PR Watch Archives

June 22, 2009

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 :)

June 16, 2009

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.

Continue reading "Lou Hoffman - Advancing PR: It Takes Two to Dance" »

June 10, 2009

The New Rules In PR - The Old Model Is Dead


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:

Continue reading "The New Rules In PR - The Old Model Is Dead" »

June 1, 2009

The Fleeting Value Of Social Media Monitoring


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.

April 24, 2009

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:

Continue reading "The Future Of PR When Every Company Is Now A Media Company..." »

March 12, 2009

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.'

March 9, 2009

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?

February 27, 2009

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

February 6, 2009

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

October 1, 2008

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.

- - -

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.

September 17, 2008

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


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.


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).


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 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.

September 9, 2008

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.

August 18, 2008

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 |

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.

- - -

Please see:

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

Raining on the PR industry's parade...

August 4, 2008

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.

June 24, 2008

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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June 9, 2008

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.

June 4, 2008

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 Sabrina Horn Video

January 24, 2008

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: 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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November 29, 2007

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 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.

- - - will be posting a video of the event.

November 11, 2007

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.

October 30, 2007

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....)

- - -

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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October 12, 2007

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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October 11, 2007

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--">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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October 9, 2007

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., 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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October 8, 2007

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.

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.

October 3, 2007

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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May 15, 2007

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. 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.)

May 11, 2007

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.


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




5 Albion Court
Galena Road
London W6 0QT
United Kingdom

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

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.

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.

Continue reading "Congratulations To Text 100 On Its 25th Anniversary" »

April 28, 2007

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.)

September 20, 2006

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 . . . :-) ]

September 1, 2006

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

July 26, 2004

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

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.

August 20, 2006

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.

June 22, 2006

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.]

June 5, 2006

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...

May 30, 2006

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:

Continue reading "Edelman grabs top slot in Silicon Valley PR" »

May 1, 2006

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.]


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... ;-)

April 28, 2006

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?”

Continue reading "Guest Column: Who shouldn't blog in the PR industry?" »

March 29, 2006

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?

March 28, 2006

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:

Continue reading "Howard High-Intel's leading PR chief is retiring this Friday" »

March 24, 2006

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?

March 23, 2006

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.

March 17, 2006

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...

Continue reading "Guest column: The lack of transparency among leading PR bloggers is a problem" »

March 15, 2006

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

Continue reading "650 words on the beauty of simple messages simply said" »

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 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,, 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...

March 10, 2006

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.

March 9, 2006

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.

Continue reading "The old rules and the new rules of business...a reply to Tina" »

March 7, 2006

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. . .)

March 5, 2006

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:

Continue reading "Oops! I just killed the press release..." »

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 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.

Continue reading "Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging" »

March 1, 2006

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:

Continue reading "Defending the delete-on-receipt news release. . . and an example of a better format" »

February 27, 2006

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:

Continue reading "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!" »

February 26, 2006

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."

Continue reading "A mainstream media love note to the blogosphere: Blog off!!!" »

February 13, 2006

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.

February 4, 2006

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:
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.


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.

Continue reading "Tracking some more of my Pushbacks :-)" »

February 2, 2006

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 :-).

January 31, 2006

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.


Continue reading "Drawing Flak from the Flacks: Transitions are always painful and emotional" »

January 27, 2006

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 :-)

January 23, 2006

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.

Continue reading "Some of my Top-Ten people in PR/marketing/communications for 2005" »

January 17, 2006

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.

January 12, 2006

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

Continue reading "Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?" »

September 30, 2005

Outcast CEO Dinner Club--the place to be Thursday, even for B&O...

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

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.

Continue reading "Outcast CEO Dinner Club--the place to be Thursday, even for B&O..." »

September 29, 2005

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

Continue reading "The Google Zeitgeist and the walking dead...imho" »

July 12, 2005

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

June 21, 2005

The British Invasion continues as OutCast is gobbled up by Next Fifteen

...will everyone in San Francisco PR eventually work for Tim Dyson?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

TDyson Hi Res bw.jpg 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.

Continue reading "The British Invasion continues as OutCast is gobbled up by Next Fifteen" »

June 13, 2005

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.

April 30, 2005

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: [email protected] And there is also the annonymous tip email on the side of this page.

April 14, 2005

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?!

April 7, 2005

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. . .

Continue reading "Do blogs and online forums make it easier, not harder, for companies to influence “market conversations”?" »

March 8, 2005

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?

Continue reading "If a Blogger Blogs in the Blogosphere..." »

March 7, 2005

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:

Continue reading "Interview: Dan Scheinman Cisco's head of M&A and corporate PR" »

March 6, 2005

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

+ 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 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...

+ 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.

January 28, 2005

How to Pitch Bloggers: Quick Notes from the New Communication Forum

by Tom Foremski for

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.


Presto Vivace Communications

Alice Marshall's Technoflak blog


January 26, 2005

Quick Notes from the New Communication Forum

by Tom Foremski and Candida Kutz for

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.


