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    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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Friday FAIL – PR Fail and PR Win

To pay homage to the twisted twins PR Fail and PR Wins set up by Jonathan Hopkins and Brendan Cooper (a new overseas FH colleague) respectively, I’m turning this week’s Friday Frivolity into Friday FAIL. Actually, it’s also just an excuse to highlight some of the hysterical things that brighten my day from the Fail Blog (Pictures and Videos of Failed moments).

So in honor of PR Fail and PR Win…

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

I actually have my own thoughts about PR Fail and PR Win and they boil down to:

  1. I’m tired of PR people getting bashed, but
  2. I understand why some of us deserve it

I know a lot of great PR people who are trying to turn that image around – and I hope I’m one of them – but it’s a big, dumb boat to turn.

Incidentally, here’s a REALLY provocative and interesting post from Sweeney, bashing Michael Arrington bashing PR folk – definitely worth a read. Also, for more information about PR Fail, visit Brendan’s PR Fail commentary and the subsequent conversation he had with Jonathan.

Social Media is NOT a Free for All

For too long I feel we’ve had folks on both sides of the issue of social media. One side blindly pushing for the adoption of new media tools as tactics and even as the new order. On the other side – and it’s interesting since we don’t see them much out here – are those who flat our refuse to accept that social media and all it apparently represents has no business in, well, business.

I am oversimplifying the issue quite a bit, but you can draw a line in the sand and form sides around much of the blogosphere and certainly around business lunches, professional groups and in the C-Suites. The divide gets worse when you move geographically around our country and into certain industries.

The truth is, social media is not a free for all. Business is business. And you can’t join the two all willy nilly. So it’s nice when you see a strong advocate of social media who puts on his business hat and reframes the picture for you.

Shel Holtz wrote a strong post called Business adoption of social media: It’s not about employee rights that I will share with any communicator who will listen, social media fan or not. Business is not a democracy and organizational leaders do what is best for the company. As communicators, our jobs are to provide counsel that allows them to do that. Sometimes that advice employs tactics like social media, sometimes it doesn’t. One thing I have learned about Public Relations is that there are more publics out there than most people realize – and you have to relate to them all. What are you saying to all of your publics? Even if it’s nothing?

Shel writes:

My position on employee engagement in social media is based on my belief that doing so will produce far greater benefit—in the form of enhanced constituent relations—than risk, particularly when it is managed strategically. There are many dimensions to these benefits, some of the most important of which include the following:

  • Recruiting and retention
    • Employee engagement
    • Increased customer satisfaction
    • Improved brand experiences

      And he goes into great detail. Shel also writes “There’s probably a whole book in this topic…” and he’s right. And I hope he writes it, cause I’ll buy it. I come from the academic side of Public Relations and this is not the first time Shel has echoed my thoughts and put them into words in a way that I wish I could. But I can’t, or at least didn’t, so read the post.

      Live Forward Podcast 12/15

      I’ll be hosting Forward Podcast 37 “What Are You Doing to Address Globalization?” over at BlogTalkRadio on Saturday. We put out podcasts on the 1st and 15th so this month we’re doing a live show about globalization.

      Show goes live at 7 p.m. GMT / 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific on the Forward Podcast Channel. Since it’s live, we’ll be taking your calls at US +1 (646) 716-9941.

      Who: Richard Bailey, Robert French, Paull Young, Luke Armour and YOU.
      What: Forward Podcast 37 Live
      When: Saturday, December 15th 7 p.m. GMT / 2 p.m. Eastern / 11 a.m. Pacific
      Where: Forward Podcast channel on BlogTalkRadio

      Tentative topics of discussion:

      • Learning of languages
      • Work experience overseas and in minority communities
      • Issues like trade, aid, labor, climate change and religious fundamentalism
      • What are you reading and watching?
      • Whatever’s on YOUR mind

      Join us live or catch the archive on the Forward Podcast Channel archive or through the Forward Podcast RSS feed.

      Listen to the archive from BlogTalkRadio: 

      Reforestation, Great Social Media Work, Hear Me Roar

      Update: An update on the Converseon blog site has some interesting lessons learned about this project. As we pave the way in the new media landscape, we should pay very close attention to the successes and mistakes of others. One thing they don’t mention is that there were two Members Project reforestation initiatives and this one didn’t make the cut. The other one did – with surprising results after little marketing. People need very specific directions and no matter how much planning you do, one single distraction (such as registering) will derail the train.

