Aug 06

Just Call Me the Billy Packer of Blogging

PRWeek is launching a 32-blogger, NCAA-type, winner-take-all tournament tomorrow and yours truly has decided to handicap the field. I figure if Billy Packer can do it for the NCAA college basketball tournament, why can’t I provide the same prognosticating for the wonderful world of PR?Blogcompetition_rev2_23365

So, without further ado, here are my favorites (note: in order to satisfy Web 2.0’s relentless demand for truth, honesty and the transparent way, I must disclose that my partner-in-crime, Edward Aloysius Moed, is one of the 32 competitors. While I am not picking Ed to be a finalist, I could see him playing a real spoiler role right through the Sweet 16 [think: Loyola Marymount or Providence College, if you will]).

The PR Week Final Four:

Richard Edelman (he’s the John Wooden of PR blogging. With Edelman’s thousands of employees to vote on his behalf, Richard is my odds-on favorite to go all the way).

Steve Rubel (if Richard is the John Wooden of PR blogging, then Steve Rubel is the James Naismith of the sport. He was there on day one and has been THE major player ever since. Edelman vs. Rubel in the final with Edelman winning on some last-minute voting from the Far East).

Shel Holtz (Shel is a serious University of Kentucky-level competitor, whose blog is insightful and spot-on. He was also right there at the dawning of the PR blogosphere and will play his way into the Final Four.

Katie Paine (Forget Wooden and Naismith. Katie is the Adolph Rupp of PR measurement. Nobody’s done more to advance measurement in PR, and her blog is always spot-on. Look to Katie to also be a semifinalist.

FYI, my Great Eight would also include Pit Bulls and Labradors if for no other reason than I love both breeds. Let the games begin…..

May 21

Mom always said to think before you speak

Guest blog written by Meaghan Hayden.Foot_4

Three weeks ago, “Costas Now” re-appeared on HBO, touting a roundtable discussion on the role of internet media (i.e. blogging) in the sports industry.  The show’s guests for the evening were “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger, Deadspin.com editor Will Leitch, and Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Braylon Edwards.  What could have been an intelligent conversation between men with differing views on what constitutes sports “news” quickly fell apart as Bissinger attacked Leitch, proclaiming, “I think you’re full of ****” less than two minutes into the show.

Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize winner, then continued on an angry rant against Leitch and all sports bloggers, using profanity and sweeping generalizations to accuse bloggers of being profane and inaccurate.  Predictably, Bissinger’s bitter tirade hurt himself more than Leitch or the sports blogosphere.

Aside from being massacred by bloggers everywhere (a group Bissinger would no doubt ignore), Bissinger’s fellow print journalists fell in line to criticize his lack of control. New York Times reporter Richard Sandomir called him the symbol of “the mainstream media’s fear and suspicion of [blogging’s] influence,” and the  Wall Street Journal praised Leitch’s response to the episode, believing he showcased well-placed restraint and politeness when confronted by Bissinger.

To cap his stellar performance, Bissinger used one of RepMan’s favorite phrases, “perception is reality,” in an attempt to force Leitch to admit that public perception of blogs is poor and therefore blogs are a poor excuse for journalism.  Maybe Bissinger should have repeated that statement to himself before going on national television because public perception of Mr. Bissinger is, well, not so great anymore.

Feb 29

No apology necessary for not apologizing

Stanley Bing’s blog about the inadvisability of apologizing makes some smart, savvy and, as always, funny
points about a recent tempest in a teapot at Maxim Magazine.
Maxim_logo

In a nutshell, Bing argues that Maxim management called unnecessary
attention to a blunder by publicly apologizing for it. Lots of Bing readers disagreed, though, and believed it disingenuous to not apologize for the transgression.

Well, yes and no.

Bing is right that Maxim did escalate an otherwise forgettable event with its printed apology. And, Bing’s readers are right to say that apologizing is the only ethical and transparent thing to do in this crazy, post-Enron world in which we live.

Bing’s point, though, is that formulaic crisis management isn’t ALWAYS the smart solution. In fact, Hollywood’s version of crisis management is so pathetically predictable that the apology is seen as the sham it really is.

Bing is a top corporate strategist in ‘real life’ and would, I think, argue for a full apology and complete transparency if a Fortune 500 company were to find itself between a rock and a hard place. That said, I do think there are many shades of grey in any crisis and, sometimes, just sometimes, not apologizing is the way to go.

Feb 05

What you don’t know can hurt you, your career and your organization’s image

The marketing geniuses at Woolworths (now a UK company with no stores in the US) must150014678lolitaposters
have skipped their English Literature class en masse while growing up. How else to explain their total ignorance of the blockbuster book and movies, ‘Lolita’?

