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@jspepper



Tilting against windmills in marketing, communications, social media and public relations. Shining a light on the issues that we prefer to ignore in the industry. The history of this blog is it started as a diary of starting my own public relations agenc



Updated: 2016-06-14T09:16:14.707-07:00

 



Social Media Boiling Over Red Lobster

2016-02-10T07:43:28.896-08:00

Since the beginning of this blog 13+ years ago, I have hammered on one thing consistently: as professionals in public relations and communications, the collective group has to go above and beyond the conventional blogging or social media norms to act above reproach and set standards.This call to establish better standards never really caught on, as the desire to be the first to publish was – and still is – more important than the whole truth. I argued with others in this industry that as professionals in public relations, we have an obligation to allow our fellow industry colleagues to get facts on the record before making claims or debating issues in public forums.The fact that I wrote about this 11 years ago and things still have not changed is just sad. Back then, FedEx Furniture was all the rage and FedEx was vilified in social media dialogue. I called up, and interviewed the communications person at FedEx and got the full story from both FedEx and the furniture builder. Plus, I was the only person – blogger or reporter – who called FedEx. Everyone else, including morning television shows, just went with what was being said online. It was not hard to do; after one quick email to FedEx, I got a response and an interview. And I think – no, I know – we have a responsibility as contributors to this industry to always strive to get the full story.Now, there isn’t one week that goes by without a declaration of a social media fail. Whether it’s the “digerati” making statements on social or blogs, or reporters from marketing and advertising news sites, everyone is quick to proclaim that Brand X totally fucked up.This weekend was no exception. People got their knives out for Red Lobster (full disclosure: I did email them with a question but have not heard back). The quick story: Beyoncé dropped her new song, Formation, on Saturday with a line about going to Red Lobster (in a not family-friendly line). Red Lobster didn’t immediately respond on social, and then when they did respond 8 hours later, it still wasn’t good enough for the crowds. The company was in a no-win situation, because no matter what they did or did not do, the “wisdom” of the crowd would say they did wrong. I mean, we must know better than Red Lobster’s own corporate marketing or social media team because we’re so much smarter sitting in our coffee shops and not actually in the trenches. And that is the issue with these posts and declarations: it is 100 percent conjecture. Armchair QB’ing is fun, it is way too easy, and it is usually wrong.Think about your work at the start-up, consultancy, agency or wherever you are. How would you feel or react if someone came out to attack your work, usually commenting little more than “FAIL,” and then say how they could do it so much better than you? It’s easy to INTERNET RAGE, and give your two cents without full knowledge or a backstory. And there’s the issue. Amongst all the hoopla around Red Lobster screwing up, I have yet to read anywhere a statement or comment from Red Lobster about the situation. All these people writing articles and social posts have no inside knowledge of how Red Lobster handled this internally. One post, which I will not link to for traffic, made conjectures about the agency (who may or may not have been involved) and the corporation.The reality of it is that Red Lobster is a corporation that is owned by a private equity group. In corporations, there are processes in place for these types of things – and social media, along with the mass public that uses it, tends to lead to short-term issues and “crises”. When you work with large brands – either internally or through an agency – things take time. Issues are looked at from all sides. All the pro’s and the con’s are weighed before decisions are made – which is never fast enough for the demands of the “digerati”. When you work for large corporations or clients, things are different. When you are just a someone blogging or commenting on Twitter or Facebook, you are really just [...]



Old Tricks Just Don't Do It

2015-07-04T22:09:43.073-07:00

On Thursday, right before the start of the Fourth of July weekend, Reddit let go of its communications person, Victoria Taylor. Beyond running communications - or as part of running communications - Taylor appeared to run point on the iAmA (Ask Me Anything) subreddit.In such a tight-knit community as Reddit is, there's no surprise it turned into a shitshow with various subreddits going dark in support of Taylor. And not surprisingly, it also turned into blaming Interim CEO Ellen Pao for Taylor being let go, although there's no proof it was Pao or someone else who made the call.Gawker has a good run-down with time-stamps of the whole debacle, including a statement from Pao sent by a PR executive, Heather Wilson. Who happens to be an executive vice president at Abernathy McGregor, a crisis communications specialty firm. And the firm has been working for Pao since her sexual harassment lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins. So let's put that all together: traditional crisis communications firm is working with the interim CEO for a large, vocal, often controversial / free-speech debating community and lets go a well-liked communications employee hoping that the Fourth of July long weekend will hide the news.Because that IS a traditional public relations trick. Got bad news or bad earnings? Release on a Friday! It's such a well-known trick that even The Atlantic wrote up a story on how ... it doesn't work anymore. That old PR trick just doesn't do it for clients anymore.Should this be surprising? No, not at all.The news media moved into a 24-hour cycle years ago with the Internet and social media. With social media and the Internet, communities popped up and cover everything and anything, and with the ease of publishing there are tons of niche news sites and news can be broken anywhere.The PR industry is a bit slow to follow, but with its current love affair for all social things, it realized that the cycle isn't what it was, but nonstop. Being in-house PR counsel means always being on, always have the phone available. Doing crisis communications means always having that phone on, and email ready for situations that pop-up. This isn't new but for some reason it seems like it is.With Reddit, there was no reason for its executives to think that the news of a well-liked executive and community member who handled one of its most popular and mainstream subreddits could be hidden. And, it's beyond obvious that neither Reddit nor the PR crisis firm had no plan in place for when it all did blow up. Come on, that's Crisis Communications 101, and for Reddit to ignore it is quite amazing - plus, for Reddit not to have its finger on the pulse of its own community is quite mind-boggling too.Are there exceptions to the rule that you can't hide the news anymore? Of course, there are. In tech? Release bad news the same day Apple makes a product announcement. I've seen that done a few times recently, and while the news doesn't disappear it is overshadowed. But news isn't going away, and bad stuff bubbles up.For the ironically challenged, I purposely published on Fourth of July (Happy Fourth all!!). And yes, I chose a dog giving that look because it seemed fitting.Photo by Henry Faber.[...]



The Silence of McCann

2015-05-17T21:53:03.615-07:00

As we all get settled into watching the series finale of Mad Men, let's take a look back at the half-season: the good guys of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) have been bought by the evil machine of McCann Erickson.And once they get fully swallowed up and SCDP gets put out to pasture, the pure lechery of the firm comes to the forefront. They only care about the big accounts, they don't respect women in the workplace or treat them as sex objects / weekenders, it's a man's world, it's life as a cog at a large agency, etc. You're likely watching the show, you know what's being shown.Now, the first time that McCann showed up on MadMen, the New York office decided to respond after the principals refuse to become part of the agency and start their own agency (the above-noted SCDP) - with some choice quotes about McCann. The McCann response was clever - if not typical advertising heavy-handedness - with ads taken out in the trade press, as well as a video on the NY website with clips of each time McCann was mentioned (just the name, not the comments about the agency). The time around, the agency and/or the New York office have been silent. I'm sure that the agency and parent company (IPG, woohoo, I'm a #shareholder!) took a minute to discuss the best way to respond the way the agency has been portrayed (yes, a different agency from the early 70's but still the agency).But it's been silent. Or crickets. Or I've missed a response (but that'd be surprising since I read the trades too). EDIT: I did miss the one article on how McCann has been posting [specious] tweets to MadMen. But specious is the best way to put it, typical advertising one-way messaging that ignores the elephant but jokes about it and dances around it.And that's sad. And a bit of a bad public relations strategy. When the industry (PR, which is part of the industry as we're all owned by a handful of holding companies) gets called out for a lack of diversity - did PR Week purposely only interview CEO's to showcase it, or was that just irony? - and a lack of female leadership, you'd think that the holding companies would want to respond to a top and pretty well-watched show's characterization of the agency.Or the agency could have done a video with leadership dressed in the same 70's style noting that they're not the same agency, and it's a different world. Have a bit of fun, but still address the issue. And while the leadership of the agency and the leadership of the NY office do seem a bit homogenous, it's not as bad as it was. Okay, it's a little bad but not as bad.In an industry that is about perception versus reality, and all about appearance, the silence is deafening. And for an industry that's about creativity, there could have been so much more done. Even the first response wasn't that creative, but this could have been so much more - and a call to continued diversity and more in the industry.But instead, silence speaks volumes. [...]



