September 2, 2009

What is the “reality” of PR?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 12:00 pm by R

Looks like PR practitioners may have some brand management issues on their hands.

Kim Kardashian has plans to executive produce a reality TV show about Command Public Relations, exposing the “ins-and-outs of PR.”

Oh lordy.

Don’t get me wrong, I will totally watch. I, as a practitioner myself, would really love to see what the ins-and-outs of PR are according to Kimmy K. I might be amused…

Amusing aside, the idea of a “reality” show about PR peeps really bothers me. The perception of PR practitioners is less than glowing as it is. In movies we’re always portrayed as a little bit too slick for comfort or as ditzy party planners. We’ve got a stereotype to fight, as addressed earlier this week by @lindavandeverde on Valley PR Blog. And I can only imagine that this show will make that stereotype that much deeper.

A quick Twitter search reveals that I’m not alone in my worry over the impact this show could have for the reputation of PR practitioners. @AbbieF also detailed the problems with this PR premise in a recent blog post. Abbie reminds us of the cringe-worthy reality show that was PoweR Girls, featuring Lizzie Grubman,  famous not for her PR prowess, but mostly for mowing some people down with an SUV outside a nightclub in the Hamptons in July of 2001.

If  E! and Kim Kardashian are doing this show, let’s get another producer, from A&E  or TLC let’s say, to see the reality of PR…really.  It seems the only way to fight “reality” is with reality. Any takers?



August 20, 2009

The new 9 to 5

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 9:07 am by R

Darryl Ohrt observes in Small Agency Diary that the work day is “all day — and night.”

It’s true that the barrier between work and personal is leakier than ever. Professional emails are answered late into the night and we spend time on “personal” sites like Twitter and Facebook during the day — though plenty of work gets done there too.

Social media and technology like smart phones have made the ages old “traditional work day” obsolete. These new tools have also made the idea of he-or-she-who-works-latest-works-the-hardest moot.

I don’t think that ideal ever really resonated with Gen Y anyway. We’ve always been so mobile and accessible that it’s hard to understand why the physical confines of the office were pressed so hard upon us. Showing your commitment to a job is in the response…not the physical location.

Granted, some things must take place inside the office. Teams have to collaborate together. Meetings must be had at some point. But Ohrt offers an excellent argument and solution for a less traditional office schedule:

What if employees were required to be at the office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the rest of the schedule was left to their personal preference? Meetings could be scheduled, clients could make contact and collaborations could continue to flourish during the core part of the day. But otherwise, morning people could be morning people, and night owls could be night owls. A morning person might come in at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. A late sleeper might come in at 10 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m.

Executives and senior creatives are already working with open schedules, as management trusts that employees at this level have dedicated themselves to a career, and are going to work day and night anyway. Freelancers and independents also enjoy a schedule of their choosing. Naturally, some agencies require a 12-hour work day for all employees, and can’t even enter the discussion.

Giving employees the flexibility to work at their highest potential on their natural schedule seems like a great way to increase productivity. You can only fight your circadian rhythm so hard after all.  It appears to be the solution to burning out or being stressed about accomplishing, well, anything in your personal life.

Ohrt acknowledges, and so do I, that this type of scheduling wouldn’t work for every office, every position or even every person. Some companies require a lot of “face time” due to the nature of their client roster. So positions are, by design, “office jobs.” And then there are some people who require enforced structure to get the job done adequately. Ultimately, the call is individual by business, boss and personal evaluation.

Personally, I like to show up early. It feels proactive and it’s quiet! I love the calm of the phone NOT ringing off the hook while make serious headway on my to-do list.

With Gen Y becoming an increasing number of the workforce, I think demand for schedule flexibility will rise…and probably productivity.


August 13, 2009

Who’s the most ethical of them all?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 8:40 am by R

A new paper “The Moral Development of Public Relations Practitioners: A Comparison with Other Professions and Influences on Higher Quality Ethical Reasoning” written by some of the brilliant minds at Penn State’s Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, definitively states that PR practitioners aren’t B.S. artists.