      Paull Young‘s agency, Converseon in NY is doing some great social media work. Here’s something that’s a great cause that really shows their mad skilz. Yes, I just wrote mad skilz. His project is one of the 50 remaining American Express Members Project (you’ve seen the tv commercials) projects. If you hold an American Express card, you have to vote by July 15th in order for this project to go on to the next round. It’s (as far as I know) the only Second Life project in the remaining 50. It’s a virtual reforestation project that also plants real trees in rain forest areas. If this wins, 1 million trees could be planted. Pretty cool. Vote here.

      As an added bonus, you get to hear the melodious crackling tones of my voice through a junky mic on the embedded video (rss readers, click Second Chance Trees). I was honored to do it, I just wish Paull had given me a bit more warning so I could have had better equipment more readily available.

      Anyway, read Paull’s post about the project that has some excellent lessons on dealing in the social media space. Not only is the project cool, Paull’s really educating us about the process. Kudos. Well, good luck, remember, voting ends this Sunday, July 15th!

      Interactive, digital, whatever – it’s here. Will your agency survive?

      4asdigi.gifI mentioned some time ago that I was on my way to attend the 4As Digital Conference for Agencies of All Kinds in NYC in mid June. I hopped an early morning flight with my CEO and our web and creative directors to Manhattan for the day. The conference was well done except for this – no wireless. What kind of digital conference doesn’t have wireless?! Although, I was probably one of maybe five people there with a laptop.

      Some unsurprising, but healthy headlines from the conference included:

      • Agencies need to be willing to try things and be passionate about the online space. Creativity in strategy, creative and analytics are a must.
      • Silo-free is the agency of the future. Look at every campaign from every angle. Look across all channels of outreach that best fit the product. Digital does not replace traditional, it complements it.
      • Agencies must find creative ways to reach that lost audience and they must allow the consumer to engage with the brand on his own terms. Find creative ways for that to happen.
      • Additional web-based interactive complements traditional campaigns. Feedback from consumer and analytics are critical. Pay attention and use them well. Chicks fighting can be a popular interactive campaign (don’t ask).

      A nifty panel discussion on the Ad agency of the future wrought some interesting comments. Claims that boutiques will not survive, like the small web agencies of yesteryear. Slowly clients start to realize that boutiques don’t have the communication experience necessary. Digital boutiques are making a lot of noise, and making a lot of “cool” things, but are they fulfilling the goals of the client? Agencies will need to develop their own in-house digital to survive. You cannot NOT know the digital space, but you also have to know traditional communication strategies and tactics. I don’t know, what do you think? Will the digital, interactive advertising agencies of today wane?

       

       

      Chris Weil of Momentum Worldwide presented on how digital works in experiential marketing. Pretentious, but really fun to view. Great presentation. He said digital is not about agencies or a tactic that you add on. Digital embodies everything we do in marketing. Customers don’t segment experiences. We need to understand and orchestrate the experience that the consumer has with the brand across all channels. We must inspire consumers to lift their heads, to disengage their digits and get engaged with interaction. Effectiveness of brand experience plus the stickiness of brand interactive is huge. Number one for all consumers is experience; number two is word of mouth.

      John Bell, managing director & executive creative director at Ogilvy PR Worldwide, was understandably my favorite presentation. Hey, what can I say, I’m a PR guy. I was impressed with Ogilvy’s 360 Degree Branding approach, but will have to keep an eye on what they do to see if it’s walking the walk. John mentioned typical things like authentic conversations with consumers is critical, is engagement. People are resonating with other people, they don’t trust corporations or marketing or advertising. Ogilvy is following trends in the digital space and tying messages to those online trends. Same as traditional PR, just in a different space, stripped of the corporate speak and hype. Conversations are ruling this space.armour-young.jpg

      Other special highlights of the day were meeting John January from American Copywriter and having lunch with the infamous Paull Young. Funny story, I called Paull on my lunch break and said “I’m done, where do we meet?” He was like, “I don’t know, just walk down the street you’re on and we’ll meet up.” Mind you, I haven’t been in NYC since I was 5 and Paull just moved there a month ago. So, it finally dawned on us, where would be a good place to meet up on NYC that we could both find? How about the Empire State Building!? D’oh…those silly country boys.

      Let’s Bum Rush the Charts

      The Bum Rush The Charts blog says it all. Not only is it a good idea, but Penn makes it a good cause for a different reason. Here’s a snippet from the BRTC blog:

      On March 22nd, we are going to take an indie podsafe music artist to number one on the iTunes singles charts as a demonstration of our reach to Main Street and our purchasing power to Wall Street. The track we’ve chosen is “Mine Again” by the band Black Lab. A band that was dropped from not just one, but two major record labels (Geffen and Sony/Epic) and in the process forced them to fight to get their own music back. We picked them because making them number one, even for just one day, will remind the RIAA record labels of what they turned their backs on – and who they ignore at their peril.