Woolworths just had to recall an entire line of girls’ bedding named after the ubiquitous and promiscuous 12-year-old heroine of the Nabokov novel, Lolita.

Parents were justifiably outraged at the mere thought of purchasing bedroom furniture that celebrated the antics and acrobatics of the pre-teen tart. And Woolworths’ defense? They’d never heard of the character, the book or the movie.

One would have to lead a fairly sheltered life to have missed the any of the movies, starting with the "original" featuring a comely Sue Lyon as Lolita, a sinister James Mason as her paramour Humbert Humbert and a pathetic Shelly Winters in an Oscar-nominated performance as Lolita’s mother. But, then again, the mass ignorance at Woolworths could merely be indicative of a prevalent and disturbing trend among marketers of a certain age (read: youngish): if an event happened before they ‘came of age,’ it simply didn’t exist.

The losers? The young girls, their parents. Woolworths’ image and reputation, and all of us. Which is why I urge young people to read, read and read some more. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be. The smarter you are, the less likely you’ll be to make foolish mistakes that can derail a career and sideswipe a corporate image.

Nov 02

Safeguarding the brand of you

Far too many young PR professionals have inflicted ‘image’ wounds on themselves, their agencies andWired
their clients by not grasping the subtleties of digital communications. Now comes further proof that the image you save may be your own.

Hundreds of ‘lazy’ publicists were just ousted by Wired. Their transgression: not familiarizing themselves with either the publication or the individual Wired editors. As punishment, the editor listed each and every offender’s e-mail address and said he’d blacklist them moving forward. Sadly, this public humiliation will now follow these individuals as they move from job to job.

Haste makes waste (as does sloppiness). Wired was right for calling out the lazy publicists. It’s a painful, but hopefully productive way for these individuals to learn the importance of safeguarding ‘the brand of you.’

Thanks to Stephanie Chaney for the idea.

Jul 16

Let’s rename this service ‘DieBlogComments.com’

With the traditional and digital worlds still buzzing about the bogus posts of Whole Foods CEO John Mackay on his own company’s site, comes word of a 100 percent unabashedly ersatz new service called Buyblogcomments.com.

As the name implies, bloggers who want increased traffic and improved search rankings pay this service to generate "authentic" comments that link back to the blog. The service essentially spams the comment pages of other blogs and inserts backlinks to drive traffic and Google juice. The site says:

"Finally, you can purchase quality blog comments without the stress of finding someone to write the comments, or buying some high priced automated program. BuyBlogComments is NOT spam! When you purchase blog comments from us, you are getting quality blog comments. They wont be saying stuff like "nice site, check out these free insurance quotes".. the blog comments will be about the blog post that we are commenting on. You won’t even be able to tell our blog comments apart from the rest. So the blogger is safe, it will look completely like a legit comment that someone reading the blog post wrote. In fact, most bloggers will like the free comments to help with their community…"

How clever. As if bot spam wasn’t annoying enough. Now blog readers have to endure a new, more disguised layer of spam. Sadly, I’m guessing a few unethical firms will experiment with this service. Hopefully BuyBlogComments will die a quick death.

Apr 11

Civility on the web? Fuggedaboudit!

Tim O’Reilly’s well-intentioned, but incredibly naïve, suggestion to create a set ofManners guidelines to shape online discussion and, ultimately, bring civility and manners to the web has about as much chance of success as the proverbial snowball in hell. (Click for article in NY Times.)

O’Reilly, along with Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, are asking bloggers to, among other things ban anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

Had this dynamic duo suggested such a set of guidelines say, two or three years ago, I’d give it a better than 50-50 chance of success. But, with 60 million-plus bloggers around the world doing and saying whatever they please, the chance of even a small percentage playing by Messrs. O’Reilly and Wales’ new rules is slim to none.

The genie is out of the bottle as far as online boorishness, poor manners and inappropriate postings. In fact, the Blogosphere reminds me of the Old West where lawlessness reigned supreme and the quickest gun (or, in the Blogosphere’s case, the quickest typepad) won the day. So, hats off to O’Reilly and Wales, but the guys with the Black hats can’t and won’t be controlled.

Dec 05

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

We’ve just conducted a first-of-its-kind survey comparing and contrasting blogging in the U.S. and U.K. I was really hoping there would be some big gaps separating our two countries but, surprisingly, nada. That said, there does seem to be a near universal "fear" of becoming fully engaged in blogging that holds true for both Brits and Yanks.

