Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

PRWatch Archives

No Private Bus Or Free Lunch - Weber Shandwick Named A 'Best Place To Work'

Horn Group and Squid07

Updated: December 1 — PRWeek named Weber Shandwick a Best Place To Work 2014 - Large Agency, for the second year in a row.

I've been spending a lot of time in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, working with teams on Weber Shandwick's Mediaco venture, which is helping companies become media companies.

This week Ad Age named Weber Shandwick as one of the best places to work. As an independent observer of only one large Weber Shandwick office, I can attest that everyone is hard driving but super nice with each other and with everyone else. 

I can also attest that there are no private buses whisking staff to work, there are no celebrity chefs in the office kitchens, and there's no free lunch or Blue Bottle coffee for the staff. Tech company HR managers would be aghast.

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Weber Shandwick Partners With Niche For Social Media Traffic

Nathalie Tadena at the Wall Street Journal reports on Weber Shandwick's partnership with Niche, an aggregator of more than 5,000 "social media celebrities." 

Among the social media celebs in Niche's network with the biggest reach are Nash Grier, a teenage Vine star with nearly 25 million followers across his social media accounts, and singer Kevin Jonas, who has a total reach of more than 22 million users.

Each celebrity is a big media publisher in their own right and the deals brokered through Niche aren't simple sponsor or advertising opportunities, the "celebrities" will be paid to create the social media content for Weber's clients. 

Weber Shandwick's global president of digital Chris Perry... estimates about 15% to 20% of Weber Shandwick's PR programs involve social media influencers and that's growing fast, especially for consumer brand clients.

Read more: 

Weber Shandwick Partners with Niche to Tap Social Media Celebrities - CMO Today - WSJ

Foremski's Take: [I'm working with Weber Shandwick's Mediaco on an unrelated project.]

Partnerships such as this one are a smart way to jumpstart an audience for a brand if it's part of a long term strategy to build a loyal audience, it has to be more than just a three-month campaign.

Borrowing the audience of a "social media celebrity" is fine but at the end of the day companies need to learn how to become "celebrities" in their own right, they need to learn to become media companies with direct access to their own audiences, unmediated by Google or anyone.

Weber Shandwick's Mediaco group is worth watching because it is directly focused on helping "every company become a media company."  It's a trend I first spotted nearly ten years ago and it has now reached a tipping point influencing the content marketing initiatives of companies worldwide.

Media publishing success has the additional benefit of blocking attention to competitors. It's a killer competitive strategy -- if you aren't seen online you don't exist.

Tooling up for business...

There's tremendous business opportunities for PR and marketing agencies to capitalize on this trend, and there's opportunities for many others, too. For example, software developers of media technologies.

Corporations will need to equip themselves with an arsenal of media publishing platforms, apps, tools, analytics and infrastructure, all made complex by the fragmented nature of tens of millions of media channels; and made even more complex by the extraordinary two-way nature of our modern media: we can publish content to any screen and each screen -- pocket or desktop -- can publish back, through comments, video, clicks, silent cookies, etc.

Companies need to become good at interpreting and engaging with all that media feeding back to them, as well as know how to produce great media content. And they'll have to feed (and walk) that media beast every day. It won't be easy.

They'll need a lot of help from a lot of people. And hopefully, they won't have to relearn basic rules of ethics and best practices that we've accumulated in the media industry over hundreds of years.

The media is dying ... and growing

The old media might be dying out but before it disappears, it can teach the new media how to walk. It's an important lesson. 

We face a democratic crisis in that special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want people to read but people won't pay for the independent media they should read.

Brands becoming media publishers will be tempted to skew things their way, all the way. But they should be careful because they will be subject to the same ethical scrutiny as a Wall Street Journal or any other media company. Learning to walk straight will be key.

Mediaco And Scalable Technologies Of Brand Publishing

Mediaco

It might not seem surprising to my readers that I'm working on a project with Mediaco, a Weber Shandwick business that advertises, "We Help Every Company Become A Media Company.

Helping companies be great media companies is a noble calling these days, especially with the huge loss of skilled and experienced media professionals. There's hundreds of years of best practices that still apply regardless of paper and electron.

I'm working on an interesting project with Mediaco's West Coast lead Luca Penati and an enthusiastic team of professionals across many disciplines and locations.

This is what's needed in today's digital media worlds — the complexities of managing fragmented media channels and user interfaces across many devices requires integrated tech, media, design, SEO and communications professionals on the same publishing teams.

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Lessons From Richard Edelman's Decade As A Blogger

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Richard Edelman (center) at a Churchill Club event in February 2013.

Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the world's largest privately held PR firm, recently wrote about his "Decade of Blogging." His first post was September 29, just 10 days after my first post, which shows how early he began. 

There weren't many bloggers at the time, it was a tiny community and that's how I got to meet Richard Edelman. We were both bloggers. And we spoke the same language.

It takes a lot of courage for the leader of a large organization to jump into blogging, especially in 2004 when it was causing tremendous consternation in PR and corporate communications communities.  It's difficult to believe today but when I left the Financial Times to become a "journalist/blogger" in mid-2004, Intel held an emergency meeting to discuss how it should respond to "bloggers." 

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Bulldog Reporter Closes And The Changing Roles Of PR...

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Sam Whitmore of Sam Whitmore Media Survey, at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Jack Odwyer reports that Bulldog Reporter, a service for PR agencies, has closed after 35 years in business. That's a shame because I've taken part in many Bulldog Reporter panels over the years and its team has done a great job educating PR people about the changes in media following the explosive rise of "blogging" in the mid-2000s – a confusing time for many people in communications.

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Guest Column: Public Relations Is The Successor To SEO

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By Andrew Barnett, partner and head of the SEO practice at digital marketing and public relations firm Elasticity.

 Organizational structures are notoriously rigid, often lacking the agility and flexibility to respond to changing market forces. Over the last decade, the unrelenting growth of digital media has upended the way organizations and brands manage reputation issues and reach audiences, unleashing a tidal wave of new roles, responsibilities and budgets.

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Luca Penati Leaves Ogilvy Joins Weber Shandwick/Mediaco (EC=MC)

Luca Penati

Luca Penati (above), a former senior executive at Ogilvy has joined Weber Shandwick as General Manager of its San Francisco and Silicon Valley offices. He spent 9 years at Ogilvy, mostly as Global Managing Director of Ogilvy's technology practice. 

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PRWeek Investigation: The Death Of PR Agencies... And The Rise Of Ad Agencies

PRWeek

All the evidence gathered from PRWeek's investigations over the past month points to a couple of crucial conclusions...

Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek spells out the future in his recent column: The death of PR agencies -- as we know them

Attending the recent International Festival of Creativity, I was struck once again by the fact that advertising and PR are increasingly the same thing...

There used to be a fundamental difference between the two marketing disciplines. Advertising was about paid-for promotion; TV commercials and billboards. PR was about editorial persuasion; selling stories to journalists. And while the distinction between bought media and earned media still exists, you now find their executives working across both.

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FutureComms14 - Here's the lineup...

I'm looking forward to speaking at FutureComms14 conference in London Wednesday (tomorrow). It's a brand new conference organized by Mynewsdesk, a Norwegian media technologies company that provides companies with a digital newsroom.

The wonderful Deirdre Breakenridge will kickstart the morning. I'm speaking late morning on: What Happens When Every Company is a Media Company? 

And I'll be on a panel discussion in the afternoon (post 3pm coffee break thankfully) on: "What are the technologies of PR?" chaired by the always insightful Neville Hobson.

Here's the lineup:

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Every Company Is A Media Company: What Comes Next? 'Media As A Service'

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I'm setting off to London and Warsaw (above) and will be back in early July.

Next week on June 18 I will be speaking at FutureComms14 in London, a brand new conference organized by Mynewsdesk, a Swedish media technologies startup. 

It was nearly ten years ago that I started talking and writing about how every company is a media company. Maybe that's an obvious statement today but it certainly wasn't then and I had to do a lot of education around this subject. I did a lot of talks, at conferences, at lunchtime brown bag meetups, and at many evening events.

I did them because I believe it's an important idea and that once it is fully understood it will transform every business.  And that's exactly what is happening.

Every Company is a Media Company.     EC=MC -- the transformative business equation of our times.

What's next? It's not questions such as: How does a company become a media company? How do I produce video content? What technologies do I need? Do I need a newsroom? They are easy to answer.

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Latest Google Algorithm Seems To Punish Press Release Sites

BusWire

Above, Search Engine Land shows traffic plunge for Businesswire for certain search terms.

Google's latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0 appears to be punishing sites that host and distribute press releases, by demoting them in its search rankings reports Barry Swartz at Search Engine Land:

since Panda 4.0 hit... PRWeb.com, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog all seem to have lost significant rankings in Google.

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The Hubbies: PR Awards For Digital Creatives

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The first Hubbies awards (winners above) were presented in San Francisco earlier this week recognizing breakthrough digital creative work. It is organized by a new publication The Hub, a sister publication to PR Week.

Steve Barrett, (below, right) Editor-in-Chief of PR Week was on hand as part of a day-long conference discussing key trends in digital PR. He also interviewed Brian Solis from Altimeter Group. The Hub is based in San Francisco and edited by Omar Akhtar (below, left)

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When Every Company Is A Media Company: Content Marketing's Massive Blunder

When I first introduced the concept of every company is a media company in 2005 there were very few people that understood what this meant. Today it's an accepted fact and it's why there's a massive surge in what's called content marketing.

With so few media professionals around to help tell a company's stories it makes sense for companies to try to tell their own stories and get them out online and into the many communities that matter to them. That was the prime reason Intel launched Intel Free Press, to make sure that key stories about Intel would be told and published in a professional manner. 

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PR's Next Big Challenge: Tooling Up For The War With Ad Agencies

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Richard Edelman (right) with Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief of PR Week, at a Churchill Club event in 2013.

Can PR companies “Show Up Differently” as Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest privately held PR firm, wrote in his New Year’s rally cry for his troops? 

Edelman understands that PR agencies will need to show up differently if they are to win against the advertising agencies. 

My post this week about the lack of automation technologies in PR is directly related to this coming confrontation. There’s a great business opportunity for PR agencies to compete for  lucrative advertising budgets — if they can prove  performance with solid metrics and at scale.

The pitch is easy: “Spending money on PR is more effective than on advertising, especially with the billions of dollars lost to ad fraud. We help you build lasting relationships instead of fleeting ad impressions.” 

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Can PR Be Automated? The Technologies Of Promotion Are On Their Way...

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The media industry has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world and forced to adopt new media technologies and drastically overhaul its operations.

The successful new media model is a combination of three components: professional media, user generated media, and smart machine media (e.g., automated news aggregation).

Buzzfeed is an example of this trinity: it has top journalists producing original content; it makes great use of social media; and it has a tech platform that leverages the algorithms of distributors such as Facebook and Twitter.

Forbes is another example of a large media company with professional journalists, user generated articles, and a good technology platform.

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SF Creators Salon: Rediscovering The Lessons Of Trust And Independent Media

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The recent SF Creators Salon focused on the topic of trust and content marketing and as usual, it was a lively evening hosted at InPowered’s community space in San Francisco.

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Holmes Report's Innovation Summit Recognizes Innovators In PR And Media

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David Matahai, Director of Marketing Communications at Hyundai.

Holmes Report conferences are rapidly becoming my favorite conferences and last week’s Innovation Summit in San Francisco was excellent — and not just because I won a top 25 Innovator award for my “Every company is a media company” thought leadership.

The quality of the attendees was excellent with top PR executives from some of the largest agencies and there were many interesting panels. And I had lots of great conversations in the hallways, which is always the mark of a good conference.

I was very pleased with the response to the panel I was on, with lots of people telling me it was one of the best. As an outsider, and as a journalist, it’s easier for me to cut through to the chase because I don’t have a vested interest in protecting any specific type of PR program, or ride along with whatever the current bandwagon is promoting. 

Just over a year ago I was in Miami at a Holmes Report conference speaking on a panel about Brand Journalism and it was great. It quickly turned into a big discussion about corporate media and we made so much noise people from other conference sessions were coming over to join us.

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Richard Edelman's 'Show Up Differently' - A Rally Cry In PR's War With Advertising

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Richard Edelman (right) with Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief of PR Week, at a Churchill Club event in 2013.

The advertising industry is going through big changes and that means opportunities for PR firms to compete for large marketing budgets normally allocated for advertising.

PR agencies have a window of opportunity while the advertising industry is distracted in a wave of consolidation, such as the huge Omnicom and Publicis merger; and the agencies are distracted with responding to disruptive trends, such as algorithmic ad buying.

This is a very good time for the PR industry to move against the ad agencies. But with what? How?

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Thank You Holmes Report For Naming Tom Foremski A Top 25 Innovator

TomForemskiInnovator

I hate blowing my own horn but I’d like to thank The Holmes Report for recognizing my work and naming me one of the top 25 innovators of 2013

Aarti Shah wrote:

For having the foresight to see that every company is a media company even before the content craze took hold. For being the PR industry’s Silicon Valley ally, sounding the alarm for industry disruption and plainly pointing to pockets of new opportunities. And for being among the first brave journalists to take the leap from the analog to the digital realm even when the model was still half-baked, at best.

It hasn’t been easy work so it’s very gratifying to be noticed by an organization such as The Holmes Report. It has a great team that keeps a close eye on what’s happening in PR and media. I spoke at one of its conferences in October 2012 as a guest of Lewis PR and it was one of my best experiences of the year. 

It's Google's Web: Latest Gmail Changes Confound Marketers

Earlier this year Google began filtering email newsletters into a separate folder in user's inboxes. The move was explained as a way to help users organize their mail but in reality it was aimed at hampering Google's competitors: other marketers and promoters.

New Gmail Filters Out The Competition: Other Marketers -SVW

Now it has taken further steps to hobble the marketing efforts of newsletter publishers by cacheing images found in emails.

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Social Media Is Not Free - Facebook Wants To Be Paid

Big or small, the Facebook strategy for most brands has been to collect as many "likes" as possible. Facebook is now planning to monetize that strategy by charging companies for newsfeed distribution.

For much of this year Facebook has been gradually cutting back on distribution of a brand's messages to Facebook users that "like" the brand. Now, it's offering a way for brands to regain that distribution by paying for it, reports Cotton Delo at Ad Age:

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Coca-Cola Digital Chief Says 'Kill The Press Release'

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Thanks Bill Sledzik! It’s interesting to see that others sometimes agree with me :)

From Ragan: Coca-Cola digital chief: ‘Kill the press release’

New Gmail Filters Out The Competition: Other Marketers

Promotional email has long been an effective way of delivering opt-in commercial messages and many marketers have rediscovered this method after experimenting with advertising, social media campaigns, and other novel forms of online marketing.

However, recent changes at Google's Gmail has marketers very worried.

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Google Is Forcing A Change In The PR Industry

Lot's of great discussion around my recent posts about Google and PR.

[Did Google just kill PR agencies?]

Sam Cooke: "It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change is going to come, oh yes it will."

I've long warned that PR companies would be subject to similar forces of disruption that have been destroying the media sector for the past decade. As with the media companies, their helter skelter basket to hell was waiting for them.

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PR in the Age of Google - 'Unnatural' Promotion Of Content Is Penalized

Google has updated its webmaster rules on the use of links and keywords in press releases and it doesn't look good for PR agencies and their current suite of services. The details on the changes are here: Link schemes - Webmaster Tools Help

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

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Google's War On PR Agencies - Warns About Links In Press Releases, And Promoting

A warning to PR agencies, Google is in the business of promotions and it doesn't like competitors! Google recently updated its webmaster guidelines: Watch your keywords and don't use them for manipulating your client's site's rank or your client's site will be penalized!

Link schemes - Webmaster Tools Help

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Edelman Global Survey Finds Lack Of Trust Has Become Contagious

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From left: Peter Burrows, Eric Brown, Mary Dent, Richard Edelman, Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Richard Edelman, the head of the world's largest privately held PR firm, said that the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global survey of 31,000 people, revealed a lack of trust for business and government that was "contagious" and spreading to other sectors.

He was speaking earlier this week at the Computer History Museum on a panel organized by the Churchill Club, and moderated by Peter Burrows, senior reporter at Bloomberg.

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Video: Edelman's Debate On 'Trust' At Churchill Club

 

Edelman PR sponsored a debate on "Trust" Monday evening at the Computer History Museum. Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman PR discussed some of the findings of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer global survey. Here are some extracts. A full report is coming...

Moderated by Peter Burrows (far left) senior writer at Bloomberg; next is Eric Channing Brown, GM of Integrated Communications at Skype; Mary Dent, General Counsel at Silicon Valley Bank; Richard Edelman, CEO Edelman Public Relations; Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Public Relations In The Era Of Pageview Journalism

Ryan Holiday, writing for the New York Observer, has discovered something very important about the media industry today:

The widespread belief is that the media has "reach." Trust me, they don't. Not anymore. It's become almost pathetic.

It hit me the other day when I snagged a profile for a client on a well-known website...

Dear God, I realized, my client has more readers than they do. The website needed us to attract an audience for them. They wanted the subject of the piece to send his readers over to them rather than the other way around.

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Fake Press Releases Highlight Negative SEO Danger For Real Press Releases

SearchEngineLand has a very good, long look at the recent fake press release announcing Google's $400m acquisition of WiFi company ICOA.

PRWeb distributed the press release and said it slipped through its internal tests for "integrity."

Danny Sullivan explains how PRWeb has become a popular distribution network for a lot of content, some of it shady, and how it ends up on well respected newspaper sites.

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A Job Advertisement From Today... Klout For Clout Sakes

There's quite a bit of controversy over Salesforce.com's advert for a community manager whose qualifications include having a specific Klout score. I'm surprised it's taken this long for companies to officially mandate that some jobs require a certain level of community influence.

In February 2006 I wrote: A job advertisement from the future . . .

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SocialxDesign Launches - PR Firms Move Into Business Consulting

SocialxDesign (Social by Design) a high end social media consulting firm launched this week with Eastwick, a top Silicon Valley PR firm, as investor.

The CEO is Giovanni Rodriguez, who just left Deloitte and used to be a partner at Eastwick, and Chief Strategy Officer Toby Chaudhuri, a top public affairs consultant in Washington, DC.

The two met while working for a White House Hispanic initiative and they realized that large enterprises had a lot to learn from combining Silicon Valley's tech and social media skills, with Washington's expertise in creating communities and maintaining conversations.

Here are some key points, and my analysis follows:

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Offline Tales: Horn Group, Techcrunch, And The Future Of Money

(Offline Tales - a new (ir)regular Friday column.)

Wednesday I was in North Beach heading for the Bubble Lounge and Media Bistro sponsored by the Horn Group.

It was great to catch up briefly with Sabrina Horn, founder of the Horn Group, who tells me that business is booming and the firm is engaged in a broad range of digital communications services and applications.

I had an interesting chat with Tim O'Keeffe, (below) who heads Horn Group's San Francisco operations.

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Public Relations And The Rise Of Product Journalism - Scoops About Spec Sheets...

Why has tech reporting become such tedious product journalism? Why are reporters trying to scoop each other on news that is essentially a spec sheet about a mass-produced product?

Why are we reading about products as a news story and not in an ad?

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PRWatch: Example From A VC On Writing A (Linkless) News Release...

Ben Horowitz, the slightly hairier one in the powerhouse VC duo of Andreessen Horowitz, wrote an interesting post about the future of networking that also serves as a very good example of what a news release could look like.

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Klout, PeerIndex, Empire Avenue, Et Al... Shortcuts Without Insights

Lots of people I know in PR and marketing are enamored by new services such as Klout, PeerIndex, and Empire Avenue, which seek to provide a quick assessment on any person's online influence.

If you want to know the top influencers in a specific niche market, these services will provide you with a simple number for each person, which you can use to rank the influencers.

Their goal is to provide information to publicists and marketers to help them target the right people in their markets.

But it seems to me that there's a big problem with this approach. If you, as a publicist or marketer, need to consult these services, this probably shows that you are clueless about who is important in the very markets that you are selling into.

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Are Ex-Journalists To Blame For Facebook's Smear Campaign?

The scandal over Facebook's PR campaign to smear Google over possible privacy violations carries an interesting wrinkle: at least two prominent ex-journalists were involved.

Miguel Helft and Claire Cain Miller reported in the New York Times that the campaign conducted by PR firm Burson-Marsteller included:

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PRwatch: No More Links...

I used to be puzzled about why PR people are so miserly about including links into their news releases and emails. Even those PR people that know that they should...often don't.

Yet links are a key Internet currency. Why don't they understand this?!

And I'm fed up of adding links to my posts about their clients and other relevant material because they are absent from the background materials.

I've come to the conclusion that since PR people aren't putting links into their communications then I shouldn't need to put those links into my posts. Clearly, if it were important to them, then the links would be there in the source material.

I used to be puzzled about this behavior but now I think I know why: The reason for the lack of the hyperlink -- the most fundamental element in a digital document -- is that PR people don't get any credit for it.

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Horn Group: Expanding Beyond Traditional PR

Sabrina Horn
I recently caught up with Sabrina Horn, founder of the Horn Group, one of the larger San Francisco PR agencies. Here are some notes from our meeting:

- Horn Group's New York based business is expanding and is now equal with its San Francisco/Silicon Valley based clients. But the monthly retainers are smaller because the New York clients are smaller. A big boost came from Fred WIlson, a leading VC recommending Horn Group.

- Horn Group is interested in moving beyond social media. It doesn't have a social media practice because it expects all of its staff to be well versed in social media.

- What's beyond social media? Mobile corporate comms is an interesting subject. For example, what would a mobile press release look like? Horn Group plans to host a panel discussing this topic in the new year.

- Horn Group is adding a wide variety of services including advertising. The goal is that PR will be one of many important services. One of these days a client will sign of for those services and not PR. PR companies in the future won't look like traditional PR companies.

- Horn Group has had an interactive media group for several years and is expanding that side of the business. It helps clients with their web sites and other digital media needs.

- Horn Group has built several iPhone apps for clients and more are on the way.

- Horn Group has managed to build a diverse client base.

- One of Horn Group's clients is preparing for an IPO (the name of company is confidential at this point but my guess that it is Splunk, an excellent company). This is a good sign and it is the first Horn Group client IPO in more than 7 years.

- Horn Group is hiring. It's tough finding good people but the company has been getting some quality people.


Intel Launches "Free Press" News Magazine

I've been writing a lot about how every company is a media company and Intel is one of those companies that understands this idea very well.
Intel has put together an editorial team that seeks to use the best journalistic practices to publish high quality news, features and video. It is separate from its newsroom but staffed by some of Intel's corporate communications team.

This morning I spoke with Bill Calder and Ken Kaplan about the project (http://freepress.intel.com). Here are some notes from our conversation:

- With all the changes happening in media, journalists are having to cover a lot of beats and they don't have the time to do in-depth reporting on Intel, or much in-depth reporting at all. It is frustrating because there are some great stories within Intel that aren't being told.

- We know we have the expertise in-house to report on these stories so we thought why not do it ourselves? We have people on Intel's communications team that are former journalists so we put together a team, that includes us and one or two others, to try and tell these stories.

- Our communications team, for good or bad, is very focused on product launches. But there are so many other stories to tell. Intel is a very large company with many interesting projects, and people.

-It is very much a dream position for us, we've been talking within Intel about doing something like this and its great to be able to have the resources to launch this venture.

- Anyone is free to use the stories from Intel Free Press. Our goal is to have some of the largest news sites running these stories, in whole, or in part.

- Our biggest challenge is credibility. People tend to distrust corporate blogs, so we have to show that our stories are fair, and high quality, so that people trust us.

- Our goal isn't to compete with other news sites, we aren't going to do a deep dive into the technology or benchmarking our chips. It's about telling stories that haven't been told yet. For example, a story on our VP of Investor Relations (Caught in the Crossfire: Intel's Investor Relations Chief - SVW)

- We will also write about our partners, showing some of the interesting things they are doing. There will be a wide variety of stories every week.

- We also have a team of about 15 people that produce "Circuits." This is written for Intel employees and only available internally. There is a lot of great content there that we will publish on Free Press.

- Intel Free Press will be our main job. We may expand the team by bringing in outside contributors, other journalists. We want to create a media brand that is clearly distinguished from the rest.

- We decided not to use bylines so that we can use one voice and give it more of a news agency feel. And that should make it easier for other publishers if they want to reuse all, or part of our stories. They don't even have to attribute it to Intel.

- Success will be measured by the take up in search results and also the stories being re-used by major media outlets. And that should also lead to bloggers linking to the stories.

- Our legal department has been pretty good about it.

- We've set up Free Press as being separate from the Intel newsroom although there is a link from the newsroom.

- You can follow Intel Free Press on Twitter: @IntelFreePress.

Foremski's Take:

It's great to see a large company taking this step and willing to experiment with new approaches to communications. I recently spoke with Cisco, and it too is following a very similar strategy, wanting to produce a news magazine with stories sourced from within Cisco but not focused directly on Cisco.

(Cisco Plans Relaunch Of News@Cisco)

It's good that Intel has established a separate brand for this venture because that will help it track its progress and also help establish credibility outside of the main newsroom. Credibility will be established over time and by consistent, high quality content.