This study examined the moral compasses for people in 19 professions by administering a a test where respondents answered on a scale the importance of decision-making with relation to a dozen different ethical scenarios.

After all the results were tallied, public relations practitioners scored high in the same bracket with medical students, practicing physicians, journalists, dental students and nurses.

PR practitioners weren’t tops on the list…that honor goes to seminarians and philosophers. (And frankly you’re not very good at either of these professions if you don’t earn high marks on an ethics test! Morality is sort of their bread and butter.)

Who ranked the lowest? If you thought criminals or politicians you’re close but no cigar — it’s junior high school students. What hormones-raging, Jo-Bros-obsessed teen can really be bothered with moral fiber anyway? The study notes that this result explains why teens still need the guidance of their parents — even though they know everything already. 🙂

So what does this study mean for public relations practitioners?  Well, in a day and age where we are perceived as low-down-and-dirty scoundrels (at worst), it’s a little bit of vindication. Especially when journalists are giving us more flack (pun intended), we need a little ammo to turn that perception around. Here’s the trick. You can’t just throw this study out at everyone who challenges your ethical nature — you actually have to live and practice PR like a deeply moral person.

Actions speak louder than words after all…

So it seems that the brand of the PR practitioner has been tainted by a few bad apples who have lost their moral compass. The rest of us who preach credibility, humility and authenticity to our clients ought to up the ante on representing those PR brand characteristics ourselves.


December 23, 2008

What Matters in A Brand

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 9:09 am by R

Experience is ALL that matters in a brand.

Let me give you a holiday example: why are Old Navy’s flannel holiday pants superior to all others in my opinion? Because of a little PJ Christmas party my friends and I had several years back. I. LOVE. THOSE. PANTS.

Silly yes, but the experience I had bound me to that brand.

More brands need to work to communicate and brand the experience with a brand than they are communicating quality, value, etc. Why you ask?

Because if the experience is satisfactory and matches up to the brand promise, quality and perceived value are sure to follow.

I for one, will be looking to create direct links between my client’s products and the experience’s people have with them to communicate the brand promise…not just spouting off the characteristics in releases and pitches. Clearly, that means testimonials, which communicate not only the experience, but the quality as well.

In a time where dollars matter more than brand loyalty a strong positive experience is the only thing that will keep consumers purchasing, making investments and otherwise spending where they could easily make a cutback.


December 11, 2008

Community Media Biting the Dust

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", In the news, Media, Political Punditry at 4:41 pm by R

My mom called and left me a message this morning at o’dark thirty with the major Roswell Daily Record headlines.

KRQE TV in Albuquerque is closing down the KBIM TV station effective TOMORROW.

KBIM offers Roswell’s only local newscast. What’s more, this Southeastern New Mexico CBS station really served the whole SE corner of the state, which includes places you may or may not have heard of like Artesia, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Clovis and Portales.

In my still groggy state, my response was: “So what.”

But as I started to wake up and smell the repercussions of KBIM going off-line questions popped into my head like:

  • Where will the community news come from?
  • Can an Albuquerque-based station adequately cover the news SE New Mexicans have relied on from the talented Kim Stecklein for years?
  • How many other major-media-owned community stations are going to go the way of the dinosaur?

So what are Roswell’s options?

Well demographics-wise, the place skews old. Technology-wise, I was well out of high-school before Cable Internet took hold. News wise, well people want their news. Roswell citizens are really connected to their community. They still need and deserve local news. So how do they get it?

Given all of this, I think there are some options (mom, listen up):

  • The New Mexico Military Institute’s students could fill the news needs with a Vlog. Perhaps a news writing class is in order. (Yes, I will be a guest speaker, no you may not call me ‘Roberta’ in front of the class — that .50 a piece deal still holds up right?)
  • Community News Blog sponsored by KRQE — since they had to axe the broadcast, why not follow the lead of CNN and have an iReport function for news contributed by Roswell’s people? Accessible anytime on the Web, these stories can be used on TV to fill time during the 5:30 & 10:00 holes that have recently been created.
  • Record TV — the paper could become a multi-media by offering a newscast on their website.

