Oct 04

You may have found Waldo, but i found Christ

Yet another disgraced athlete announced he had ‘found’ Christ in his time of distress. This time it wasMarbury_2
Knicks bad boy Stephon Marbury who, caught up in the disgraceful Isiah Thomas sexual/workplace harassment case, told reporters Christ had entered his life on June 29th of this past Summer (Repman’s b’day, btw). I don’t know about you, but I am sick of hearing fallen heroes like Mel Gibson, Michael Vick and Marbury suddenly ‘get’ religion. The only thing they’re getting is textbook advice from some crisis PR counselor.

Aug 17

How NOT to win friends and influence people

Kpbs_logo2_2Ever suffer through one of those never-ending Public Broadcasting fundraising efforts? They’ll debut some
very cool new documentary or concert that will draw you in, but then they’ll interrupt every 15 minutes or so with nattering program managers and pseudo-intellectual, B-level actors or actresses who implore you to give, give,

I take no issue with the strategy since PBS does, in
fact, need our individual contributions to continue providing the kind
of content that it, and it alone, seems capable of producing
(Frontline, The American Experience and any Ken Burns documentary come
immediately to mind).

So, why in God’s name, would a local PBS general manager at San Diego station KPBS, go out of his way to alienate current and prospective viewers cum donors with absurd, Neo-Nazi like comments?

This sort of boorish, ‘bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you’ behavior not only undermines the overarching PBS philosophy, it reflects poorly on the organization’s carefully crafted image of being the arbiter of all things liberal, avante garde and sophisticated.

So, here’s one pledge that PBS can count on: you can forget about any donations from this particular blogger/viewer until Neanderthals like San Diego General Manager Doug Myrland are given the hook.

Aug 10

Proselytizing on PR’s behalf

I had the unique opportunity to address a group of chief marketing officers and advertising executivesImage810
yesterday at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference in Chicago.

It was a great platform from which to ‘spread the gospel’ among the uninitiated. As I sat and waited my turn to speak, I heard one senior Fortune 500 executive after another share best practices for ‘breaking through’ and connecting with customers via traditional advertising and other unconventional means (digital, word-of-mouth, outdoor and, oh yes, PR, or ‘unpaid media’ as one executive called it). There was some recognition of PR but, frankly, only in passing.

So, when I finally had the chance, I spoke about the unrivaled power of third party credibility, the role of partnerships in expanding awareness and reputation and why I believe PR is best suited to lead the digital discussion.

I saw a few nodding heads, a few blank stares and more than one scowling face. But, it was very cool indeed to be addressing a group of top marketing and advertising executives and having an unfettered and unfiltered bully pulpit from which to spread the gospel of all things PR. At the moment, I feel like the Joel Osteen or Billy Graham of the public relations world. Or, maybe I was more like a Christian in ancient Rome being fed to the lions? I’m not sure which.

Jul 26

A day in the life

The following is a guest blog by Sophie Hanson, AE, Peppercom London

Hanging out in the poolside sauna yesterday I thought I definitely had the best deal from my job swap with the CEO of Peppercom, Steve Cody.

Last time I saw him he was holed up at my desk knee deep in news searches and press releases in his role as "Sophie, Account Executive for the day."

After some laps of the pool, sitting in the steam room I got to thinking about where you could go with the whole job swap premise. Imagine swapping with your client for the day and having them come into your office. As much as we try to make every client feel most important, the reality there’s a responsibility juggling act going on behind the scenes.

If you flip over from client side to agency side as I have, it’s an eye-opening switch. Working for a large media owner I had incredible expectations of what our agencies should be doing for us, whether PR, advertising or other marketing brethren. Demanding would be an understatement yet they always delivered with a smile. It could have been the steam making me light headed but I was suddenly hit by the realization that yes, I probably was the client from hell.

As a client I’m not sure one ever fully appreciates the art of account handling, but now I realize that the ability to remain positive, enthusiastic and "can-do" even when faced with the most demanding of clients is a skill that can be learned and improved on.

Making the switch to agency side is almost like learning a new language, we don’t just get hits, we "secure" coverage. I’m acutely aware of the need to reinforce pro-activity and have learnt to transfer my client side outlook to the other side. That said, the insight remains unbeatable.

So here’s the thing, I dare a client to spend even just a morning job swapping with an agency contact and prepare to be amazed at how much time we spend working on accounts, and the little things you don’t see us do that deliver such quality work. And similarly, if PROs spent a day in their clients’ office they would soon learn what makes them tick.

As for being CEO for the day, I was surprised that down time wasn’t nearly as relaxing as I imagined, as I constantly wondered how things were going back at the office. Having someone else come do your job is a reality check, it’s easy to get preoccupied with shuttling from one task to another and forget to take a step back to enjoy the fun and creative aspects of the job. Ultimately I learned that all you really need is a blackberry, a phone, self confidence, good team spirit and you can dive right into anything and achieve results from anywhere in the world.

Today I’m back to being Sophie, Account Executive, but as my last CEO task and in true Steve Cody style, I write this guest blog from the train en route to the office.

Jul 12

Creating the brand of you

In preparation for a recent speech to about 75 PR agency interns, we surveyed the group to uncover their views about the job search process. To provide some perspective, we also surveyed mid level employees at various agencies.

We asked how prepared they’d been in interviews, how important personal connections were and how they differentiated themselves from other job seekers.

I could write a book based upon the responses. But, suffice it to say that interns place more value on personal connections and personality to help them win a job. And, their elders count more on relevant experience and a strong track record to differentiate themselves.

Building what I call the ‘brand of you’ is critical in a business world where corporate loyalty is a true oxymoron. Statistics show the average employee now holds seven different jobs over the course of a career. So, in the same way it’s important for a Unilever, McDonald’s or Starbucks to build and nurture a brand, it’s critical for each and every one of us to do the same.