Some news organizations might see Intel Free Press as a competitor. It is possible that they might not cover a story, say the one on Intel's VP of Investor Relations, because Intel has already written that story. I was on a Bulldog Reporter panel last year with Kara Swisher, the former Wall Street Journal columnist and now at All Things D, and she was berating companies for posting a news announcement on their own website, saying that she wanted the scoop. Intel Free Press won't be writing those types of stories so Kara should be OK with that.

I'm looking forward to tracking this venture and seeing how it is received by other news organizations.

- - -

Intel Free Press.

Please see:
Every Company Is A Media Company


PR Firm Horn Group Launches iPhone App

This looks like an interesting development:

Shannon Latta EVP at Horn Group writes:

Today we announced our very own iPhone app, live in the iTunes App Store. We think we're the first agency like ours to design a mobile app like this -- that combines agency news and industry insights, sharing and commenting functionality, and a handy directory of our entire staff -- for clients, prospects and employees. Have you seen anything similar from anyone else? I know Lewis PR has a news aggregator for the iPhone but it's nothing like what we've built.

Here's our launch package:

We're seeing a lot of interest from marketers who want a mobile presence for their brand. We think it's becoming as important as having a website and agencies have to evolve to meet this need. Our iPhone app, built entirely in-house by Horn Group ID, shows off some of our new mobile capabilities. We can quickly and affordably build applications like our own for clients -- ideal for sales, marketing and employee communications.

I applaud Horn Group for taking this step and I look forward to hearing how it is used and if apps are a good vehicle for PR.


Silicon Valley PR Firms! Send Me Your Pearltree For My Directory...

The last couple of months I've been working with a very cool French startup called Pearltrees in an advisory capacity. It's part of my nascent consulting services business which helps me continue publishing and funding Silicon Valley Watcher.

I'm a big fan of Pearltrees because it is a fascinating media technology. It allows anyone to curate their own section of the web by using a visual metaphor that looks very much like mind maps: users create a Pearltree and attach pearls to it; each pearl represents a web page or site, a video, image, or even a Tweet.

With so much content on the Internet it is becoming very important to identify trusted sources of information and to have people curate sections of the Internet. Google tries to do it by looking at trusted sites and who links to who but it is constantly fighting spammers trying to game the sysem -- the Pearltrees approach is spam-proof.

Pearltrees are also very social, they are extremely easy to create and share. They can be Tweeted, emailed, or embedded in any web page or web document, creating a live window (see below).

One of my goals is to build a Pearltree about Silicon Valley so that people can quickly find the best information about this region. As part of that project I have put together a Pearltree that acts as a directory of Silicon Valley PR firms.

People looking for a PR firm can browse my Pearltree and hopefully find a compatible business partner. In the short space of time since I created the Silicon Valley PR firms Pearltree it has had nearly 2300 views.

But I'd like to improve it. I'd like each PR firm that does business in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area to create a Pearltree about their business and send it to me.

If you are in PR here are some reasons why you should make a Pearltree about your company:

- It puts you, rather than me, in control of the information about your firm.

- You are the one that receives notifications on who has shared it or picked it for their collection of Pearltrees.

- You can see and respond to comments on your Pearltree.

- You can be creative about how you build your Pearltree.

- By creating your own Pearltree it shows you as the author rather than me.

- You can use your Pearltree for communications with clients. Again, being in control of the information in your Pearltree is key.

- This is the important part: each Pearltree is dynamic. Any changes are updated in real-time everywhere that Pearltree is used. You won't have to wait for me, or rely on me, to update a Pearltree about your company.

Here are two examples:

I created a Pearltree for the Horn Group:

Horn Group
It shows clients, newsroom, blog, contact info etc.

Because each Pearltree is controlled by the author, each firm can be creative about how it organizes their Pearltree. For example, in this Pearltree about The Hoffman Agency, there are links to client web sites that Hoffman might like to highlight, rather than just a simple client list.

The Hoffman Agency (Demo)
So please send me your Pearltree. It's the simplest way to get into my Silicon Valley PR directory. And also, send me the categories that you would like to be included in. Email foremski at Gmail or send it to me through Pearltrees.

And if you are an independent PR professional/consultant, send me your Pearltree too.

You can show who you work with, your past and current clients, and whatever else you'd like to include, such as your LinkedIn profile, portfolio, etc.

- - -

It's a very flexible technology and I can think of a variety of ways of using it.

For example, using Pearltrees as a media kit. Here is a Pearltree about an Intel press event, containing links to media assets such as video, and also the resulting press coverage.

Example Press Kit
And Pearltrees has lots of great new features coming very soon, including a private version that controls who can view it; and a community version that enables teams to collaborate on a Pearltree.

It's also great as an organizational/research tool. I've used it for a book project, and I'm exploring other uses, including an online store.

I use it for business and for recreation, such as this Pearltree about the upcoming Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park so I can get to know some of the acts before the event.

 Ouside Lands SF 2010 
The beauty of a flexible media technology such as Pearltrees is that you can be the first person to use it for a particular task. It's like making the first footprints in fresh snow :)

So please send me your Pearltrees so I can include them in my PR firms Pearltree directory. And send me examples of any new uses you come up with.

Just click here to start: http://www.pearltrees.com/


Corporate Social Media Is Not Social -- It's Sales Media

When it comes to corporate use of social media I have problems with the use of the word "social" because it's not accurate. It's not social.

When most people use Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace, they use it for its social qualities. Yet when corporations, and many professionals use social media, they are using it for commercial purposes, they are using it for sales.

This is an important distinction because it affects how businesses should use social media.

I was moderating a panel earlier today on how businesses can use PR to leverage social media, and Louis Gray said something that was very wise. He said that people create their Facebook pages in a specific way because that's the way they like it, they are comfortable there. If you come along and engage with them you need to approach them as if you were a guest in their home.

That means businesses have to be cautious about how they sell on social media sites.

All that relationship building and engagement is not because a business wants to get to know Jane or John better, as a friend or relative would, it wants to sell more of its product or service. That's a far different agenda from most people's engagement in social media.

Like at parties, people will avoid that person that is selling something. Friends that invite their friends to tupperware parties, or similar, are tolerated for a while, but not for long. Similarly, companies that use social media as sales media must understand there is a time and place for it, or they risk alienating people.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of WPP, the world's largest marketing and communications group, has similar concerns about the commercial use of social media. The Financial Times recently reported:

Sir Martin warned on Tuesday that social media sites are ”less commercial phenomena, they are more personal phenomena,” more similar to ”writing letters to our mothers” than watching television.

”Invading these [social] media with commercial messages might not be the right thing.”

So let's be honest about corporate use of social media -- it's really all sales media -- let's not dress it up as anything else.

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Please see: Every Company is a Media Company - EC=MC - the transformative equation for business.


Using Pearltrees To Create Multi-Media Press Kits

My regular readers know about my rants on the subject of press releases. My rants are not about the content of press releases but that they do not use the media technologies that we have today.
{Please see: Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! - SVW and 4 Years Since 'Die! Press Release Die!...' And STILL No Hyperlinks - SVW]

Few press releases have more than one link, or have links pointing to useful information such as:

- a link to photographs
- embeddable videos
- background information
- customer quotes
- analyst quotes
- related news stories
- related news releases

Such links make my job easier -- instead of Googling around for that information I can find it more quickly. I might also copy those links into my article as a service to my readers looking for additional information.

Yet despite having many people agree with me, the PR industry still has trouble understanding these very simple things. Some have told me that people don't know how to create links. (I will be hosting a $1,000-a-head workshop on this very topic, send me an email if you'd like to sign up foremski at gmail.com.)

Another way to produce an interactive press release is to use Pearltrees. I've been working with Pearltrees the past few months and developing some new use cases.

Pearltrees is a visual way of creating a collection of web sites. Let me show you an example below. It represents Intel's recent launch of a new Atom processor family. To the main news release, I've attached pearls that represent web pages where you can download photos, video, find background information, etc.

(This is a live window in that you can move around within it and browse the content of each pearl. You can also grab it and add it to your Pearltree collection.)


After the event you can use Pearltrees to look at the media coverage, here is an example.


The wonderful thing about Pearltrees is that others can grab your specific Pearltree and attach it to their own Pearltree collection. This also means that if I make any change in my Pearltree, the changes are reflected in every version of my Pearltree that others have chosen.

Corporate communications departments could quickly share resources and reuse Pearltrees in a modular way. For example, if there are any changes in a "background" Pearltree, those changes are replicated across every version, in everyone's Pearltree collection. This is especially valuable when dealing with changes in legal wording, or legal approval for company information -- once approved, a Pearl or a Pearltree, can be reused time and again, and future changes are automatically propagated across all Pearltrees.

Try it out, I'd love to hear your feedback.


Conversation Group Changes...

The PR firm The Conversation Group has become Reimagine Group and co-founder Giovanni Rodriguez has left to join Broadvision as Chief Marketing Officer; co-founder Ted Shelton has left to start his own agency Open-First, in Palo Alto.

Giovanni Rodriguez said he would still retain some part-time connection with Reimagine Group, which is led by Peter Hirshberg.

The Conversation Group web site, however is still up with it's latest news from July 2009.


4 Years Since 'Die! Press Release Die!...' And STILL No Hyperlinks

It's more than four years since I wrote my rant "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!," which I'm told, has become a standard part of University courses teaching communications.

I'm flattered. And I'm also glad that my rant led to the "Social Media Release" (formerly known as the New Media Release). I did a lot of work on this issue with lots of others, Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Todd Defren, Brian Solis, and Shannon Whitley. We did a lot of podcasts and posts on this issue.

Yet I get emails with pitches from PR people that don't even have any links! I have to search for the company web sites they are pitching, and for any other references they put into the pitch.

Same with press releases, there are very few links in press releases.

Also, PR people will ask if their clients can contribute a guest post. I love to get good guest posts. Yet often there are no links in the copy! Am I supposed to do the work and put the links in myself?

Why are people unable to understand the value of putting links into PR copy? Do they know how to create a link and embed it in their copy?

Forget the 'social media release' and the work we did on trying to create a microformats for news releases -- at the end of the day all I want is some links in the copy!

Give me a link to:

- some analyst quotes
- customer quotes
- photos
- videos
- background info
- company blogs
- related stories.

Help me do my job so I don't have to search around for this stuff. I might very well throw those links into my story as a way for readers to find more info, especially if I'm on deadline. You miss a great chance to direct my readership to your choice of links!

Why is this so difficult to understand?

I could go to my mailbox right now and pull out hundreds of examples of PR people pitching me stuff, and sending me news releases, with no links at all, or there is just one miserly link.

What's up with that?! These are "new/social media PR experts" or at least that's what their web sites claim.

They chatter and Tweet all day long about 'social media' yet can't master the simple task of putting links into their communications!

- - -

Here is a PearlTree showing the Twitter responses to this post:  Twitter responses to no links post 

Please see: 10 Basic Digital Publishing Skills Journalists/Anyone Should Know...

Social Media Is Not About Conversations... It's About Something Much More Amazing - SVW


Why Did Twitter Hire A Tech Policy Specialist As Comms Chief?



[UPDATED: with a cartoon from Guhmshoo.]

Congratulations to Sean Garrett, co-founder of 463 Communications, for his new job as VP of Corporate Communications at Twitter.

[I've known Mr Garrett for more than five years and while we haven't always seen eye-to-eye, we have always enjoyed a healthy exchange of views.]

Clearly, Twitter is a great job, and also it's a great move because Twitter offers a fantastic potential in terms of stock options that 463 Communications could never hope to match.

[One of the frustrating aspects of working in PR, people tell me, is working with startups, helping to get them publicity, helping to build their brands, and then they get sold, or they IPO, and everyone's stock options have made them rich except the PR people.]

I have no idea what Mr Garrett's reasons for joining Twitter were, but I do know that he understands traditional media, and the new media, very well indeed. He was one of the first PR bloggers, and he has an innate understanding of social media and its trends. I've always said "you have to be in it to know it" and Mr Garrett has been involved in social media for years.

What interests me about this appointment is that 463 Communications is no ordinary PR firm, it specializes in tech policy. It works with large companies that are interested in lobbying around tech issues, and they want to influence tech policy.

For example, TechNet, the industry association, is a 463 client. I recently interviewed the head of Technet Rey Ramsey. [New Head Of TechNet Looks For Common Ground - SVW]

- Why is Twitter interested in tech policy?

- Does Twitter think that it might come under some type of government regulation?

- Is there a tech policy/government aspect to Twitter that would warrant it hiring a specialist in this area?

It's not a normal appointment. After all, Mr Garrett readily admits that he is "eager to dust off my front-line media relations chops after spending most of the last nine years focused on the shadowy, back-room strategy thing."

He also points out that "via 463, I have been consulting for Twitter the last few months."

So what kind of "shadowy, back-room strategy" stuff was Mr Garrett consulting with Twitter about?

It's an interesting appointment.

- - -

BTW, here is a photo of Sean Garrett demonstrating his hands on approach to dealing with the media, or rather, dealing with me :)

Follow Sean Garrett on Twitter.

Sean Garrett's esoteric and excellent musical tastes are here.


How The Real-Time Web Turns 'Conversational Media' Into Noise

In the movie "Amadeus" Mozart says:

"In a play, if more than one person speaks at once ...it's just noise. No one can understand a word. But with opera, with music.... With music you can have individuals all talking at the same time. And it's not noise. lt's a perfect harmony!"

That's what struck me as a fundamental limitation of using online real-time feedback for live events.

In this brave new world of 'conversational' media - real-time creates a real limitation. And no amount of technology can solve this basic issue: you can't have a conversation if everyone is speaking at once.

You can have online conversations if they are within a time-line, such as comments on a blog post. But it doesn't work in real-time. Think of the noise of a crowd -- it's an aggregation of hundreds of conversations.

This might all seem a bit obvious but it's worth pointing out because there is a lot of chatter about the 'real-time' web these days and what it means, and what it can enable.

Thursday evening I was on an interesting panel about "Realtime Feedback Loops."

My fellow panelists were:

Jennifer Lindsay moderated.

Here are some notes:

- Jennifer Lindsay wanted to find out if there was some way that conference events could be done differently, using real-time feedback loops, so that people that weren't there could participate in the discussion.

- Sylvia Marino said that it didn't work out, to mix people attending an event virtually, and those in the room. She said that outsiders often didn't have the same understanding of the ideas and concepts that were being discussed by people physically present, and that they found it hard to engage in the conversations.

- Ravit Lichtenberg made some excellent points about the need for moderators to be able to filter real-time feedback. Often, facilitators will arise naturally within a community.

- Liza Sperling said that it is important to be aware of feedback in many different places. For example, the recent Toyota news about problems with Toyota cars appeared on forums, it wasn't on Twitter.

- Bill Johnston said that real-time feedback loops can be a distraction to what is happening in the room. There is value in the "fidelity of presence" that isn't found in virtual events.

- Van Riper told a story of a group of people who hadn't attended one of his events, becoming very hostile to messaging around the event.

- Shel Holtz, who was in the audience, made one of the best contributions. He said that you have to know what to do with the real-time feedback, what's its purpose? For example, there's little point to have real-time feedback during a keynote speech.

[BTW, the latest Hobson & Holtz Report discusses my recent post about trust in social (and other) media]

Justin.tv was there to record the event. Thanks to Rich Reader for organizing the panel.

Edelman Barometer: Trust Is Very Volatile Across ALL Media Inc Social

We share a common belief that trust is an important currency in today's world especially in the digital realm.

Trust, we are taught, is hard won. It takes a long time to establish trust yet it can be destroyed in minutes.

But is that really true?

I've been looking at the Edelman Trust Barometer reports and it shows that trust in businesses, in media both social and traditional, in NGOs, in governments, jumps up and down by large margins from year to year.

I've been particularly interested in trust in social and traditional media. In the latest report, trust in peers, which represents social media, plunged by 20 points from 47 percent of those surveyed in the prior year, to 27 percent. Trust in other forms of media also fell by large margins.

[Wow! Edelman Survey Finds Trust In Peers Plunges!!! Bad News For Social Media Mavens]

Yet in 2008 I reported that the Edelman survey showed: Mainstream Media Trust Soars

"American's trust in mainstream media jumps an astonishing 36 per cent to 45 per cent from 33 percent in the prior year. "

It looks like 'trust' is a very volatile commodity. It's not a slow build. It can be quickly reestablished.

- How will this affect businesses and their competitive strategies?

- Is it worth taking risks with 'trust' because any wrong turns can be relatively quickly repaired?

This could lead to anti-social business practices, as companies pursue questionable strategies for short-term profits because new 'trust' can be quickly built back up.

It would be good to see future Edelman Trust Barometers cast some light on the reasons why trust is such a surprisingly volatile quality.


Additional Thoughts On The Killer Pitch . . .

In part I of "The Killer Pitch" I raised the possibility of PR agencies developing the ability to drive lots of traffic to specific news stories.

In some ways, there is nothing new here. The best pitch is one that journalists recognize will be a hot story. And PR people know this and they try to craft a pitch that has the potential to be a hit.

In this way, PR people and journalists work towards the same goal -- a widely read news story that is fair and accurate.

Problems arise however, if PR agencies can develop the means to drive additional traffic to news stories that they select. It's obvious that they would not reward news stories that they disagree with.

Could PR agencies develop the ability to reliably drive traffic to specific stories?

PR agencies could help publishers promote stories on Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, etc. There is no guarantee with this method but it is something that journalists often don't have the time to do themselves. I don't see publishers objecting to help in promoting their publications. Over time, reporters might favor working with PR agencies that provide such additional services.

Developing an ability to always be able to drive traffic is possible but I don't yet see any PR agencies with that capability -- at least not yet. However, since it is possible then it will be done, because this brings lots of advantages: in relations with journalists, and with clients.

How would readers know that a particular news story benefited from a traffic boost by a PR agency?

They wouldn't know, in the same way that readers don't know what went into researching and writing a news story; the PR agencies that were involved; which people the journalist interviewed and what was said in those interviews; and what wasn't used in the final story.

Would it be ethical for PR agencies to drive traffic to news stories?

Yes. That's what they have been hired to do, that is what they agreed to do: to bring attention to their clients.

Could such practices influence news coverage by the news media?

Yes. But that already happens. News organizations are influenced by PR all the time -- that's what PR firms are hired to do.

What it comes down to is this: the news media is influenced by commercial interests. While this has always been the case, today there are new ways to spend money to influence the news media that people see, and one of those methods is to drive traffic to select news stories.

The job of a journalist has always been one of trying to sort through many biased information sources and end up with a fair and accurate story. Journalists know that PR firms are biased and that's OK because they take that bias into consideration, they know how to deal with the information they receive, what to use and what to leave behind. That's what quality journalism is all about. That's the role of a gatekeeper.

But if certain news stories can rise to prominence because of manipulation by PR agencies -- then the important role of the journalist, as society's gatekeeper, becomes seriously compromised. That's not good for government.

Software engineers have a saying: garbage in, garbage out. If we have a biased media we will be less able to make good decisions. And we have a lot of important decisions to make: about the economy, energy, education, elders, ethics ... and those are just the 'e's.

Will companies and self-interest groups be able to use the media to exert more influence? Will PR agencies be able to develop new techniques of media influence that will aid their clients?

The answer to both questions has to be yes.

And the ability of the media to resist and fight back against new tactics of manipulation is severely weakened because of the massive disruption happening within the entire media sector. It's an interesting situation.

- - -

Please see:

The Killer Pitch? - When PR Agencies Can Do This - Look Out! - SVW


PRWatch: What Happens When PR People Have More Traffic Than The Reporters

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Advert: Foremski's Take - Media Strategy Services - 415 336 7547


The Killer Pitch? - When PR Agencies Can Do This - Look Out . . .

I'm often asked by PR people about the best type of pitches. There is a widespread belief in the PR community that there is a way to make the perfect pitch about a client company and everything will fall into place.

My answer is always the same: first, make sure you know the publication before you pitch. And make sure you have a good understanding of your client's business.

While there are lots of bad pitches out there, there are also lots of good pitches. Even with a perfect pitch, sometimes a reporter won't write the story because there is not enough time, there's too much else to do.

But here's a killer pitch. It's one that I haven't heard yet but it's only a matter of time.

" ... and we have the ability to drive a lot of traffic to your story."

In a world where reporters are increasingly rewarded not on the quality of their work but on how much traffic their stories attract -- this becomes the killer pitch.

The pitch wouldn't have to be spelled out directly, agencies that show they can drive traffic, will be able imply that they will drive traffic to specific news stories.

Fortunately, PR agencies don't know how to drive traffic to news stories.

I say fortunately because the other side of the coin is: they won't drive traffic to stories that they don't like. They would be able to exert some control and favor certain news stories over others. That's valuable leverage.

And it might not take much extra traffic to favor a news story.

News aggregators love to pick up on "popular" or "trending" stories. A relatively small traffic boost from a PR agency can become magnified if the story makes it onto a 'most popular' list.

Will PR agencies figure out how to drive traffic? Maybe.

I know some are thinking about this topic, such as Christine Perkett at PerkettPR. (@missusp).

But there are lots of ethical issues. When pageviews are a surrogate for payments, driving traffic then becomes a proxy for a payment to the writer.

But what would be wrong with a PR agency driving traffic to news stories about a client? Nothing. Agencies are hired to drive attention to a client.

This is why using pageviews as a basis for setting compensation for reporters is wrong because it is open to abuse. And it can harm the reputation of reporters even if their motives are pristine.

Would reporters write negative stories to protect their reputations from accusations they were benefiting from PR boosted traffic?

At least for now, we are fortunate that PR companies don't know how to drive traffic to news stories.

- - -

Please see:

Additional Thoughts On The Killer Pitch . . .

PRWatch: What Happens When PR People Have More Traffic Than The Reporters

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Advert: Foremski's Take - Media Strategy Services - 415 336 7547


Guest Post: Social Media Marketing is Swiss Cheese

By Hugh Burnham, Co-CEO, Gutenberg Communications

The Internet has become overrun with trends, tips, and how-tos for social media marketing. If one were to spend a lifetime absorbed in social media marketing content, one would emerge a mindless zombie repeating buzzwords like engagement, two-way communications, and customer-centric conversation, but still hopelessly lost.

The dribble comes from the armies of organizations and individuals looking to capitalize on rising social media marketing budgets by positioning themselves as experts, though they aren't actually doing it, for themselves or their clients. If your PR agency says they do social media, but you're not sure if they actually do, you're probably right to be wary.

And so the emerging industry of social media marketing is like Swiss cheese. It's held together by a porous structure of substance, but filled with pockets of emptiness. And while old school media is shrinking, the social media marketing industry is growing faster than newspapers can go bankrupt. Corporations have turned to PR for social media marketing; giving the public relations industry an opportunity to grow - not shrink - in size and prestige, if it can seize a leadership role in social media.

Story continues...


PRWatch: Using Google Ads Or "Right to Respond" To Deal With Bad Press

Zachary Seward, writing at Nieman Journalism Lab reports that PR companies are using online ads to try and deal with bad press.

One example is the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, which didn't like a New York Times article about a type of fish called hoki. [An Unlikely Star Among Seafood Causes a Row - NYTimes.com]

The council responded by buying Google Ads linked to keywords: 'new zealand hoki' and 'hoki new york times.'

The ads linked to a page that purports to set the record straight about hoki fishing and includes emails exchanged with Times science editor Laura Chang.

That was itself a feat of public-relations genius: Because the council's hoki page was originally a straightforward description of the fish and its uses, the Times had linked to it in the third paragraph of the article (at right), and 78,000 people clicked though, according to Sarah Crysell, a spokeswoman for the council. Taking advantage of that incoming traffic, the group transformed its hoki page into a rebuttal of the Times story.

I'm sure there will be others using this technique. But it's not as good as my idea for a "Right to Respond" box that could be present next to the actual story.

Companies could pay to respond to a specific story. All publications running a similar story or syndicating that story could also publish the "Right to Respond" button or link and thus its content would be automatically updated across ALL news stories carrying a Right to Respond link.

It would also provide newspaper sites with additional income rather than going to Google and and it would also act as showing the news site is "trusted" and legitimate.

- Companies would pay to use this service, individuals would have free access to make corrections.

- Web site owners/publishers/bloggers, etc would not be forced to provide a Right to Respond link next to their content. But if they did, it would show that they are a respectable and responsible site.

- The New York Times and other large publishers should offer a Right to Respond link next to every story because of their reach and influence and potential to harm reputations. It's the fair thing to do.

- Search engines should offer a right to respond link next to each search result they publish -- even if a right to respond link isn't found on the original web page of a search result.

- There is almost no monetary cost to offering a Right to Respond link, it does not cost a web site owner anything extra in servers or bandwidth.

- Publishers would be paid for offering a Right to Respond service from the fees charged to companies. Each time the page is loaded could earn the publisher a micro-payment, something that could be easily tracked by the Right to Respond widget sitting on the publisher's server.

That payment could be further qualified by the influence of a web site. The New York Times gets more money for running a Right to Respond link than less influential sites-- even if traffic volumes for both are the same.

- Only the content publishers get paid to carry a Right to Respond link and not search engines. It is the originator and not the aggregator that collects the payment.

Would some sites publish nasty things about companies or people simply to collect Right to Respond payments? They could, but constantly publishing critical and negative content would undermine their credibility, their influence, and their traffic.

- Competitors could use the Right to Respond link to publish their side of the story.