The Need for Middle Ground and Skepticism - Not Hype, Not Contrarianism - On Social Networks (eg, Ello)

2014-09-29T14:48:07.266-07:00

Ello launched - to a lot of hype - the past week. It's the Facebook killer, the latest and greatest in that category (pulse check on Facebook ... yep, still alive and pretty strong) and done with a great (albeit not that true) backstory that should make any public relations person proud: we're ad-free, we're not taking funding (oops, turns out to be a lie), we're community friendly!And almost immediately, I started to see marketing and communications professionals on Twitter and Facebook adamantly scream their need to be contrarian (read as slow and followers, those late to everything and never on top of things) and claim that they'll never join Ello.Which is great. We need more followers in the public relations, social media and overall marcom industries. We don't have enough original thinkers, and it's better to have followers that will not bring counsel, strategy, original thought to clients but rehash old and tired ideas or just knee-jerk follow directions from clients even if they know they're the wrong directions.If you can't tell, that's sarcasm. To proudly proclaim that you're not going to join a new communications/social network platform to be contrarian shows an inability to jump into new ideas, or try out new things. As marketing communications professionals, you want to be one of the first on a platform to see if it will do anything (most of the time, no) or if it's something that you need to get clients onto, or at least start to monitor.Are these the same people that said Twitter was stupid (probably) or that Snapchat was just for sexting (um, projecting much?) or that Facebook is dying (always, it's dying - it's almost as bad as the annual PR is dead meme) or that PR should never pay bloggers (how'd that work out for the firms?). Are these the people that are going to miss out and be late to the next platform, or aren't really grokking that privacy is the next hot thing, eg, Snapchat, Secret, Whisper .... (yes, they are.)There is a middle-ground that seems to be missing in marcom, and a healthy skepticism. Too often, the industry is all or nothing (remember the hype that oversold SecondLife internally at agencies, and the firms/people too weak to push back on the ideas?) and not enough middle ground. So this anti-Ello stream is just pig-headed and wrong without actually being on the platform and playing around.Now, there are tons of issues about Ello that make it seem like a really fast to burn-out star: nothing mobile (yet), less a Facebook killer and more like the bastard child of Instagram plus Tumblr, the adamant claim of no advertising (remind anyone else of Tumblr?)On that last point, Greg Brooks has a great point (posted on Facebook):Positioned as the anti-Facebook, their manifesto reads as a thing born in the fever-swamp mind of an untalented freshman Lit major. So very, very many Big Ideas(tm)(r)(c).I'd like to say back to Ello:I don't mind my social network being funded by advertisers. I understand their motives, they understand my browsing habits. It works. Commerce isn't evil -- it's the most effective force ever devised for pulling people out of poverty. You claim audacity, beauty, simplicity and transparency. But what's transparent about allowing fake identities? What's beautiful in asking users to pour personal information and relationships into a site with no long-term plan other than "trust us"? Simple, I'll give you -- the whole thing does seem simple. Ello aspires to be a place to "connect, create and celebrate life." But if that's all it is, then the party won't last long. People -- and companies -- that only focus on the lofty often end up sleeping in bus shelters when things go south. I may or may not be a product. But I'm certainly not gullible.Yes, Ello has been greatly hyped with a great launch (almost seems, well, calculated to take advantage of anti-FB sentiment, like it was done by professionals...) but that doesn't mean it is or isn't worth the time to at least check [...]



My Farewell To A Movement: Eight Years of BlogHer

2014-08-26T09:30:02.652-07:00

Melancholy. That's probably the best word to describe BlogHer 14; it wasn't just me, but in talking to the women I've become friends with (around the world) at BlogHer, many of the veterans came to say goodbye to what has been an amazing 10 year ride.†My first BlogHer was the second year. I could't convince work to pay for it, or to allow me to skip work on Friday (amazing how the agencies wouldn't really grok it for a while - or still, for some struggling with social media and paid/earned media) but I went down to San Jose on Saturday and was allowed in (thanks Jory, I never forgot that). I came with a bit of a chip on my shoulder - check out the snarky T-shirt on (thanks Irina for the photo!) - but lost that pretty fast.But what was more important was that I sat down and talked, and discussed and met with a group of women (and very few men) and had no problem listening and talking. And engaging. And finding out what people were thinking and doing in this new blogging space that could change things.Interestingly enough, many of the other man at the conference that year couldn't do that without being condescending and holier than thou, or without just being awkward around women. They couldn't just be there and talk.Through the years, I've had fun adventures at BlogHer.I got to be on the yelling end of a discussion in Chicago where another PR person made really stupid comments about his favorite Mom bloggers - who all happened to be white - so the woman next to me turns and yells at me about PR being blindly white. And she's right (not me, of course) and it's still that bag. But if it weren't for that woman and panel, I wouldn't have met Mocha Momma or KimchiMamas/CityMama.Another fun time was when a social media person - who played it as if she'd always been at BlogHer, even if it was her first one - got so annoyed with me that she called me an outlier. Not to cast aspersions to her intellect, but she probably was trying to use Malcolm Gladwell theories on someone that might be an outlier, but in a more positive way ... as someone who had been involved and saw what was really going on in social media that was more than just public relations, digital marketing or affiliate marketing.I guess what I'm saying is that I thank the BlogHer community and all the women I've met there through the years for accepting me as part of the community (the brands, well, they're still confused by my attendance). I've met so many people from around the world, seen the good and the bad of the mom blogging movement - hearing chants of "fuck you, pay me" in response to PR pitches, and them just not getting the relationships between PR/journalism and blogging is sad - and seen things change to where blogging is just a small subset of what is really being done by the community, by everyday people who have grown powerful in this new media world. And, while there have been other conferences that have come in and made a dent - EVO was an amazing one, and Mom 2.0 is incomparable for creme de la creme feel of the conference - BlogHer always felt like coming home: seeing friends, having women run up to me (scaring me) that they were told they had to meet me (um, okay), making new friends - if I listed all the women whom I've met over the years, it'd be a lot of name dropping but the post would be really, really long and I'd forget people and accidentally insult them. But they know who they are, or they should.The bonus of eight years is I got a lot of blog posts out of BlogHer.So whatever happens next to BlogHer and the conferences - if they go smaller, a la BlogHer Pro, BlogHer Food, BlogHer DIY (I pitched that one years ago) - BlogHer will still have the first mover advantage of putting together an amazing conference to help women grow, learn, network. The fact that the number of first-timers grew year-over-year is a testament in itself.After my 8 years of attendance, BlogHer10 might just be my coda on the conference. But go[...]



The absolutely positively only PR lesson you need to learn from Bridgegate to be a better PR person

2014-01-15T18:29:17.118-08:00

Pick up the fucking phone.

NB: I'm testing out Upworthy-style headlines for my posts. You like? 
NB: There's likely going to be an uproar about ethics and such from organizations that purport to represent PR. Ignore them. Those groups don't do PR in a real world, but in their own little fantasy worlds. The sky is probably pink there and there's only black and white, no grays.
NB: If you don't know what Bridgegate is, and you're in PR, you're really depressing and should learn to read all news. Here's a link.
NB: FUD always works. Always.