Elizabeth Albrycht

Dan Forbush

Constantin Basturea

As an entreprise application, check out Socialtext

An especially easy-to-use wiki engine is EditMe


January 11, 2005

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

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?

Continue reading "Guest Blog: Symantec/Veritas deal could provide McAfee with an opportunity to regain lost markets" »

Are there more senior PR shakeups on the way at top Silicon Valley companies?

by Tom Foremski for

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.

January 5, 2005

Old media buying new-ish media, will it make a difference?

by Tom Foremski for

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

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 for nothing…it cost me $8…coming to a website near you very soon.

January 4, 2005

SiliconValleyWatcher named as one of the most influential blogs by Bacon’s -- the media watcher bible

by Tom Foremski for
(Our good buddy Tom Abate at the SF Chronicle brought this one to our attention.)

This is fantastic news because Bacon’s is the gold standard in the media industry. And we are barely three months old!

Check out the third paragraph in this story from Media Post’s Media Daily News (I added the bold type):

Bacon's To Track Blogs By Gavin O’Malley Monday, December 27, 2004

Bacon's Information, the provider of media research, distribution, monitoring, and evaluation services for public relations and corporate communications professionals, has endeavored to light the depths of the Blogosphere. In January, Bacon's MediaSource will begin sharing with its clients the names of what it considers to be the 250 most reputable blogs, the messages they contain, and the frequency with which client-relevant information appears on them.

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.

Full story is here.

January 3, 2005

Google searching for top marketing honcho

by Tom Foremski for

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…)

December 27, 2004

Google muzzles the press: a report from inside the Googleplex holiday media party

by Tom Foremski for

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).


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.

Continue reading "Google muzzles the press: a report from inside the Googleplex holiday media party" »

Guest Blog/Letter to the Editor: Good Karma and Catch-22s in Tech PR...

Mark Coker, President of Dovetail Public Relations, tells readers...

...I'd like to share a personal story about my agency that describes a dilemma I think many good tech PR agencies face...

Continue reading "Guest Blog/Letter to the Editor: Good Karma and Catch-22s in Tech PR..." »

December 16, 2004

Silicon Valley PR firm Voce is building a business around its blogging expertise

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "Silicon Valley PR firm Voce is building a business around its blogging expertise" »

If you are not publishing to your community, you are not known to your community--send me a guest blog!

by Tom Foremski for

For at least a year, I’ve harbored ambitions of becoming a micro-media mogul. So much so, that I even bought the URL: This would give me the option of at some point, using [email protected] as my email address. I think it would look good on a business card. (I also have, which looks great on a business card.)

Continue reading "If you are not publishing to your community, you are not known to your community--send me a guest blog!" »

December 9, 2004

Prediction: Dotcoms will eat lunch this time around — the Reversal of the Internet Business Timeline. Part I

by Tom Foremski for

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 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...


November 29, 2004

Should bloggers refuse advertising to maintain independence?

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "Should bloggers refuse advertising to maintain independence?" »

Controlling access to top executives is widely used to influence media coverage

by Tom Foremski for

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.

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Bloggers could become easy prey to standard public relations techniques

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "Bloggers could become easy prey to standard public relations techniques" »

November 17, 2004

The time when Sabrina Horn almost table danced… PeopleSoft vows to innovate, and Sun says its software will be free

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "The time when Sabrina Horn almost table danced… PeopleSoft vows to innovate, and Sun says its software will be free" »

November 15, 2004

Silicon Valley is Back, Baby.......Dotcom

by Tom Foremski for

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:

I said I’m serious, I do own it. I also have! I'm going to set them up as headlines--heck, they were only $8 apiece. I bought for $8 too. Maybe I'll set it up as a tribute to HP?

Continue reading "Silicon Valley is Back, Baby.......Dotcom" »

The usual suspects at Text 100 event

by Tom Foremski for

"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.

Continue reading "The usual suspects at Text 100 event" »

November 5, 2004

PR Watch: The British invasion of the Silicon Valley PR sector continues

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "PR Watch: The British invasion of the Silicon Valley PR sector continues" »

November 3, 2004

PR Watch: PR companies and their tech clients are starting to notice bloggers

by Tom Foremski for

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.

Continue reading "PR Watch: PR companies and their tech clients are starting to notice bloggers" »

October 29, 2004

Friday Watch: San Francisco flacks flocking south of Market

by Tom Foremski for

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 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.

October 22, 2004

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.

Continue reading "PR Watch: Outcast dinner party Part II -- bits and bites…" »

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!)

Continue reading "PR Watch: The Outcast CEO dinner party part 1: The Silicon Valley Hack Pack turns up..." »

October 21, 2004

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.

October 4, 2004

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.

Continue reading "PR Watch: A pontification of priests...let’s bring back the concept of the salon" »

September 22, 2004

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...

Continue reading "PR Watch: No downturn down here as PR companies scramble for bodies" »

About PR Watch

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Silicon Valley Watcher - reporting on the business of technology and media in the PR Watch category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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