Please see:

The Right to Respond Should be a Fundamental Right of the Internet


MediaWatch: More About Embargoes...

Last Thursday I was on a panel discussing embargoes. (There will eventually be video of the event.) The moderator was Sam Whitmore, and I was sitting next to Dylan Tweeney from Wired, on my right was Damon Darlin from the New York Times, and Mark Glaser from MediaShift on my far right.

Unfortunately Mike Arrington from TechCrunch couldn't make it, which is a shame because plenty of PR people have told me TechCrunch regularly breaks embargoes and it would have been good to have heard his side of the story.

Dave Needle from InternetNews.com wrote a very good reound-up of what was said: This tech news is not embargoed - InternetNews:The Blog - David Needle

Here is an extract:

While Tweney continues to selectively agree to embargoes (as does InternetNews.com), he said he recently "punished" a PR firm by refusing to communicate with them for six weeks after a competitor was allowed to publish an embargoed story ahead of everyone else. He said the PR firm's excuse was that the vendor, a handset manufacturer, had leaked the news to a blog directly without the PR firm knowing.

The New York Times Darlin said embargoes are generally used as a tool by PR firms to co-opt the media. That said, Darlin said the Times often accept embargoes because they ensure reporters don't miss a story and they have more time to do a thorough job.

That thoroughness is limited. Once you've agreed to an embargo, you can't share that news ahead of time with the analysts and competitors you might otherwise call for comment. Vendors will sometimes provide a list of analysts that have been pre-briefed on their news.

While many took shots at the embargo process and the games PR folk sometimes play, Chris Preimesberger, an editor at eWeek, said embargoes help him get his job done.

"They give me the background information and the time to do the piece right," said Preimesberger, during a follow up Q&A session. He estimates 75 to 80 percent of the stories eWeek does are facilitated by the embargo process, the rest are breaking news.

"I have no problem with the process and don't feel like I'm being manipulated," said Preimesberger.

My proposal that holding a press conference, real or virtual, so that everyone gets the news at the same time seemed to have a fair amount of support as an alternative to embargoes. But overall, I didn't think that we made much progress in creating any new rules around embargoes.

However, I was surprised that there is such a lot of interest in this subject. Embargoes have been around since year dot and we all have our way of working with them, selectively of course. They are not going away, that's certain.

But I think it could and should lead to media outlets rethinking their editorial policy. Do we have to be first with with news? If a dozen other publications also have the news what is our value-add?

There is more to be gained from developing an unique editorial stance than there is from pressing the publish button a few minutes earlier than anyone else..

The panel discussion sparked a few blog posts. Mike Yamamoto, the founding editor of CNET's News.com wrote an interesting post. The absurdity of embargoes

What was especially interesting was his stories about the use of embargoes when he worked in the Washington D.C. bureau of the Los Angeles Times. Government agencies routinely placed embargo notices on their news releases. It's a practice that companies and PR firms have attempted to use too.

For some reason, many companies and government agencies seem to think that simply receiving so-called embargoed material automatically means you have agreed to it--even if you never knew the information existed, let alone had consented to any restrictions, before it landed in your inbox or mailroom unsolicited.

It would be the equivalent of my mass-emailing a contract to sell my house for $10 million, then holding its recipients to the provisions of the "agreement." When they rightly tell me to go pound salt, I would cry foul and claim that they broke the rules.

Mr Yamamoto rightly points out:

Because News.com did not agree to embargoes, therefore, their restrictions did not apply to us. It's impossible to "break" a contract you never agreed to.

Lastly, I feel it is up to the PR industry to police this issue. If they are working with a journalist or organization that routinely breaks their word, then they should not disclose embargoed information the next time.


PRWatch: What Happens When PR People Have More Traffic Than The Reporters

A lot of PR people have jumped into the world of blogging, Facebook and now Twitter, with a lot of enthusiasm and they have been doing it for years and now have very healthy traffic numbers and very large numbers of Twitter followers.

For example, Brian Solis: His blog BrianSolis.com has about 77,000 unique visitors every month and he has a Twitter following of more than 33,000.

Todd Defren from Shift Communications, his pr-squared.com has blog traffic of more than 30,000 unique visitors and he has a Twitter following of over 13,000.

Steve Rubel at Edelman has recently shifted to a Posterous blog but he has more than 56,000 unique visitors and more than 31,000 Twitter followers.

In contrast, journalists and their employers have been slow to make use of the "new media." Few journalists blog and few are on Twitter or Facebook, and generally, most are very timid when it comes to promoting their own stories and building up their Twitter/Facebook followers and friends.

Yet it is this type of active, always-on social media presence that is required these days, as a journalist, to gain attention to your stories. I do it -- not because I like or dislike doing it -- it's simply that's what the current rules of the game are.

But, it's going to be a while before other journalists figure out these rules of self-promotion and become comfortable with self-promotion. (Self-promotion is fine as long as you can walk your walk -- self-promotion is bad only when you are promoting poor content.)

Since PR people are much more comfortable with self-promotion, many have acquired large traffic to their blogs and also amassed large numbers on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This brings up an interesting scenario because in the majority of cases, PR people such as Brian Solis, are pitching stories to journalists who have very much smaller pageviews on the stories they write, and far smaller Twitter/Facebook communities to which to distribute their stories, than the PR people.

The PR people could post the stories themselves and pitch them to their already large communities and get a far higher readership!

But, the problem they face is that this would be a "pay per post" type scenario and they would lose credibility very quickly.

Also, having someone else write a story about your client, on a third-party site, where there has been no exchange of money, conveys far higher value to the story.

That's the paradox of PR peoples' large, personal media footprint -- they can't use their own access to large numbers of people to promote their clients.


Some Observations On Trends In Media And PR . . .

Tuesday was a very good day. I got to spend time with Sabrina Horn, head of the Horn Group, and Todd Defren, head of Shift Communications.

These are two people that I have a lot of respect for because they've been around the block a few times and they are in the midst of some big changes.

They spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley but they are based out on the East coast, which gives them a broader perspective about many of the things that are happening here.

Also, what is interesting is that we are both on different sides of the same coin. The changes that are disrupting the media industry are similar to the changes disrupting the PR industry.

And these are not pleasant times. It's especially tough when you are responsible for large numbers of staff (which I'm not). These are scary times.

But these are also fascinating times.

While many bemoan the dying of traditional media, we forget to notice that we have more media now, in more formats, than ever before in the short history of our species. What will this lead to?

This is an incredible time to be a witness to what is going on, and even better, to be involved in the dramatic changes in media and PR communications.

The way I see things developing is that our future destinies are converging. Whether we are in journalism or PR, our mission is to help our communities, companies, non-profit organizations, governments, individuals, etc, to help them tell their stories in real and authentic ways. So that the more we know about each other the less strange we will seem to each other.

Why is this important? Because in an increasingly media fragmented world it is easier than ever for people to spend time with others that look and think the same. It is easier than ever to become more segregated and distant from each other.

And the less we know about each other the more opportunities there are for xenophobia and conflict.

As journalists and PR communicators we have a unique opportunity to work to bridge these divides and that means we all benefit.

How we do it I'm not sure but that's the best part -- we all get a chance to figure these things out.

This might seem a bit of a stretch, a post about journalism and PR trends turning into a post about peace and understanding. But what can I say? That's where I see things heading. And that's what gets me out of bed each day.


Has Steve Jobs Banned Apple From Social Media?

Over on my ZDNet column IMHO I asked "Has Steve Jobs banned Apple from social media?" because it certainly looks that way.

Some people have said that it is a good thing because Apple doesn't want people talking about its upcoming products and leaking company secrets.

But social media isn't about leaking company secrets at all. It is about showing that you are listening and engaged with your customers. At least, that's what all the social media "experts" will tell you.

Is it possible to ignore social media and still be successful? Clearly, Apple can do it. Can anyone else?

How long can Apple, or any other company, continue to be disengaged in social media? I don't know but we are going to find out.

Is it possible to tempt Apple into social media? Maybe.

In social media you have to be courageous and realize you cannot keep control over your corporate message. But you can communicate your corporate message if you are consistent and persistent.

You say it once, twice, three thousand times. Consistent and persistent otherwise you truly do lose control.

You have to be engaged, show that you are listening. Otherwise you will look arrogant and aloof. And that's too much of a temptation for the hands of fate to slap you back down to earth.

Let's see how far Apple gets with this policy of non-engagement with social media. It will be an interesting case study.


Lessons for Apple in Social Media: Unlike A Rolling Stone A Good Blog Post Continues To Gather Stories

Five weeks ago I wrote: Apple Rant: AppleCare = Shoddy Service - Apple Arrogance?. At the time it quickly attracted a bunch of comments, many of them sharing bad experiences with Apple's AppleCare.

What was interesting was that there was no response from Apple. And five weeks later, that post continues to be discovered and continues to attract comments -- sometimes in large batches as it gets picked up by services such as StumbleUpon.

Yet there is still nothing from Apple, which is surprising because by not leaving a comment, Apple comes across as arrogant, and that it doesn't care that there is a conversation going on about its warranty service.

Story continues...


The Ethics Of Spin - PR Pros Score High On First Ever Tests

This is a touchy subject: the ethics of public relations professionals.

It's touchy because PR people are often representing clients, or pushing stories that they don't like, don't believe in, and are just going through the motions. And that doesn't feel good, it doesn't feel clean, but is it unethical?

According to Bulldog Reporter, researchers ran PR professionals through a standardized ethics test for the first time. And the results were excellent. They showed "similarity to other professionals with comparable levels of education such as journalists, nurses and dental students."

Story continues...


Guest Post: PR's Love Affair With The Press Release (And How To End It)

[Here is an excellent article by Andrew Fowler, from Newsvetter, a Portland based PR consultancy. If you'd like to publish a guest post on SVW please contact me tom at foremski.com]

By Andrew Fowler

If there's anybody who has developed a successful model for charging for news content, it's the PR industry.

In 2007, press releases represented a $2.2 billion market, according to Fortune. This figure only covers distribution through companies such as PR Newswire and PR Web. It does not include the cost to write and pitch them to the media which, in my experience, almost always exceeds the cost of distribution.

Most companies have accepted press releases (or social media releases) as the main engine powering their news programs. PR agencies love them because it's the easiest way to generate revenue and there's little resistance on the client side.

But how many of these press releases are actually worth the time and money? Not many.

Story continues...


Social Media Marketing: Fan Boys Come For Free

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Companies love to have enthusiastic customers because the passion that comes with enthusiasm sells. Word-of-mouth is the most effective driver of sales bar none.

Companies love enthusiastic customers that have blogs, are active on Facebook, Twitter, etc because they can reach more people. But how do you get enthusiastic customers?

Story continues...


No Social Media Monitoring By Apple Or Wells Fargo Yet Still Successful

Large corporations are supposed to be interested in what is said about them. That's why there are no end of marketing experts out there talking about social media and that corporations risk having their brand destroyed by negative conversations, that they need to respond quickly and decisively.

But is this true?

Take Apple, it doesn't appear to pay attention to social media or much to any media in general. Yet it is a successful company.

Whenever there is criticism of Apple in the mediasphere I rarely see an Apple response. By mediasphere I mean the entire media landscape from traditional media through to social media, Twitter, etc.

Is it because of the "fanboys" that will froth at any mention of Apple criticism that Apple doesn't need to do respond? Or is it best to just ignore negative publicity?

About 30,000 people (and counting) have read my Apple rant so far, and this is an influencer community of readers, it's not your average eyeball. On ZDNet there have been 90 comments about my story. Yet not a peep from Apple.

All it would take would be for Apple to leave a comment, something like: "We're sorry, we try to do our best but unfortunately we can't cover your repair but we have an excellent record, etc, etc." At least it shows Apple cares about AppleCare. But no, nothing.

Is this a sign of arrogance? Is this a sign of "I've-got-$24-billion-in-the-bank-and-I'm-adding-$1-billion-a-quarter-in-your-face-arrogance? It certainly looks that way.

Similarly, I had a bad experience with Wells Fargo and wrote about it. Within minutes people were leaving their bad stories about Wells Fargo. I wrote more about Wells Fargo, trying to see if there would be a response. Nothing.

It seems every few weeks people find my posts and leave new bad experiences to tell. Still nothing from Wells Fargo. All it would take would be a simple comment, "sorry about that Tom, but there's nothing we could do, that's our policy."
But no response comes across as arrogant. Especially when you see headlines such as: Wells Fargo profit beats Wall Street estimates. "Wells Fargo said its earnings after payment of preferred dividends came to $2.58 billion."

So, is it best just to ignore any criticisms? It sure seems that way - which is bad news for all the social media marketing gurus if that's the case.

- - -

Apple Rant: AppleCare = Shoddy Service - Apple Arrogance?

RantWatch: Shoddy AppleCare - arrogant Apple

Case Study In Online Brand Management: Wells Fargo Continues to Ignore The Conversation...

Wells Fargo Case Study: From Crisis Meeting To Conversation

Case Study: Wells Fargo's Effective Brand Management . . . Not!

RantWatch: Extremely Poor Service from Wells Fargo

The Pandora's Box In Measuring The Value Of PR

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This is a great time to be in PR. That's what Jason Mandell from Launchsquad said in a recent guest post on SVW, and that's also the view of Emilio Robles, over at Ogilvy blog Tech PR Nibbles.

I agree. I also think it's a great time to be in media. But PR hasn't yet had to deal with the gut wrenching changes that media has had to deal with as business models change. My friends in PR tell me they can see the changes therefore they will be able to deal with it all and prosper.

I'm not so sure. Changes are underway in PR and they are not pretty. For example, the opportunities offered by social media are not well recognized by clients. There is a perception that social media is free yet it's more expensive than traditional PR.

I like to remind people that disruptive technologies disrupt. We are dealing with disruptive media (PR) technologies. If you are in the path of a disruptive technology you will likely slam into that train-wreck up ahead -- even if you can see it. That's why I just nod when people tell me that they can what's ahead and can change fast enough that it won't be a problem.

Social Media Metrics = PR ROI = More $$

Story continues...


Guest Post: LaunchSquad - Best Time To Be In PR

[Guest Post from Jason Mandell (@jmandell on Twitter) from LaunchSquad, which PR Week named Boutique PR Agency of 2009. Please send your guest post to Tom(at)Foremski.com]

By Jason Mandell

JasonMandell.jpg
I know you've been hammering PR firms for years, and to be frank, in many instances I've disagreed with your predictions on the death of the industry and it's decreased value for companies. However, your most recent post on the subject aligned much more with our views on the future of PR, so I wanted to pass along some of our thoughts here at LaunchSquad as well.

One idea that you allude to in your post, but do not outright say, is that this might be the best time ever to be in the PR industry.

Modern communications revolves around good stories that lead to interesting conversations that ultimately drive positive outcomes.

And no marketing discipline sits closer to a company's "story," and has the ability to engage with consumers both directly and through the media, better than public relations. PR people tend to understand "story" more deeply than any other marketing discipline, and as a result we have an advantage in figuring out how to inspire and engage in a credible way with people. The changes going on right now fit right into the sweet spot of skills that PR folks have been required to have.

The bigger question is not if PR will survive, it's how long it will take for the industry to evolve and what its next form will look like when the dust settles. One thing is for sure, it will look very different than today, and we're doubling down that PR will be a driving force within the greater sphere of marketing in helping companies compete and succeed. It's already clear from what many companies are doing that there's a lot of PR firms that understand this well and have embraced this exciting new landscape in very profound ways.

The PR firm of the future in our view is based on the following key elements:

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Keeping It Real: PR's Real-Time Web Challenge

The growing influence of the real-time web, where people read more from their real-time streams on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc, than visiting a variety of sites to see what's new, brings new challenges for PR.

The challenge comes from being able to represent a client within the real-time web on a near daily basis.

For example, a company might employ a PR firm to gain media exposure. Suppose that over the course of a month the PR firm manage to get a bunch of stories about their client placed in prominent publications, say a large local newspaper, a large business magazine, a mention in a national newspaper, and a few trade publications. Plus a few blogs.

That's a pretty good result according to the metrics of most PR engagements. But is that enough?

With the growth of the real-time web, those news articles become less valuable and have much shorter shelf lives. If a news article is posted at 9 am then it is already fish-wrap by noon -- it is unlikely to be seen by the lunchtime crowd in their real-time streams. And it will be difficult to get those publications to write about a client company again very soon unless there are very good reasons.

So what is the media strategy for the real-time web? How can a PR firm maintain a client's name in the public eye on a near daily basis?

Some in the PR community have decent sized audiences on their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, they could publish to those communities. But those aren't target audiences, and they wouldn't take kindly to constant posts about clients.

PR professionals could ghost-write blogs, Tweets, and Facebook updates, but there are two problems here.

1) How do you develop a large enough real-time audience for your client? You have to build it up over time with quality content in a consistent manner.

2) How do you produce quality content consistently? You have to be genuine, and you have to "keep it real" otherwise it smells fishy and it looks like spam -- doubly unappetizing.

In the online world we know that passion communicates well. Fake passion communicates even better -- you can spot a fake a mile away.

I have some answers . . .(I'll share mine if you'll share yours :)

Lou Hoffman - Advancing PR: It Takes Two to Dance

[It's a pleasure to host a guest post by Lou Hoffman, who runs The Hoffman Agency in Silicon Valley.]

By Lou Hoffman

HoffmanAgency.jpgSilicon Valley Watcher has evolved into a provocative voice on the PR industry.

Even if I don’t agree with some opinions – “Media industry is going to hell in a handbasket - Where is PR industry's handbasket?” missed the mark – it’s healthy to have someone care enough about this business besides PR Week to offer up commentary.

Regarding SVW’s latest salvo on the PR industry, “The New Rules in PR – The Old Model is Dead” dare I say it offers a blend of wisdom and common sense.

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The New Rules In PR - The Old Model Is Dead

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For several years I've warned the PR agencies that fundamental changes have occurred in their world just as they have in the media world.

I said it all reminded me of the cartoon character Wily E. Coyote, who is chasing the Road Runner. Everything is fine until he looks down and sees he has run out of road and there is nothing between him and the distant canyon floor.

For the past few years the PR agency world didn't know it had run out of road because it was able to charge for its traditional PR activities and also to charge extra for its "social media" expertise too. Times were great, money was pouring in, and everyone was hiring.

Now the road has run out in traditional PR for many, and the canyon floor is a long way down. These days, I can't tell you how many people from large PR agencies have been telling me "the old model is dead."

Here are a few notes from my conversations:

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The Fleeting Value Of Social Media Monitoring

WilliamBlakeNewton.jpg

There are a lot of PR practitioners and social media monitoring companies spending a lot of time warning corporations that they need to monitor the online world for negative conversations about their brands.

Last week I addressed the current fashion and passion for the real-time web: The Real-Time Web - Blink And You Missed It - SiliconValleyWatcher

I made a point that there might not be much value in the monitoring of real-time online conversations about brands because if those conversations take place in real-time, they are done and dusted by the time a corporation decides to become involved. I asked how many people review their real-time streams of content on Facebook or Twitter? Which means if something nasty was said the likelihood is that very few people saw it -- only those that happened to be looking at their streams at that particular time would have seen it.

Yesterday, Mark Cuban published an interesting post on Blog Maverick in a similar vein, questioning the damage from negative online comments or posts about a person, or a company. He asked: Who Cares What People Write ?

He gave excellent advice:

When you see things written about a person, place or thing you care about, whether its positive or negative, take a very deep breath before thinking that the story means anything to anyone but you.

As a journalist I always believed that others often over-reacted to “bad” press. After all, it quickly became yesterday’s fishwrap and last week's fading memory.

Yet I've seen very large corporations getting their underwear in a twist because someone somewhere said something "bad" about their CEO or their products. Without assessing much of anything about the source.

In March 2005, I published: If a Blogger blogs in the Blogosphere . . . does anybody blog it? It addressed similar themes and predicted that there would be even fewer people paying attention to bloggers in the future.

Building a personal blogging brand and cultivating a key readership within such an increasingly noisy media landscape will become increasingly difficult for individuals. We will see consolidation as blogs become group blogs and then become fully-fledged online news magazines.

Four years on, there seems to be ever more people with a vested interest in trying to scare corporations about how unattended online conversations about their brands can blow up into PR disasters. It's true, they can, but it's rare, and as Mark Cuban points out, usually only if it came from an online media personality.

Clearly, there are conversations that have to be monitored and dealt with: either by ignoring or responding. But there seems to be few people within corporations with the ability to distinguish between appropriate action and reaction.

The Future Of PR When Every Company Is Now A Media Company...

[On my recent trip to Portland I caught up with Kathleen Mazzocco from Clear PR. I mentioned one of my old posts (April, 2006) that every company is a media company. Every company has to learn how to publish using the new (two-way) media technologies, to reach their customers, their employees, partners, local communities, etc. And one role of PR is to help companies become media companies and help them tell their stories. Here is more on this theme.]

By Kathleen Mazzocco, Clear PR

I wanted to continue the conversation we'd started regarding the future of PR. It may seem passe at this point to talk about the need for companies to give up the old PR model and innovate on communications. But the reality is that many, perhaps the majority, of companies still want PR budgets focused to land them big stories in leading print publications. But this is a short term game that doesn't even yield the same results as it once did.

Let me continue by recreating a conversation I've had lately with clients:

"It's time. No more quibbling, no more dawdling. In this age of crumbling paradigms, it is time for you to think about how to become a media company.

Here's why: your favorite print media brands are under siege and quite a few will succumb. We have reached the proverbial tipping point in terms of Internet over print as a source of news. For the first time in a Pew Research survey, more people say they rely mostly on the Internet for news than cite newspapers (35%).

The latest recession has merely accelerated a trend that was already well underway and cannot be reversed even after the economy bounces back. Think of the changes this way: your college age children will never read a print newspaper or magazine. The fact is, information consumption habits have permanently changed: news is consumed in small bites 24/7 from a variety of sites and not always as text.   

Instead of media brands, it is now brand-agnostic Google that mediates access to information.

Media guru Michael Wolf recently stated that 80% of newspapers will disappear in 18 months. That is one (expert) opinion, but you don't have to be a seer to know that most newspapers won't survive, at least in their present print form, and that many magazines will disappear, shrink or decline in relevance as audiences shift, fragment. The pressure on editors and reporters to remain relevant, competitive and simply hold on to their jobs is intensifying. The news hole is very small, with simply less paper available for stories and fewer, more overworked reporters left to write them. (There is a certain tech reporter who, after recent layoffs at his paper, was assigned a second beat: dining. Is that demoralizing or what.) If your story does make it to the New York Times or Business Week, chances are it will be shorter than you think it deserves to be, or not even in print but in one of the newspaper's blogs.

It is becoming very difficult for traditional PR to predict which stories will get picked up in print, even among very good ones. As a way of illustrating the current situation, here's what I heard from two different reporters when I pitched what I knew to be great stories last week:

Story continues...


Human Botnets And Twitnets: Procter And Gamble Social Media Charity Experiment Leaves Sour, Soapy Taste

The problem with social media is that if you try to manipulate it for marketing purposes it can blow up in your face and bite you in the butt (mashup metaphor #32).

Take a look at the Procter and Gamble experiment to sell "Tide" t-shirts. Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor at Adweek describes what happened:

This is what was going on last night at the P&G Digital Hack Night, when P&G got a bunch of agency types, media execs and others to troop to Cincy to perform for it. The idea: use social media to get people to buy Tide t-shirts –- some of the proceeds going to Feed America -- with an emphasis on "use." It was cooked up as a marketing exercise for the CPG giant’s army of brand managers to see the true power of social media.

@bmorrissey: The feel-good social marketing bribe

P&G asked people to use a hashtag on Twitter so that they could follow how this campaign developed and then develop marketing methods for using Twitter and other social media to promote hundreds of everyday products.

How did it go? More than 2,000 shirts were sold at $20 each by about 150 "media and marketing people."

Mr Morrissey reports: "This was a marketing exercise, nothing more, yet I wonder if it’s going in the wrong direction."

A lot of people agree. Nick, commenter on @bmorrissey wrote:

150 determined salespeople sold 2000 shirts in four hours? That's 13 each. I've seen better results from bake sales.

Further, I can only imagine most T-shirt buyers will feel suckered pretty quickly, knowing their interest and $20 was converted into a case study for the social media minds they diligently pander to.

But the bigger issue, for me, is the education issue. Clients still don't understand the fundamentals of digital. I hear it time and time again from frustrated companies. It's great P&G wants to help employees understand. But, as a learning exercise, you put 40 invitees into crisis mode to sell T-shirts for four hours? Is frenzied Tweeting the behavior you want to impress on clients as how you work for them?

At least everyone gets to post self-congratulatory blog entries about it.


Foremski's Take:

This is the conundrum facing PR and marketing people on social media. There are lots of PR and marketing gurus on social media. They do very well and they have lots of friends and followers. And they do well because they give out a lot of value. They give out lots of tips and links to information that helps others do their job.

But what happens if you try to convert that audience into an army of followers who are retweeting and blogging commercial messages on the behalf of paying clients? It's like the hackers that create botnets of thousands of infected PCs and then use them to broadcast millions of spam messages. Can you create a human botnet army? Or a Twitnet army?

No you can't, it won't work. And so here we have the conundrum of social media. Yes, you can rapidly gain a large number of "friends" and build a large Twitter following. But if you try to to sell access to that network to commercial enterprises you will run into trouble.