Nine Years of Blogging - And The Voice Doesn't Change

2012-08-21T08:27:00.814-07:00

My blog-iversary was July 2.Nine years of semi-blogging on this Blogger platform that I pretty much refuse to leave, even though I have jspepper.tv to do something with (the eventual idea was to aggregate everything on one page but my About.me page does that well enough anyway). Plus, hard to replace SEO for 9 years.In the 9 years - yes, 9 years, longer than most other people besides a handful of others - I have seen people come and go. I've seen the "popular" bloggers in public relations turn to social media advocates, and then fall to the side of less importance because they, well, never stuck out their necks on issues or just followed trends. I see the new group of SM bloggers that have risen to the top - some are cream, some are artificial, powdered cream - and while the cream is imparting wisdom, the powdered kind is glomming onto hot topics and rehashing others' posts, with no original content or thinking.I've also seen the original group of PR bloggers just say fuck-it-all and give up on PR and SM blogging, and start following their other passions. And, well, most of the time I don't blame them. That small group was relatively close, meaning we'd talk and share ideas and information and while somewhat competitive, were a community. Yah, that's pretty much gone nowadays except with a few good people. But that is how media works, and at the end of the day, blogging and social media are ... just media.So with the past 9 years, what has stayed consistent has been voice. While the focus and topics have varied a bit, the voice has always been the same: saying things that others want to say, but don't. For better or worse - and I'm at least cognizant that it has helped and hurt my career - it's who I am, and pretty much what you see online on Twitter or on the blog is who I am in the real world.And if you have met me at one of the many Mom conferences I've attended, you've seen that in person. I'll say what I'm thinking, somewhat filtered, but still saying what needs to be said. As one long-time BlogHer and real friend notes, the people that don't like it are the ones that just aren't comfortable with themselves, and that's their problem.At least that straight-forwardness has lead to a speaking situation. I'll be in Atlanta in October for the Aiming Low Non-Conference, talking about what it's like being straight-forward. It's something that more people should probably do in the space.So what's next for the blog? It's not like I write that much here, but I do get yelled at by people to write more (yes, I could name drop, but it's not my style) and that what I have to say needs to be said. And, I do want to keep pushing the envelope in PR and social media so need to finish and write more. That's pretty much my promise to the possible audience I have here (although I still write just for a handful of friends).And there are a lot of posts that will be the usual things that no one is really saying. So what's in the queue and just need to be finished? Things mocking the #PRDefined as an exercise in why PRSA is irrelevant; how community has become a nonsensical term, and abused by people; the battle between "fuck you, pay me" and "hell no, we won't pay" and; how PR has lost its way.And of course other things that pop up, and need to be addressed.Will I write these things? I'm going to try, but with all the other things out there - like work - and wanting to blog more on my food blog, it is a challenge to find time for a life/work balance, that includes blogging.But, well, shit needs to be said - and very few people are saying it publicly, and that's part of the problem. I'll stir it up again.Hopefully for another 9 years - and maybe on an updated look.[...]



Monday Morning QBing: Missoni for Target

2011-10-19T12:31:43.990-07:00

So this weekend, I went to Target to buy some stuff - you know, essentials like orange juice and Pop-Tarts - and pick up some Missoni for Target socks.

Yes, I knew there was a run on the Missoni products, but I figured I was safe with socks ... but nope for both Targets (they're 1 mile away from each other, don't ask).

Credit to Target - they did an amazing job with the pre-launch; they were in men's and women's fashion magazines, there was a great buzz built up for the launch.

PR issues for Target - they were wiped out of products almost immediately, and the website was unable to sustain the traffic. And there are close to 35,000 Missoni for Target products on eBay ... and reports of 44,000 at the beginning so people were just buying to sell, and not buying to wear or use. And that's not even taking into consideration the possibility of products hoarded by employees ... .

Questions that this leads to - is it really just a one-time event, and there are no more Missoni for Target products to be sold? According to the stores, that was it. And the website was totally wiped out too. Why weren't there limits placed at the stores for what people would buy, how many they could buy, and, well, the sizes? It's obvious that people were grabbing and buying, especially with all the XL sizes on eBay. And will other top-tier designers avoid Target because they will wonder if their products will be pushed to eBay almost immediately (likely no, because it's about money paid out).

So the reality is that while the public might be upset and annoyed that they didn't get what they might have wanted (I wanted socks, even though I don't wear shoes), Target made money and the stock did rise. For shareholders, and communications employees, that's key. The crisis with the run on goods to re-sell on eBay and the crashing of the site are just blips.

But it's going to take time to repair some of those relationships ... and yet, at the same time, create more demand for the next big designer (so expect a bigger run for the goods). You would expect the company to address the issues on Facebook - actually, there are a lot of issues it seems like they need to address - but it's just a bit of answers and probably not as much as they could/should be. Of course, with a large company like them, it's hard to address every issue. But the anger and disappointment on the page is quite palpable.

All in all, though, it's a push on whether Target will have any long-term issues. People forget, profits went up, and life goes on.



Fools Rush In ... to new Social Media Sites

2011-07-05T19:22:33.725-07:00

Google+: it's the hottest thing in social media since, well, the last hottest thing (is that Empire Avenue or Quora or something else I'm missing?) But like all hot things, you get burnt if you jump in to fast.

Now, we already had the Google+ social media posts - to the point that most of them are just drafting on a hot news item. Are most of them newsworthy or, well, necessary? No. Hell, some of them have just been based on the announcement.

Okay, here's the skinny: Google+ has launched, and a land rush of social media and PR people - and technology pundits - got access. And they're claiming that Facebook or Twitter or the both are dead. And then we see a commotion about brands, and what are brands going to do and when are brands going to get on Google+, blah blah. And that's the thing - while there might be some value for businesses and Google+, thus far it's too early to tell what it might be, although a good explanation of what brands might be able to do is from Forbes.

But let's take a ride back to yesteryear and look at a little site called ... Second Life. Back then, the PR people (and digital, since we weren't calling it social media yet) were pretty hot for SL and getting brands there. Unfortunately, there was little thought put into it and it was a huge hype machine. Now while I did recommend SL for certain projects - for a large furniture chain, I recommended putting one location in SL and be able to buy virtual furniture for your home, as well the real furniture for your real home - it made sense as it fit into the community. Brands jumped in, and got burnt, because they didn't get that SL was (and still is) a community and you can't force your way in. That seems to happen to much of social media, nowadays: no understanding of the community aspects.

With Google+, as Lauren Gray noted on Facebook, are the brands that are jumping onto Google+ those that are ahead of the curve in social media, or ones that want to appear that they are? I think most of us would say latter, especially those of us that have a view of the past. 

I like Google+ so far, but haven't delved too deeply into all that it offers. Why? Well, I haven't taken the time to just sit down and dig in. But right now, I'm taking that walk down the hill approach.

If you look at how brands adopted Twitter and Facebook, it was a more natural process, more organically done. The push by SM/PR people onto Google+ is too forced, a bit too hysterical. Too many people are running down the hill.

When you run down the hill - and yes, this is totally a Colors reference - you lose focus and can only get the one. When you walk, take the time to really get a good view of the landscape, you can get them all.

Take the time to actually play around with Google+ and then wait to see what Google does with it - and if it sticks around, or goes out like so much Buzz or crashes into the surface like a Wave