I’ll share some personal examples of ‘you’ brand building in tomorrow’s blog.

Jun 06

We have met the enemy and he is us

The biggest challenge facing the public relations industry remains, in my mind, the abysmal state of writing at all levels of the profession. How can we represent the best and brightest of the global multinationals when we can’t consistently and coherently communicate?

You know the problem is becoming widespread when the trade journalists covering the PR field fall prey to arcane and obfuscating prose. Case in point: the title of PR Week’s upcoming global conference. Check this out:

"PR Global International Reputation Summit: Balancing Your Local and Global Voice to Build a Consistent Corporate Identity in an Interconnected and Instantaneous Media Climate."

Oh baby. Ernest Hemingway has to be spinning in his grave. I’d expect this sort of hyperbole and superfluous word use from an IT guy or a management consultant. But, what does it say about PR when PR Week comes out with something like this?

As the cartoon character, Pogo, famously exclaimed, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’

May 24

Time travel is so much fun

In anticipation of our firm’s Spring cleaning this Thursday, I started rifling through some old files and deep-sixing unnecessary clutter. As I did, I came across a true relic that presented a mini time portal to another era that, thankfully, is dead and buried.

The artifact was the January 11, 1999 issue of PR Week, which I had held onto because of a page-six article heralding Peppercom’s winning the GE Financial Assurance account (beating Fleishman and Bozell Worldwide in the process. Bozell Worldwide? Where are they now?).

Anyway, as I scanned the entire issue, I came across some real time-period gems, including:

– An editorial presumably penned by then Editor-In-Chief Adam Leyland bemoaning the fact that national business publications had been missing the boat on the huge, upcoming Y2K crisis. He wrote: "The Millennium Bug is not just a technology problem; as much as anything it is a problem of communication. He cited a recent USA Today survey in which 46 percent of respondents expected air traffic control systems to fail. Yet, Leyland said, most airlines were "…adopting little more than a cautiously reactive approach to media inquiries." The text goes on and on to warn about the major business disruptions about to occur and industry’s seeming lack of proactive communications outreach. He felt Y2K was a huge opportunity for the PR industry to shine. In fact, as we now know, Y2K was much ado about nothing and Y2K preparedness was one of the major hoaxes of the late 1990s.

Continue reading

May 17

Ad industry should do its homework first before asking PR: why can’t we all just get along?

I’m reading more and more articles in the ad trades about PR’s growing importance and its seeming ‘encroachment’ into such ‘traditional’ advertising domains as word-of-mouth.

This week’s Ad Age contains an interesting piece by Noelle Weaver that asks, in effect, why we can’t all just get along. Alongside it, though, is a telling list of comments from various readers, that explain, in part, why the disconnect continues.

One observation from an integrated marketing agency executive inadvertently nails the ‘problem’ on the head. Intending to illustrate how each discipline contributes thinking to the other, he writes, ‘…..PR people often identify the Big Idea and write great headlines and taglines, and the ad creatives come up with great promotions, events and story placement ideas.’ And, therein lies the problem.

Ad people still think of PR as being limited solely to stunts, press releases and media relations. It isn’t. And, it hasn’t been for some time. The best PR is being leveraged to create new, and serious, dialogues with a rapidly-changing end user landscape, and ranges from viral and digital initiatives to thought leadership and strategic partnerships. As long as advertising types continue to see us as stuntmen and women, they’ll continue scratching their heads wondering why we can’t all just get along (and continue to lose more and more of the client’s overall marketing budget).

May 15

PR Week’s less-than-excellent agency survey

PR Week provides a comprehensive and value service to the industry. But, they do clients and agencies alike a disservice when they publish a report like their ‘Agency Excellence Survey.’

While it appears fairly comprehensive in scope and was conducted in conjunction with Millward Brown, a serious research player, it focuses solely on the big agencies (and is interspersed with some handsome, full-page advertisements from Weber-Shandwick, Porter-Novelli, Ketchum and Ogilvy).

The problem with the section is its parochial view. More and more clients have sought relationships with smaller, more nimble, agencies precisely because the so-called ‘excellence’ PR Week and Millward Brown are surveying is lacking at many large firms. And, that’s not conjecture. It’s fact.

I’m not saying the big guys aren’t good. I’m merely stating the obvious: PR Week is completely missing the boat with its report. It’s time Julia, Elly & Co. spread the wealth. I guarantee we can find plenty of small and mid-sized firms that could more than match the ‘excellent’ scores given to our bigger brethren.

May 14

Speed dating for PR firms

Imagine receiving an e-mail from a potential paramour asking you and 15 other guys or girls to send your vitals and level of interest in hooking up. Keep in mind, you’ve never met or heard of this person before. And, you’ve even been given a deadline to respond: Tuesday, May 15th at 4pm.

Well, that’s exactly what a firm called Terrachoice Environmental Marketing did to about 15 or 20 PR firms (including mine).

In the e-mail they say they want a PR firm (or "agent," which is an interesting use of words), to represent Terrachoice in such sectors as commercial interiors, JanSan (one of my favorites), building materials, carbon neutrality (a sure Silver Anvil winner) electricity and printing services.

I don’t react well to cattle calls and never have. I think responding to such inquiries belittles our profession and makes one feel more like a plumber, carpenter or medical supply executive than a public relations counselor.

Terrachoice Environmental Marketing probably doesn’t know any better, so I won’t comment on the professionalism (or lack thereof) of the mass e-mail. I would ask the firm, though, if they would employ the same tactic to look for a mate in their personal life. After all, what sort of quality firm (or person) responds to a mass e-mail?

Thanks for including us, but we’ll miss tomorrow’s deadline. Happy hunting…