These days many PR firms advise their clients to hire them to build a large Facebook friends or Twitter following. This is not good advice, imho.

Corporations might have the status of an individual person in US law, such as freedom of speech, but in a social media context they will be seen as being in it for themselves with little to share except coupons and discount codes. That's value enough but it's not much more than is already available.

There is clearly value in creating a personal brand in social media but you can only do it by providing lots of value, and do it consistently. You cannot buy a personal brand. So what is the future for commercial brands in social media? What is the future for corporations wanting to buy a social presence?

For example, on Facebook, Seagate asked me to be its friend, to join its fan page etc. It might work if it was Hugo Boss but I'm pretty sure I don't want a social relationship with my hard drive. And I'm pretty sure other people feel the same way.

Commercial brands have to tread carefully in the social media space because missteps get magnified tremendously. I wonder how much the P&G experiment has left a sour, soapy taste in the mouths of many people.

(Hat tip to Gumshoo) Here is a Gumshoo 'toon.'

PR Watch: The Disruption Of The PR Industry And Why Everyone Has Become A Consultant

Silicon Valley companies of all sizes are cutting staff and things are getting worse and this is trend is also hitting the PR community. It almost seems as if everyone has suddenly become a "consultant" at the same time.

In some cases, the "consultants" have been rehired by the companies they used to work for, at a higher hourly rate but with fewer hours per week.

Not everyone is happy with this prospect but it has some benefits. "I was pissed off about it at first, but now I'm coming around to it. It makes it possible for me to make more money and work fewer hours if I can get additional clients," said a former manager at a local PR company.

The PR industry in Silicon Valley appears to be converting to "consultants" en masse. The benefits to PR firms are that they save on payroll and other costs. However, the risk is that PR firms could lose their remaining clients to an army of very competent PR consultants offering services at sharply lower costs compared with PR firms and their higher costs of doing business.

The bad economy is not the only issue affecting the PR industry, there is another trend at work, one that is not a cyclical business cycle.

"No PR firm will be able to justify a monthly retainer of $30,000 just to do media relations and put out a few press releases. The old way of doing PR just doesn't cut it anymore. Even when the economy comes back, the old way of doing PR won't," said a senior person at a large West Coast PR firm.

Foremski's Take:

Wily E CoyoteFor the past several years I've been warning the PR industry that they days of old school PR are numbered, that there has been a fundamental change in the industry. The same technologies and trends that have disrupted the media industry will disrupt the PR industry.

But this fundamental change in the industry was hidden in large part by a good economy -- clients were willing to pay for the old school PR such as the $30K a month retainers, and also pay extra for the new rules PR based on the new media services and technologies available through social media and a plethora of communications channels.

Many people in the PR industry disagreed with me and said that PR companies will be able to transition to the new models without much trouble because they can see the change and would be able to incorporate it into their business model.

I disagreed with that view because of the disruptive nature of media/communications technologies now available. And the chief characteristic of a disruptive technology is that it disrupts. Even if you can clearly see the changes in your industry you won't be able to change fast enough. For example, newspapers see the changes in their industry but can't change fast enough. Same was true for computer companies reacting to the PC. The same is now true for the PR industry.

I always said that the PR industry will only change when it feels the pain of the loss of its old way of making money. No pain no change. These days there is a lot of pain.

- - -

Please see:

October 2007 Wily E Coyote: Traditional PR is Running on Thin Air

March 2006  Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging

January 2006 Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?

Can You Advise Clients On Social Media If You Aren't On Facebook Or Twitter?

Last night I was having drinks with a friend and a lady sitting next to us at the bar joined in once she heard we were talking about Facebook, Twitter, and public relations.

She said she had been in PR for 15 years and was preparing a course to teach MBA students about the importance of PR for business strategies. And she gave some examples of advising clients about social media, Facebook and Twitter.

I asked her if she is on Facebook or Twitter. She said, "No, not personally." But, she said she knew "all about Facebook and Twitter."

I said that you can't advise clients about how they should best use social media such as Facebook or Twitter if you aren't involved in Facebook or Twitter.

She strongly disagreed.

There seemed no sense in continuing that discussion because her position is nonsense.

- You cannot know much about social media by reading about social media.

- If you don't blog, or aren't involved in blogging through reading and commenting, you cannot know about blogging.

- If you don't use Facebook you can't know what is acceptable behavior on Facebook.

- If you don't use Twitter you cannot know what is possible with Twitter.

You cannot get it unless you are in it.

- - -

Please see:

The "Experiential Gap" . . .

PRWatch: PR Firms That Don't Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices

PR Firms That Blog

Guest Post: Bay Area PR Firms Help Non-Profits

Kevin Cheng writes:

As a member of the public relations community in the Bay Area, I love keeping tabs on what some of my favorite PR Firms are doing. Nowadays, a company’s website only tells half the story, rather its online footprint tells me everything I need to know. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – the works – are all part of an agency’s branding, messaging and reputation. And from what I’ve seen, Bay Area PR agencies are some of the best at utilizing the online realm to spread their news effectively.

I was delighted to learn that my agency, Eastwick Communications, along with Hoffman Agency, LaunchSquad, Peppercom, Xenophon Strategies and Weber Shandwick have all booked time on the same day to give back to the community. How? As participants in the Council of Public Relations Firms event for non-profits,“Thriving and Surviving in Uncertain Times: Digital Marketing Techniques for Non-Profits.”

From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday, February 26 at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco digital communication experts from leading PR Firms in the Bay Area will join Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell and Founder of Altimeter Group, Susan Tenby of TechSoup Global and Stacy Bond of AudioLuxe on a panel to share best practices, case studies and techniques for leveraging digital channels to help spread an organization’s message.

It’s not often you get six of the area’s top agencies, let alone coveted social media evangelists and non-profit veterans, in the same room together to share digital communication strategies. With high-level speakers, collaborative content and open Q & A, this unique and cost-effective educational opportunity will cover everything attendees need to know about digital marketing techniques.

The full agenda can be seen here

Click here to register

Thought Leader Interview: - Sabrina Horn Says "Sell Like Hell!"

Sabrina HornMonday evening I caught up with Sabrina Horn, head of the Horn Group, one of my favorite PR mavens. Ms Horn runs one of oldest and feistiest Silicon Valley/New York boutique PR firms and in 17 years in the business she has survived the many ups and downs of the local and global economy.

Obviously, we talked about the financial crisis and how it might affect the PR industry. Ms Horn's response was typical: "If we are heading into a recession, bring it on. We've been here before and we know what to do."

Earlier in the day she addressed the San Francisco office and talked about the potential effects of the financial crisis. "I think its important to let my people know that we know how to handle these types of situations."

She finished the meeting with three four-letter words: Sell like hell!

Ms Horn lives in New York and her agency spans both coasts, with about 45 people and $10m in revenues. Over the past few years she has diversified the company into web development and graphic design--services that help her clients.And now social media is a key driving force for the company.

"Eventually social media will replace a lot of traditional PR but there will still be room for both," says Ms. Horn. And companies need to understand the best combination for their business. She says some clients want to rush into "social media" without considering what it means and the commitment that has to be made.

Every company is a media company . . .

I've often spoken about how every company is now a media company and needs to master the new media technologies at our disposal, such as RSS, blogging, Twitter, social media, etc. But being a media company requires a commitment, it is not a "campaign" that runs for a few months and finishes--it is a long term commitment and not everyone understands this aspect and what that means.

I love to remind people that these are fascinating times for professional communicators, whether they are media professionals or PR professionals because there is so much change going on. There are still so many questions about the best use of the new media technologies. What are the best formats, the best practices? And we all get to figure out how this all works, we all have a hand in helping to create the future.

It is this aspect of the PR business that excites Ms Horn. "I'm fed up with the animosity that you see between some journalists and the PR industry. If they think we don't do anything of value I challenge them to spend two days in our shoes, sitting in on our meetings and seeing what we do."

No one has taken up Ms. Horn's challenge. I said I would do it, I'd love to know more abut how things are done in the PR world.

I look at the PR industry as a partner to what I do. I would not be able to do my job if it wasn't for people in the PR industry paying attention to what I'm writing and offering top CEOs, and pitching interesting stories. My problem is not the many bad pitches, which seem to anger younger journalists, it is all the great pitches that I don't have time to get around to.

Horn Group is one of the PR companies that I'll be watching as one of the thought leaders in a rapidly changing industry--with or without a recession.

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Please see:

Horn Group Weblog

Sabrina Horn: Horn Group Weblog: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

. . . There is this undertone in a lot of blogs that what PR folks do in this role is largely intelligence-free. It is true that if I had a nickel for every time in my 17 years at Horn Group I interviewed a starry-eyed professional who pronounced they “like working with people” I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere. But I’m not. Here’s the deal: to all those nay-sayers, those folks who are dare-i-say-it, too complacent and comfortable, all those jaded Doubting-Thomases, THOSE DAYS ARE GONE. Call it a call to arms, or an all hands on deck to our colleagues in PR. We need to embrace the changes seeping through our walls. The reality is, many of us have been leading the charge for some time now.

. . . Are we doing PR? Yes, and no. Its just that PR has changed and taken on a much broader role as a communications discipline. In fact, with some clients, there are times when the last thing we actually talk about is PR. Now its more about how we can help our clients be “social”. But that’s the new PR of today, and the Communications business of the future. To discuss the many aspects of this topic further, we’re co-hosting a panel discussion with Girls in Tech, date TBD. I also invite you to take Dee Anna’s challenge and come spend a couple days with us. It's inspiring, it's awesome, and if we don’t surprise and delight, I’ll give you a nickel.

Shift Happens . . . A Visit With One of My Favorite PR Companies

Tuesday I met with the San Francisco office of Shift Communications. There was about 50 of us tightly packed into a conference room on the ninth floor of a downtown office building. (Special shout out to Julie Crabill and Kevin Cheng.)

I do a lot of these lunch sessions during which I talk about my experience as a journalist and how media and PR are changing, and continuing to change. I learn a lot from these sessions and I notice how similar the questions are, whether it is from Microsoft's internal communications teams or from large and small PR agencies.

Afterwards I got a rare chance to sit and catch up with Todd Defren, one of the owners of Shift. Todd has been blogging for about as long as I have, more than 4 years (Social Media and Public Relations Consulting – PR Squared). It's always interesting to speak the same language with other bloggers.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation.

- We think of ourselves more as a talent agency than as a PR firm. We put our people through a lot more training and education than we used to do because just one slip up can reflect badly on the entire agency. For example, look at Chris Anderson's list of PR companies that were on his blacklist, Shift was on that because of a slip up by one person out of 110.

- Clients increasingly want coverage by all the bloggers in their sector because they don't know who the most influential bloggers are. It's not enough just to focus on the top 50.

- We are being asked to do a lot more media creation, take a flip video to events, to interview people, etc.

- Social media is the tip of the spear in terms of new business.

- I worry about the changing media landscape and what will happen. The larger media companies will survive in one way or another but I'm not sure about the others.

- --

Please see SVW:

Public Relations is Such a Sensitive Profession . . .

PR is such sensitive profession. Anytime anyone criticizes any aspect of the practice of public relations the industry pays lots of attention along with a lot of mea culpa. If journalists did the same we'd never get any work done.

Jennifer Leggio over at ZDNet has a good account of the latest PR bashing incident: Bloggers vs. PR - the broken record continues to skip

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How to suck up to Chris Anderson in 1000 words or more . . .

Bad PR pitches will continue because:

- many PR firms use juniors to scatter-shoot generic pitches hoping someone will bite.

- the fragmentation of media means there isn't enough time to customize each pitch for each journalist/blogger.

- many PR firms have very small numbers of people with the domain expertise in what their clients do.

Maybe I should publish a white-list of PR people who are doing a great job, pitching excellent story ideas, offering exclusives, arranging interviews with their top CEOs, and generally looking out for me and my product.

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Chris Anderson Sparks Blacklist Debate - We'll Get You A T-Shirt And A Coffee Mug

If you aren't on Chris Anderson's blacklist we can get you on it. For just $75 we will send a press release in your name that has absolutely nothing to do with "Wired" magazine. It is guaranteed to land you at the top of his list or your money back.

Plus, you get a T-Shirt: "I'm on the Wired list how about you?" on the back is your name and several hundred others (only available in black).

And you get a coffee mug with "Chris is steamed" (copyright: Heddi Cundle).

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Chris Anderson's PR Blacklist Backlash - The Long Tail of Bad PR

I'm a huge fan of Mr Anderson, he turned around a sickly magazine and made it into a powerhouse. No question about it, he turned Wired from tired to inspired.

Bad time of the month?

I know the pressures of a monthly magazine, you are going to press, and there are a million details to pay attention to...it is not the best time of the month to deal with useless emails, however... I discussed Mr Anderson's reaction with many people, some PR people, but especially with many veteran journalists. We all receive bad pitches, that's part of our job. We ignore or delete, and then we move on with our day. Not for Mr Anderson, things became personal:

There is no getting off this list. If you're on it and have something appropriate to say to me, use a different email address.

Next Week I'm at Microsoft and then Shift Communications...

This coming Monday I'll be in Seattle talking to nearly 400 internal Microsoft PR people about the changes in media and how these changes affect the practice of public relations.

On Tuesday I'll be back in San Francisco doing the same with the PR practitioners at Shift Communications, one of my favorite PR firms.

Let me know if you'd like me to come in and chat with your internal corporate PR teams or with your agency teams. It is typically a lunchtime talk and I do one or two per month depending on my availability. I'm happy to share what I come across during this historic change in our respective industries -- and I learn a lot too, from these interactions.

Public Relations is Such a Sensitive Profession . . .

PR is such sensitive profession. Anytime anyone criticizes any aspect of the practice of public relations the industry pays lots of attention along with a lot of mea culpa. If journalists did the same we'd never get any work done.

Jennifer Leggio over at ZDNet has a good account of the latest PR bashing incident: Bloggers vs. PR - the broken record continues to skip | Feeds | ZDNet.com

It seems to me that the PR industry takes on criticism in two ways:

1 - it agrees with the criticism and pledges to do better accompanied by donning of hair shirts and self-flailing blog posts that go on and on for pages.

2 - It dismisses the criticism as massively ill informed and the ravings of an idiot..

It is usually 90 per cent number 1.

Whenever I come across such behavior in a friend I know that something is up, that there is a self-esteem issue at work, maybe, and that there must be something deeper going on. . .

The deeper stuff is that things have changed in the PR industry, and they've changed forever. Yet sometimes things look the same as before. And that can be a confusing time.

Some of my friends in the PR industry get upset with me for saying that things have changed. But my saying that things have changed didn't cause it, I'm just saying what I see.

Wily E CoyoteIt is similar to when I became a journalist "blogger" 4 years ago. My friends at the Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News, SF Chronicle, Forbes, Fortune, Reuters, AP, etc would sometimes shoot me cold looks as if, as a "blogger," I was responsible for making their lives a misery, because they now have work longer hours, and live under the threat of job cuts, and they can't go home at 5pm every day, anymore.

The trends in media have nothing to do with me, I'm swept up in the dynamics of this industry the same way as everyone else--I'm trying to deal with the disruption.

What I understood four years ago was: the business model for media had changed forever and it wouldn't return to the old ways, and that is the future for PR too.

The same forces that are dramatically changing, and remaking the media industry, will do the same for the PR industry. Yet that change isn't very visible yet, it is masked. This is because PR is making money with traditional services plus making money selling "new media/social media" services, these are boom times for PR. Change only happens when it hurts to do things the old way, that's why the media industry is changing.

It sometimes seems as if the PR industry is Wiley Coyote chasing the Roadrunner--all is well as long as no one looks down and notices the road has gone, and there is nothing there but gravity and a distant canyon floor.

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Please see:

Chris Anderson's PR Blacklist Backlash - The Long Tail of Bad PR

Raining on the PR industry's parade...

The Press Release is not Dead - More on the SEC Ruling . . .

Last week the SEC said it will release new guidelines concerning its fair disclosure rules, which seek to ensure that material information by public companies is widely distributed as soon as is released. The SEC said that a company's web site could be an adequate way to distribute information. That means that companies might not require the services of news release distributors such as BusinessWire or PRNewswire.

SEC Likely to Change Fair Disclosure Rules - No Need for Press Releases Through Wire Services?

Some commentators have said that this move will kill the press release and that the "social media" release will now come into its own. But such speculation has nothing to do with the SEC moves, which are focused primarily on distribution channels rather than the format of content, which just needs to be "readable.".

Also, the large newswire services will still have a role in distribution except that companies will now likely have a set of options that allow them to meet the SEC FD rules and avoid potential fines or legal actions.

I discussed this issue in the following podcast with Chris Heuer, Brian Solis and Shel Holtz:

For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report

The New Media Release Podcast, episode can be downloaded here, heard directly from this page, or subscribed to via the NMRCast feed. Also, the Apple iTunes subscription is now available here or by searching for NMRCast at the Apple iTunes store under “podcasts.” If you subscribe to the FIR “everything” feed, however, this podcast will not be included.

Content summary:The usual suspects: Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Tom Foremski, and Brian Solis. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced it will unveil new Reg FD rules that allow the use of blogs and web pages in some circumstances to satisfy regulations for fair disclosure. The group discusses the impact on wire services and the social media news release.

AP's Pandora Box: What if Public Relations Companies Adopt the Same Approach?

Associated Press is trying to gain control over how others use its content. And it can, because "fair use" has no legal precedent, at least so far.

Does "fair use" protect five words as AP offers or does it cover as much as anyone wants to quote?

Because AP has raised this issue and it has taken legal steps towards defining this issue, we might very soon get a legal precedent on how much content can be quoted by others without violating copyright.

This could become a Pandora's box and one that should have been kept closed.

Consider this: A company releases a news release but it retains the copyright. You can only use the content if you have the approval of the copyright owner.

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PRWatch: PR Firms That Don't Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices

It is interesting to see more PR firms launching their own blogs. This is good because I've always said that PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren't using it themselves.

One way to check out if a PR firm understands blogging, etc, is to see if they have a blog of their own. Many don't, or if they do, they post very infrequently, and usually after meetings abut what they will blog about. Yet nearly every PR firm offers a new/social media practice to clients and claims that they understand this medium. This is BS imho.

To separate those that say they know all about blogging, but don't do it, I'm going to take a regular look at PR firms and their blogs or lack of them. Also, I'll be looking to see who blogs in those firms, are they junior or senior?

Here is a new blog from the Technology Practice Group at Ogilvy PR: Tech PR Nibbles. Even though Luca and his team, have been blogging a long time it is not to late to start. Seriously. Don't wait. Because if you are not in it you don't know it. And that's the truth, ask any blogger.

Luca Penati wrote the latest post: » Social Media or Socialized Media?

For the past couple of years I haven’t been in a client meeting or industry event where “social media” isn’t mentioned. Forget “mention”: it has been at the core of the discussion. But in all these conversations, what hasn’t been covered is how traditional media, in particular tech press, is evolving, changing, adapting; and what this means for “traditional” tech PR professionals.

Send me examples of PR blogs in the comments section or via email.

Horn Group 17th Anniversary

sabrina_3.jpgHorn Group is one of my favorite PR agencies because of the high calibre of people that work there. Sabrina Horn, the founder, is one of the savviest PR mavens in the industry, and it is always a pleasure catching up with her as she shuttles between here and New York.

Horn Group has been building up its business by offering web site services of all kinds. It is helping its clients succeed online and offline.

Today is Horn Group's 17th Anniversary. Congratulations and here's to the next 17!

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SVW: Interview with Sabrina Horn
Forbes.com Sabrina Horn Video




Edelman: Who Do You Trust? Mainstream Media Trust Soars

Here is a quick look at the latest results of Edelman's annual Trust Barometer. It surveys 3,100 "opinion-elites" in 18 countries (400 Americans.)

American's trust in mainstream media jumps an astonishing 36 per cent to 45 per cent from 33 percent in the prior year.

And business magazines came out on top – with 60% of the American respondents are most likely to turn to business magazines as a source of information about a company or business – vs. just 11% for blogs.

Generation gap defined...

Younger Americans (25 to 34 year olds) were "significantly" more likely to consider the following sources of information to be credible, compared with older Americans: Wikipedia, communications issued by companies, company Web sites, TV talk shows, blogs, social networking sites, and video-sharing sites

Fewer Americans under 35 (50%) are getting information about companies from newspapers than in any other country surveyed.

I'll have the full study very soon with more details...

Edelman is the world's largest private public relations company. Here is CEO Richard Edelman with some more findings:

Here is Richard Edelman's blog 6AM:

...as we seem to be heading toward recession, the goal for business should be to maintain their license to operate. This depends on banking trust capital by running a good business, taking on large societal issues in the context of profit making opportunities and presenting the business case in a transparent and convincing manner.

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Top Flacks and Hacks Gather For Silicon Valley PRSA Gala Dinner

Wednesday evening I'm at the Computer History Museum for the first annual Silicon Valley PRSA Gala dinner, sponsored by Microsoft and Yahoo and featuring a panel of local journalists.

I'm there as a guest of MSFT sitting with Doug Free, Dan'l Lewin and Michael Celiceo. It's a well attended event and I bump into lots of people (Brian Solis, Lish Woodgate, Matthew Podboy, Lisa Croel, Mimi Harris, Tony Obregon, Elke Heiss, and many more...)

On stage Sam Whitmore is the emcee, and sporting a new and very distinguished salt and pepper beard. Ann Winblad then takes over as an excellent moderator of a panel consisting of some of our top local journalists: Jim Goldman, CNBC; Don Clark, WSJ; Victoria Murphy Barret, Forbes; Rob Hof, Businessweek; Robert Scoble, Podtech and Scobeleizer; and the ubiquitous Kara Swisher, All Things Digital.

Some highlights:

On the subject of Facebook and being reunited with old friends, Jim Goldman says:"There is usually a good reason I lost touch with friends 10, 15 years ago."

Kara Swisher likened Google to "the Pablo Escobar" of the tech world. Not sure what she meant by that. She also said she would like to drive a Hummer through the bicycle parking lot at Google. Not sure what she meant by that either, except maybe expressing a backlash to GOOG and All Things Green (as opposed to Digital:-)

Don Clark said he is very skeptical about Silicon Valley being able to save the world through its green tech efforts.

Victoria Murphy said that enterprise IT is back.

Rob Hof wondered about the effect of a consumer downturn on Silicon Valley.

Robert Scoble said that the large Silicon Valley companies are far less interesting than many startups, such as Zoho. He also said it was surprising that Amazon.com has emerged as a leading infrastructure company and that he is meeting many startups that use Amazon's services and don't own a single server.

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Podtech.net will be posting a video of the event.

How to suck up to Chris Anderson in 1000 words or more . . .

Ever since Chris Anderson, the powerful editor-in-chief of Wired magazine's recent momentary lapse in self-composure, in which he publicly blacklisted several hundred PR people for sending him bad pitches, the PR industry has gone into a frenzy of self-flagellation.

Masses of PR bloggers have been writing very long essays and about how Mr Anderson is right, and that the PR sector needs to get its house in order and and eliminate bad PR pitches. It is as if Mr Anderson was the first editor to discover that there are bad PR pitches and brought it to the attention of the world, and now the PR world is going to sort out the problem.

This is BS

Bad PR pitches have been with us since the beginnings of recorded history and will continue to be here. It is what separates the good PR people from the bad ones, and there will always be bad ones.

Bad PR pitches will continue because:

- many PR firms use juniors to scatter-shoot generic pitches hoping someone will bite.

- the fragmentation of media means there isn't enough time to customize each pitch for each journalist/blogger.

- many PR firms have very small numbers of people with the domain expertise in what their clients do.

Pitch perfect problem

Maybe I should publish a whitelist of PR people who are doing a great job, pitching excellent story ideas, offering exclusives, arranging interviews with their top CEOs, and generally looking out for me and my product.

Mr Anderson complained about getting 300 pitches that have nothing to do with Wired magazine. My problem is 300 pitches that are right on target, that demonstrate that the PR people know what I 've been writing about, that are thinking about related stories, and offering top access to their clients.

What happens if your PR pitch is pitch-perfect, it sets exactly the right tone, demonstrates an insight into the subject and the publication, and you still can't get an editor interested in it? That's going to be happening more and more because PR agencies are on a hiring binge while the professional media world is shrinking.

When it comes to media relations, there will be ever larger numbers of PR people, chasing ever smaller numbers of journalists, writing for a dwindling number of publications, which are publishing fewer pages.

Getting media coverage for clients is going to be increasingly more difficult no matter how good the PR pitch.

Top Edelman PR Exec Says Web 2.0 Companies Drunk On Own Kool Aid

steverubel.jpgSteve Rubel is a senior guy at Edelman, the world's largest private PR firm. He wrote a post titled: "The Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid."

He blames the media and advertising!!!

Well, didn't Edelman and hundreds of PR firms hype and hype Web 2.0 companies and continue to do so???

If Mr Rubel feels this way then ethically, he and his colleagues in PR should tell their Web 2.0 clients they don't have a chance. Oh, wait, he just did! (Now give them their money back....)

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Please see Silicon Valley Watcher:

August 2006 - A plethora of Web 2.0 = Way too many Swiss-army-knife-collaborative-platform-technologies

November 2006 - Web 2.Uh Oh Week in SF - Where are the Users?!