The Death of Transparency

2011-06-28T09:30:00.332-07:00

Looking back at the 8 years of blogging (and now social media - well, take that back 15 years to Usenet and enthusiast site days), there are a few things that become evident: nothing really changes, but everything changes.One of the things that's become very obvious recently, though, is the death of transparency. Well, maybe dying or dead is a bit hyperbolic, but transparency is fast becoming a thing of the past as more and more people push their own agenda and conveniently ignore transparency for their own goals. You can see it on Twitter, on Facebook - especially Facebook groups - on Quora, and naturally on blog posts. It's a not-so-hidden agenda that comes out after 2 or 3 tweets, or an "innocent" question in a Facebook group or Quora that leads to a "miraculous" answer that is the person's own company or client. Transparency used to be a big issue for bloggers. Well, at least for the public relations bloggers. One of the first bigger discussions of it came about because of character blogs. Many people, including Steve Rubel (whom I argued with about the issue) and Robert Scoble (who used to be a Moose) felt that character blogs were bad things. Character blogs weren't fully disclosed, they weren't honest or transparent. This mainly came about because of the launch of the Captain Morgan blog and the "controversy" it created.(As a side-note, I would have linked to the discussion on Steve's blog ... but he's killed his original blogs. Beyond raising questions on the issues of dead links across the web, does the full deletion of a blog and its archives smack of the dismissal of transparency? Does it fit into my whole view of the death of transparency?)As the years passed, it seems amusing that this would be an issue. We have characters on Twitter and Facebook and while we know that they are not real, we accept them as the entertainment they are and applaud brands for engaging their audiences - the right audiences - in any way you can reach them. Nobody would attack Jack In the Box as lacking transparency because it's understood that it's a brand talking to its fans, engaging on Facebook or Twitter.Me? I looked at the situation with meh, and that we (the PR bloggers and other early bloggers) weren't the audience, but it was for college students (of legal drinking age, naturally). And did they care about transparency when it came to a character? Not really, it was just something fun.I was - and still am - hyper about transparency. Call it the egalitarian in me, or the Libra. Back in the day, too often I would see people tout articles on their blogs as "amazing" or "great insight" and then click through to see ... it was self promotion. My point-of-view then, and now, is that it's not hard to tag a blog post as self-promotion, or even a Tweet with #me or some hashtag. The question on transparency there then and now is if it's a great article because the person is in it, or would be a great article that they would have posted or Tweeted without the quote. My guess is the former ... hence my calls for transparency or honesty. But this all seems quaint - as transparency disappears. I'm not talking about disclosure - the FTC holy grail - but transparency. Dare I say it, but does transparency not matter anymore? Is it - gasp - dead?! And while I think many people do care about transparency (well for others, not themselves), is it a low priority issue for us as we have, well, real life things to worry about (work, personal, love, etc). Transparency, in the scheme of things, is a small issue many of us don't have the time to process.The world was much easier when it was just PR people that were concerned with this (it's not ironic that the Morgan blog was done by an ad firm - if memory serves). We could debate the issues in our academic way, and come to an agreement that while tr[...]



CSR's Misguided PR Strategy - or Just Say No! to CSR

2011-05-24T08:21:12.306-07:00

Have you ever watched Archer? If not, why not - not that that's the point of the post - but you should be watching Archer because it's great social commentary. OK, it's just funny. This past year, Isis (the spy agency in Archer) decided to go green as those "liberals in Congress are giving away money" and it's about leaving money on the table and get freebie tax benefits by going green. So Isis goes green - for a little bit - and installs low-flow toilets and those new bulbs.You ever get the feeling that most corporations go into the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program with the same thinking? That if this makes us look good to the community, well it's just one of those fun terms that public relations and marketing people bring out when they want to put a happy face on a client or organization. Especially when it's less than a happy, go-lucky place. CSR is also one of those things that most people roll their eyes at because it's not usually done for the good of the community, but it's done to make it seem like the company cares. We have all worked with companies that claim they want to go green, so let's tie ourselves to Earth Day!! and then, well, donate some small amount or something.Of course, that's not for all companies or corporations. Some corporations do care about their communities, care more than just about the touchy-feely ... but it does raise the question if CSR is even a real thing, or are we moving into a social good mind-set (corporate philanthropy with social media twist). Of course, add the adjective "social" to anything and you have a killer program... Looking at it from a PR angle, well, of course there's a great public relations (and, well, social media) aspect to all CSR programs (don't deny it). Should companies be undertaking social good or CSR programs just for the PR sake, or should there be more? And looking at recent articles, going green and all that doesn't mean an increase in sales ... which is why most companies are doing it. It's questions like that that lead me to reach out the Dr. R. Edward Freeman from Darden School of Business at University of Virginia. Plus, got to geek out with my philosophy side again (business ethics, Kant theories, utilitarianism and all that fun stuff - for me).Dr. Freeman is the thinker behind stakeholder management - and the man who wrote the book on it. In a one-liner, corporations act in such a way to benefit everyone with a stake in the corporation: the community, workers, shareholders, customers. With stakeholder management, CSR becomes unnecessary.You note that CSR is different than managing for stakeholders - and that if managing for stakeholders is done well, we can just drop the CSR movement. What exactly do you mean by that?If we are fulfilling all of our responsibilities to customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and financiers, and creating value for them, what does it mean to ask "are we socially responsible". Oftentimes CSR can serve as an excuse not to fulfill those baseline stakeholder responsibilities, or it serves to apologize for, rather than prevent harmful consequences. Take care of stakeholders and CSR takes care of itself.While there is a major difference between the two, why does CSR have such a high public relations value? Are companies engaging in CSR for the right reasons, or is it just PR games?There are many reasons that companies engage in CSR. Some are good reasons and some not. I resist the temptation to comment on all companies, or to reduce a complex issue to a simple motivation.While managing for stakeholders DOES include employees - and making it a better corporation for them - how does that extend to employees being ambassadors for the brand? What is their duty in managing (or in CSR)?Surely you want to run your company so that your emplo[...]



Hyperbole meets Hypocrisy: Googlegate

2011-05-17T08:32:18.163-07:00

If you're in public relations, you've already heard about Googlegate. Simply put, Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller to conduct a FUD whisper campaign about privacy and security against Google. It's a joke. No, not that B-M undertook such a campaign (or how badly it was handled) but the hyperbole from the press that borders on Foghorn Leghorn declaring the 'shock, I say shock, of the PR game' that they are intimately involved. The "smear" of the campaign that is just so shocking that it's going to be the downfall of Google, Facebook and journalism (or something) ... when it's just another day at the office. Or the hypocrisy of public relations executives that are claiming that they would never undertake such a campaign for a client, never have done a FUD or whisper campaign and how bad and evil it is. Right, keep saying that and repeat it to yourself the next time a client asks you to share information (either client or competitor) with the media. Yes, that's a whisper campaign. Or, well, keep lying to yourself so you can claim the moral high ground (for whatever that's worth). Or the innocence - oh the poor innocence that will be severely beaten out with each campaign - of the students whose souls' will gain a little bit of grey with each call or email to a reporter to give them background. It's called public relations - and it's like knowing how sausage is made: you don't want to, but you guys are now in the sausage business. You see, this is just a standard operation in public relations; It's even more common in public affairs. It's called spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt to deposition a client. A whisper campaign is just what it sounds like - you call up a few people, meet them in person, and feed them information in that Bourne way you know you always wanted to do. What's sad/bad here is how badly handled this campaign was by two former journalists - two journalists that should have had the connections to successfully undertake such a campaign and instead were blind emailing bloggers and reporters (really, email!? How quaint) with whom they didn't have deep relationships. The fun irony is how poorly the tech reporter treated PR people - hi kettle, it's pot!!So here's a primer for anyone that wants to undertake a FUD/whisper campaign:If you have no relationships - real deep relationships - with reporters, you're fucked and going to fail (see example above)If you are using email, you're missing that verbal part of whisper. It's called a whisper campaign for a reason ... it's verbal. Have real information if you're doing a FUD whisper campaign, e.g. "Hey, I heard product X doesn't work from these people, you hearing the same thing?" (Look at how easy that is - AND you just depositioned the competition at the same time you were doing competitive analysis and digging!!)In this age of social media, well, the rules don't really change: have relationshipsHave I ever undertaken a whisper or FUD campaign while working for a client? I am not at liberty to answer that, but anyone that has been in the industry - especially technology - has done a whisper campaign of some sort. Or gone on background to a reporter at some time (and yes, fed information about competitors while on background). And if you're smart, you think of ways to position your company over the competition and feed that information to friendlies. As for the "ethics discussions" that have sprung up around this - really, we're going to have a discussion about how the sausage is made? There's good PR, there's bad PR and then there's that gray PR. And in the PR world, it's all about gray. If PR is upset about anything, it should be about how poorly this campaign was done. In reality, the issue isn't the campaign or even the lack of transparency. It is about how badly [...]