      I’m a fan of Black Lab, I fell for them back when they released Your Body Above Me in 1997. I’ve listened to a few newer tunes, but I still love that old record. I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with Black Lab. I’ve also found out they re-released Your Body Above Me with some original pre-label-touch-ups and tracks cut from the first release.

      You can read more on numerous other blogs by visiting Technorati here. Again, I’ll finish up with a very succinct message from the Bum Rush The Charts blog:

      If you believe in the power of new media, on March 22nd, 2007, take 99 cents and 2 minutes of your time to join the revolution and make iTunes “Mine Again”. . . Nothing would prove the power of new media more than showing corporate media that not only can we exceed their reach and match their purchasing power, but that we can also do it AND make a positive difference in the world. If we can succeed with this small example, then there’s no telling what can do next.

      Join me at Podcamp Toronto

      Join me and hundreds of other people for Podcamp Toronto this weekend!

      Not only will I be enjoying the company of some of my favorite podcasters, networking with other social media geeks, and enjoying the Canadian highlife, I’m also speaking on a panel Sunday morning.

      The 10:45 Panel Discussion is entitled Should Your Company Be Podcasting? Moderated by Mitch Joel from Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast. Panelists will be Michael O’Connor Clarke of Thornley Fallis; me; Donna Papacosta – Trafcom News; Terry Fallis – Inside PR and Thornley Fallis; and Michael Seaton – Scotiabank’s The Money Clip Podcast and The Client Side.

      Donna has written a detailed post about it too, wherein she refers to me as a “prolific blogger and king of podcast parody.” Great, wait until the attendees hear what I have to say about whether their companies should be podcasting:

      “…and so the real test is whether or not your business podcast is funny. If it’s not, don’t bother. Does that answer the question?”

      “But I own a funeral home…”

      “Were you not listening? Funeral homes are goldmines for funny. You should podcast, consult me on the side about how to make that hysterical. Next question…”

      You can listen to a few of my travel plans as detailed by the hilarious and knowledgeable jokers David Jones and Terry Fallis from Inside PR, the Canadian PR podcast on these audio clips I stole from their shows here and here.

      It’s going to be quite a weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. If you’re going to be in town, drop me an email or come to the panel discussion and lob softball questions at the panel. Actually, ask the tough questions, with this star studded cast, we just can’t go wrong. I might even ask a few questions of the esteemed panel myself!

      Oh, How Small the World has Become

      connections.jpgPhoto by Daycha Kijpattanapinyo

      Here’s a little story that demonstrates the connections we’re all making online through this crazy social media network. It never ceases to amaze me.

      Follow along closely, ’cause this is intricate.

      Most of you know that being a part of the blogosphere means you’ll run into the same characters over and over again, especially in niche corners of the blogsphere’s web such as communication pros, cat fanciers, and lactivists. So I knew of Erin online about 18 months ago and met her online shortly before she started Forward. She invited me to contribute to the Forward blog not long after. Somewhere along the line I met Paull. It wasn’t long before I knew Erin and I shared the same passion for PR and social media and that Paull and I had the same questionable sense of humor.

      Fast forward to my job, where we hire a young woman who finds out I’m a social media freak. She tells me not long after her hire that her former professor started a blog. So I checked it out. His name is Bill, his blog is ToughSledding. I check him out, I subscribe. I mean, he’s the only other NE Ohio PR blogger I know of.

      Fast forward to Paull’s world tour, where he leaves Australia and travels the world, New York, Washington DC, Toronto Canada, Ohio, Norway, Denmark and more. He and Erin spend some time with me here in Ohio. It is amazing to think how it all transpired for them to be sitting in my living room one day. But then he and Erin headed out and things were back to normal here.

      Then I get the following email from Bill at ToughSledding:

      I’ve been conversing with Paull Young (through Facebook) and learned that he’d been in the area to visit his “mate” in Ohio. Thought maybe it was time I introduced myself, since we’re both blogging on PR topics and we’re both in the neighborhood.

      I was floored. Kent State University is about 50 minutes from my house. Bill had made a comment to a post at Forward, started chatting with Paull on Facebook. Paull sent him a video of him speaking at a college in Toronto and Bill emailed me because of Paull.

      I tried to get people at work to recognize the sheer brilliance of a medium at work when a fellow visiting the states from Australia can meet up with a guy in Ohio who works with a graduate of a school whose professor happens to have begun a conversation with said Australian, causing the professor to email the guy in Ohio who lives/works nearby. Bill understood the complexity of it. We agreed to find a time to meet up, but had never found time.