November 2006 - Tired of all the 2.0 hype? Here comes Web 3.0

NEW! - Get SVW on your Mobile Phone!

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Raining on the PR industry's parade...

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make the Outcast PR After Hours party Thursday night because I had four back to back meetings and events. But I managed to catch part of it.

I've worked with Outcast for many years so it was good to see familiar faces. And it was also interesting to hear some feedback on my latest posts about the changing economic models for PR, such as my Wiley E Coyote post.

It was quite clear that I had hit a nerve with many of my PR contacts and hopefully they will have the courage to take our discussion online so we can share it with others. Some took my post very personally, as if I were attacking them by name, which I wasn't. I was pointing out clear economic trends, that's all. That's my training as a financial journalist, to follow the flow of money within industry sectors.

The world has changed for both the media and PR industries, except the media sector is a further along in experiencing the painful disruption of those changes. The PR sector will eventually go through similar painful changes. This is not a welcome message when the PR industry is booming, and hiring like crazy.

PR industry parade

The PR industry is happy because revenues continue to climb 9, 10 per cent and more annually. New media technologies offer PR firms new business opportunities, they aren't viewed as a threat. PR firms charge clients for additional services. New media/social media is a very good add-on business in the PR world.

But when clients realize they can meet their PR goals using new media approaches for far lower costs, then why pay for both? They won't. There many that already don't.

This is a trend that will be played out in different ways by different companies but its overall effect will be the same.

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Which PR Firms Are The Road Runners?

Luca Penati from Ogilvy left aninteresting comment on my Wiley E Coyote post about PR firms running on thin air--http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2007/10/wily_e_coyote_p.php">doing PR-as-usual and not noticing their world has changed drastically. As it has for media.

Luca Penati writes:

<blockquote>I think saying that most PR agencies do not get social media is wrong. Social media is new way to engage in conversations with stakeholders. Some agencies and companies mastered this before others, but the key thing to understand is that it has to be embedded in everything we do, and not seen as a separate discipline.
And engaging in conversations with stakeholders is what we have been doing all along.

We are not the coyote. We are the road runner.</blockquote>

ROADRunner.JPGLuca is right, there is some excellent work going on within the PR industry in using the new media technologies to build online communities, and to improve communications between companies and their customers.

Such efforts are very effective if done right. They create tremendous value for clients in many ways.

But there is a massive amount of work still being done around traditional PR. This is an expensive way to reach the same basic goals: improve sales and improve brand perception.

As more companies realize they can get more bang for their buck with new media PR strategies, they will pull more of their money from doing PR the old way. And that's when revenues for PR firms will fall.

And why wouldn't that happen? The new media approaches work tremendously well. And they don't cost as much. I already come across companies that spend tiny sums on conventional PR services and they have been very successful in building their businesses through non-traditional approaches. This is a growing trend. It is not a fad.

I disagree that some PR firms have already mastered the new changes.

We are all at such an early stage in all of this. Technologies such as RSS, CSS, and XML are simple yet incredible powerful media technologies that can be used to publish unique types of media formats, and publish the activities of interactive online communites. RSS should stand for "Relationships Simply Syndicated."

We don't yet know all the things we can create with these technologies, which is great. Because we can all have a hand in creating the future. The changes the PR industry still has yet to go through are similar to the changes that media companies are going through now.

The media business model is being hacked off at the knees or rather the neck.

Established media companies are continuing to lose revenues because of a plethora of new media sites. Those online publishers can offer cheaper advertising, better conversion--plus a ton of free additional metric data compared with traditional advertising. Traditional advertising cannot compete.

Similarly, PR firms will lose revenues because of new media approaches to creating the same basic value: improving sales and improving brand perception.

Yes, Ogilvy is doing some interesting work in new media areas, others are too. I don't have the figures, but I bet that the new media work accounts for a small fraction of overall PR industry revenues.

Not much incentive to change

There isn't much to be gained for PR firms to push new media approaches because it would lower revenues. Except if it is offered as an additional service, which is how it is being sold these days. Much of the PR industry is telling clients to use a dual approach, strap a new media strategy onto a traditional approach.

The PR firms that win will be the ones that kill most of their traditional PR approaches and advocate a new media approach because it is more effective and has a lower cost. That's a hugely disruptive change and it has yet to play out.

It is clear that some PR firms will emerge as Road Runners while others will remain behind as road kill :-)

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Wily E Coyote: Traditional PR is Running on Thin Air

Thoughts on Strumpette Amanda Chapel resignation...

I've long warned the PR industry that it is on borrowed time. The media industry is undergoing traumatic changes yet PR is thriving. Media and PR industry fortunes have always followed each other in lock step.

Wily E CoyotePR today reminds me of the Roadrunner cartoons. The times when Wily E. Coyote is chasing the Road Runner and notices he is running on thin air, at which point he plummets thousands of feet to a distant canyon floor. That's how I envisage the PR industry today--about to plummet from a great height.

Strumpette and Amanda Chapel tried to stir up changes in the PR industry and encourage a new form of PR, by openly discussing ethical issues, and all the unpleasant aspects of knowing how the sausage is made.

But nothing changed despite all the transparency around the process of public relations.

Is this a failure of transparency? Yes. Because nothing changes unless you have to change. And you only have to change when you have to change because things have become fiscally painful. The PR industry is awash with money unlike the media industry, so it doesn't change.

Traditional media is changing rapidly because it can't make money the way it used to make money. That business model is being hacked to pieces.

Advertising is moving rapidly online, and it is moving towards search engine advertising, not journalism.

Selling products and services next to a column of journalism is not as effective as selling next to a search engine query--which magically reveals what you are looking for. This is way more useful to advertisers than revealing what you read.

In the PR world, unlike the media world, the companies are hiring like crazy and still doing business the old fashioned way: press releases, white papers, case studies, media (dwindling) relations, etc, ....

Yes, every PR firm offers "social media" or "new media" services but how many of them practice what they preach in terms of using such technologies to drum up business for themselves? Shockingly few.

It is clear that this old model of PR is going to end. In fact, it has already ended but most PR firms don't know it, just like Wily E Coyote's sudden lack of solid ground...

I keep running across Silicon Valley companies that have spent no money on PR or marketing. Zero dollars.

Slide.com, for example, has managed to attract millions of users for its online apps on Faceback and MySpace for no dollars.

There are many smaller startups who have done the same: zero dollars spent on PR and marketing. They have gotten incredible results from the viral nature of their products, services, and their personal abilities to establish though leadership through blogging and other online engagements.

What happens when venture capitalists start demanding that same type of business strategy from their startups?

Consider this: The whole outsourcing trend to India, Phillipines, etc, was significantly boosted by the VCs and their demands that their startups take advantage of the economic benefits from an outsourcing strategy. As a startup, if you can't show you have a viable outsourcing strategy in your business plan, you won't get funding.

Next: Startups will have to show VCs that they have a viable viral marketing and distribution strategy. That means cutting out about $120k to $200K of annual expenditures for basic traditional PR services for a startup.

And larger companies will be tapping into this same trend. They will be cutting back on traditional PR services and investing in their own viral marketing methods. I already see this about to happen at big companies such as Intel (an SVW sponsor), Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, IBM, and this trend will grow.

Dell, for example, recently hired Andy Lark, one of the top new media strategists in SIlicon Valley, imho. What do you think Dell intends to do with that hire? It won't be marketing-and-PR-as-usual, that's for sure.

No Pain, No Change

Change in the PR industry will happen because the old ways won't be as good, or as cost effective as using new media technologies to publish and engage customers. Traditional PR doesn't provide the same bang for the buck.

It is when the PR industry feels the same pain that mainstream media is feeling right now, a kick in the pants to its core revenues, is when change will happen. But without pain, no change.

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Strumpette Editor Resigns - Changing PR?

Amanda Chapel, the nom de plume of the managing editor of Strumpette, a site that seeks to change the way PR has been done by exposing many of the inside tricks and ethical issues, has resigned.

Practically speaking, I fought the good fight. I've variously made my points. Together, we've exposed a few frauds and killed countless sacred cows. Together, we've done something PR professor Bill Sledzik describes as "historic." A little hyperbole perhaps but I do know we have made it safer to rail against the hypocrisy in our business.

BUT now I am tired; and now regrettably, I seem to spend all my time revisiting the same battles previously won.

http://strumpette.com/archives/612-STRUMPETTE-EDITOR-CALLS-IT-QUITS.html

Foremski's Take: PR won't change until it has to. Until it feels the economic pain. Media is changing because its economic model is changing and it is painful to stay the same. PR doesn't have the same pain. New media and social media are options, and not considered necessary, along with changing the ethics of the business.

No change because no pain, imho.

A Reader Writes: The Death of the Press Release Won't Happen

[I recently received an email from a reader in reference to my infamous post: "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!"]

By Harry Zane

I am retired from a career that began in journalism, turned to PR, then to marketing, and finally to consulting. And I agree wholeheartedly with what you said in your column. However, I am astonished that in 2007, PR is still slogging lower and lower into a press-release and press-conference tactical miasma.

I think the media, despite their constant carping about their dislike of press releases, are largely responsible. Many years ago, while working at a major university, I can recall a meeting of journalists and educational PR pros when the biggest complaint was that we PR folks sent out too many press releases. So we cut back, and the first complaints came only weeks later – from reporters, who couldn't understand why we were pitching stories without sending them "press releases."

I recall as well some 25 years ago working at a then major technology firm in Massachusetts when I had to fight endlessly with my peers and executives to keep the self-absorbed, self-unaware nonsense out of press releases. My "reward" was praise from the editor of the biggest industry trade journal. He really liked my releases because, as he said, they were brief and contained "no bullshit."

I took little comfort from his attaboys, however, since he ran unedited the competition's endless column inches of yammering right next to, or well above and ahead of, mine (the longer copy, rather than concise content, better fit his need for lead story layouts), creating the impression to casual readers (most trade journal readers are) that the competition had more to say than my company. Needless to say, this didn't sit well with the puffery-spouting peers and execs I'd just vanquished, either.

The reason, of course, for his actions are entirely explicable. His was a labor-intensive business, and he needed the free copy. Such is the fate of all media today: copy, no matter how untrue, uninformative, or unbecoming the author, trumps solid content.

PR people won't stop creating press releases because PR people, be they consultants, or employees will not stop serving the pleasure of their benighted bosses and clients; most media will continue to take content anywhere they can find it for little or no cost; and reader expectations for something better will continue to spiral downward with the whole sorry mess.

You are obviously a dedicated journalist with healthy amounts of skepticism and ambition. Your idea is sensible, laudable, and intelligent, but I don't see it happening. Ever.

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PR Watch: Horn Group To Keynoters - Get a Clue!

Sabrina Horn, head of Horn Group, Silicon Valley's top independent PR firm, says she has heard too many sales pitches from conference keynoters from large IT vendors--and they are making a mistake.

...you appear almost defensive when you only talk about yourself and your products in these keynotes...

Ms Horn suggests...:

Audiences today really want to hear what you think about the industry and where it's going. What should we be worried about? What are you worried about? Where are our opportunities? What are your ideas? The dirty little secret is, if you did that, we'd probably like you more and want to buy even more from you.

Link to Horn Group Weblog: Get a Clue!

 

I agree. A CEO makes a keynote speech at large conference and delivers a sales pitch?! What a wasted opportunity.

A sales pitch can be delivered in a video, an advertisement, it shouldn't be delivered in a keynote. I usually skip them because 95 percent of the time they are sales pitches--and I know plenty of other journalists and bloggers that do the same. 

A Keynote Is A Unique Opportunity

At conferences, a cavernous, cathedral-like room is filled with thousands of people in a darkened space happy and willing to be there. It is a perfect setting to deliver an experience, something hard to forget.

Apple is very good at this sort of thing. I remember several MacWorld keynotes from Steve Jobs and guests that were unforgettable. (One of them was when Mohammed Ali was there, just a few feet away from me.)

Congratulations To Text 100 On Its 25th Anniversary

I have a lot of respect for the PR firm Text 100 because I grew up in this business with Mark Adams, one of the co-founders of the company. I used to work with Mark when Text 100 was just a two man shop.

At the time, in 1981, I was working as a reporter for Computing, the largest weekly trade newspaper. In those days trade print publications were extremely competitive, profitable and employed lots of journalists.

Mark represented Microsoft, which was when Microsoft wasn't yet Microsoft, it wasn't much at all.

Microsoft was trying to establish its MS-DOS, and was up against Digital Research with its much better known CP/M operating system.

That was the battle, and we now know the outcome, but at the time MSFT was the underdog.

It's strange to think of Microsoft as the underdog but that's the way it was and that's what made the story interesting: can plucky Microsoft beat Digital Research?

How many PC makers support MS-DOS versus CP/M? How many applications run on MS-DOS? These were some of the key metrics that we reported on, who has more oems, who has the developer community?

And in those days Digital Research had the upper hand, there were times the future looked bleak for Microsoft...

SOHO Times

Mark and I were both young and just starting our respective professions, both of us discovering how to do what we were supposed to be doing. Those were fun years, living and working in central London.

Computing's offices were in the middle of Soho. The streets of Soho at the time were gritty and urban, but full off some of the best hidden jewel restaurants, bars, clubs, and pubs...

From Text To Next

Text 100 grew up quickly and became part of Next Fifteen Communications Group, with 800 staff and a publicly traded company. It includes well known PR firms: Bite PR, August One, and Outcast Communications. Plus it has a stake in the innovative tech policy PR firm 463 Communications.

Tim Dyson the chief executive of Next Fifteen, would sometime reminds me of the time when he used to pitch press releases to me when I was working at Computing...(!) 

I'd like to congratulate Text 100 on its 25th Anniversary.

And I want to interview Tim and ask him his plans for the next 25...

Tim Dyson's Blog: A view on PR from Silicon Valley

 

_ _ _

Additional Info:

Tom Lewis and Mark Adams met in 1980 at Interco Business Consultants, a London PR agency. By early 1981, they were discussing the business principles for starting a new agency and, in June of that year, left Interco to form Text 100, the first company in what has now become Next Fifteen Communications. The company commenced trading in July 1981 and was legally registered on August 13th, 1981, the same day the IBM PC debuted in the United States.

http://www.nextfifteen.com/about.html

...

Next Fifteen is a holding company for a number of leading PR businesses. From its start-up origins in 1981 Next Fifteen concentrated on organic growth, building up over 30 operations all over the world from the ground up.

Next Fifteen Communications

...

Text 100 Public Relations a PR Consultancy

...

Next Fifteen Communications Group plc

SYMBOL:
NFC.L

YEAR FOUNDED:
1981

# OF EMPLOYEES:
800

CORPORATE ADDRESS:
5 Albion Court
Galena Road
London W6 0QT
United Kingdom

OFFICERS/BOARD MEMBERS:
Will Whitehorn - Chairman
Tim Dyson - Chief Executive Officer
David Dewhurst ACA - Finance Director
Tom Lewis - Non-Excecutive Director
Brendan Magee - Non-Excecutive Director
Ian Taylor - Non-Excecutive Director
Mark Sanford - Company Secretary

MANAGEMENT TEAM:
Next Fifteen Communication’s senior management team comprises: Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text 100; Sarah Howe, Managing Director of AUGUST.ONE; Clive Armitage, CEO of Bite; Grant Currie, Managing Director of Inferno, Caryn Marooney and Margit Wennmachers, founders of OutCast; Hugh Birley, Chief Executive of Lexis.

VISION STATEMENT:
Next Fifteen Communications believes public relations will become the principal form of consulting used by all marketing departments around the world. By offering a complete range of PR services through a portfolio of PR businesses, Next Fifteen Communications aims to be one of the world's leading public relations groups. Next Fifteen Communications will retain a core specialization in technology-related businesses, as it firmly believes this market will drive best practice both for consumer and business-to-business marketing.

Story continues...


Which PR Agencies Are Doing A Good Job Using Social Media, Digital Communications?

I was asked this question by one of my readers in Russia. Is it the large PR agencies or the smaller boutique agencies that are best at using digital communications and social media?

My reply was that while some of the agencies have pockets of knowledge and experience within them, generally, none of them, large or small, are using digital communications and social media well, or even reasonably well.

Yet they will all tell you, and their clients, that they have an experienced practice in new/social media.

If a PR company is not using social media to effectively promote and market itself--then how can it do it for its clients? It can't.

Show me a PR agency that has bloggers amongst its top execs and also across levels within its organization. And is using podcasting and vidcasting to represent itself.

Show me a PR agency that does that, and you will have shown me a PR agency that "gets" social media and digital communications.

There is no "generational gap" in understanding these things, there is an "experiential gap."

The only way you can know how to use these digital communications effectively is by doing. It is not something that you can read about and then do it.

(PS: There are a couple of smaller agencies that get it but they are very rare.)

Day 20: MSFT's PR agency doesn't get blogging, at least in Europe

It is Day 20 and still no word from Paul Abrahams, the head of European operations for PR powerhouse Waggener Edstrom, following his public announcement that he doesn't "get blogs."

Mr Abrahams slammed the BlogoSphere in an article for PR Week in the UK, and then took off for a long vacation.

I wrote about whether it was a smart move for one of the PR industry's top executives to admit to such a blind spot. After all, PR agencies are busy creating "new media practices" to show off to clients that they really, really, do understand blogs and blogging. Apparently not all of them do and I respect Mr Abrahams' honesty.

From PR Week (Subscription required.)

Blogs: Smokey and the Bandit Part 4?
Paul Abrahams - 31 Aug 2006

Is blogging the 21st-century equivalent of citizen band radio, the personal radio technology that became so popular in the late 1970s that it was included in a Coronation Street plotline and spawned a generation of bad Burt Reynolds 'Good Ol' Boy' movies?

Source: Microsoft's PR agency admits it doesn't "get" blogs!

Just a couple of hours after I wrote my post, his colleague, Frank Shaw, one of the earliest PR bloggers, did the right thing and jumped right into the discussion by posting comments and posts to try to quell any negative publicity.

Mr Shaw did this while in the middle of moving his family and home to Seattle. I'm sure he'd rather be doing something else.

Mr Shaw expected Mr Abrahams to jump into the conversation. Especially since this subject was picked up by a lot of people in Silicon Valley and in the UK. Robert Scoble, a former Microsoft blogger and one of the top names in the blogosphere wrote about it, and so did many others in Silicon Valley and in the UK.

There were many offline, private conversations on this subject--yet there is still no word from Mr Abrahams nearly three weeks after his provocative column. Maybe I just assumed he wanted a debate? Or maybe he is still on vacation, (European vacations typically run to at least six weeks per year and sometimes more for senior executives.)

I'm keen to get this discussion moving forward. This is a perfect opportunity to help those that don't "get it."

There are two ways to respond to negative publicity events: one is to move right away, as Frank Shaw aptly demonstrated (he "gets" blogging because he blogs) by jumping into the online conversations as soon as you can. The second way is the keep your head down and "wait-for-it-to-blow-over" strategy.

We have here the potential for a classic case study that offers both approaches from within the same PR firm. Which one do you think will work best?

[Will Frank get here first before Paul . . . :-) ]

PR Firms That Blog

I keep saying it, don't trust that your PR firm knows how to deal with bloggers and the blogosphere unless they have some knowledge and practical experience. You cannot "get it" unless you do it.

Here is a list of early pioneers from the Bivings Report. BTW, even if you start blogging now, you will still become an early pioneer, we haven't yet begun ...  :-)

Waggener Edstrom
April 1, 2003

Burson-Marstellar
July 26, 2004

Edelman
September 24, 2004

Hill & Knowlton
December 2, 2004

Schwartz Communications
January 1, 2005

MWW Group
January 9, 2005

Manning Selvage & Lee
April 27, 2005

Horn Group
May 12, 2005

Ketchum
September 27, 2005

Ogilvy PR

 

 

Link to PR Firms That Blog: Who Got There First » The Bivings Report

 

Update: Trevor Jonas from Bite Communications says Bite has been blogging since February 2005. http://blog.bitepr.com/

Bob Angus replaces Pam Pollace at Edelman

A few days ago, Pam Pollace, the former head of Intel's corporate communications was replaced as head of Edelman's (Edelman is a sponsor of SVW) global technology practice by Bob Angus. Mr Angus was head of A&R Partners, which was acquired by Edelman in late May.

Ms Pollace has left to work with the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation as communications director. Gordon Moore is one of the co-founders of Intel and the foundation is one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Silicon Valley.

The move is designed to build up the number of Edelman technology clients, especially in Silicon Valley where A&R is based. As Silicon Valley companies become large global entities Edelman hopes to win business because of its global presence. Joining Mr Angus:

Managing Director of Technology in London Jonathan Hargreaves, and Managing Director of Edelman Southeast Asia Bob Grove. Bob Angus, who joined Edelman when the firm acquired A&R Partners in May, will chair the new leadership team.

However, there are fewer large technology companies these days in Silicon Valley because of mergers and acquisitions. Edelman will have to show that it can also be effective representing smaller companies in its bid to build up its Silicon Valley presence.

Horn Group's salon on top of the Clift

Not-Always-On_logo.gifWe live in an AlwaysOn world, Tony Perkins was right. I just wish he had named it AlwaysOn- except- Friday- afternoons- and- most- of- the- weekend- until- Sunday- evening.

This week has been very interesting and very always-on, especially Wednesday. Here's a 24-hour slice, published in parts between running around SF/Silicon Valley and trying to be a dad too.

Missed Voce

Tuesday evening I was hoping to get down to the Voce Communications summer event in Palo Alto but I just couldn't get away from the demands of my blogs. I like the Voce people: Mike Manuel is one of the few top PR bloggers not [yet] working for Edelman; co-founder Rich Cline and Matthew Podboy plus colleagues Dave Black, Janet Martin and many others I've worked with on stories.

I like the Voce people because they cottoned onto this new/social media stuff early on. Mike Manuel and Matthew Podboy and myself, are also part of the think tank: Society for New Communications Research, co-founded by Jen McClure, the Executive Director. The think tank group consists of some of really interesting and diverse people that have been involved in the early roots of this new media evolution.

Over at the Clift

I couldn't get to Voce but I did manage to get to the Horn Group's salon Tuesday evening at the top of the Clift hotel because it was only about about a mile or so from where I live. The Horn Group is celebrating 15 years in business and Sabrina Horn, the founder was there. She's been based in New York the last three years so it is interesting to hear her talk about some coastal differences and similarities. [I have an interview ready to roll with Ms Horn from last week.]

I caught up with some of my contacts from RightNow Technologies, which is one of the top CRM firms and run by one of my favorite CEOs Greg Gianforte.

I also came across Transera, which provides a virtual call center in the cloud - VOIP powered of course. I met Trensera's Prem Uppaluru CEO and co-founder who told me that selling his service to telcos is easy because they don't have to make any capital investments. It's a performance based business model.

However, working with telcos must be a bit tricky, because if you are successful, they will try to reverse engineer your business or change the revenue split. And they have plenty of IP laying around, plus lawyers, plus deep political contacts on the Hill, that they can use in various ways to their benefit.

I also ran into Jamie Lerner, CEO of CITTIO, an any-type-of-network-monitoring software company. Jamie was beaming because he is a recent dad, and just celebrated his first Father's Day--congratulations! It's always good to chat with Jamie, his HQ in San Francisco is truly a unique space, more "old western" than newdot[com]. And it has a working bar or two too(!)

Sabrina Horn spoke a for a few minutes and she talked about the changes happening in the PR industry and the challenge of change, which was refreshing because too many times agencies nod their heads about new media yet continue doing business as usual.

I spoke for a few moments about the challenges in the professional media sector and also pointed out that these are good times to be in the media and communications business.

At no other point in our professional lives will we experience the media/comms industry in such disruption. So this is a chance to do new things, try new things, and help create the rules, the formats, and the definitions of the new media/comms sector that will hold for the next decade and maybe beyond. That's very exciting, IMHO.

After the Horn Group event I managed to spend some time with a friend who knows nothing of my industry, the people, or about SVW. It's always good to add some balance to the company we keep and I'd love to add more of it.

[Part 2 follows on Wednesday.]


Happy 15 year anniversary to the Horn Group!

The Horn Group is one of Silicon Valley's largest independent PR firms. It has been cropping up on my radar screen a lot more in the past two years as it has added people and has collected a solid enterprise software client list.

I've been promised an interview with Sabrina Horn, the founder, and we'll find out what trends she and her collegues are watching, and where the company is heading.

IT Reporters Rank Horn Group Best Mid-Sized Firm

Please see SVW : The time Sabrina almost danced on a table...

Edelman grabs top slot in Silicon Valley PR


Edelman, the world's largest privately held PR firm late last week announced it had acquired A&R Partners--a deal that creates Silicon Valley's largest PR firm.

It's part of a series of aggressive, strategic moves by Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman. Mr Edelman has also been acquiring the PR industry's top bloggers, such as Steve Rubel, who writes Micro Persuasion, and Phil Gomes. Plus a recent deal with Technorati will extend Edelman's ability to monitor the blogosphere internationally.

The acquisition of A&R comes at a time when the demand for PR services is rising rapidly as Silicon Valley VC firms fund a new generation of what some call "Web 2.0" companies. The large number of such companies is increasing the noise level which makes it difficult for them to attract attention without professional help.

Large Silicon Valley tech companies are also increasing their PR spend as traditional forms of advertising are slipping in their effectiveness because of the turmoil in the media sector. Traditional and trade media publications are transitioning to online business models but the change is disruptive and there are fewer publications.