My Life as a Mommy Blogger*

2011-05-04T18:13:12.920-07:00

I'm a Mommy blogger*. I might not blog about raising a baby or poop or child-rearing issues. I might not blog about life at home, the trials and tribulations about raising a family, but I'm still a Mommy blogger. (*Not actually a Mom (or a Dad at this time) and don't blog on Mom or Dad issues.)But I do nurture and help others grow with my blog and working with others. So in that sense, I'm a Mom (or Dad) to others. Even though I'm not really a Mommy blogger, I am part (and an early member) of Clever Girls Collective and I do attend the conferences that are part of that community, such as Mom 2.0 (first time attendee), BlogHer (8 time attendee) and Evo (first time attendee, when it happens). The plan is still to get to Blogalicious, Blissdom and others. In other words, I attend the conferences that really matter. But this is about labels. This is why I embrace the Mommy blogger title. Because, well, too often, people knee-jerk and just lump all female bloggers into the "Mommy blogger" category. I experience it all the time when I try to explain to people that I don't do SXSWi but will continue to go to BlogHer ... "why do you go to that, it's only Mommy bloggers?"It's not. And for those that think that way - ironically, usually the same social media people that sheep herd mentality go to SXSW question why I go to these conferences - well, you just don't get it. A few weeks ago, I was at Mom 2.0 - and was able to meet up with women that are the top of their game (be it vidcasts or blogging or social media). A conference that had panels that was advanced thinking for an advanced audience, that people attended and participated and asked questions. You had a community (that's what differs at these conferences) that listened and took notes and engaged with the speakers (and the audience) and spoke about the future of media with heavy hitters across the gamut.But that's the thing people don't get - and the problem with just looking but not seeing. These are not Mommy bloggers. These are women that write on a wide variety of topics. Through the years, I've met female bloggers that write on:FoodPoliticsLawFashionBeautyRomance / LoveMedicine / Health & WellnessMoney and FinanceGreen / Eco bloggingGenderTechnologySportsPublishing and MediaAnd, yes, even parentingBut the joke of social media people only talking to social media ... you're missing the point. Look at any nuclear family, and it's the woman that controls the budget. In a conversation last night, I talked to a friend who is starting her Mommy blog and we talked about household budgets and who really controls it. It's the Mom - not because she has the time, but because she tends to be smarter with purchases. Big brands, if you want to reach social media people, keep going to SXSWi and missing the point on reaching audiences that are interested in your products and have real audiences and communities. So for all the Mommy bloggers out there that I have met over the years - and the non-Mommy females that I have met - Happy Mother's Day to you. All my love for you, what you have done with your communities, and all you have helped me with the past years (and bringing me gifts - total call out to Jennui and link love to her - and being my LA mom ... yes, that's you, Erin).And from my other LA Mom, Kimberley Clayton Blaine, a special Mother's Day gift and love for your Mother (psst, use the M2MTV coupon code at SonyStyle.com on the T99 digital video cameras for her special Mom Day gift). src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/21410249?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&autoplay=1" width="398" height="224" frameborder="0">And to my own Mom, love you lots and thanks for everything. Happy Mother's Day. :)[...]



Has PR Lost the Fire in its Belly?

2011-04-12T07:05:45.379-07:00

Originally, I had this titled "Has PR lost its balls?" or just the more declarative "PR Has No Balls". I'm sure either would be great for clicks, however, it's a serious question. And one I was speaking to an old friend about in the industry - and the person's response was "I know that I don't push back as much as I used to on executives or media - but it's just not worth the fight."That's bad, isn't it? No, not condemning my friend as I know what the person means. While not everything should be a battle, too much has become a "meh" situation that just isn't worth fighting. We've become so tired of the good fight, that we just go with the flow. And, yes, that's a lot of what is happening in public relations nowadays: the real seasoned communications veterans who wear their battle scars with pride are getting tired of the fight, and the new "senior" people - more like junior staff without the experience to do what is needed and right - just going along for the ride. But a few other things that have passed my screen the past few months have made me think about this topic more and more - as well as conversations I've had with people.First, let's look at the Tim Johnson / TechCrunch post. No, I will not link to the post. If you're in public relations, the presumption is you know the issue and likely have an opinion - that is wrong. Yes, I'm friends with Tim and writing about this from that perspective, but even if I wasn't his friend, my POV wouldn't change that much. When did it become wrong to push back on a reporter? Isn't fighting for our client supposed to be what public relations, in particular media relations, all about? While I don't fully condone Tim's tone of voice, I do fully support his doing the right thing for the client (and, yes, this would have been a much better phone conversation than email conversation). The saddest part of this whole situation? The piled on attacks by junior PR people (or SM people). Those that have been in the industry for less than a handful of years that have been ready to throw Tim under the bus and condemn him as wrong to dare push back on TechCrunch. Or in the case of the SM people, those that have no clue about PR sure feel good lecturing about PR.Um, okay, are these the people we REALLY want working for our agencies, on our accounts, to push forward our story? Is this what we're teaching the future PR leaders? Don't fight for what is right, but just take it laying down and rollover for any press? So if there's a wrong article, should we just sit there and take it because we don't want to offend anyone?Second was this post by Frédéric Filoux on "The Communication Paradox" that reminds me of my interview with Jack O'Dwyer back during the Global PR Blog Week in 2004. Sadly, the two posts are almost 180 degrees from each other. In the interview, Jack noted that: Right now, there are very bad forces affecting public relations. We are supposed to be a bridge for the press to get to CEOs, not a barrier, but the industry has fallen into the trap of blocking access for the press. There is this tremendous force that is trying to convert public relations into advertising, especially at the conglomerates, and that will be the downfall of public relations.In the post, Frédéric noted that high-tech corporations have terrible communications - "do such poor communication" - and that PR is employed to stonewall and, to quote, "Most hires are expected to be docile; initiative is strongly discouraged by paranoid upper management layers." Plus, with all the ways to get content, the stonewalling seems to be against the grain of what you would want to do - get the story to as many people as possible; as a side note, what's the most amusing (saddest?[...]



PR in a blogger versus journalist world

2011-03-29T17:09:26.041-07:00

Or to be more exact, what is the role of public relations (not publicity) in a world where journalism and blogging continue to butt heads? It's a conversation I've been having with friends and industry colleagues, and should be front and center for people in the industry.But no, this is not a PR is dead meme, or blogging is dead meme or any of those memes that crop up every year (heck, just today Journalistics had the "PR doesn't change" version of the dead meme).This is questioning where PR falls now, through a few recent incidences. When PR blogs, are we bloggers our journalists? And extending that with Jay Rosen's SXSW post - why is there still that division? And with that division, where is PR fitting in - or should we not worry about the division, especially with the rise of community relations, aka social media? So it comes down to this: when PR professionals blog, are we bloggers or are we journalists? As gatekeepers and bridges and, well, examples for our clients, should we hold ourselves up to a higher level and standard than other bloggers? Should we take that extra step to verify and report? While I can understand the desire for opinion pieces, even those can and should be based on facts. I should know - it's what I did in the college paper: opinion pieces that were still verified with sources. Picking up a phone (or emailing) isn't that hard. So as PR bloggers (and yes, I am purposely ignoring social media blogs), do we have an obligation to get the full story, to tell a full story?Do we have a professional courtesy and obligation to other PR people to get their client's (or clients') side of the story, to present the other side, even if it's just an opinion piece? If we are supposed to showcase best practices internally and externally for both our junior staff and our clients, we have no choice but to go the extra mile, to take the extra step.To take it further, as PR bloggers, can we just use the excuse "I'm a blogger" and get away with it? Should there be that line anymore between blogger and journalist? And, well, isn't that line a bit tired and old, and let's be honest, fucking lazy? With all these fights between bloggers and journalists, is there really that much of a line anymore? With the disappearance of trade press (especially B2B technology), where do you go besides bloggers who specialize in those verticals? If we uphold those bloggers to a higher degree of veracity, why should PR bloggers get a pass when they are just "blogging" and not being a journalist? When we approach (or, come on, pitch) bloggers, we hope that they post the story with as much background and news as possible, and if there's a mistake, we go back and tell them and hope for a correction. Nay, we should demand a correction if there isn't one forthcoming. Shouldn't we demand the same from ourselves? Is there really a line anymore between blogging and journalism, or is that all just the lazy excuse for not doing the homework, possible due diligence or good writing?The funny (sad?) thing is that this debate of blogger versus journalist still going on out there.The one panel I would have liked to see at SXSWi was Jay Rosen's on the psychology of the blogger versus journalist fight (also read his pre-SXSW post on the subject).Both blogging and journalism serve a function, both give the public information and tell stories. But as noted by Rosen, "blogging cannot replace the watchdog journalism that keeps a government accountable to its people." And on the flip side, Rosen notes that bloggers try to keep that "outside the system" cred that allows them to say "I'm just a blogger" - which also means we can be lazy and biased (as bloggers). As he notes, neither[...]



