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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.

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  • October 2006
    S M T W T F S
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Really Dumb PR Question

confused.jpgSo I’ve recently noticed a trend at parties or events since I’ve held a position in the PR field. When people ask me what I do I try to judge how much I think I know about them and what they might now about PR before I answer (look at that, the “know your audience” concept at work). This has become increasingly more difficult recently as I have found myself in more and more situations where I am meeting people for the first time.

I usually just tell them I’m an account executive for an advertising/PR firm in Canton. At this point, one of two things happen. They either say, “oh,” followed by an awkward silence usually broken by me excusing myself to get another a) drink b) brownie c) conversation partner.

Then there are the folks who kind of understand what I might do. These people usually have latched on to the “advertising” word I mentioned in the answer to the question. Or, sometimes, they truly understand PR and want to know about my job. Former students I taught at Akron, fellow former grad students, or others who know of PR.

Invariably, the first thing these people ask me is “have any interesting clients?” This seems like such a monumentally inane question to me. Do you know how many businesses or products there are in the world? Especially business-to-business clients. If I could line up 50 PR or advertising folk and ask them that question, I’ll bet I wouldn’t recognize 75% of their clients. What do these people think I’m working on, VNRs for NASA? Pepsi’s new Super Bowl commercial? The crisis communication plan for Wal-Mart? And even better, what would it matter if I were working on a high-profile client. Because the next question they would ask SHOULD have been their first question, “what do you do for them?”

And that’s just it. I would much rather bore you to tears about my job if I were doing something really great for anyone, regardless of what client it was. My first question when I network with other ad/PR folk is always, “working on any cool projects?” because it’s the projects that matter, man, not the client when you’re shooting the breeze.

If you were building a really cool blog/MySpace concept for Bob’s House of Foam that would be what I wanted to hear about. I don’t want to hear that Crusty Widgets Inc. is your client, but that you were working on putting together a massive crisis management/communication plan together for them. It’s what you do with PR that matters, not just who you do it for. It tells me that you love your job, that you think your projects are cool, that you really enjoy your work. Not that you only enjoy your work ’cause you write press releases for some client who actually doesn’t even know you, but whose name speaks volume. “Yes, we do work for Coke and Crest.” “Oh, what do you do for them?” “Uh, we also do work for Victoria’s Secret,” he might say desperately. “Oh,” say I, obviously taking the bate. Do you know any of the models?”

Of course he doesn’t know the models or he would have started by shouting directly into my face, “I went to a party at Tyra’s house and saw a bunch of super models!!!!” whether he knew me or not.

Maybe I’m unique, but that’s just how I feel about it. Maybe if the Columbus Blue Jackets were my client I’d be more excited about people asking me about it. I’m more interested in the process than the product, usually. How about you?

Disclaimer: Neither Bob’s House of Foam, Crusty Widgets Inc., or any of those other companies are clients of mine.


Blogger criticizes local paper typo – what a jerk

beaconjournal.JPGAlso titled: Do I have a right to be snobby?

Seriously, as a blogger, do I have any right to be snobby? Here is a local paper with serious reporters, ethical standards, and a decent website and here I am, a nobody, mocking it.

Is that right?

Probably not.

Incidentally, the print version was fine and it was fixed a few hours later so I guess I don’t have any compaints.

I was listening to FIR #184 this morning (blog page, show notes) and Shel made some great comments about headlines. Especially in this day of RSS, we really need to be descriptive and informative in our headlines if we expect people to pay attention to the messages. This goes for newspapers, bloggers, and more. As a PR professional, I scan over 140 feeds in my aggregator to attempt to stay on top of events. Many of those feeds are headline only, no lead paragraph. I may be missing information, though I try not to. Think about that when crafting headlines for your blog, your website, or your client. RSS is changing not only the way we get information, but how we get information out.

Friday Frivolity

Still one of my favorites. Ask a Ninja explains podcasting.

Check out the podcast blog and subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcatcher for a good laugh now and then.

What Color is Your Expert Social Media Guru?

crayon-logo.jpgParachute, my eye. I want to know what color your favorite social media, new marketing hero is.

By now you’ve heard (unless you live under a blogosphere rock, i.e. are offline) that all our favorite podcasters have joined together to form an honest to goodness virtual company focusing on all aspects of communication. Instead of offering social media as an afterthought, crayon will be incorporating every strategic tool at its disposal to fit the needs of its clients.

Shel writes:

The biggest boxes of crayons come chock-full of dozens of colors, Joe notes, but most communicators (marketers, advertisers, PR folk, corporate communications pros) seem always to start with red, green, and blue. crayon is ready to pull any color out of the box and we definitley [sic] will not start with red, green, and blue.

And that’s great. But I want to hear from you. What colors are your social media magnates? Mine are as follows:

  • Holtz says to me a fuzzy wuzzy brown
  • Hobson is nothing less than a burnt sienna
  • CC Chapman couldn’t be anything other than atomic tangerine
  • Jaffe is a toss-up between razzmatazz and purple pizzazz

Best of luck, gentlemen, to you and your NY behind-the-scene troop, as well as your incoming freshmen. I wish I could join you, but my accolades aren’t as bright and I’m not sure what I can do from NE Ohio. Keep on keepin’ on.

From the IM

My instant message conversation (got the idea from Phil):

me: bon jour!is that spelled right?Heather: close enough for meme:maybe it’s Bon JoviHeather:you give French a bad name, man

Cleveland PR/Journo Thoughts

As I posted last week, I attended a BusinessWire breakfast in Cleveland last week. Cleveland’s kind of a hike for me, especially at 8am, but I persevered and made it. I also managed to forget my camera so I don’t have any cool photos to prove I was there. Except this badge they gave me I took a picture of when I got home.