I suspect this same scenario will be playing out all across the country as news conglomerates aim to shore up budgets by making strategic cutbacks. And I also suspect that the future of community news all news will be on line. Like it or not.

This will be a conundrum for the “media Goliaths” as fiercely local, grassroots “media Davids” crop up to fill the footprints the Belo’s, Meridith’s and Argyle holding companies leave behind. Where do you suspect the loyalty (read: advertising $$$) will go?

In the words of Jack Welsh: “Change before you have to.”


December 4, 2008

A Moment of Gratitude

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 10:20 pm by R

For whatever reason, on a completely unremarkable day, I feel so grateful for what I do and the people I get to work with.

In a world of rampant layoffs, frightening news reports, depressing economic news and other gloomy goings-on, I get to do what  I love — write and communicate — and it helps people continue to do their business and do what they love.

During this moment of joyful enlightenment, I’d like to propose that we all do what we love, enjoy what we do each day and try to be grateful for everything that we have in our lives, even though times present challenges that make it SO easy to be glum.

Maybe it’s the holidays, the Christmas cheer seeping into me, but I’d like to envoke a lyric from the brilliant philosophers of Monty Python:

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

And…always look on the bright side of life… (whistles)
Always look on the light side of life…

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

Always look on the light side of life… (whistles)

And…always look on the bright side of life… (whistles)

And if it’s all just a little too much to take, you just can’t stomach another negative news story, another curmudgeon client, visit Elf Yourself. (Brilliant viral marketing too!)

It’ll make you look on the bright side of life real quick.


December 1, 2008

Fighting Santa & The Economy

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" tagged , at 4:26 pm by R

It’s that time of year…the one where it becomes near impossible to place any news that isn’t wrapped in fancy paper and tied up with a velvet bow — the holidays!

Don’t get me wrong…I’m a total nut about Christmas. The carols are blaring at my office (a new 2009 mix courtesy of moi), I have big plans to decorate the house this weekend and I can’t WAIT until my sister-in-law comes home from Gonzaga so that we can make a gingerbread house while watching Love Actually…our tradition.


But on the professional side, it’s tough. Especially now that we’ve had the earth shattering announcement that the US economy is in a recession and has been for an entire year. We are fighting Santa and economic news…Bah Humbug!

So how do we get around this double-blow for the next 25 days (with Christmas…who knows with the economy)?

  1. Acknowledge the challenge — let your clients know what you are up against to get them in the news. And remember, it’s a short month so a lot of our colleagues in the media will be taking well-deserved breaks for the holidays too.
  2. Work with what you’ve got — beyond being a challenge, the holidays and the economy are trends. Ask how you can play into those trends to create meaningful news hits.
  3. Look to the New Year — go beyond Santa if you can’t fight him. Many journalists are already lining up stories for the new year. With the economy in particular trend reports in various vertical businesses will be juicy fodder after 1/1/09
  4. Give for a good reason — companies tend to give just for the press of it. And while people still benefit in these instances, a compelling story is much more touching. Does your company have a  heart for animals? Has your company served a family in need? Do your employees work with a great organization who needs help this year? The personal stories and community impact are the real pay off. Do good to inspire others to do good. That’s real news.
  5. Concentrate on long lead publications — Magazines and industry publications are well on their way to Valentine’s Day and beyond, start locking in hits through the first quarter.

Be of good cheer (and creativity) there are still plenty of stories to tell! Don’t let the Jolly Fat Man or Wall Street get in your way.


November 24, 2008

What a Tool.

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Industry Standards tagged at 2:58 pm by R

We all rely on the help of well-developed resources as PR peeps, but a post by Dan Wool at Valley PR Blog really got me thinking:

In a world of customization and consideration, how are media resources and reference data bases helping us do our jobs better?

I have used several resources who tout one of their benefits as “distribution.” This means plugging in the info, and hitting send. Not ideal for getting a reporter’s attention. Not ideal for getting coverage. Not ideal for making a good name for yourself as a considerate PR pro.