The Hardest Job is a Job Hunt: the #HAPPO Anniversary

2011-02-24T12:04:57.517-08:00

I've been mentoring college students for about eight years; it was never a planned thing, just my personality. I like to teach. I like to help. I like people - well, most of the time. And I like to give back as I was lucky to have great mentors throughout my career. I'm lucky to have the patience - for the most part - for that type of thing. And that's part of why I prefer working with students and the newly graduated - often times, they aren't lucky to have a champion. It's also why when someone emails me with 5 or more years of PR/SM experience, I make a few recommendations but am not as giving with my time, because if you are at that point in your career you should have your own networks, own knowledge of recruiters, and have your own mentors. Now, a handful of the women I've mentored through the years are amazing people. These are PR professionals with social media skills that I would hire in a minute. These are people that I think are the pinacle of the profession, at different levels in their careers, who will be running things in the industry. And I'll be proud of them as if they were my own family, as I do think of them as family.Through that mentoring, I've become involved with #HAPPO. The concept, the idea of HAPPO is admirable: helping out other PR pros network and get a job. The economy is bad, and we've all been hurt by it. Some of the best PR people I know searched for jobs too long, while some of the worst PR and SM people I know are gainfully employed or have transitioned themselves into "thought leaders".Unfortunately, at times, the reality of HAPPO is either a "look at how great I am because I'm helping others get jobs" or "K, I tweeted #HAPPO, where's my job?" So what has happened is a bit of self-interest and a bit of self-entitlement. New graduates and others think that by merely posting #HAPPO!!! (or other hashtags) on a tweet, that the jobs will come to them and they should be hired, because dammit, they ARE social media geniuses because they're the digital generation!!!That one is a good fallacy, though. The digital generation understands the tools - but that's it. In reality, many are dangerous as they do no get the big picture of how public relations and social media work together. Nor is there an understanding on how to push back on a client, how to protect them from doing something bad and destructive in social media, or a complex and advanced understandig and knowledge of a little something called strategy and tactics. PR is not an easy profession. We are always top 5 for stressful professions. PR wears you down, as you're under attack from all sides: clients, agency, press/analysts/social media. But it's one of those things that people love: the ability and chance to tell a story, do some good. But the missing the point of HAPPO - no one is entitled to anything. It's a hard job finding a job, harder than the job itself, so be thankful for those that help you along the way. And don't think that just because you send an email you're owed something. Respect the other person's time, energy. If that part of HAPPO continues to be ignored, the people that are giving of their time will reevaluate where they are putting their efforts. As they should.HAPPO chat is tonight from 5.00 - 7.00 PM EST / 2.00 - 4.00 PM PST. Just follow the #HAPPO hashtag and start networking, making connections and being a valuable part of a community instead of just being a remora. [...]



The Personalization of Business, via Twitter

2011-02-14T21:38:29.802-08:00

A few days ago, I came across an article about turning your Facebook profile into your resume. My emotions rarely changed from one: abhored.Abhored because for the past few years, I mentored college students. I've seen some of the stuff that students post on their pages that didn't display the best professional thinking.So I'd send them a quick note that they might want to untag a picture, or change the profile picture. Or to create separate profiles and limit people to certain photo albums, etc. And then let them know that despite their desires (and mine), Facebook isn't personal. Although it should be. My POV is that that is fine, though: there needs to be a separation of personal from professional. That's why you have LinkedIn (professional network) and Facebook (personal network) and Twitter (a smogasboard of everything at once). And it's why I have been actively editing both LinkedIn (people I know and would recommend) and Facebook (people I know IRL or well enough online that I feel safe around them - and why I have 300 people in FB limbo). Twitter is still whomever and whatever, and I follow back those in PR or those whose Tweets interest me. That's the thing about Twitter - it is one of those platforms that's really neither business nor personal: it's both. People use Twitter for work, but they also use it to find trends, share information, be themselves. It's a new and different paradigm (ok, not a full paradigm but something pretty new and different in the media world) that blurs those lines. It's like the work day - when does it really end nowadays? When do you have your work/life balance? Since most of us like sharing information and enjoy it, is it still work? In PR, it is if it's billable, but shouldn't we be able to clock out at a certain time?But that's an aside on the interesting aspect of Twitter: it's a new "paradigm" for the personal and professional. The line is blurred, and the tools you use for business are the same you use for personal, and the tools you used for personal are creeping into the professional. Plus each business account has a real person behind it, and the only way business accounts succeed is if there's a personality and real voice behind it. That's the interesting thing that oneforty has tapped into: people use Twitter for personal and professional reasons, but it's more than just for fun for them. They built guides for other business users; so oneforty has transitioned into more than just a place to find free Twitter apps, but a place to find professional twitter applications, a social media/business expert, and reviews on the oneforty blog (another great outlet for those of us that have social media tools to pitch).oneforty has taken the personal of Twitter and showcased the business side of it for its users, turning it into a social business hub to share ideas and best practices. Is that the future of social media? Personal yet professional? The basics are pretty simple: it's made of people (just like Soylent Green). Will we see a blurring of the lines of professional and personal personas, a blurring of the life/work balance? The tools are so ubiquitous, it's likely - but then you just learn to shut down and go do some yoga.[...]



The Future of the Social Media Strategist

2011-01-14T10:03:56.496-08:00

Earlier this week, Erica Swallow posed a question on Twitter about Jeremiah Owyang's post and slideshow on the future of social media.Through the way of Twitter, Liz Philips cc'ed me to answer as well. Today, Erica posted her story on Mashable.While I'm quoted, (italicized below), through Erica's response to my email and other people's encouragement, I figured my "brutal honesty" should be sent out through the post. So with little fanfare, the full response below:__________Let's be honest - it's a job that only very large corporations need, and that is being used by marketing and public relations people that washed out at marketing 1.0 or PR 1.0 (hence, the old whispered joke that PR 2.0 needed to come about because those people couldn't do PR 1.0).The issue is that social media strategists tend not to be strategic or tactical; the large corporations will continue to bring in those higher level strategists as they know that there is a need for that type of skill set (and the people with it are more limited than you would think). The good social media strategist is someone that understands and knows public relations and marketing and can work with marketing and public relations teams, as well as customer service, advertising and, at some levels, business development and align all to one group mind think. A group mind think that has a business value and proposition that extends beyond "hey, he's a nice person" but understands that social media campaigns need to translate to real business value.The perfect social media is a quarterback, driving a strategy that leads to REAL business value, not popularity chasing with limited to no value. That position - the internal strategist that aligns various business units - will continue to be around, but only necessary at big corporations. The small companies and start-ups have no need for those people now, and will begin to see that there's no need for them in the future.The social media specialist job, though, is a short-term job. Or, well, it should be (outside large corporations) as these are skills that any public relations or marketing person of any experience should have. Social media is just another term for community outreach, online communities, online engagement and those are skills that have just been repackaged and made sexy by people to get a jump on the competition. It's not that the large corporations don't have people with those skills, but there is a need for the alignment across business segments, having a single voice (or at least thought process).So my thought is that many of these social media jobs will disappear within the next few years, if not faster. The job details will be spread around various people at companies - PR, marketing, customer service, community managers - and be managed by a person in the marketing or advertising departments at the company. The same would eventually happen at large corporations, albeit a bit slower as the larger the organization, the slower the process.And while many of these internal people are talented, and will transition back into PR or marketing, a good number of them never had the basic skills and remade themselves into whatever was hot. What happened to all the SEO gurus and shops back in the day? Looks like a lot of them remade themselves into social media gurus and strategy shops. Expect to see those that had no real skills in the beginning to see the writing on the wall and begin remaking themselves for the new thing.__________A coda to the post, and some clarification: I think there will always be a need for community managers, as those are important jobs that[...]