Public relations is potentially more cost effective than some forms of advertising. Intel recently boosted its PR spending with several deals spanning its global markets.

Pam Pollace, who used to head Intel's communications team is now at Edelman as director of the US Technology Practice.

Here are some of the details from the press release:

Story continues...


Tossing midgets is not funny unless...

Midget tossing in the PR BlogoSphere (BS) is Strumpette's latest button pushing post. It's hilarious, especially when you know the (alleged) midgets. [Phil Gomes is a good sport.]

midgets.gif

It's a shame Strumpette is a composite character, I'm told "she" is made up of several people. In fact, various people have been approached to write "Strumpette" occasionally. And some even suspected that I was writing Strumpette in between writing here on SVW, at ZDNet, AlwaysOn, and on San Francisco Chronicle's Tech Chronicles; and in between running around Silicon Valley getting exclusive interviews and the occasional scoop.

I really admire the elegant social design of Strumpette, the button pushing is expertly done, displaying an innate understanding of the PR industry and its characters. It is definitely an "inside job."

My younger alter-ego used to dream of meeting someone like her. We could have run off together and taken on the world; with one well-aimed-between-the-eyes-blog-post-at-a-time. No one would be safe.

Obviously, we'd offer protection to our friends and allies... ;-)

Guest Column: Who shouldn't blog in the PR industry?

By Daniel Bernstein for Silicon Valley Watcher

Richard Edelman totally spoiled ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’ for me.

Edelman, well-respected president and CEO of Edelman PR Worldwide, wrote a blog post this last Monday recommending a few ways our industry can work towards improving how we’re portrayed in film and television. He references Jim Carrey’s latest, Fun with Dick and Jane, in which the comic portrays an underdog communications executive that eventually outsmarts everyone and becomes an unlikely hero to the defenseless everyman. I haven’t seen it.

Edelman asks, “How can we build on this new Hollywood persona, the action-hero PR person? Or better yet, how can we offset the negative images of the mealy-mouthed apologist in the Constant Gardner or the cynical opportunist in Thank You for Smoking?”

Story continues...


Case study: The elegant social engineering design of Strumpette wreaks havoc in the PR BlogoSphere

Amanda Chapel is a real character if not a real person, and the content on Strumpette is real. In an inaugural post, Ms Chapel baited the top PR blogger Steve Rubel who works at Edelman.

This is becoming an interesting case study on how to react to negative news/opinions, especially if one or more of the participants are fictional. Usually, the strategy would be to focus on the source (Strumpette) and correct any inaccuracies, address any negative comments right there at the source through comments and trackbacks.

Edelman's people have tried to do that but so far, have failed to do much that isn't fueling things the wrong way. And that is largely because of the marvelous social engineering design of Strumpette. Take a look at "Edelman Gang Gets Rough with Strumpette"

We could get some best practices out of this very interesting situation, one that has an array of moral and ethical high grounds occupied and fought over with zest and extra-hardened fingernail polish...:-) In which some of the participants could be of questionable gender and questionable morals. Let the questions continue--it is marvelously entertaining--but is anybody working in PR?

Howard High-Intel's leading PR chief is retiring this Friday

Howard High, one of Intel's top PR leaders and communications strategists is retiring after 27 years. I've worked with Howard for nearly 20 years and to me, he has always represented the very best qualities of Intel and of his profession.

I'm glad Howard gets out to play :-)

Here is his note:

Story continues...


Tivo: The great failure of viral marketing (and Naked Conversations?)

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Viral Marketing.jpgI was sitting in Harrington's chatting with Julie Crabill and her colleague Khristine Valdez from Shift Communications Thursday evening, and we were talking about this and that, and viral marketing came up. And it struck me that viral marketing was a huge failure when it came to Tivo.

Tivo received a tremendous amount of viral marketing--I heard about it from enthusiast friends of mine for several years before I bought one and became a convert, and a viral marketer. Yet, despite my friends/colleagues passion for the device, and despite the fact that they are peers (high on Edelman Trust Barometer)--I didn't "get" Tivo, until I got one.

To put it another way, I didn't dig it until I got it.

That's not the way viral marketing is supposed to work, I should have become a customer years earlier. And I know many others who are late to Tivo despite massive amounts of positive viral marketing.

And this is a phenomenon that i see a lot. Viral marketing is not all that it's supposed to be. It is usually hailed as the holy grail in marketing because it is free marketing. Yet viral marketing also can produce an opposite reaction, sometimes conscious and sometimes not. It can cause a determination not to buy. For example, going to a movie or reading a book or seeing a TV show that everyone loves.

Is it equal parts positive to negative when it comes to the benefits of viral marketing? I would guess a 70 to 30 per cent split in favor of positive. What would you say?

- - -

BTW, Tivo could have become the Netscape web browser to the TV--instead it thought it was a box maker.

Most recently, it has switched to an annual subscription/commitment model instead of month-to-month payments. Why would someone hand over an annual payment or make a year-long commitment to a company struggling to find its way? Shouldn't Tivo remove obstacles to gaining customers and make it as easy-as-pie to be a subscriber?

How does public relations work in the blogosphere?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I took part in a Bulldog Reporter teleconference this morning, on the subject of Blogger PR and it was a record turnout, more than 80 leading PR agencies and corporate communications organizations called in, each with maybe two dozen people or more at each location.

The panel included Shel Israel of It Seems to me, Alice Marie Marshall of Technoflak and Jeremy Pepper of Pop!PR blog. We covered a lot of ground in the ninety or so minutes and we were all agreed on most points. And that was because we all have extensive experience of being involved in the blogosphere (I prefer mediasphere).

We heard a lot of the same questions I hear wherever I go, such as: who are the influential bloggers? How do we deal with negative posts? How do we measure how we influence the influencers? And many more...

I was the only one on the panel that is working as a journalist blogger. I do not work in public relations, I am the target of public relations. And in that capacity I am happy to share what works, what doesn't, and offer some good practices for PR.

And we all agreed on one key point: the best way to find out who is influential in your sector is to get involved in the online conversations either by blogging, monitoring, or commenting.
(Please see SVW: The metrics of influence.)

Every company to some degree, is now a media company. Every company constantly publishes stories and has conversations: within its own organization, with its peers, with its communities, with its potential hires, with its customers. Make sure that those conversations are honest and truthful.

And let go of the out dated attitude of control, or the idea of controlling a message. You have no control over how the world will "tag" you or your company. The only place you have control is with yourself, and that means that you are consistent in the things that you say, the things that you converse with the world.

I love this blogging format and I love sharing what I've learned so far. And there is a tremendous amount that we are still learning, and a tremendous amount of answers that we don't yet have--and that adds to the fun part.

I will help individuals, non-profits and educational organizations become more effective communicators. And I will help PR agencies, corporations--any commercial organizations-- figure out how to tell their stories, and have honest, truthful conversations. And also how to best use these media technologies, such as blogging, RSS, and wikis, to enable direct communications.

I have no interest in spin or marketing: those are concepts that belong in the last century.

If you need me to give a talk, or come in and speak with your teams about the many questions and issues out there, then please contact the non-profit think tank, of which I am a founding fellow, at the Palo Alto based Society for New Communications Research and its founder, Jen McClure, at 650-387-8590. There is a fee for commercial organizations, which helps to fund our work with non-profits and educational institutes.

Guest column: The lack of transparency among leading PR bloggers is a problem

By Daniel Bernstein

Transparent-PR.jpgIndividuals are blogging in every profession, but one profession where citizen journalism seems to have caught on like warm cookies is Public Relations.

Maybe the popularity of the PR blogger isn’t that surprising to most people. For many of us, leaping to bloggerdom is a rather small leap because of the skills we share with journalists, like writing ability, basic smarts, wit, etc. I mean, scores of individual PR professionals blog regularly, most notably Edelman’s Steve Rubel, but there are many others, from fellow PR neophyte Blake Barbera of Horn Group to industry luminaries like Next Fifteen’s Tim Dyson and Richard Edelman. It also shouldn’t be surprising then that we, like many journalists, could become big-time influencers, especially given the profile and reputation of Dyson, Rubel, Edelman and the like.

I’ve been taught from a very young age to be skeptical of those influencing me...

Story continues...


650 words on the beauty of simple messages simply said

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

The best stories have a beautiful simplicity. And this blogging medium has revealed a tremendous amount about how we consume and express ideas.

One revelation is that our minds comprehend things one at a time, and we will quickly forget whatever wasn't first, or last. Therefore it is best to say one thing and say it many times.

I used to think that fitting more information into an 800 word news analysis was a good goal. The challenge that I adored was how to explain the many strategic nuances of markets and large companies in a way that covered the entire waterfront. In just 600 to 800 words.

My thinking has changed over the past two years, especially since I left the Financial Times to become a journalist blogger. I learnt a lot at the FT, and I have learnt a lot from the blogging community--and I am a better journalist and person because of this.

One of the things I learned is that less is more. In print, we would would have to "fill" a 400 word news story or a 2400 word feature--we were filling space with lots of related information. In the online world, where there is infinite space, brevity is rewarded. There is no need to stretch a 200 word news story into 450 words just because the page has been reformatted for the next edition and there is just 30 seconds before it is sent to the printer.

In the online world, less is more; plus keep things simply direct. And don't afraid to say the same thing as many times as seems fit.

Journalists used to laugh and bemoan USA Today. When it launched, my colleagues would point to the 100 word news stories, the 600 word features. Where were the 8,000 word New Yorker type analytical pieces that you could get your teeth into? To its critics, USA Today represented the dumbing down of America, it was sound bites in print.

But now, I would say USA Today was way ahead of its time. USA Today should receive recognition for its understanding that the best way to communicate important ideas is to communicate just one thing, and to do it as simply as possible.

Case Study

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New blogs launched from SF Chronicle, HP Labs; a creative Ruckus; and the new media hackers...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Al Saracevic, a senior editor at the San Francisco Chronicle has launched a tech blog called The Tech Chronicles. Take a look at www.sfgate.com/blogs/tech and get involved.

. . .

Dave Berman, who runs media communications for HP Labs has launched a blog called HPLablog to help disseminate information on HP Labs projects.
Mr Berman says:

I've launched HPLablog, http://h20325.www2.hp.com/blogs/hplab, with the intent of providing you with timely information about what's going on in HP Labs. I intend to post entries weekly, if not more often. Over time, other HP Labs researchers will also contribute to it.

The blog is intended to inspire ideas for stories, either about HP Labs or a technical trend in which HP Labs (I hope) will play a part. This first entry, "The Silence of the Labs," will give you a sense of what I'm up to. Don't say you weren't warned.

I know that last thing the world needs is yet another blog, but a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I used to write a newspaper column. I hope you'll find HPLablog stimulating, or at least entertaining. For me, it's cheaper than therapy.

. . .

When there is not much news around, create a Ruckus :-) Here is some creative corporate blogging from Ruckus Wireless: So we then began matching up CEOs, trying to predict the outcome of an 8-round, industry-sanctioned bout. Here were some of our match-ups and decisions:

Meg is a better technical fighter and breaks Carly's nose with a hard left early in the fight. But Carly has a quicker jab and a stronger will to win. After the nose incident in the first, Carly gets to work in the second. She goes to the body then to a voracious jab. Fiorina's long reach and stamina just can't be matched by Whitman. This fight goes the length with the judges scoring the bout: 5-3, 6-2, 5-3 - Fiorina.

Read the rest here...Fight Night at Ruckus

. . .

Tom Vendetta tests out the mediasphere by issuing a fake press release announcing that he is Google's youngest hire--and huge numbers of media outlets fall for it.

These are the new script kiddies, the new 15 year old media hackers. And it is only going to get more interesting...

http://tomvendetta.be/

The metrics of influence--the mania for measuring the blogosphere

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

AudienceMeasure.jpgThere is a current mania among corporations and PR companies to figure out which tools to use to find the influencers in the blogosphere. They are combing through the PageRank and Alexa rankings of online news sites and blog sites, figuring out who has the audience, who do they try to engage in a conversation about their clients. It's PR 101.

I am often asked "which blogs are the important ones, which ones should we be paying attention to, which ones should we be reading?" I can give you a decent list, but you should be able to figure that out yourselves.

In fact, you will come to know the important bloggers because they will be the ones that your peers share with you. As blogging moves out of the Geek communities and into many more sectors, that sharing principle is how influential blogs become created and distributed and that is how you will recognize the leaders.

Finding the right metrics to measure a blog's value as an influencer will never be as simple as measuring numbers of links, comments, trackbacks, Alexa rank, Technorati rank, etc. Because you have to understand the context of each blog and how it fits into its online communities. And you can only do that by being involved in those communities, online and offline.

Let me say it again: the best way to figure out who the important bloggers are in your sector is to go into the online communities as a participant. It'll become apparent very quickly.

I'm lucky to be be publishing a popular and influential news blog. Yes, I'm happy that the numbers are very good, but I don't look at them that often. The metrics that please me the most is when I hear back from readers, from emails, from comments.

What I love the best is when I meet people, from the trenches to the boardroom, and they tell me "I read you and I share you with my team." That's the kind of feedback that energizes me and makes me feel that I have one the best jobs in the valley.

Transparancy chatter is a current fashion. . .

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

There has been a lot written recently on the subject of transparency in media, PR and blogging. Josh Hallett over at Hyku blog has a nice roundup.

Media organizations/blogs are already very transparent. You can see who is advertising and you know who the blogger works for. Thus when Robert Scoble blogs about MSFT, the monetary connection is transparent yet it doesn't detract from his passion or his views.

Do people want to peek into the PR pitching and story-production-process? I doubt it, it's boring but hey, if they have the time on their hands let them check it out.

I often write and speak on the topic of how news is written and how PR companies attempt to manipulate the press through many strategies. I think it's useful to know how the media sausage is made, and this is a form of media literacy that we should be teaching in the schools.

But I'm not sure there is much usefulness in having access to every minute of my day--who I interact with, where I ate lunch (today at Town Hall--guest of Horn Group and their clients RightNow Technologies, Collabnet, and MySQL.)

I sometimes publish the pitches sent to me, but only if they are well written. Sometimes the pitches will be better than the press release that is sent out. And I will publish more about how the sausage is made because there is a tremenous amount of misunderstanding at how media is produced.

One of the ways PR companies manipulate the press is through granting or refusing access to their top executives. This is part of the belief that they must control a company message and punish those that seem hostile. Let's make such processes and attempts at manipulatin transparent.

This is very much old rules thinking and doesn't work anymore. The new rules approach is let go of trying to control the client's message and the interaction with the media.

I don't like to be manipulated and I don't know any other journalist who likes that kind of behavior. I get fantastic access to Silicon Valley's top executives which is great, but I don't require it to do what I do.

Fortunately, top execs seek me out, they want access to my readers, which is wonderful. But smaller publications are easier to control through granting access to interviews and pre-briefings.

Unfortunately, there is no level playing field, there is no universal right to access to top management. And there cannot be, there is not enough time in the world.

That's why most of the blogosphere has to comment on the work of others, because they can't get the access. Unless they can boost their PageRank. It's a cruel law that affects every publication, online or offline.

The old rules and the new rules of business...a reply to Tina

(This is a reply to Tina in the comments section, just in case you missed it. I think Tina brings up some good points...)


Tina, it is people like you that I like to chat with. Because you are new, you haven't been taught how not to do things.

I'm tired of people telling me "that's not the way it is done we've been doing this for 15 years." I hate that attitude.

In my world, there is always a big Undo/Go-Back button. I want to try new stuff. But that's because I don't have a business model to defend. In fact, I don't yet have a business model--(but I know I will have one :-)

If you have a business model to defend, one that is paying the bills--you can't readily jump to the new. It is what I call "You can't get there from here" a wonderful uniquely American expression but one that is so well suited to what is happening now; it speaks to the culture and business gap (chasm) that has opened up between old rules and new rules companies.

The old can't move to the new because the business model won't support the cost structure of the old.

I left the Financial Times because I realized that I could produce a column inch (a measurement of editorial copy) of Tom Foremski, more cheaply than the Financial Times. And on a very robust and powerful technology media platform that was virtually free (a $100 Movable Type license plus $40/month hosting.)

Yes, I don't yet have a business model that can keep the lights on, but it can only get better for me and more difficult for my former employer, and its peer group of newspaper businesses.

I'm a journalist blogger with a laptop--the only way you can compete with me is if you are living rent-free at your parent's home, and using your sister's computer (plus 20+ years building your personal brand...).

These are great times for journalists and PR people because at no other time in our lives will we be at such a disruptive point in our professions. And disruption is good if you are not married to the old--because that's where the next generation of leading companies will grow.

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Andy Lark agrees...blogging is disrupting PR

Here is an exceprpt I fished out of my trackbacks of a post written by Andy Lark, former comms chief of Sun Microsystems:


The Disruption Of PR
Tom speaks to the disruption of PR by blogging and search. He couldn't be more right. I speak to many PR people on the impact of blogging on communications. Most view it as an overlay to traditional communications. It isn't.

While there is a clear case for viewing blogging as complementary to PR, you can really only hold that point of view from the shoes of a PR person. When standing in the shoes of a CMO, it is a very different view. As you look to optimize spend for awareness and lead flow - and juggle priorities such as shortening the sales cycle - you become acutely aware that PR is yet another budget area that should be cut in favor of new communications tools.

Tom focuses heavily on the economics of the new mediums: "You can get a company message out to your potential customers far more cheaply and far more effectively through the blogging medium." While these are significant factors - especially the fact that your message is unfiltered - others to consider include the utility of the medium. If I want to reach my audience, I just blog. It takes about a tenth of the time to blog as it does to craft a release, liaise with an agency, pitch media....

(Continue reading over on Andy Lark's blog. . .)

Oops! I just killed the press release...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

hands-bloody.jpgHere you go, the coup de grace on the delete-on-receipt press release:

PR professionals have an ethical duty to communicate their client's message in the most effective format and manner. The press/news release in its current format is not effective.

(And many journalists will give you the same feedback.)

I am one of its intended targets and I am using my own time and money to inform the PR community of professionals around the world, that sending out press releases in their current format, unchanged in decades, is not effective or that useful. I hate to see the enormous waste of human resources.

It would not take that much extra work to change the press release into a format in which it is more useful to me, and to many other journalists. Such as:

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Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

It's the last hour of the New Communications Forum and Shel Israel and Robert Scoble are performing their very entertainiing double act promoting their book "Naked Conversations." The room is full of marketing and public relations people--some of them are high-PageRank bloggers themselves.

Both men are promoting the idea that blogging provides corporations with valuable feedback, and it provides an effective message delivery medium, and they cite many examples. This is all very true about blogging--it is an incredibly powerful communications technology.

Robert mentioned a startup company that collected 400,000 beta users in one week from a mention on just a few key tech blogs. I thought it a good time to stand up and join the conversation and make an important point that many people don't understand about blogging.

I said that blogging is not disrupting the mainstream media--blogging will disrupt public relations. The company geting its message out to 400,000 beta users is a great example, and I've been collecting many more.

It's an important point to make because many PR people come to conferences such as New Comm Forum because they want to learn how best to pitch to bloggers and how to use the blogosphere as a channel for corporate and marketing communications as the mainstream media gradually melts away. What few realise is that mainstream media is being disrupted by online marketing--specifically search engine marketing--and not blogging.

It comes down to this simple fact:

It is far cheaper to sell products and services through search engine marketing than through mainstream media.

The millions of bloggers aren't taking any money away from mainstream media...but Google, Yahoo, and Craigslist certainly are.

The inability of the blogosphere to find a business model that can keep the lights on, is similar to mainstream media's struggle to survive. They are both in the same boat (except the bloggers have a day job.)

Let me say it again: Blogging is not disrupting mainstream media--blogging will disrupt public relations.

It comes down to this simple fact:

You can get a company message out to your potential customers far more cheaply and far more effectively through the blogging medium.

However, the company message in the blogosphere cannot be delivered by hired communicators. It has to come from the people inside, or close to the company, who are passionate about the company and its products. It has to have an authentic voice. You cannot fake an authentic voice.

Therefore what role can public relations professionals play in this new world? They cannot be "authentic-voices-for-hire" because that doesn't work in this medium. (Try it and you'll see...it will look and smell fishy.)

Look at Robert Scoble--who I sometimes describe as Microsoft's second most powerful executive. This A-list blogger has single-handedly spruced up Microsoft's public image in so many areas. And he continues to be Microsoft's best promotional engine because he is passionate about his job and his life and that reflects well on Microsoft.

The value of the positive PR that Microsoft has managed to reap from Mr Scoble's authenticity, his passion, and his stellar PageRank--must easily be in the tens of millions of dollars--and that's a conservative estimate. I would estimate his software engineer salary at about $200k--so that's a pretty damn good ROI.

Story continues...


Defending the delete-on-receipt news release. . . and an example of a better format

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher
There has been lots of whining from the PR community about my press/news release should die post. Lots of business models to defend I suppose.

I am providing the PR community with feedback on what works and what does not. I'm a target of the product and I'm using my own time and money to to help it become a more effective and useful communications entity. You can ignore my feedback if you want, but change will come, I guarantee it.

Also, there seems to be some mistaken belief that the SEC mandates news releases in their current format. No, it does not.

The SEC wants broad distribution of company data as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that all investors have equal access to material information. The only thing that is efficient about the news release is in getting access to client money!

Anyway, while a bunch of the old guard have been stalwartly defending the classic delete-on-receipt news release, others have spent their time more productively.

For example, the always resourceful Julie Crabill, from Shift Communications on Tuesday sent over what she called a "Foremski style" news release, and the same release old style. And it is a good example and a great step in the right direction--just these simple things already made the news release a lot more useful.

Take a look:

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Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Die-Press-Release.jpgI've been telling the PR industry for some time now that things cannot go along as they are . . . business as usual while mainstream media goes to hell in a hand basket. I've been saying this privately and publicly and having some very useful discussions on this topic.

Since I have a disruptive role to play in mainstream PR, here is my demolition of the press release as we know and hate it today:

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A mainstream media love note to the blogosphere: Blog off!!!

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Trevor Butterworth writing in the FT Mag recently wrote a very long 4600 word piece about blogging. Same cast of characters and the same mainstream media misconception that blogging is bringing down their empire, it's not. (See answer at end of this post.)

The best part of the article was the the last part (I think that's where I skipped down to...) It discusses whether Karl Marx would have made a good blogger and mentions my former university classmate Francis Wheen...and then leaves us with a wonderful image of the billions of posts in a "virtual tomb."

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Richard Edelman meeting coming up . . .

I'm looking forward to meeting Richard Edelman on Tuesday. Mr Edelman is president and CEO of the largest independent public relations firm Edelman.

We had some online debates about the future of PR and so it's great to meet in person and chat about such things with one of the PR industry's top thought leaders.

And it is just by chance that it happens to be Valentine's Day :-)

I've been asking why hasn't the PR industry joined the media industry's hand basket to hell? Media and PR industries have always moved pretty much in tandem--with maybe a six to nine month lag.


Here are some of my recent posts about media and public relations.

Tracking some more of my Pushbacks :-)

Here is a response to a post that I wanted to share, regarding my seemingly unfriendly attitude to PR folk...

Here is the original: http://lackofmotivation.wordpress.com/2006/01/28/prs-last-words-im-not-dying-for-the-love-of-god/
Here is an extract:

Honestly, I think Foremski knows this and is simply trying provoking us. Maybe we as PR people should simply take his commentary as encouragement to ensure we evolve with the changing communication landscape.

Yes, most definitely.

And:

On a side: I met Tom for the first time on Thursday night, but only briefly as he was rubbing shoulders with, ironically, some PR folks. Kind of confusing given his comments, but like I said, maybe we take it and spin it into motivation.

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Is Andy Lark the next evolutionary step?

andy_lark_20.jpgI completely forgot about Andy Lark when I was putting together my topten people lists recently.

Since I'm using "topten" as an attribute and a quality a person has, rather than literally, I feel I can still add Andy to SVW's Topten people in marketing/communictions/pr list for 2005.

Andy Lark is the former head of communications at Sun Microsystems--and now he is involved in a ton of stuff--he is everywhere. And this man intuitively understands the new communications/new media better than anybody I have met.

Not only does he understand it, he seeks to use it. It is one thing to understand something, to dig it, but it's another to try and create businesses and to use it for fun and profit.

Andy has more fingers in more pies than the number of fingers evolution provided us with. If Andy is the next step in our human evolution then we need ten fingers on each hand :-).

Wonkette, Dave Barry, and Silicon Valley Watcher--in Bacon's secret list of 250 of the most influential blogs

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

SF Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius chats with blogger Dave Barry--the foremost humorist in the US and the former columnist at the Miami Herald.

C.W. says that Mr Barry believes that newspapers are dead. "And Barry may even be right," he writes in "Podcasts, blogs and Dave Barry."

But at the end of the column he writes that it is easy for Mr Barry to survive in the "new world of journalism" because he has written 25 best-sellers, has won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary (1988), etc.

Well, let me tell everyone that reads this post: you don't need a stellar list of achievements to do well in the "new world of journalism."

