Pusher

Not Quite the Tylenol Team

This article from the NY Times shows just how much things have changed since the Tylenol incident from the 80s. I don’t have all the facts, but when I read things like this:

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson, Mark Wolfe, said: “We disagree with the outcome of this trial. We are evaluating our legal options.”

it makes me realize that this isn’t the same team that worked on the crises from yesteryear. Before Crisis PR, before worlds of spin, and flacks doing damage control, Johnson and Johnson relied on their creed to help them weather a horrific tragedy. Now, things seem different, more litigious, less consumer friendly.

Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers contend that Ms. Thompson did not die of a fentanyl overdose and that there was no evidence her patch leaked. They attributed her death to “natural causes,” like heart problems.

I’m interested in seeing how this all pans out. Will this turn out to be a case of a company protecting itself from lawyers, doctors, and ignorant consumers – or – will this turn out to be a rather large blotch on the Johnson and Johnson name?

Friday Frivolity

Oh, the silly web.

Just recently I stumbled upon this website which exclaims itself as “Blaugh: the Un-official comic of the blogosphere.” Created by artist Brad Fitzpatrick and writer Chris Pirillo, this site is meaningful for anyone who spends any time following memes in the way-too-serious-for-its-own-good ‘sphere. It’s funny. I’m watching. Check it out.

Advertorial – acceptable or devil’s penmanship?

Is it pay-for-play, unethical, okay, or acceptable only under certain circumstances? I took a poll through the Bulldog Reporter this week and took a snap of the results. Sixty-eight percent of those who responded (no mention of how many people had weighed in) think pay-for-play marketing should never happen. I note that it includes ethical issues for both journalism and PR. Nice touch. Twenty percent indicated it would be done under certain circumstances. But who has the definition of pay-for-play? Lots of wiggle room, I’d imagine. I mean, c’mon Clinton taught us we can legally stretch the definition of any word.

But advertorials? Who would argue that advertorials are unethical? I’m a big fan of advertorials used in certain circumstances. They’re tools of communication just like blogs or brochures. In some situations, it’s the best way to get the message out. Didn’t Johnson & Johnson put out advertorials during their mid-80s poison crisis? It was a way for them to get their story out in the days before the web.

But this NYT article from Maria Aspan indicates the blurry line some people are walking. The article details how the writer of an advertorial was paid for it, but also listed as a contributing editor in the publication. Not to mention the “this is a paid advertisement” was barely visible to the naked eye.

Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism organization [said] “As a member of the audience, how do I know where his loyalties are when I see his byline on something else?”

Purposefully deceptive? How does this compare to ghost writing? It doesn’t, if you ask me. But when you’re a contributing writer of a rag and are also paid to write ads for the same – that does sound a bit odd. As PR pros we’re bound to run into pesky predicaments every once in a while. Part of our jobs is to write.

I mean, right there in the PRSA Code of Ethics it clearly states:

A member shall:
• Be honest and accurate in all communications.
• Act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the
member is responsible.
• Investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of information released
on behalf of those represented.
• Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.
• Disclose financial interest (such as stock ownership) in a client’s
organization.
• Avoid deceptive practices.

I mean, I’m just telling you what it says. But so very few of the people who engage in PR practices are members of PRSA, IABC, or CIPR. So, there’s a loop hole.

To me, this whole thing goes back to definitions. PR is so inaccurately defined so often. PR is practiced by people who don’t understand it fully. PR is not solely publicity, but I’d wager most of the self-proclaimed PR pros out there do only that. PR is not just getting coverage for clients at any cost. Because there is a cost. And people are watching. Would there be a PR Watch organization if we stuck to a code of ethics?

Update: Robert French has a nice little discussion about online pay for play here.