I had been especially interested in the panel of speakers as well as the topic. Panelists were John Kroll, Deputy Business Editor of The Plain Dealer, and author of the retirement blog Not Fade Away; Thomas Mulready, founder of CoolCleveland; and Chris Thompson of the Transparency Works blog and Vice President of Edward Howard & Co. Moderator was Denise Polverine, Editor-in-Chief, Cleveland.com.

I took away some valuable statements that really made me think about some things. I wanted to share those with you in no particular order.

  • Kroll mentioned that the communication that we’re having today is different, that it used to be two companies communicating. Even though it was it was reporter to PR pro, it was really the two companies talking. Now it’s people talking, bloggers blogging, conversations raging. The Cluetrain is apparent in Kroll’s comments. “Bloggers are not a species,” Kroll said, “bloggers are people.” This comment reminds me so much of Shel‘s common phrase that it’s not that we don’t trust blogs, it that we’re skeptical of anyone until we learn to trust them. In person, in print, or online, it doesn’t matter.
  • Thompson pointed out that new analytics in the online world are making it easier to measure almost everything. He said we’ve “gotten rich by not measuring anything and telling the client it’s all fine.” Times are changing. Are we ready? My view is that some of us are ready, but most aren’t. I’m hedging on this one my self. As an industry, I think PR is not ready. As an industry I think news media is not ready. But we are moving forward, just behind the tide.
  • As I huge fan of RSS (I recently gave a talk to a PRSSA chapter on RSS), I was shocked to think of a negative side to it. Thompson made a great point that perhaps RSS makes things too segregated. We’re narrowing ourselves into ignorance. This is something I struggle with everyday. Personally, I avoid this by subscribing to RSS feeds that I don’t have any personal interest in and then scanning the headlines just to keep rounded. But he’s right. The narrowcasting approach has made it very easy to target certain people, but infinitely more difficult to hit those people who reside on the fence. In any given opinion-swaying campaign, be it political or consumer, B2B or otherwise, the only people you really target are those who are decidedly undecided. You’re never going to change the minds of the top percent of supporters for both sides. But with this incredibly narrow focus, how do we attempt to reach the minds of the undecided? Demographics (and psychographics, etc) for television and print change daily, I’m guessing, as new technologies are adopted by more and more people. Advertising and PR is getting more and more difficult, while getting seemingly easier. Not to mention Thompson’s point about narrowing ourselves to ignorance. I thought we, as Americans, were ignorant enough. Hold me, I’m frightened.
  • Kroll made a great point about newpapers going online. He said, “we’re still a traditional media,” referring to the Plain Dealer, “[companies] still talk to us as little as they ever used to.” I laughed about that. Isn’t it funny? PR people are always pitching stories, but journalists are looking for real news. It’s laughable to see how often we miss each other. Kroll’s point demonstrates that things are surely slow to change. There’s some comfort in that(?)
  • Kroll also noted that the great thing about the new media tools is that the news media and PR are finally up to where education was decades ago. It’s sad to think that PR and News take so long to adopt change and new technologies. However, I’m not sure education is on top of it either… I mean, I just got my Masters and one of our undergrad professors was still using her doctoral notes from 20 years prior to teach us PR. Maybe it was my school, but there is NOTHING comforting about that. I mean, a colleague of mine even told her, “that’s kind of sad, don’t you think something’s changed in twenty years?” The prof hasn’t budged.

So the event was excellent. Denise and Thomas also said some great things, but I only jotted down so much and it’s taken me ages to post even this. I also had the privalege to meet Cleveland’s own civic voice, George Nemeth from Brewed Fresh Daily who left me this thoughtful comment on another post.  Thanks, George, hope to see more bloggers in NE Ohio soon.

Friday Frivolity

Thanks to Lee for pointing out some hilarious auto-reply messages for your email that a friend of his collected over the years. Enjoy.

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn’t have received anything at all.

3. I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from holiday on 4th April. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

4. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $4.00 for the first ten words and $1.95 for each additional word in your message.

5. The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again. (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over).

6. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system… You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

7. I’ve run away to join a different circus.

and finally, the one that just cracks me up:

8. I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons… When I return, please refer to me as ‘Alice’ instead of ‘Allan’.

BizWire Breakfast

Headed to Cleveland tomorrow for an early breakfast sponsored by BusinessWire entitled 100 years in the making: Public Relations Past, Present and Future —The Changing Face of Journalism and PR

Should be fun, one of the speakers is blogger Chris Thompson (Vice President, Edward Howard) from the Transparency Works blog. I’ll be reporting on that sometime later this week.

Association of National Advertisers Steppin’ Up

Stuart Elliott is at it again. Using mainstream media to bring awareness of new media. His recent article covering last week’s 96th annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers made me feel like cheering. Some highlights, which do not preclude reading the article, include some big names from big brands. They see the trends and understand it. “Too late” some would say, but I don’t. Hell, a majority of PR people are just figuring this out.

Said Stephen F. Quinn, senior vice president for marketing at Wal-Mart Stores:

“Today, the customer is in charge,” Mr. Quinn said, “and whoever is best at putting the customer in charge makes all the money.”

Said James L. McDowell, managing director at Mini USA:

“It’s a great thing every day to wake up and see what consumers have done to the brand…”

Burger King is one brand that has been pushing the limits in the social media space. Said Russ Klein, president for global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King:

“It’s more important for us to be provocative than pleasant.”

And perhaps most importantly:

“We can’t manage what happens out there,” said Lawrence Flanagan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MasterCard Worldwide. “It has taken on a life of its own.”