Some thoughts and opinions on the Public Relations profession and industry
When good analysis turns bad...and costs you your job....
Story today from the Register about how Apple's Australian PR Manager has been fired for sending out favorable Gartner research on the superior usability of the Apple over Wintel-based PCs. Seemingly Gartner hadn't approved the release and when the story got picked up world-wide they hit the roof....be careful out there!
The poor misunderstood press release....
It seems that everyone has decided that the poor unloved press release needs a good kicking. This is the latest rant from MarketingProfs. But while this article is billed as 'standing up against the press release' it's not, it's an article about the need for a rounded Public Relations program. That is good, but the press release is not the source of all evil.
I don't mean to teach anyone to suck eggs but surely this is common sense to everyone and has very little to do with the usefulness of otherwise of a press release?
Of course PR is more than press releases. Of course spamming press releases with no news content is bad. But please don't forget that today we live in a multi-dimensional media environment. A well written, targeted and relevant press release still has a lot of value to offer - not on its own - but as part of a program.
Smearing the press release is wrong. It's a PR tool that sits alongside a wide variety of other tools that are valuable when used correctly. All this anti-press release stuff I'm reading recently is a little OTT. Watch the baby there....
PR, the Media and the Internet...
Recent story from O'Dwyers on some media views about PR and the Internet. Nothing too controversial in it!
More on the industry analyst conundrum....
Further to my earlier piece on industry analysts, the Wall Street Journal has a story today entitled "Glowing Report on Firm X Isn't What You Might Think" (Subscription Required). The piece deals with paid research reports. However I think Lee Gomes (the author) is barking up the wrong tree. Vendors have been paying analyst firms to write research reports for years. There's no hidden agenda here.
The real issue is the firms that HAVE a hidden agenda, who make decisions purely based on dollars - and that's clearly NOT the case with firms in this piece. The issue is where an 'analyst' will only take a briefing if you pay. I'd love to name and shame those firms. They are all tiny. The established firms named in the WSJ have some of the best analysts on their books and they offer above board services - they are not the main issue IMHO - and my company doesn't buy those services.
When communicators fail at communication....
It's a difficult business environment out there. No question. So any new business activities are to be applauded. Recently I recieved quite a few new business pitches from PR agencies. Some were very impressive, and I have kept their details, some have been absolutely appalling.
Looking over the really bad pitches, you can't help but marvel at the irony. Here are organizations seeking to win your communications business and they fail at the very discipline that they want you to pay them money for.
Here's the latest example for you. Today I received two packages in the mail. (Sidenote: I think well put together, well targeted paper-based direct mail is increasingly effective in a time when most commercial messages come over the wire) One from a west-coast agency was targeted, followed up with a call, personalized, good quality relevant materials and it was obvious they have visited our site and done some research. [Details filed]
The second was paper spam from a New York agency. No personalization, just a job title, and they spelt the company name incorrectly (!) and included a range of typos in the letter. Now I had never heard of this company before, and to be honest it was more likely I'd use their services before I became aware of them! If they can't even communicate, target, pitch a potential client effectively (or even professionally) how can I expect them to work with media, analysts, investors or staff? The mind boggles sometimes.
Flash Hall of Shame (#10)... How not to use Flash on a PR website 101...Ricochet PR (kindly submitted by Phil Gomes)
Flash Hall of Shame (#9)... McGrath/Power
Journalists up in arms....According to a story in the Providence Journal, journalists at the newspaper (and the Washington Post) are currently undertaking a 'byline strike' where they withold their names from stories they are publishing. The 'strike' is to protest at no contracts since December 1999. Interesting approach.... [Comments?]
The irony of spam.... I got a spam this morning telling me to avoid spam by sending spam to a list of four thousand contacts. How are there enough people in the world to keep these folks alive?
Flash Hall of Shame (#8)...Oh my, oh my, oh my ....SabreMark PR...
The industry analyst conundrum...
Let me state up front (and this IS important) that 98% of industry analysts I deal with and meet are highly knowedgable and professional individuals who have a very valuable insight into technology trends and market movement.
But what about the 2%? One of PR's perennial problems was that all you traditionally needed to call yourself a PR consultant was a phone and a fax (now it's a phone and a computer). Increasingly there are small boutique analyst firms opening up, and some of these firms are bringing the industry analyst market into disrepute.
Last week an 'analyst' from one of these firms told me "we don't take vendor briefings unless the vendor is a subscriber". Whoa! Hold on there. How can an "analyst" have a view of the market, more importantly how can they judge trends or proffer advice if they only talk with their clients?
It seems to me these tiny firms' business plan reads something like: "Our goal is to write nice things about company's who pay us money and to ignore, diss and bad-mouth their competitiors (unless they pay us money too)"
Is it time to blow the whistle on these people? [Comments ]
A PR blogger........