#HAPPO and the Job Hunt

2010-12-08T12:10:12.648-08:00

Recruiters are a key part of the PR job hunt. They have connections, prep you for the job interview, get you ready for the interview and get you the introduction. While typically there aren't that many entry-level jobs, there are jobs at all levels and it's good to start building that relationship with recruiters as soon as you get past your first job (one year experience or so).As one of the main keys in PR and the job hunt is networking - and that's what #HAPPO is for, meeting people. But once you meet people, it's beyond that to find a job. Hoojobs - short for woohoo! or ballyhoo - is one of those ways.Hoojobs is a PR and social media centric job board. It's only for PR and social media, so you don't have to weed through other jobs but find what you want in a niche board just for us. While it is owned by Paradigm Staffing, it is NOT just their jobs but open to any company that is looking for PR and social media people. I spoke to Lindsay Olson - founder of Paradigm and Hoojobs - whom I've known for years as a friend. All the jobs are related to PR people and what they are looking for in the PR industry. For job seekers, the goal was to keep the site easy-to-use and focused. There's not the re-creation of the resume like on the big job boards, but easy and simple. It's aesthetically pleasing, easy on the eyes and be simple. You're not required to register or create another profile, the site is advertising free - you just go for the job, upload the resume and do a quick introduction letter, and it goes direct to the employer. And the jobs are only valid for 30-days, so no out-of-date jobs (so jobs either have to be re-uploaded or renewed). So, they are all real jobs (the companies are vetted), and yes, these jobs exist. For hiring managers, the site is solely being marketed to PR and communications job people so they are qualified leads. It's not like Monster or HotJobs, so it's targeted to communicators and not just everyone and anyone that's looking. Qualified applicants, much more so, than on a big job board.Hoojobs also integrates social media tools, so the companies (and people looking or friends) are able to let others know about the jobs through social networks. A company can post on Hoojobs and then to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn right from the job posting; people looking might see something that would be a fit for others, and can do the same: share via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. And you can also follow Hoojobs itself on Twitter at @hoojobs.Also, the site uses real-time search and keywords so people can find what they are looking for, and can sign up for real-time alerts based on those keywords and apply immediately (as jobs do fill up). Her advice to job seekers, especially through Hoojobs: do a real cover letter. Put something in specific for the job, make a connection for the employer, why you are a good fit for the job. If you cannot make that connection, it's just another blind resume. Remember that you are in PR, and it's your job to make that pitch in that cover letter to get to the next step. Don't forget the live Tweetchat tonight (December 8) with the #HAPPO hashtag at 6.00 PM PST / 9.00 PM EST, where there will be more helpful information and networking with professionals around the country.[...]



The Numbers Don't Add Up: Popularity Doesn't Equal Influence

2010-12-03T12:28:40.985-08:00

The golden ring in public relations and social media is influence and reach. It's something that has been worked on for eons and why measurement and all that magic (including sentiment - in particular sentiment) occasionally plays front and center in public relations. This has been the way long before social media came onto the scene (the gentler times of PR). It's why there are those rules of thumb - circulation is one number, readership is 2.5 times circulation (it's the pass-along thought, as well as the word of mouth play-in). It's why analysts are pre-briefed and key reporters are given exclusives, and why news is embargoed: PR is reaching out to the key influencers in media and making sure the analysts that are called know the full story.It's what PR is about, at the end of the day.And now it's what social media is about. It's about reaching the right people, but how do you know who those people really are?That's the hole that Klout is trying to fill. There's a lot of discussion on Klout nowadays - from the lack of transparency by Klouters (despite Klout's very good transparency policy), to the questioning about their numbers (heard very often that the database isn't kept up-to-date so numbers are both too high and too low for some), to some flat out love for the service. I talked to Klout a few months ago to get a better handle on what they consider Klout and how it overall plays in the influence game - and (personal interest), how does Klout translate into relationships and community for the brands that engage with Klout. Klout itself is based on engagment, volume of mentions, and retweets, particularly who the people are that are retweeting you. Klout may seem skewed to social media people and geographic location, but as the network grows, it will likely even out and show influence beyond the circle. Per Klout, the average score is 11. If a person is getting above 20, it says that you are using Twitter (social media?) pretty well, and 30 is really well, while above 50 is a social media "celebrity". It IS a pretty good system for corporations that want to engage people on Twitter. And we've seen the brands that have used Klout for campaigns - Virgin America, Fox, Covergirl, Starbucks, Disney, Audi - and I'm sure there are others. The brands are getting an easy-to-use system to engage a bunch of "influencers" on Twitter (and Facebook) through Klout. It's a win-win-win for everyone involved ... in a way. But besides Audi (kudos to Audi for this one), the brands seem to drop any community engagement or building after the Klout engagement. And while it might depend on what each brand is looking for, it seems to be a waste for them to not even follow the Twitter accounts that, well, participate in Klout campaigns. This isn't a failure on Klout's part, but a big lack of understanding that social media isn't Klout alone, and not a drive-by thing. It should be about community building, but the brands aren't engaging. And while Audi followed me post-Klout tweet (well, a few days later), I don't feel that engaged with them.Taking a step back, I like Klout. I like the idea of Klout, but it's obvious that its clients don't get the bigger idea of building relationships that stem from these engagements (I've never heard from FOX post-Lone Star), nor from Virgin America. Brands - or internal people - are using the tool that Klout has built and do one-off campaigns that are just blips for the brands. Is this because the campaigns are buckshot instead of laser focused? Per Klout, campaigns can be very specific, and they [...]



Burning Out and Rebooting

2010-10-21T11:48:26.484-07:00

Blogging is hard. Not in an exasperated little kid tone of voice, but it is time and thought consuming. Kudos to those that are able to blog every day, or every other day. I don't know how they do it, but also wonder if they are doing it because they have something to say or think they should have something to say.

Blogger burnout. It's a real thing. I've been doing this blog for the past 7 or 8 years and, well, there's always that period of burn out. It's also part of the reason I'm launching a new blog - well, moving this one - to jspepper.tv. Maybe it'll get the fire lit under me and I'll finish those 8 or so posts I've started, and maybe do more videos (hence, the .tv stuff - plus I'm jspepper on everything and I couldn't get .com).

So what got me thinking about this? Well, Clever Girls Collective. They're working with HP on ROI and the Reboot - and, well, their reboot is a contest on what gets people moving to reboot themselves and their teams, and how HP technology can help with that. You can see all the information here and get the rules here. And, yes, the full disclosure is that they pinged me with their normal emails, someone pinged me separately and they'll compensate me for the post. How's about that for a reboot?

But the reboot is serious. Think about it in a team setting: when the team is worked hard, and coming close to burning out, what do you do as a boss? We used to do team dinners, and got cool gifts, and the client would also send his/her appreciation and we knew we did good work. That helped - a bit, and sometimes a lot (hey, I have shoes from it).

For me, the reboot and preventing burning out comes from a life/work balance. It's my yoga, my working out at Equinox, the various classes. It's the ability to walk away from the computer, go to the gym, and then come back a bit refreshed. That works for the work stuff. For the blogging, it's going to events and meeting like-minded people that share the enthusiasm - or it's talking to friends in the space via email, and getting fired up to do something about it. And then taking that fire and running with it and writing. Yah, that's the part that trips me up - that and the ability to just short form it on Twitter.

So if you're interested in a get-away to Napa Valley for 6, tell HP your reboot story.



The Press Release Isn't Dead. No, Twitter Didn't Kill It.

2010-09-13T11:22:35.976-07:00

End of summer. It's the time to get the children ready for school, for Jewish people to begin their New Year (L'shana Tova) and get ready to fast for Yom Kippur (yay), for the leaves to start changing colors and for the inevitable "public relations is dead" or "the press release is dead" meme to go around the Web.

Inevitably, the argument reminds me of this:

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Thankfully, AdAge and Simon Dumenco do not disappoint this year. Dumenco lays out a bunch of arguments showcasing entertainment and celebrities touting this project or that on Twitter.