Eighty-five percent of executives from both countries believe blogs are an important communication tool, a fact that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Despite the overwhelming amount of responses that claim blogs are credible and valuable communications tools, most respondents admit that they (or their clients) do not have an official company blogging policy (U.S.: 87 percent, U.K.: 82 percent). And only 37 percent in the U.S. and 36 percent in the U.K. are actually blogging on behalf of their company or client.

The public relations industry is beautifully positioned to capitalize on the growth and importance of what is being called Web 2.0. So why the disparity? I think it can all be summed up by the word "fear." PR pros need to understand that digital is a natural extension of other integrated marketing components and shouldn’t be feared because of the perceived "loss of control" or "rejection" by senior management if it should backfire.

You could almost compare this to the fears and anxieties that people who suffer from obesity, fear of flying, or quitting smoking deal with. They’re so caught up with achieving the goal (i.e. weight loss or, in PR’s case, pleasing the internal or external client) that they never focus on identifying the obstacles standing in the way of their goal. For instance, with weight loss, it might be committing to a daily exercise program. With digital, it might be taking the time to experiment and understand the landscape in a safe, protected environment. This "fear of fear" may just want be what is holding PR back from stepping up to the plate in the digital playing field.

Everyone from web designers to advertisers is trying to stake their claim in this new digital landscape. PR touts itself as being the marketing function that understands the business of our clients business. We’ve realized the importance of this new medium, now it’s time to swallow our fear and take ownership of it by integrating it into our service offerings and overall communications strategies.

Oct 24

A ‘day-in-the-life’ blog could make for a unique and fascinating marketing and recruiting tool

England’s National Trust recently declared Tuesday, October 17th as its "one day in history" day and invited Britons across the Realm to log onto History Matters.

Their assignment: to write a brief post reflecting the ways in which history affected them on that549403  particular day in British history. So, if they walked past a historic site and were so moved, they would record the experience. If they spotted a Royal personage or matinee idol, they could report on that encounter as well. As long as it had something to do with "history," all posts were welcomed.

The National Trust’s goal is to capture and preserve for posterity a perfectly normal "day-in-the-life" of their historic land. The exercise was inspired by a similar undertaking in 1937 (I wonder how many Brits used blackberries back then to record their experiences?). And, the blog posts will be permanently housed in the British Library.

I love all things historic and salute our Allies for this wickedly cool idea. But, it also got me thinking.

Organizations of all types are always trying to figure out new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition while attracting and retaining the very best talent.

Imagine how cool it would be to provide prospective clients and employees with an honest, unvarnished look at a "day-in-the-life" of the organization? (Obviously, it would have to be an unvarnished, unedited blog to have any credibility with readers).

A typical "day-in-the-life" blog from Peppercom might include posts by our Office Manager Lee Stechmann, warning the guys that they needed to take better care of the men’s room. It might also include a blog from Receptionist Kelly Walton, asking who had ordered the turkey and rye sandwich that had just been deposited on her desk. We’d also be likely to see a note from Debbie Spalding, our CFO, who would once again be warning employees they’d have no computer access if she didn’t receive their timesheets pronto. And, of course, there’d have to be a highly-spirited back-and-forth dialogue between my partner, Ed and I about the virtues of our respective alma maters.

I think a periodic day-in-the-life blog would be a smart and strategic addition to any organization’s website, marketing and human resources program. Now, watch me suggest it at the next management meeting and see it get shot down for some perfectly logical reason I’m not thinking of.

Oct 19

What do Banana Republic, Intel and Coca-Cola all have in common?”

The answer is: they were among the very first big-time corporate marketers to advertise on blogs.

And, they’re doing so because advertisers know bloggers attract a very definite audience enabling them to truly pinpoint their marketing efforts. TechCrunch, the Silicon Valley tech-focused blog, is actually collecting some $60,000 per month in advertising dollars (it draws more than 1.5 mm readers on a regular basis).

Clearly, blogs are a viable business model if, and it’s a big if, they combine talent and content, while simultaneously being perceived as among the most influential "places" to break a story, introduce a new product or service, slam a competitor or do any number of other cool, juicy things.

So, while survey after survey may show that America’s corporations are slow to embrace blogging, individual bloggers who have figured out a way to set themselves apart are starting to rake in some serious bucks. And, there’s definitely a lot more gold in "….them thar hills." According to various sources, overall web advertising is expected to grow by 50 percent to $23.6 billion in 2010. And many analysts think bloggers will see a good slice of that moola.

So, attention digital advertisers: Repmanblog.com is now accepting offers. Imagine the added dimension Repman can add to your marketing efforts by connecting you to such upscale and influential prospective customers as "medical supply executive," "lunch boy" and "Uncle Utah." Talk about an offer you can’t refuse! Virtual operators are standing by now to take your order.