      So I went to a PRSA luncheon in Akron on Thursday to watch Sage Lewis teach PR folks about SEO and Web 2.0. I got there a little later than most and there were only a few chairs left. I found a seat, went to introduce myself to the table when it dawns on me that the person I’m about to shake hands with is Bill from Toughsledding.

      Absolutely amazing. It came full circle around. Bill thought it was amazing as well, and told the assembled crowd about it. It’s a medium at work. Always. Recognize it. Realize what it can do for you, your business, and your clients.

      Sensationalist Ad Hater Headline Here

      Super Bowl season is right around the corner as everyone who doesn’t live under a rock or in a perpetual hallucinatory state knows. Even me, a staunch hockey-only fan, can’t escape the ebb and flow of the communication efforts that surround the Super Bowl like a pr/ad gravitational pull. Uh, within limits, of course, I actually have a hockey game Sunday night that I’ll gladly be lacing my skates up for.

      But my real reason for writing is this. I just wrote a seemingly anti-ad post, followed by a rather defensive comment. But it wasn’t the ads or concepts of ads I was opposing; it was the obnoxious way in which they’re forced upon us.

      Truth be told, they can work. Julia Hood from PRWeek US wrote a great article (subscription required?) titled It’s not taboo for PR to admit that ads do work sometimes. Which, besides being a fantistic title, is also true. She goes into detail about buying a pair of Bose headphones. In addition to telling us how much Julia is willing to pay for a pair of headphones, it also tells us that PR pros are capable of paying attention to ads. She writes:

      “What drove me to Bose’s online ordering page wasn’t the ad alone. It was the brand’s power, as understood through multiple channels over time, including product placement, ads, word of mouth, and media mentions.”

      And that is the power of PR to which I was referring in my aforementioned blog comment. It’s a complicated network of messages over time. It’s no wonder ROI is so crazy and unpredictable. You can only really ever bet on the largest category of subjects to respond to any certain mix of stimuli at any snapshot in time. And what a ridiculous bet that would be! You’d never take those odds in Vegas, ever.

      And this is also why I think an integrated marketing approach is the best, most solid, and respectable approach to the bottom line of any organization. Ads alone won’t do it, PR alone may won’t do it, R&D won’t do it, the brand alone won’t do it. C’mon, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we have already done it?

      And I hate to admit it, but blogs and podcats aren’t the answer either. New tools are fantastic resources and present outstanding opportunties to convey messages in different ways, but it comes down to the message and the audience. And that’s another great power of PR, it should be the steward of your organization/brand message. PR is more than publicity, it is the champion for your communication efforts. Call it marketing communication if you want, but you’re missing something. It’s the whole process of communicating to every possible public (think target audience) that needs to hear your message. I also feel that PR folk need to be able to be the unpopular kids at the table and keep the strategy on track, regardless of how new or cool something is. If it doesn’t fit the message, don’t do it. So, in conclusion, I’ll wrap up with Julia’s concluding statement:

      “Don’t be afraid to admit that ads sometimes work and blogs sometimes don’t. In order to secure their future, PR pros need to be the bravest people in the room and tell it like it really is.”

      Forward Meet-up

      Well, after faking a geek dinner with some of my PR heroes, I finally had the opportunity to really meet some of my PR folk face-to-face this past weekend. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. WAY more.

      In what turned out to be the best Forward meet-up in Ohio this year, Erin Caldwell, managing editor; Paull Young, director of the Forward Podcast; and I, principal contributor, got together to discuss the state and future of young PR professionals; share some great dinners; and enjoy each other’s company. Forward, of course, is the on-line springboard for up and coming young PR professionals. Paull stopped by on his way back from Canada and Erin made the journey direct from DC. My ever-patient wife and I hosted the Forward meet up.

      We spent some time wandering aimlessly through the rolling eastern Ohio landscape surrounded by horses, buggies, and our own voiced ruminations.

      It was a great moment of social media flexing the social aspect of its name. Real people with real relationships from places in the world real far away meeting face-to-face to discuss the things that brought them together in the first place. No one knows this better in this space than Paull.

      If you’ve not had your first meet-up with on-line faces, it’s all true what they say. You feel right at home. Of course, I was at home, but you know what I mean.

      After a fresh change of batteries, the three of us recorded hours and hours of audio of our groundbreaking, intellectual discussion that was only interrupted by the sound of my wife pointing out that we’d been talking into the TV remote for three days. As it was too late to record any more, I dropped them off at the airport.

      Thanks for the visit, Forward team, next time we’ll try to choose our recorders more carefully. Enjoyed every second. Peace.