Services like Bacon’s (Cision), Burrelle’s Luce, Vocus, PR Newswire, etc. would do well to tailor their services to the rapidly changing needs of PR people and reporters.

Things I’d really like to see all of these services offer to compete for my business (may the best man win):

  • Reporter contacts updated DAILY and checked for contact information accuracy
  • Full accounting of recent articles for each reporter/producer
  • BLOGS: contacts, content and RSS feed
  • Up-to-date editorial calendars (It’s the end of November. Really? Really? There’s nothing out for 2009? I call bull S*&%.)
  • Reporter query portals (HARO is superior to all others at this service presently. Why? They specialize and do it well.)
  • News alerts. Google does it (and everything else), why can’t Burrelle’s cross check between news coming out and reporters in my stored media list? Am I asking for the moon here?

The bottom line is that in a lot of ways I don’t feel like the PR services industry has caught up to what we as practitioners are adapting to.

Maybe it’s the case that I’m not using the “best” search terms but nothing, NOTHING is as frustrating as searching for a known broadcaster or heck an entire network (!!) and getting the old “search returned no results.”

In fact, this is sort of what I look like when that happens.


Long story longer: PR Tools, get up to speed. I’ve got a job to do here and I need help to do it well.


November 18, 2008

PR’s not dead, but I’m pretty sure the press release is…

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Industry Standards at 4:22 pm by R

I sent out a press release today on PR Newswire. I got to thinking…why?

A couple good reasons really:

  1. Sending a release across the wire helps it to propagate like crazy. Ninety-five Web hits in one hour is nothing to turn your nose up at.
  2. It’s a great door knocker to publications and media outlets for pitching purposes.

But no one is calling me or banging down my client’s door for more information. Not because the story isn’t great, but because it came in the form of a press release.

To test my theory, I sent two emails: one that just had pitch information and client news, the other included a pitch and the release. Take a wild guess as to which one got a nibble.

The one without a release.

Here’s my hunch.

When it’s a personal email directed at a specific reporter with detailed information, it seems almost like you’re giving the reporter an exclusive. A press release inherently says:

Hi! I’ve been crafted for a plethora of journalists making whatever you write about me seem boring, repetitive and anything but unique. Please use me.

So, where do we go from here?

You’ve got to have client-approved talking points, but you’ve got to make it personal. I say get approved messaging points and dispense with the personal pitches.

For the really big stuff, crossing the wire makes sense. I sure can’t place 95 hits in one hour that will propagate like mad in SEO. But for so many other things, addressing personal relationships, individual needs of reporters and being a tailored resource is the only thing that makes sense.

The press release is dead! Long live public relations!


Is PR Dead?

Posted in A walk on the "dark side", Industry Standards at 3:57 pm by SD

On Friday, I heard Dave Taylor give a presentation titled “PR: 0, Bloggers: 1.” My first thought as he started his presentation was “Awesome, so now my job is obsolete. Just what I need in this economy!” Fortunately, PR is not dead, it’s alive and well if you’re willing to evolve and look at things a little differently.

In order to subscribe this new evolution of PR, you have to understand that:

“PR is not about controlling the message but about influencing the discussion.”

Well said Dave Taylor.

Fellow PR control freaks, we’ve got to let go of the role of the “gatekeeper” of information because no matter how hard we try, we don’t have 100% control of it. The Internet has made information way too available for this to happen. We still have information but we can’t always control how it gets out. Most of the time, the best we can do is try to influence the discussion. How do we do this? We combine our traditional PR efforts with online efforts. This means keeping those relationships with our local print and broadcast outlets but building new ones with online bloggers. It’s having an online presence whether via a blog, video sharing site or social networking site. It’s always asking ourselves, “how can we be part of the conversation?” and “where are people talking about us?” and then going to those places. It’s not asking, “how do control the message?” because we can’t control it, we can only try to influence it. Without this change in thinking, PR will die.

So, as I get ready to start my week, I rest assured that PR isn’t dead, it’s just changing. I’m up to this challenge, are you?


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