Last Friday I happened onto a fellow PR blogger. Phil Gomes has a well written PR blog that's definetly worth a visit and has been added to the links on the left.
I read much of his blog with a lot of interest, the only entry that bristled somewhat was his April 11 2002 piece (no permalinks) on why every company needs external PR counsel....I'll return to that at a later date. However if you're interested in PR definetely visit Phil's blog regularly.
My daddy is bigger than yours...
I have held off writing this piece for quite some time, but now is as good a time as any. In a variety of online PR publications recently there have been a series of Big Agency versus Small Agency opinion pieces. These 'articles' aim to position smaller or larger (depending on the author) PR agencies as the best choice for companies for a range of spurious reasons.
The only clear take-away for me from these articles, is that any agency who participates will never get my business. Why? Well if a PR professional positions themselves so blatantly, supporting their argument with unsubstantiated generalizations they can't be relied upon to promote my business intelligently. If this is their idea of thought-leadership be afriad...be very afraid.
So does size matter? Here's my take. PR is at its core about people. Although agency elders often forget it, a PR firm lives and dies by its people. That's it. When you extrapolate that out, whether you go with a large or small agency should at the end of the day come down to the people in the firm you'll be working with. And that argument holds for international PR programs as well.
Over the past decade I have worked on the agency and in-house sides. In both capacities I have worked with single agency networks and a mix of different agencies. It's clear that the most effective campaigns were not driven by the type of agency but by the people involved. Good people = Good campaigns....size doesn't matter a jot, whether its big or small.
Flash Hall of Fame #7... Publicis....check out the most appalling navigation known to personkind..
Internet Wire Needs to clean up its act..
In August 2000, a hoax press release was sent over Internet Wire about a publicly traded company called Emulex. The press release, which was sent out by a disgruntled Internet Wire employee, caused a 62% drop in the Emulex share price in one day - costing investors $110 million.
Now Internet Wire have replicated the trick, a hoax press release purportedly from small cap biopharmaceuticals firm, Cel-Sci was sent out June 10 announcing an non-existent partnership in Japan. The result? Trading volume five times the average and a significant share price gain.
It's time Internet Wire took hold of the situation, it's not good enough to simply say that staff didn't follow procedures. The fact that this has happened twice in as many years isn't good enough.
UK PR Firms in Financial Danger...It seems the continued slow economic recovery is hitting UK PR firms. In a study by Plimsoll Publishing to be released next month one in five UK PR agencies are in danger of closing (based on sales growth, trading stability, profitability, working capital and liquidity) The survey covers 400 UK PR firms and 163 have a financial rating of 'caution'. More at PR Week.
Regis McKenna: CIO as a Marketeer...Interesting piece from Regis McKenna in Optimize magazine on the CIO's importance in delivering technology that assists the marketing effort with customers across all departments.
What does your boss think is key to reputation?
Hill & Knowlton along with Chief Executive Magazine and Harris Interactive have produced a report that looks at what CEO's believe affects their organization's reputation.
In a survey of 557 executives, the report found that:
42% believe unethical behaviour adversely affects reputation
49% believe negative print and broadcast affect reputation
13% quote rumors on the Internet
36% say disasters
and 35% litigation
Read more on the report here.
Flash Hall of Shame #6.. .....Hill & Knowlton
Update: When PR people let down their industry
Bivings Group have an interesting op-ed on blogging on their web-site. Now that's interesting...
When PR people let down their industry
A recent story in the Guardian further implicates PR in underhand dealings and stupidity. According to the piece The Bivings Group was retained by Monsanto to undertake a 'smear' campaign against the Nature Magazine's paper on GM Maize in Mexico. Accordingly our friends at the Bivings Group invented aliases and posted to Internet mailing lists.
Now it turns out there are some real, justifiable issues with the findings of the report. But rather than tackle the concerns, Biving's 'pseudonyms' criticized it online.
Then when the Bivings Group were accused by a journalist from the UK Guardian of posting online they agressively denied it - even though it's clear the postings in question were made by computers from the Bivings Group. More mud slung in our industry's direction, more lying and more damage to the credibility of every PR professional. Well done all involved, you've certainly made our jobs easier and our reputation stronger...not.
(Some more opinion from Brian Kane's weblog)
When technology bites back
Senator Joseph Lieberman's (D) office recently sent out an e-mail press release to 400 reporters calling for a national broadband Internet strategy. The only problem was while the release called for more sophisticate technology infrastructure, the hapless Senator's e-mial system couldn't take the strain and has been spamming the same release to the same 400 reporters over and over again. You can read the full story on Newsday.