So from that, Twitter is killing the press release. Because, to quote Simon, "as the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America." Forget that publicity firms are the last firms to social media, often being beat (by years) by their consumer technology sister firms. Forget that publicity and the entertainment complex aren't comparable to corporations that have to abide by SEC disclosures and other sticky things like that.

But, maybe, just maybe Twitter's limitation to 140 characters is just not enough to disseminate news, even with links to a blog or page that is, well, I guess it'd be a press release huh?

This doesn't mean that the press release is a great piece of public relations history. The press release has many issues - most being that too much that's put out as a release is not newsworthy, and people can't write - but this isn't going to be fixed by a magical social media release or abandoning press releases to Twitter. And while Google bypassed a press release for it's earnings back in April (ignore the long, and well, wrong section on the social media release), Google must have still disseminated the news to go to its Investor site by some type of wire release (or maybe it just went to Reuters) - correction (11.20 am) via @irwebreport: Google just used EDGAR and didn't do a release. Doesn't change my main point, though.

The press release isn't dead. Twitter isn't killing it. It's not going to disappear over night because, well, there are still people that are investors and stakeholders that need to get information. And they're not all on Twitter.



Lessons for Social Media (And Junior Staffers) from Mad Men

2010-09-06T23:27:21.477-07:00

From last night's Mad Men was a quick exchange (well, soliloquy) from Don Draper to Peggy Olson. Quick recap: Peggy was upset she didn't get credit for an idea that lead to this:
It's your job - I give you money, you give me ideas.

But you never say thank you.

That's what the money is for. You are young, you will get your recognition.

And honestly, it is absolutely ridiculous to be two years into your career and counting your ideas.

Everything to you is an opportunity. And you should be thanking me every morning when you wake up, along with Jesus, for giving you another day.
Re-read it. Every day that you have the opportunity to present ideas - be it in public relations or social media - is a day you should be thankful that you have a job, and that you get to present your ideas and be part of a team.

Re-read it. If you're a junior staffer, every day you have the opportunity to work with senior staff and be mentored by them to help your career grow.

Re-read it. Just because you are using social media tools and technology since birth does not mean you "get it" better than senior staffers. In fact, what it likely means is you get it less because you have no real idea or understanding to strategy, tactics and overall objectives and how to integrate social media into an overall public relations or marketing plan.

Re-read it. Yes, PR is a hard industry. Years ago, I read an article that it is one of the most stressful professions out there. But, if it's what you want to do, take your lumps, learn and be happy. Yes, Don should have shared the glory and praised down - but that rarely happens. But he's also someone that has given Peggy huge opportunities, and she's part of a team that is doing her job to make Don and the client look good.

Re-read it. You don't work for yourself, you work for an agency. Your personal branding doesn't mean shit, but your ideas and work do mean the world. The thank you is the paycheck, not your notoriety in social media.



Being an Outlier at #BlogHer10

2010-08-05T11:31:14.985-07:00

This is my fourth BlogHer. Well, I think it is - I sorta lost count, and I have been to a couple BlogHer Business events as well. But I think it's an experience at my first BlogHer (BlogHer06) that encapsulates what BlogHer is to me, and why I think I do a pretty damned good job at the conference.And, yes, it's a broken record post but something I feel I need to say each year.I go to BlogHer not as a PR person (here's a clue on how not to be THAT PR person) but as a person that's interested in the community. I go to learn, meet new people, see old friends, and be the adorably cute Jeremy Pepper that people know and love. While I might be at BlogHer for work, I still go to be part of the community and look at it from a Kantian perspective - I'm not there to use anyone (not to use anyone as a means to an end) but to treat each person as an end unto herself, understanding that each person - no matter how many or few Twitter followers they have, no matter how long they've been blogging or how big their blog audience is - each person is important, has a story to tell, and, well, deserves to be listened to while she talks. Yes, I say she because meh on most of the guys there; we don't hold the power that women do anyway.So back to BlogHer06. It was held in San Jose, poolside. I didn't go to the first day - couldn't get off work - but shot down on Saturday, and decided that even if it was a female blogging conference, I was going to be me and participate in conversations. It's me - I'm not shy (well, I am so I compensate by being outgoing), and I have an opinion or two and am not afraid to share it with others. So I sat down in the circles, the break-out sessions, and participated. I tried to be part of the community and while I had no problem arguing with people, I respected their opinion. And you know what happened (and this wasn't the intent)? One of the companies there asked for my contact information because they liked that I was participating, while their PR guy was uncomfortable and standing around the pool. They liked that I had no problem jumping in, and participating in the community. They saw the real value in social media - and heck, we just called it blogging back then - was and is just participating in a conversation. It's not this bullshit of engage, but it's about being real and having a conversation, finding a common ground in a community.Because, that's what BlogHer is: it's a huge community. It's not about the conferences - which are a HUGE part of the community - but about their network of blogs and commenters on the site. It's about the new people that come to the conference (and if memory serves, it's more than 60% of the attendees are first time attendees), and balancing what goes on to serve the veterans and the first-timers. It's about one big community - I ain't saying happy, because no community is fully happy because that's impossible with different conflicting personalities - but it is one big community that has a common goal of empowerment, enjoyment, and more.Now, why is the title of the post about being an "outlier" at BlogHer? Last year, a first-time attendee PR woman didn't like a comment I made during a discussion. She flustered and called me an "outlier" which made me laugh. While I might be a male at BlogHer, I think being a consistent supporter of the organization and event. And, well, I think it was outsider that she meant - I'm happy to be an outlier: I recognized BlogHer[...]



PR Wins Social Media ... Only to Likely Lose it in 2011

2010-06-03T15:38:14.871-07:00

Last week, USC released it's latest Communications and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) report on public relations/communications and the future. For the 6th report, they broke it down somewhat and one of the more interesting (well, blogged about and Tweeted) part is about social media. Shel Holtz wrote a great piece on it - check it out here.The big release is that "PR/Communication, not marketing, is in control of digital/social media" ... which is nice. The subhed, in an interesting twist, also alludes to why I think PR will lose social media to other practices in marketing - if not marketing itself: many practitioners missing the boat, re: evaluation. (Here's the full press release, if you so desire).Years ago, I wrote that public relations will lose social media to advertising. I wrote because of sex (yay SEO futzing), but it is because advertising knows that sex sells, and sells it better than public relations. It's not that social media is about sex, but it IS sexy to corporations right now, and advertising has the whole "we've been doing your online advertising for so long, and this is an extension of an online presence ... give us $100K to launch a YouTube channel" and companies will jump.This is still true. Understand this, and realize it: public relations and communications will lose social media. Likely in 2011. Why do I believe this?Public Relations and Communications rarely have a seat at the executive table. PR tends to report into marketing, and marketing reports into the CEO. Many companies have CMOs, but not many have CCOs.Twitter is moving away from two-way communications into a customer service role (for better or worse). Twitter is the start of the SCRM (social customer relationship management) movement, and with the push for SCRM and CRM, that takes social media out of PR's hands. Even the top social media monitoring tools aren't getting that right yet, and don't have a good plug-in for a CRM tool set. Advertising and marketing sell better than PR. They get the bigger budgets, clients understand them better than PR. Money goes to what's easily understood, and how many people can really explain PR to their parents, let alone to an executive? And, while PR might be the bigger profit center for the large conglomerates, the divisions still report into various advertising functions. PR doesn't have measurement down in a standardized format for PR itself, let alone social media. Corporations like tools that evaluate and measure, and advertising makes those numbers up better than PR and more believable. It's the earned versus unearned media, the paid versus unpaid. Corporations understand those sticks, and we don't have them.Now, do I think this is right? Do I think that marketing and advertising should be in charge of social media? Not at all. Look at any case study of an advertising or marketing person doing social media, and you'll notice the one-way, heavy handed marketing speak that doesn't resonate with the public. PR has been doing communications since it began: media relations, community relations, investor relations, analyst relations. We wear these different hats and are able to speak and listen and hear different communities and respond accordingly. Advertising and marketing, though, see the landscape changing and see where the money is going ... and are faster land grabbers than PR. They get the budget, they'll get social media. It[...]