Take a look at this quote from a senior vice president at Bacon's, in a Media Post story that appeared December 27, 2004, just a couple of months after SVW started publishing:

Ruth McFarland, senior vice president and publisher for Bacon's, said she vacillated about the significance of blogs, but was sufficiently convinced this year to assign three of her 56 editors to monitor the Blogosphere. "We're adjusting our network because no one is accurately monitoring these guys as their influence continues to grow."

Bacon's is keeping tight raps on its blog list, which covers technology, politics, business, travel, and religion. The racy Wonkette, the Miami Herald's Dave Barry, and the Silicon Valley Watcher are three well-known blogs run by "reputable, credible professionals" that McFarland said will be on the list.

You can't buy publicity like that :-) And SVW has never spent a single dollar on promotions of any kind.

In this new world, if you build a better mousetrap the world does indeed beat a path to your door. It's a meritocracy of a kind we've never seen before.

Drawing Flak from the Flacks: Transitions are always painful and emotional

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I've been drawing a lot of flak lately from the flacks in the PR industry, as I've been asking where is the disruption in their sector?

Why hasn't the PR industry joined the media industry's hand basket to hell? Media and PR industries have always moved pretty much in tandem--with maybe a six to nine month lag.

My posts have generated quite a lot of debate, and responses from leaders in the PR industry--which is wonderful. [That's one of the forgotten roles of a journalist--to be a muckraker, to challenge the accepted notions of our times.] Richard Edelman, for example, has written a lengthy post. And Steve Rubel, the top PR blogger, has also spent time discussing my posts on his blog Micro Persuasion.

I have a lot of respect for PR professionals (I use flack as an affectionate term, in the same way as I refer to myself and fellow journalists as hacks). I've worked with PR people for nearly 25 years both here and in London. We work on different sides of the same coin: we try to find and publish great, compelling stories. And the best PR folk think like journalists.

Lately, I have been challenging the PR industry to move away from business as usual because of the changing nature of communications and media.

Paradoxically...

Story continues...


PR's hand basket to hell

My recent post about "where is PR's hand basket to hell?" sparked some spirited debate within the online PR communities. I remain unconvinced that PR can justify a larger spend when the media sector continues to decline.

PR agencies are hiring, they are making money, while the media sector is rapidly falling apart. Online advertising is disrupting mainstream media and blogging will disrupt the PR industry.

Yet the PR industry is saying everything is okay. That is like the man falling past the 33rd floor of building heard saying, "No problem so far..." Jam tomorrow :-)

The PR industry needs to change into a new communications industry. But it can't get there from here. It has business models and products that are profitable (just as newspapers remain profitable).

The business models in the new communications and new media sectors are still in formation, and cannot support the cost structures of the old. That's why the old cannot cross the chasm to the new and that's why there will be considerable disruption ahead.

The winners in the new communications/new media sectors will be new companies, or what I call new rules enterprises. New rules companies are new, and they are formed around the emerging new business models.

Here are some of the rules of new rules enterprises

You start with the lowest cost business model and you grow as the new business models grow. I am a new rules enterprise, I am a journalist blogger with a laptop. To get below my costs you would need to be living rent-free at your parents' home and using your sister's computer :-)

Some of my Top-Ten people in PR/marketing/communications for 2005

I think I can get away with at least one more top ten people list. And again, these are just some of the many top-ten people who came onto my radar screen in 2005. And they are not presented in any order of importance.


-All the junior staff at the big PR agencies who jumped into blogging while their bosses were preoccupied with trying to understand blogging. It is people such as Blake Barbera and Sarah Bresee, and many other young bloggers that I met in 2005. Jump in--figure it out later, is the motto for bloggers :-)

-Mike Manuel at Voce Communications, continues to be one of the leading brands with his Media Guerrilla blog. And yes, he has a photo of himself that is the envy of ALL bloggers--don't ever change it Mike. (And if you do, can I have it?) Also, the rest of the Voce team isn't too dang bad either, with Richard Cline, Dave Black, and Matthew Podboy (a name from the future :-).

-Giovanni Rodriguez and his team at Eastwick Communications. They like and use wikis in a big way, and it helps that Socialtext, the corporate wiki company is a client. Some innovative thinking is coming out of Eastwick and the G-man is behind some of it.

-Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, writes one of the top blog sites covering Web 2.0 companies.

Story continues...


Judge a (PR) company by its bloggers. . . pointers for choosing wisely

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

I am often asked to recommend PR agencies to companies. And often I am asked how to choose PR agencies, especially ones that understand a bit about the new media: blogging and the blogosphere.

I'm always happy to point people in the right directions, and to offer some pointers. Here is a key pointer: if you are looking for a PR company that understands something about blogging find out who in that organization blogs, and how long have they been blogging, and what is their blog pagerank and traffic.

You will find that in many large PR companies, it is their most junior staff that are the in-house bloggers, and there lies the rub. PR companies that "get it" have senior staff as bloggers, and they blog regularly, and they have decent traffic, and they also use other types of new media such as wikis.

Understanding blogging can only be done by being actively involved in blogging and the blogosphere. It cannot be understood by reading about blogging.

If you are not involved in blogging you will never be able to "get it" no matter how many articles and books you read on the subject.

I would like to invite many of the good people in the Silicon Valley PR industry to re-read that sentence again and again, if I thought it would do any good :-)

But I can help you in getting started, there are many ways to become involved in the blogosphere, give me a call sometime--my cell is 4one5 threethree6 seven54seven.

Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?

. . .it's coming

By Tom Foremski, for Silicon Valley Watcher

With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry? PR companies and corporate communications teams are still going about their business in the same way, and seem to be thriving.

You would think that there would be a corresponding shakeup in both industries. After all, one is dependent on the other. The PR teams work with the journalists to find stories, and help them research whatever information is needed for their articles.

There has always been a close correspondence between the fortunes of both sectors in the past. This could be seen in the dotcom dotbomb fallout.

PR companies suffered large losses when thousands of internet related companies went bust. Job losses in both media and PR were directly related to the fact that there were now far fewer customers.

Fewer dotcom-related firms meant less demand for advertising services and thus less demand for PR services. But now there is a growing disconnect; the mainstream PR sector is booming while the mainstream media sector is fading fast.

The PR boom paradox

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Outcast CEO Dinner Club--the place to be Thursday, even for B&O...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Cab_Hailing.gif
It's 7 pm by the time I get out of my apartment and head over to the 4th Outcast CEO Dinner Club at the W. It started at 6pm, but the travails of a standalone journalist prevented me from getting out the door on time.

I hail a cab using the trusty Geek Beacon (my Treo screen waved in the air) and walk in just as they are about to sit down to dinner. Julia greets me and guides me to my seat.

And Emma spots me, and is a delightful host; and I'm soon sitting with a glass of wine next to Tim Smith of Outcast and Satish Dharmaraj of Zimbra.

We are all hushed; and Margit and Caryn take the mike, and say nice things about everyone.

While we eat salad, Keith Ferrazzi provides the entertainment for the evening. He's a motivational speaker; and soon some attendees are motivated to check their digital devices for urgent messages ;-).

Alas, my digital device says I have none; so I listen to the rest of Keith's pitch. Some are asked to stand up, sit down and hold their hands in the air, to which Tim Smith says that it's just like church; and he is right. But it also could be the hokey pokey. I check again, for urgent messages...

I found Keith interesting. He is really trying to get people to share intimate aspects of their lives; because such things create relationships, which are also good business relationships.

It's a tough message for the Geek crowd though. Spock, as in Captain Kirk, is the Geek model; mildly amused at human emotional chracteristics. And you know that Spock isn't going to share any intimacies. Spock won't tell anyone about his outcast life as a part-human, part-vulcan freak show. You have no idea how cruel Vulcan kids can be.

Story continues...


The Google Zeitgeist and the walking dead...imho

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Google_Desktop.jpgGoogle's transformation, into a technology- enabled media company that publishes ads around software, is incredibly impressive.

Have you used Google Desktop and some of the other apps it has developed? I repeat: what is going on at Google is extremely impressive. And so is the acceleration of its business model.

And that is due to the company's ability to quickly create self-organizing business development teams, all leveraging a shared and scalable computing platform.

Not only that, Google seems to be able to integrate newcomers, be they individuals or companies, at record speed.

Yes, some talent walks out the door in such mashups; but there is much more walking into the company. And Google gets the newcomers integrated and productive faster than any other large organizations that I can see. You can see the results in the suite/catalog of software it has already built.

I think it is game over for a lot of companies now; and I think Microsoft is one of them. Unless it makes Office free right now, this minute, and figures out the business model later if it has to.

The game changed and nobody told Redmond

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Blog-happy PR firms

Steve Broback, who's bringing the Blog Business Summit to San Francisco in August, did a brief survey of how often PR firms use the word "blog" on their websites. And the winner is ... Edelman, by a long shot. Here's the list:

Edelman PR Worldwide 77
Manning, Selvage & Lee 53
Horn Group 18
Hill & Knowlton 9
Burson-Marsteller 5
Haas MS&L 5

The British Invasion continues as OutCast is gobbled up by Next Fifteen

...will everyone in San Francisco PR eventually work for Tim Dyson?

San Francisco based OutCast Communications has been acquired by Next Fifteen, Europe's largest publicly traded PR company for an initial payment of about $6m and additional performance based payments that could reach $13m over the next five years.

From Next Fifteen:

Under the terms of the acquisition, Next Fifteen will pay initial consideration of £3.3 million ($6 million) for OutCast, which is to be funded out of existing cash and debt facilities and a vendor placing which raised £2.5 million. Further consideration will be paid over the next five years based on the performance of the company, with total consideration capped at £7.2 million ($13 million).

Earlier this year, at least one other company considered buying OutCast. Financial Dynamics, the large New York firm specializing in investor relations and now branching out into other sectors, explored a possible purchase.

Next Fifteen is now by far the largest employer in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley PR sector. It owns Bite PR and Text 100, two of the largest San Francisco PR companies. It also has a significant stake in 463 Communications, a PR firm targeting tech policy issues. The 463 Communications offices are shared with Bite.


Consolidation in PR mirrors the valley

The OutCast acquisition is a product of changing markets. The consolidation in the IT sectors has created a smaller number of vendors. And the remaining IT vendors are large and multinational. OutCast can make use of Next Fifteen's European and global reach.

In turn, OutCast founder's founders Margit Wennmachers and Caryn Marooney know how to build a fast growing PR organization, which will help Mr Dyson report a steady increase in revenues.

His challenge has been to grow business during a time when PR budgets remain very tight, there are fewer media outlets to target, and smaller numbers of large enterprise companies to pursue as clients.

New communications threats on the horizon?

In addition, media technologies such as blogging, represent a potential threat to traditional methods of corporate communication. While such "new communications" channels are still in their infancy, they represent an additional cost that will likely pressure PR budgets further, at least over the short term.

Large tech companies are beginning to specify that PR firms must have experience in using blogging technologies to augment traditional methods. And while there is much well justified skepticism towards blogging among Next Fifteen's PR companies, including OutCast, the fact that their clients recognize the power of blogging to reach potential customers, is something the PR firms cannot dismiss.

Smaller companies such as Voce Communications, in Silicon Valley, which recognized blogging early on and quickly integrated it into its products and services, represents a potential threat to larger, slower moving PR firms. The threat is that specialist PR firms could siphon away the more profitable and interesting communications contracts.

Story continues...


Scoop: Novell chooses Horn Group...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

SOMA-Novell.gifNovell, the enterprise Linux company, has chosen the Horn Group, one of Silicon Valley's largest PR companies, to handle its communications. It was a hotly contested contract and two bigger PR companies were on the final shortlist. Novell becomes the Horn Group's largest customer and is added to its stable of enterprise software clients.

Jeff Lettes has left Oracle as senior marcoms changes continue at top valley companies

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Jeff Lettes, Oracle's communications chief has left Oracle just a few months after joining SiliconValley's largest software company.

This is the latest in an unprecedented number of changes in senior marcoms VPs at Silicon Valley's top tech companies over the last six months.

Here are some of the top changes: Jeff Lettes leaves Applied Materials; Cindy McCaffrey leaves Google; Jim Finn leaves Oracle soon to be followed by Jennifer Glass; Alison Johnson leaves Hewlett-Packard; Andy Lark leaves Sun Microsystems; Pam Pollace leaves Intel; Robin Stoecker leaves Tibco Software; and now Jeff Lettes leaves Oracle.

Is it over? Did I leave anybody out? Is this a trend and what does it mean? I’m not sure what’s going on, if anything. But, it does seem a bit odd and I'm hoping some of our readers might know of an explanation. Leave a comment here or ping me: tom@siliconvalleywatcher.com. And there is also the annonymous tip email on the side of this page.

Weber wins BEA…

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

The headline means more to some of our community of readers than it does to me. However, all I need to know is that it means the right thing :-)

I stopped in on BEA’s web site, wow. It just zips along, superfast loading of pages, and is easy to navigate. If that’s a showcase for the BEA platform, then let there be more companies using it; I’m fed up with my molasses-dunked Internet/PC experience.

Is anyone going to buy BEA? For the last three years, that has been the question, and I wish it would be answered. Larry is the obvious buyer; the patient praying mantis just needs to finish digesting a bit. Then he can take his time, talk down BEA valuation a while; after all, who could play white knight and rescue the middleware maiden?

Here’s my suggestion, and the obvious dream team: Sun-HP-BEA-MySQL-EDS. Plus a big business consultancy. That’s a lot of work; and IBM is already there ...but isn’t there room for three large companies in each market, as some studies have indicated?!
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Do blogs and online forums make it easier, not harder, for companies to influence “market conversations”?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

The blogosphere with its millions of blogs and bloggers prides itself on its iconoclastic and anti-establishment views and activities. This fragmentation of media into millions of blogs is deemed a good thing, and I agree.

But the blogosphere might not be as resistant to influence as people might believe. In fact, I could argue that the rise of blogging has made it easier than ever for corporations to target/influence people.

I came to this idea following a meeting with Doc Searls on Wednesday. We were on a panel and talking about, well, I think you can guess what we were talking about. . .

Story continues...


If a Blogger Blogs in the Blogosphere...

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

goya_sleep_of_reason.jpgThe rise of blogging has a nightmarish quality to it --if you are in the public relations or corporate communications fields-- because of the fact that anyone can become a blogger. And that means that anyone can become a journalist.

There are millions of bloggers, and thus the media landscape has shattered into a million pieces. Each blogger shares in the power attributed to journalists and the established media: the power to influence, and cause, change in society and markets.

And that means a public relations nightmare; because how can a public relations firm or corporate communications department manage its media relations?

Before the rise of the blogosphere, it was easy to know where journalists worked, their names, what beat they covered, the size of their readership, the demographics of their readers. That made it easy to target the journalists with press releases, with invitations to events, with story pitches, and to establish working relationships with them.

The more contact with journalists, the better chance of media coverage, and the better chance of having a specific message communicated.

It's astounding how much effort goes into influencing journalists. I always knew it was a lot; but I never realized how much until I left the Financial Times in June, and started doing some reporting on the Silicon Valley PR sector, through the Silicon Valley Watcher.

For example, PR firm Waggoner Edstrom, mostly known for its chief client Microsoft, will plan a media campaign in extraordinary detail. It decides which journalists will be offered exclusives, and which ones will be snubbed. It even prints up dummy front covers of BusinessWeek and other magazines with the images and story angles it wants communicated to its readers.

And it doesn't want a rosy, super-positive story; it wants a balanced, neutral-to-slightly-positive news story/feature/interview. That's because a balanced, slightly positive story carries more weight: the reader respects that the journalist offered contrary views, yet the subject came through mostly unscathed.

How can that level of highly-detailed media control be applied to the blogosphere? Do you start with a mock-up of the Slashdot headline you'd like to see?

Here are some answers in part II of "If a Blogger Blogs..."

Interview: Dan Scheinman Cisco's head of M&A and corporate PR

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

It’s 11am and a sunny day but I'm in a small windowless room in Cisco building 10, with Dan Scheinman, head of acquisitions.

Interestingly, Dan is also head of Cisco’s corporate PR, a rare combination of executive responsibilities.

Dan is in a good mood, tells me he loves blogs, especially Wonkette. "When you find somebody that shares your sense of humor, it’s a rare thing," he says.

He talks about Cisco's M&A strategy in the post bubble years:

Story continues...


This Week: Cisco’s Head of M&A —Exclusive Interview…plus BILL the new net.point.two conference (it comes before TED)…The Rooster Club's First Annual Blogger’s Ball featuring the Steel Wheels of OM [asiandubfudisco]

By Tom Foremski--SiliconValleyWatcher.com

+ Our top story this week is an exclusive interview with Dan Scheinman, head of Cisco’s M&A, Senior Vice president of Business Development. Find out why Cisco wants to talk to the venture capital community, and why it believes that media technologies are going to be a driver of the next business cycle.

+ While I was at Cisco, I found out more about Cisco’s online news operation which gets more hits than most business and computer trade news publications.

+ Does Google Adsense make sense for publishers of online news sites? We run through the pros and cons of mainstream contextual advertising networks.

+ The Purity of Search—how the next generation of search engines will prove themselves.

+ BILL-the super-cool-much-cooler-than-TED-not-to-mention-DEMO-and-PCFORUM-conference. Find out more.

+ SVW's the Rooster Club announces the 1st Annual Blogger's Ball featuring the Steel Wheels of Om-the Universal Sound of All that is Broadband. More details will follow.

+ Old media buys more not so old media—some thoughts about About.com and the tail-end of the Internet 1.0 consolidation wave…

+ Is Old Media threatening New Media? The Watcher investigates reported threats against the Blogosphere – (please remain calm…nothing to worry about yet…)

+ Google Foundation seeks head--can it compete against the formidable Bill Gates Foundation in the three Gs: Global Goodness Goals?

+ Fanatical fanatacism at web hosting service RackSpace--the straight-jacket is the only way out (limo and dinner included).

+ If a blogger blogs in the blogosphere does anybody blog it?

+ Solving the Google atom bomb riddle...

+ Wists.com rockets to the moon--no hockey stick for this flickr.iscious universal wishlist.

+ And more, such as where is the Flickr--Yahoo deal? And is it such a good idea for large new(ish) media companies buying up cool net.point.two companies? Let a thousand platforms bloom says we.

How to Pitch Bloggers: Quick Notes from the New Communication Forum

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

I went to the workshop on how to pitch to bloggers, which I thought might be so bad as to actually be good; but, actually, it was good-good!

The workshop was presented by Alice Marshall, founder of Presto Vivace Communications. Presented to you here are some of her insights:

+ It is OK to pay bloggers to review a product; but you must disclose that fact, and not only disclose it, but brag about it very visibly on your web site. Make sure the blogger discloses it too.

+ There is an A-list, or what [I] call the "Box-Office" of blogs, and competition to reach them is fierce. It's better to look at who the box office bloggers are linking to; because that's who they are reading, and those are the bloggers you should pitch to.

+ [You can] tell a large newspaper that they should cover a story because several of the leading bloggers are covering it -- that is something that has worked for [me] in the past.

+ Do not lie. You will be found out and exposed.

+ Try to do some original reporting, because other bloggers will link to you. If you go to an event, write up a report. You will find out how difficult a reporter's job is -- making those deadlines. It takes [me] at least a week to write up a report on an event.

+ Offer exclusives and access to company executives to bloggers; but make sure that the information is exclusive. This is also a way to push bloggers into acting: by putting a deadline on the exclusive story.

+ Read the blogs and leave comments -- those are always appreciated and build goodwill.

+ Don't be afraid to make a mistake; a lot of this is new, and you will make mistakes. That's OK; but make sure that you highlight them.

+ Do not travel under false colors. It's a huge mistake and you will be found out.

+ Salespeople usually try to be direct and honest, and do not want spin. They want a happy customer, because referrals are so important to sales. Engineers can be worse, because they get religious about things.

+ Blogging is great, because it means we are no longer at the mercy of a small group of editors who control the news outlets.

+ Clients of PR companies do not pay for mentions on blogs; but I think that they should, and I think that will happen.

+ Keep your moral soul! Do not use underhanded techniques.

+ We have to remember that blogging is still new and there is so much more to discover. It's as if we discovered America, and have just landed on the beach and are trying to explain it to people back in Europe.

Links:

Presto Vivace Communications

Alice Marshall's Technoflak blog

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Quick Notes from the New Communication Forum

by Tom Foremski and Candida Kutz for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Here are some quick notes from the workshop entitled “Forming Communities Online: Group & Conference Blogging & Wikis,” on the use of wikis and blogs within corporations to create online communities:

+ When you use a wiki for a collaborative project you can quickly identify who the slackers are because it is very clear who is working and who is not.

+ There are some interesting social effects that take place within organizations when wikis are used, and you might be surprised at how it affects an organization.

+ There are so many legal issues to be determined around who owns content, and how it can be used, that it can quickly get very confusing. Suggestion: Create a separate company for each project, which then separates it from the company's content and thus protects them from potential legal issues.

+ A wiki can be used as a knowledge base; and it rewards people who share knowledge instead of hoarding it. Previous knowledge management systems have all failed.

+ Don't be ambitious with a wiki project. Start off using a wiki for just one project.

+ Think of a wiki as a "room" where the users make the rules. They will be the ones deciding how it develops and how it looks.

+ Find a wiki gardener, to help encourage people to use the wiki and nurture its growth.

+ A wiki does not work well within a hierarchical top-down organization. It encourages a flat organization and you should let it build itself.

+ Consider the wiki as an adjunct to the blog.

Links:

Elizabeth Albrycht

Dan Forbush

Constantin Basturea

As an entreprise application, check out Socialtext

An especially easy-to-use wiki engine is EditMe

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Guest Blog: Symantec/Veritas deal could provide McAfee with an opportunity to regain lost markets

Mark Coker represented Symantec competitor McAfee for about four years from June 1993 to July 97. He says there are some lessons Symantec could learn from McAfee's attempts to grow by acquisition-Tom Foremski

by Mark Coker, President, Dovetail Public Relations for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Symantec's acquisition of Veritas risks paralleling a similar strategy pursued by McAfee Associates in the mid '90s that ultimately failed. In early '94, company management believed their annual antivirus revenues, which were then at around $15 million, would peak soon around $20-$30 million (yes, really), so they decided to use their cash hoard and strong cash flow to diversify their product line by creating an integrated suite of network security and management tools. As inspiration, they looked to Microsoft, who had obliterated its desktop productivity app competitors in the early '90s by coming out with Microsoft Office, an integrated suite.

logo_redOnWhite_170x75.gifMcAfee made numerous acquisitions over the next few years, leveraging their high flying stock as currency. Acquisitions included network management, additional network security (encryption, firewalls, etc.), systems management, help desk and storage management products, and made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Cheyenne Software. (Cheyenne was then one of the three storage management leaders along with Veritas and Legato. Although the attempted Cheyenne acquisition failed to happen, the industry took McAfee seriously from then on). McAfee ultimately acquired Network General, the Sniffer company, and renamed the combined entity Network Associates. Most of the acquisitions languished or imploded, while anti-virus became the little-engine-that-could and exploded beyond anyone's expectations.

More recently, the company sold off or closed its distracting diversions, returned to its security roots, and changed its name back to McAfee.

Why did McAfee's strategy fail?

Story continues...


Are there more senior PR shakeups on the way at top Silicon Valley companies?

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

The New Year has brought in a clean broom at Oracle and Sun Microsystems as their top PR executives depart suddenly. Is this their reward for toughing it out at some of the most challenging jobs in the industry?

In an exclusive story on SiliconValleyWatcher, we reported late Monday that Jim Finn, Oracle's head of communications is leaving. His replacement will be Jeff Lettes, the recent head of worldwide comms at Applied Materials. Oracle also lost Jennifer Glass just days ago -- she moved three thousand miles away to New York to work with Sony USA.

Andy Lark, head of Sun's PR, announced his resignation late last week. Are we going to see more turmoil in the communications teams of other top Silicon Valley companies?

The departures from Oracle are interesting. It would seem that Mr Finn and Ms Glass are leaving after all the hard work has been done around the nearly endless PeopleSoft hostile takeover. Maybe a change is as good as a rest.

As for Mr Lark, he hasn't said what he will do, but, reading his blog there are tons of clues. Here is my take: Andy is going to join a venture that will provide a variety of blogging and media services to corporates. (By the way, we're going to do that too--as a side consulting business---more details will follow....)

I'm going to see Andy at the New Communications Forum conference on Jan 25 and 26. He is giving the keynote and I'll be on a panel. You should come along, it's in Napa and I can guarantee an interesting group of people. Local attendees (we hope lots of our readers!) get a special rate of $595.
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Old media buying new-ish media, will it make a difference?

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Last month Dow Jones bought CBS Marketwatch for about $520m and the Washington Post bought Slate, the Microsoft founded online magazine for an undeclared sum.

The question I have is: Why would two companies that have not made much/any money with online publishing make a success out of buying two online media companies that have not made much/any money publishing online?

One plus one never makes two in such cases, it usually just makes one. If you don’t know how to make money in online publishing, buying another company that hasn’t figured it out either, doesn’t improve your chances of profits. It just means you can lose more money at it than before.

On the Dow Jones/Marketwatch deal: What will be the branding? Will the new Marketwatch be WSJ-lite? Already, there is a wide cultural divide between Wall Street Journal editors and reporters, and Dow Jones wire editors and reporters. You’ll notice that there are few former Dow Jones wire editors/reporters at the WSJ and vice-versa. The pecking order for the Marketwatch staff is perfectly clear. Not a good prospect for staff retention, I would think.

