Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Mesh

In today's morning session at Mesh, Richard Edelman, of the eponymous agency, was intelligent, articulate and insightful.

And he offered a wonderful description of the PR practitioner's role: advisor, conscience, connector to influencers, source of creative ideas.

By contrast, I was somewhat taken aback by Mike Arrington's assertion yesterday (and I'm paraphrasing) that while he strives for credibility, sometimes he'll write outrageous things to drive traffic to his site.

Sounds less like a trusted source and more like supermarket-tabloid journalism to me (with apologies to publications that make no bones about what they are).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fresh from Mesh

This is my first mobile post (just to see if I can do it) from day one of the Mesh conference.

Random thoughts:

- Blogosphere seems to be divided into two camps: the wild west where pretty much anything goes and then the same thing, but with product placement.

- Biggest differences between social media and MSM is social media is much faster and often doesn't fact check.

- Biggest similarity is both are looking for a gem of a story.

- PR challenge is how to react quickly ('InstaPR') knowing we're pitching to infuencers who may be mis- un- or less informed than MSM, but who, within their networks, have a lot of clout.

- Overheard: 'I had a meeting at the World Trade Centre the morning of...but it was too early so I cancelled it.'

- Blogcognition - being recognized for something you wrote on your blog. (Someone actually said to me, 'Oh you're that blogger...' Hey, there's a first time for everything.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Transparent talk

There’s so much talk about the importance of transparency in the communications business these days.

And that’s great. My approach as a PR person has always been to disclose who I am, who I represent and what I’m asking up front.

Then, it’s up to the person being pitched, whether MSM or social media, to say - and here I'll quote Meat Loaf from Paradise by the Dashboard Light - ‘...Yes or No’.

It seems pretty straightforward and simple to me.

Transparent, even.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monitoring the monitor

I (and probably numerous other Canadian PR people) received a letter recently from the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens*, informing me that they changed their name.

And while I appreciated the news, I wondered how this might affect my agency.

It didn’t take long to find out. There, in the third paragraph, was the promise that I would continue to receive the same ‘Bowdens experience’ I had come to ‘know and trust’.

I wanted to scream.

To me the ‘Bowdens experience’ has been synonymous with mediocre service, missed obvious clips and the phrase ‘if you can tell me what network it was on and the time it aired, we’ll try to find it for you’. I’ve heard similar comments from other Canadian PR practitioners and some Americans, too.

To add salt to the wound, I received this same letter no less than a dozen times (in various bills). Once would have been fine thank you very much. But that wasn’t good enough for the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens. They had to reinforce their ‘experience’ again and again.

Which only made my frustration grow.

Then around that same time, the company told us that the only good rep we’d ever had in all our dealings with them had been ‘reassigned’. Was she shipped to the Gulag? Where do they come up with this stuff?

Consistently low quality service is something I have complained about to the company-formerly-known-as-Bowdens for many years, regularly calling the president with my gripes. The difference is that before I grudgingly accepted their limitations as someone might accept an inept bureaucrat in Eastern Europe circa 1974. I now think that they’re so out of touch with the industry that they’re marketing their incompetence as a plus.

Will they ever change? I’m not holding my breath.

But there’s one thing I'm pretty sure of: they won’t catch this clip.

*Please note: I’m not including a link because I don’t want to drive traffic to their site.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

In praise of news releases

Call me old fashioned but I really like news releases.

I’m talking about the one to two page documents, usually written by PR people, that have a headline, subhead, dateline, the words ‘for immediate release’ (they still thrill me), a story (information and quotes), boilerplate and contact information.

The relevance of news releases has been much debated in the blogosphere with comments suggesting they’re passé, written in indecipherable ‘corporate-speak’, need to be revved up with more links and so on.

My take is that even in the hyper-conversational world of blogs and social media, news releases still have an important place and value.

They’re a great leveler of the corporate playing field. They help define the scope of a business communication, contain useful information that sets the stage for more dialogue (including facts about the company, names of spokespersons) and tell you who to call if you want to follow up.

Think of them as conversation starters. We put them out there and you can decide to participate, dig deeper or ignore us. You can also read between the lines and I would encourage you to do that too.

For more information on this post or to continue the discussion, contact…me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cluetrain leaves me at the station

I finally finished The Cluetrain Manifesto. And about two-thirds of the way in, I just wanted to get off. As far as I was concerned, that train had run out of steam long before that. (OK Thomas, the rail puns have stopped.)

The book was repetitive and frustrating. The authors infused the prose with way too many cutesy metaphors (‘storm Fort Business’) which felt like a forced attempt to be edgy and cool.

Sure it had an interesting premise and it set the stage for the blogosphere. But there was just too much ‘I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together…’ type of sentimentality. (Which, I might add, was wonderful in that song but not in this book.)

And OK, I get the thesis: markets are conversations.

This sounded quite reasonable the first few times I read it, but they kept ramming it down my (or any reader’s) throat. To the point where it became clichéd and stale really fast.

From where I blog, I don’t think markets are conversations at all.

In a very literal sense markets are places. Places we go to buy and sell things. (What a pastime!) It’s an exchange, yes, of goods and services in the broadest sense of the words. But let’s call it what it is and not get all pretentious about it.

People go to markets. People have conversations. Conversations are things people have at markets. (With apologies to Dick and Jane.)

Person, place, thing. Different concepts that work together, complement each other and give reading, writing and yes, conversations style, substance and pizzazz. But they’re not interchangeable, not the same at all.

Sounds like basic grammar to me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How I know I'm Canadian...

...Because sometimes I arrive at my regular Tim Hortons at a normally busy time and there's only one person in the line-up ahead of me as opposed to the 30+ people that are usually there.

And that's all it takes to make my day.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

So you want to work in PR...

Every week I get resumes from students or young people who want to work in PR.

First off, let me thank you. As they used to say in showbiz, keep those cards and letters coming. For an agency owner, it’s good to know you’re out there.

But what can you do to make me take notice? Make me think you’re a person I want to recommend or hire?

Here are some things I look for:

Find out about my agency and me then come up with a creative way to show me what makes you unique and why we need you (without showing off).

Customize and carefully proofread your intro note and resume. I hate typos, form letters, long, boring paragraphs about your career objective. I know your objective: to work in PR.

Be a media junkie. Read the papers (all of them, even the tabloids). Watch TV, listen to radio, know the best websites, social media, blogs. Talk to me about reporters, who’s covering what. And when I ask you how you’d pull together a media list, don’t say you’d consult an online database. Instead, demonstrate that you understand, respect and enjoy media by starting at the source.

Be yourself and tell me your story. Make me want to listen but please don’t ramble on. And never lie or misrepresent yourself. I recently met with someone who listed a PR certificate she hadn’t completed. So much for her credibility.

Put away your ego and follow up. Pursue me. Use your wits and imagination. Landing a job is a lot like pitching media. Grab my attention, get me what I need and please be mindful of my time because I’m probably in the middle of about 10 deadlines. It may take a while, but I am reachable and I do return calls.

Come prepared. If we do meet, bring an extra copy of your resume, your best work samples (that you actually wrote) and a little something extra. So what do I mean by that? Maybe you’re an expert in social media. Maybe you have a good reason to be skeptical of it. I’m looking for a fresh perspective, a spark of intellect. I want to learn something new.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. But this is a start.

Repman Steve Cody has more good suggestions here.

All the best with your search. It may feel like a long process but you just need one person to say yes. As for me, I don’t have a lot of jobs to offer, but I’m happy to take your call.