Also, if people leave Marketwatch, how do you recruit reporters to a media publication so low on the Dow Jones internal cultural totem pole, especially with few career prospects to move up/across? Yes, online advertising is going through the roof right now, and that might paper-over a few problematic issues initially. It’s the longer term outlook for the Marketwatch business group that isn’t clear. Getting a decent return on that half-a-billion-plus investment is going to be tough.

Regarding Washington Post buying Slate? Compatible editorial, certainly. But, again, there is a two-tier structure in the making. AP reported that the Washington Post is looking for content for its online site.

Did you know that on the whole, print journalists look down on online hacks? And they will go to great lengths to avoid writing for their paper’s online site if the copy doesn’t also go into the newspaper? Newsprint staff consider themselves a notch or three above online/wire hacks. That is why many newspaper sites use separate staff for print and online.

At the Financial Times, we were the first to have an integrated news and feature desks where the page editors and copy editors for both print and online sat nearby each other. Even so, it took a while to overcome the internal cultural resistance to online news writing by the newspaper hacks.

Publishers of print newspapers and magazines have yet to show ANY prowess in the online media sector. And if they try, they will retreat in a hurry, because they cannot afford to expose their print business model to online.

Print advertising doesn’t have the type of metrics that online advertising possesses. You can't pin an ROI on print advertising the same way you can do it for online. If you offer advertisers a package of print and online advertising, you will gradually lose your print advertisers--unless they are large consumer brands. Why? Because the online advertising clickthroughs will be disappointing (and expensive.) Which means companies will conclude that their print advertising is not reaching their target group--and they will pull all of their ads, print and online.

That's why many print newspaper and magazine publishers risk the continued loss of print advertising if they expose their business models to online advertising. They are trapped within a crumbling business model, IMHO.

Glass skips town as PeopleSoft purge continues

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

While Larry has been busy purging the executive ranks of PeopleSoft, Jennifer Glass, vice president of communications at Oracle for nearly seven years has slipped away to become vp of communications at Sony USA.

I'm hearing that it's not just Jennifer that Sony has snagged--it's quietly building up a formidable comms and exec team and seems to be gearing up for a big push this year. And why not? Everybody is chattering about the digital home, digital entertainment systems, consumer electronics, etc. And the Sony brand remains a very strong brand, despite some missteps in recent years.

I've worked with Jennifer many times and she is very good. She's had to leave San Francisco and move to New York, but's she's from that part of the world anyway. Jennifer's promised me an interview next time she's in town.

I bet she's got some interesting Larry stories to tell, but then again, who doesn't? I didn't register LarryWatch.com for nothing...it cost me $8...coming to a website near you very soon.

Google searching for top marketing honcho

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Cindy McCaffrey, chief marketing officer at Google, resigned just before the holidays. With about five years at the company and about 20 years in the PR business at Apple, 3DO, and E*Trade, she has handled a lot of high profile companies.

At Google, she's credited with a very-low key marketing approach, in fact, hardly any. Veterans know that search engines are ALWAYS created by word-of-mouth. That's certainly the way Yahoo took-off, and HotBot, AltaVista, and of course, Google.

Who will get the chief marketing job? There is already lot of veteran "parental supervision" in the top executives ranks (link to Google's exec's page) and those ranks could do with some young blood. Sergey and Larry must be feeling a bit bored hanging out with all those old folk.

Any votes for anybody? Let's see.........are there are any young-ish marketing/comms whiz kids around? None come to mind. Most of the industry seems full of gray-hairs, waiting for just one more bubble.

Google could promote from within -- maybe David or Raymond? Or maybe an outsider? Maybe yet another person from the Novell-Apple-Sun heritage that fills Google's top ranks? Or maybe it should be someone with an international bent. After all, Google is an expanding global brand, and it needs to understand other cultures. Maybe it will even be someone from the media industry? Google is the only media company I know of that has NO media professionals in its senior ranks. None. (Eric, call me...)

Google muzzles the press: a report from inside the Googleplex holiday media party

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

I'd like to tell you about the party; but it was all off the record! Damn. I picked up so many great stories that it hurts not to write about them.

I think Google made the party off the record because it was Cindy McCaffrey's birthday (head marketing honcho at the big G), and she didn't want us reporting the number of candles on her cake (16).

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Secret photo of Google ice sculpture--taken with Treo 600
(Jochen, our photographer, had to surrender all his kit).
It's difficult to see, but there are two "ice" penguins cunningly disguised as waiters. It's obviously a thinly-disguised salute to Linux--and a poke in the eye to Microsoft, which has ambitions in search.

Story continues...


Guest Blog/Letter to the Editor: Good Karma and Catch-22s in Tech PR...

Mark Coker, President of Dovetail Public Relations, tells SiliconValleyWatcher.com readers...

...I'd like to share a personal story about my agency that describes a dilemma I think many good tech PR agencies face...
Today, Cisco announced that they're acquiring our security client, Protego Networks. Last Thursday, Microsoft announced that they're acquiring our anti-spyware client, Giant Company Software.

We signed on Giant in September. They chose us because they liked the work we did for our long-time client PestPatrol, the anti-spyware pioneer, which was acquired in August by Computer Associates. Giant correctly assumed that CA would dump PestPatrol's agency, so they could scoop up our agency's expertise and contacts to raise visibility for their own firm in what has become a very crowded market.

So all this has me thinking about a catch-22 curse that many tech agencies face: As PR practioners, our work directly (and often significantly) impacts a client's visibility, awareness, perceptions and revenues, thereby often increasing the value of their business. Unfortunately, we sometimes become the captains of our own demise when we achieve our objectives, because we can end up accelerating or enabling liquidity events for our clients. And if you're on the wrong end of the acquisition, you lose the client.

It's certainly bittersweet for us. We love to make great things happen for our clients. But we also want to keep them long term. My personal view is that this business isn't really about the companies we represent, it's about people we represent. If we serve our people well, the good karma will return with more new business down the line as these people circulate back into the tech ecosystem.


postscript:

Although we've had two security clients taken out in the last week,
we're on track to replace the business fairly quickly. We're fielding three new business inquiries, two of which are security companies and all of which derive from previous clients going back as far as 10 years ago. Patience pays off in the karma PR game.

Links:

Dovetail Public Relations

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Silicon Valley PR firm Voce is building a business around its blogging expertise

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Voce Communications is a PR company that likes to go against the grain--a quality that never fails to catch my attention. When its competitors were fawning over dotcom clients in 1999 (many accepting payment in shares), Voce was snapping up big enterprise clients. These were companies that already had a business model, rather than dotcoms in search of a business model.

Now Voce is moving against the grain again. Local PR companies such as Outcast, Text 100, Bite PR and Horn Group are intently focused on winning large enterprise clients. Voce revealed to SiliconValleyWatcher.com that it is working with the biggest dotcom of them all: Yahoo, the world's largest Internet media company. And what is it doing for Yahoo? Helping set up its blogs, helping it publish internally-generated content and involve thousands of readers.

My colleague Dida Kutz and I stopped into Voce on a recent Friday lunchtime (10-Dec). It's something I like to do, visit with local PR agencies, chat about what we're doing, what they are working on, the mood of the industry, etc. Voce is also the home of Mike Manuel of Media Guerrilla, one of our favorite PR bloggers.

We met the three founders of Voce, Richard Cline, Dave Black, and Matthew Podboy (cool name) and many of the team, plus the man himself, Media Guerrilla Mike Manuel. (This is a great example of the power of blogging; I would never have noticed Mike if he weren't writing his blog--- this shows that you have to publish to your communities.)

We had no idea that Voce would reveal its relationship with Yahoo--it had not made it known before. We met Nancy Evars, who is working at Yahoo running the Yahoo Search Blog. And we met one of the superstars of the blogosphere, Yahoo engineer Jeremy Zawodny, who writes a hugely popular blog from his vantage point within the engineering group at Yahoo Search.

We talked about blogs, and what blogging means, etc. And it wasn't long before I realized that we were all talking about the same thing: how to produce compelling, high-quality content; how to be editors and reporters. We were all, essentially, talking about how to produce quality journalism. Because you can't fool the readers.

At Yahoo, Nancy was saying that the Search Blog has had a tremendous response from readers; but also, has been extremely well received internally by senior management. Nancy also said that Yahoo has collected lists of the most influential blogs, and that it pays particular attention to what those bloggers are discussing.

When Jeremy spoke about his blogging, it sounded like good old-fashioned journalism to me. It was about how to tell a story, and tell it honestly. In journalism it's fine to have an opinion, which lends itself well to blogging; but the content also needs authenticity. And you can't fake authenticity for long; your readers will know when it's not there, or not coming back. "Do you always keep it real?" Jeremy asked. (Did I tell you that Jeremy is a natural journalist?) Let me put it this way: if you can't keep it real, don't say it (...or use a pseudonym!).

Richard Cline spoke about how Real Networks hired Voce to engage in online discussion groups on the subject of Apple's refusal to open up the iPod platform to competing digital music vendors. This was a successful project because the media spotted the debates and took up the Real Networks angle on the story.

Matthew PodBoy and Dave Black spoke about how they managed to persuade their client, JotSpot (very cool application BTW---more on that later), to use the power of the blogosphere for their recent product launch. Joe Kraus, the CEO of JotSpot, initially resisted, but finally gave in. What they got from Kraus's blog was a far higher response from the target market---software developers and corporate IT experts---than through any media coverage. This is a key point here because JotSpot received a lot of media coverage when it announced its wiki-like enterprise application in the summer, largely because Joe Kraus was the first president of the early 1990s search firm Excite.

(I remember meeting with Joe in about 1993, Excite was one of the leading contenders going after Yahoo's success. Excite promised a search engine that had semantic capabilities: it could distinguish the search term "bond" from "James Bond," "chemical bond," or any other bond out there. That never came about...and it merged into Excite@home, which just seemed to sit there, next to a very bright, electronic animated billboard on 101... .until it went away and its former office became a "see-thru" building, one of many.)

Back to Voce... Matthew Podboy said he is working on putting together a committee to create a collection of best practices around blogging for PR professionals.

There's a lot more to say about Voce and the work they are doing. And it's very similar to what we are trying to do at SiliconValleyWatcher.com: figure out how to use the blogging format and the blogging software to publisher compelling content and, very importantly, maintain ---at all costs--- that trusted relationship with readers.

(More on this topic in numerous future articles...!)

By the way, in real-life Mike Manuel does not look gritty or grainy like his photo. He is clean-cut and mild-mannered, although he says he has come under pressure to replace the photo. Dida said he looked like a heroin addict; a colleague agreed; and his wife wants him to change that photo, too. I think he just looks a bit hung-over. I sometimes feel grainy in the morning too.

Links:

Dida's companion article on the Yahoo's ability to turn its geeks into marketing mavens.

Voce Communications

Yahoo Search Blog

Media Guerrilla

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If you are not publishing to your community, you are not known to your community--send me a guest blog!

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

For at least a year, I've harbored ambitions of becoming a micro-media mogul. So much so, that I even bought the URL: MicroMediaMogul.com. This would give me the option of at some point, using Tom@MicroMediaMogul.com as my email address. I think it would look good on a business card. (I also have ThinkTankThinker.com, which looks great on a business card.)

However, I am not yet a micro-media mogul. I need a lot more content. And so while I try to recruit others to join me in this innovative venture about the business of innovation, in the innovation capital of the world, I have devised a process where I can nearly double my content without increasing my workload by much.

Which is why you will see us repackaging some of our content in various ways, and continuing core themes in future entries, columns, and e-books.

Also, you will see a lot of guest bloggers. Think of these as guest columnists from people you probably already know, and others such as you and your colleagues.

Would you like to blog but can't find the time to do it?

Those RSS news readers are a vicious way to root out the weedy bloggers. If there haven't been any new entries on your blog for a while, it's likely to get deleted from the news reader. So then you lose your audience. Which is why you should send a guest blog to us. And then you can have a life too, because blogging is extremely time consuming.

Your guest blog doesn't have to be long, you can keep it under 800 words, or cut it into smaller chunks. The content should be meaty, original and fluid. Shoot from the hip style, one-take journalism! Or use your own compelling style in your voice. This way, you can get your name out into your community. Because these days, if you are not publishing to your community, you are not known by your community.

For software engineers, this has been the case for a couple of years now; you can't get hired if you are not blogging. And your page rank had better be good too. Jeremy Zawodny, the Yahoo engineer that runs one of the top tech blogs, got his job at Yahoo largely because of his blogging. It is the best and most honest self-promotional tool out there--bar none.

That's why you should consider becoming a guest blogger for Silicon Valley Watcher. You can directly address your community, and we will feature you on our "watch" sections focused on tech, PR, media, VCs, Angel and many other Silicon Valley communities.

Also, you'll be reaching an international audience. The Silicon Valley name is a huge global brand that has acquired a mythology that rivals that of Hollywood. The world is very interested in what goes on here, and it wants to listen in on what you and your colleagues are thinking, saying, doing.

So send something to us. Think of it as "letter to the editor" or a column or, better yet, an e-mail. Over at Voce Communications the other day we were chatting about how some of our best writing is often in our emails. Those quick, off-the-cuff, one-take emails are probably your best blogs! Send me an email on any topic. You can also send in news stories, or reports from a conference, or anything you think that will interest your community--you will know best.

In return, we'll look through your copy to check for clarity and typos. And we might or might not suggest a cut or an edit--but only to make you look even better!

So send something in, and keep sending it in. Then, with your help, I will be well on my way to becoming a micro-media mogul--and I can print it on my business card.

Email

dk0556

Prediction: Dotcoms will eat lunch this time around -- the Reversal of the Internet Business Timeline. Part I

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Around about middle of 2003 something interesting happened. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly it was, or what caused it, but the internet business timeline started reversing.

Maybe it was talk about the Salesforce.com IPO that signaled the reversal. Anyway, it started to be increasingly clear we were going to re-run the last seven to nine years in reverse with a few twists.

I've dubbed what's coming as the Greenfield Enterprise Economy. The following will happen:

--Dotcoms will slowly start coming back into vogue, eat the lunch of the established companies, and go on to eat the companies themselves while spitting out the crunchy infrastructure legacy costs and sucking out the fatty stuff-- the IP and brands.

Some of the new Dotcoms will be web services vendors, currently acting in the traditional enterprise software model of "arms dealers," selling their technology to others. And some of these web services companies, while selling their technology to others, will begin using it themselves in new markets and in regional applications. Sometimes this will occur in partnership with other web services companies. For example, suppliers of say, e-commerce ASP services, will establish a regional shopping mall.

The logic will be clear: why spend millions marketing technology, trying to convince potential customers of the gain of large operational efficiencies when instead they can invest that money into establishing new ventures that take full advantage of the technology.

Such ventures would not necessarily compete with potential customers because they will be focused on specific regions or used to develop new types of services. The focus of most of the new Dotcoms will be on cracking the regional business market - currently the single largest commercial online opportunity.

With this strategy, sales to customers will be boosted because those ventures will serve as technology showcases, demonstrating how to combine technologies and business models to recreate profitable ventures in other regions or niches.

Also, those ventures can be flipped -- sold to customers. This generates new capital and sales at the same time.

The best business opportunities will come from the emergence of Greenfield Enterprises -- these will become the true new Dotcoms of the new economy (yes, the term new economy will return).

The Greenfield Enterprises will be absent most of the legacy costs of competitors. The correct application of technology combined with business model innovation will mark the successful Greenfield Enterprise.

The Greenfield Enterprise Economy Dotcoms will then eat lunch. I will explain how in Part II of the Reversal of the Internet Timeline...

cd1050

Should bloggers refuse advertising to maintain independence?

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Should bloggers avoid advertising as much as possible, because that is another potential route to influence their writing?

There are organizational structures within newspapers and magazines that create a separation of “church and state,” the separation between editorial and advertising.

Because bloggers are trying to do everything—write, edit, publish and canvas for advertising—they are in a very tricky position.

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Controlling access to top executives is widely used to influence media coverage

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

One of the practices used to influence media coverage is controlling access to a company’s top executives.

For example, a reporter for a large newspaper or magazine needs access to CEOs of important companies. However, before that access is granted, a relationship has to be developed to ensure that a reporter understands their business, their strategy, who their competition is, how they differentiate themselves, etc before they give access to the valuable time of their top executives. This is all perfectly reasonable.

But, this is also where there is opportunity for leverage, where there is potential to influence media coverage to a larger or lesser degree, because reporters need that access. Why? Because editors will scream at them if their competitor got an interview with the head honcho and they did not.

Companies can demand that questions must be submitted in advance, that final drafts of stories be approved by them, that some subjects cannot be mentioned etc. This varies from company to company and larger publications are able to refuse such demands and still get the interview.

I have to say at this point, that in my time at the Financial Times I was never subjected to such demands. But all journalists are aware of this point of leverage, and some have been denied access for good and bad reasons. The good reasons are that they might have been sloppy journalists with little understanding of the company or their sector. The bad reasons are obvious.

The value bloggers have in the media landscape is their vantage as independent commentators. If they are brought into the “system” they will be compromised.

Bloggers could become easy prey to standard public relations techniques

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

As companies and their public relations organizations ponder how to react to the “blogging” phenomenon, I’d like to point out some tricks of the trade used in the business of influencing media.

Forewarned is forearmed some say, and maybe some of the following will help bloggers who are not professional journalists.

I believe that some bloggers are in danger of losing their independence and their unique voice within the media landscape—if they become pulled into a sphere of influence. This is the “sphere” that professional journalists operate in every day and cannot avoid.

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The time when Sabrina Horn almost table danced… PeopleSoft vows to innovate, and Sun says its software will be free

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

The Horn Group PR company held a dinner Tuesday evening featuring a panel on “Does Innovation Matter: The Silicon Valley Outlook” a topic dear to my heart.

The event was at Roe—a Burmese fusion restaurant next to Hawthorne Lane. I arrived late for cocktails and looked around and didn’t see any of the Silicon Valley Hack Pack, except for J. Bonasia, reporter at Investor’s Business Daily. The poor guy has been covering the software enterprise beat and if it weren’t for Oracle-PeopleSoft he’d have little to write about. I was asked how did I think the PeopleSoft/Oracle thing would turn out? I said I do not know, I have not even considered it, it just doesn’t feature on my radar screen.

That whole enterprise software sector seems like a bygone era, like some kind of Jurassic period. Yet that whole sector can continue living off the maintenance revenues for years—it isn’t going away. But there is nothing to write home about either.

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Silicon Valley is Back, Baby.......Dotcom

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

I've had lots of chats about Silicon Valley lately and I’m of the Bachman Turner opinion that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

When I arrived here November 8, 1984, Silicon Valley was going through the down cycle following the PC boom. A hundred PC companies wanted just 10 per cent of the market, wanting to strike it rich, as rich as the Apple IPO—the Google celebrity IPO of its day.

Hundreds of Apple staff became millionaires, including secretaries and the guy that ran the parking lot. The media coverage was massive. VCs rushed in like a herd and funded a huge number of PC companies and when the bubble popped, the down cycle was harsh. Stories about Silicon Valley’s death were constant and grinding for several years. I’ve seen several business cycles and the same thing happens in each down cycle, endless speculation about Silicon Valley’s future. What future does Silicon Valley have?

I think I can answer that question very easily—and I’ll accept any size bet on this call: when Silicon Valley comes back, it will be bigger than before. (Actually, it’s been back for a while--hence this venture.)

I was chatting with Ron Piovesan, from Cisco on this topic recently, and he says has also seen signs of improvement. He laughed when I said I own the dotcom name: SiliconValleyIsBack.com.

I said I’m serious, I do own it. I also have SiliconValleyisBackBaby.com! I'm going to set them up as headlines--heck, they were only $8 apiece. I bought SiliconValleyGarage.com for $8 too. Maybe I'll set it up as a tribute to HP?

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The usual suspects at Text 100 event

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets..."
But we made it to the Text 100 office opening last week.

It gave me another chance to play in my three-dot journalism persona, chronicling the geek society. The party felt a lot like the Bite Communications party the previous week--a lot of the same people standing around and yacking.

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PR Watch: The British invasion of the Silicon Valley PR sector continues

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Bite Communications hosted a party Thursday evening to celebrate its new offices on 345 Spear Street, a neighborhood that is attracting a growing community of PR professionals. Bite is a British PR company and has become a major player in Silicon Valley over the past year or so, especially following its acquisition of Applied Communications.

The usual Silicon Valley Hack Pack showed up -- Quentin, Don etc. I arrived with my former colleague at the Financial Times, Louise Kehoe. Louise, by the way, is doing some interesting work as a media consultant. Louise has been around for a long time and she knows a lot about the underbelly of Silicon Valley. I’m hoping to convince her to write an occasional guest column for Silicon Valley Watcher.

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PR Watch: PR companies and their tech clients are starting to notice bloggers

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

I had an interesting chat with Christina Armstrong the other day. Christina has been working in the valley for many years and is one of the best PR professionals around. She said that the blogging phenomenon has left many PR companies and their clients baffled about what to do.

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Friday Watch: San Francisco flacks flocking south of Market

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Much of San Francisco’s PR community seems to be moving to offices down by the SBC ballpark. Bite PR are celebrating the opening of their new office there soon. Outcast Communications are in the middle of moving to that area. And I recently heard that Sterling Communications is moving there too.

And it is not because Cnet’s News.com is near by—it’s simply because the rents are dirt-cheap. “We can get great office space for under $2 per square foot, compared to $30 or more elsewhere,” says Elke Heiss, vice president at Sterling Communications. “Also, it has easy access for our clients coming up from the valley, and cheap $6 all day parking.” She adds.

With so many other PR companies already in that neighborhood—it’s reader suggestion time! In the early 1990’s with the CDROM and multimedia “revolution” we had an area of San Francisco called “Multimedia Gulch.”

Maybe it could be called the “Flack District” ala the Garment District.

Or how about “Spin City?”

Your votes and suggestions please.

PR Watch: Outcast dinner party Part II -- bits and bites…

Continued from Part 1

Let me rush through the dinner highlights:

Margit and Caryn took the stage to welcome the guests, and they both looked fabulous. They attempted a joke about how Margit, being from Germany, did not know the term “home plate” and thought it was a type of food plate. It’s quite understandable—Margit seems to be on some kind of super Atkins—so she might get a little hungry occasionally.

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PR Watch: The Outcast CEO dinner party part 1: The Silicon Valley Hack Pack turns up...

Outcast Communications, the public relations agency, has been doing very well lately and that showed clearly at its 3rd Annual CEO dinner at the Clift on Wednesday evening. The place was full of Silicon Valley luminaries, including much of Silicon Valley's Hack Pack of leading journalists. I picked up some great stories, (however, I also picked up a hangover and forgot some of them!)

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PR Watch: The place to be on Wednesday evening was Outcast's 3rd annual CEO dinner at the Clift...

There was a who's who of industry luminaries, top journalists, and excellent conversation. And I picked up a ton of great gossip and items that I'm dying to share with my loyal readers.

But--it will have to wait for Friday because I have to run out and be a reporter. I'm off to yet another glittering event. This one is in San Jose, the annual Awards banquet hosted by SEMI, the trade group. The event celebrates the massive--but long suffering--chip equipment industry.

PR Watch: A pontification of priests...let’s bring back the concept of the salon

Sunday evening was a lot of fun because I had dinner with Susan MacTavish Best and a couple of dozen of her friends. And I also bumped into a few people I hadn’t seen in a while.

The food was delightful, but it was the people and the conversations that made the evening. Yes, Susan is a PR professional, but this was not a public relations event. It felt more like a family and friends Thanksgiving dinner, as we sat on chairs borrowed and begged from neighbors, and sat scrunched together in her modest apartment.

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PR Watch: No downturn down here as PR companies scramble for bodies

From a Wall Street vantage point the tech sector doesn't look that good right now. Earnings season is coming up and there are unlikely to be many positive surprises from Silicon Valley's public companies.

However, things are cooking in the private company sector, and Silicon Valley's PR companies are scrambling to fill new positions.
One large PR agency, which I'd rather not name...

...has 13 job openings. And many smaller PR companies are also looking for people. This is a good indicator of the strength of the local economy, since startups need representation. And increasingly, many startups are looking for PR companies to present their story to the business press, rather than just the trade press, says Marianne O Conner, president of Sterling Communications, one of the top tier local PR agencies. "Many companies have found that greater visibility in the business press can help them in many ways, such as making it easier to raise funding, and in recruitment," she says.

One problem, however, is that the mainstream business press mostly focuses on publicly traded companies. That is why stories about private companies are difficult to "sell" to the business press. And it is not just because they are small, either. SAS is a $1.3bn revenue software company, the largest private software company in the US. Yet coverage of SAS in the mainstream business press is rare. (There has been more press coverage on SAS in recent months, but that was in connection with the Google IPO, and comparisons with SAS' strong employee focus with that of Google.)

Silicon Valley PR agencies are hiring, but the work is tough, and some agencies are developing a reputation for burning people out very quickly.

This is partly because clients are demanding more and wanting to pay less. Clients have gotten used to being in the driver's seat over the past few years, when PR agencies were desperate for business. But now? I think there may be a rude awakening coming up for clients...and also one for those agencies that haven't taken care of their people during the past three very tough years. We are all vulnerable to better offers.