Three things…

This is what I imagine will be the first of a few “political” posts over the coming years, if that’s not of interest to you – okee dokee.  If it is, stay tuned.

First up:

Dear flacks… It’s time to get the torches and pitchforks.  I know we may not like the press when they don’t respond to your pitch (pitch better, seriously) but the removal of our some of our most respected press outlets from the WH briefing room last week is something to get riled up about.  This is your industry, you have a huge stake in this game and if you don’t see it you shouldn’t call yourself a PR pro, turn in your flack card – I’m embarrassed to know you. No, I won’t explain it to you.

But what to do? That I can help with:

  1. Subscribe to your local paper and national news outlets – it helps with the moneyz and it helps circulation numbers so that imbecile in chief can’t claim that our press is failing.  And yes – it’s our press.
  2. Buy some swag – wear your heart on your forehead, chest, mug, pens, anything. Avow public and notoriously that you believe in Real News and Real Facts and Real Press.
  3. Become an Associate Member of the Society of Professional Journalists. You don’t qualify to be a full member (only press does), but this pretty good too.

If you don’t know the SPJ – read here. In short though, “The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.”

The second thing:

Bomb Threats at JCCs

I don’t know what to say. I grew up in JCCs. Nothing needs to be said here, nothing should need to be said here, but it’s everything. It’s people across this nation deciding that the best way to exact revenge upon people – mostly seniors and children – that have never done anything to them is by calling in a fucking bomb threat. And to what end? None – just fear, confusion and doubt.

The worst part – this is the lowest possible form of terrorism (and don’t think it’s not).  This is the violent equivalent of prank calling your neighbor. These wimps are literally calling in their violence.  You really want to show what kind of badass you are – show up at a Krav Maga class and start a fight or tell them you called in a bomb threat to their child’s preschool – I’ll pick you up at the hospital.  I’ll go one better – show up in NYC (I’ll reimburse your flight) and explain to me, eye-to-eye, what anyone has ever done to you that merits anything approaching this. No promises about a hospital pickup after that though.

The last thing…nearly the last straw:

“Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad,” (also, C’mon – this has Bannon all over it).

In a public forum, our President, implied that member(s) of the Jewish community was calling in the bomb threats to make others look bad. The over 100 bomb threats (link 2 above). All independently came up with this grand idea?

It’s not the lack of taste, the lack of evidence, the part where governement is supposed to protect, or that this is the beginning of an open door to search warrants (or searches without warrants) and investigations that’s bothering me (well, ok, they are…but not the big thing).

What’s bothering me this time though – is that I almost let this one slide. It didn’t surprise me. I tweeted, FB’d, IM’d privately but then I moved on. I didn’t Never Forget.  This is how it starts – directing blame without proof and creating an enemy.

I forgot…that’s what made me angry.

No More Kool-Aid

Radioactive warning signFor some additional perspective on this topic be sure to check out Jason Mollica’s blog – One Guy’s Journey.

Get your coffee, turn on the tunes, and settle in for a read.  I’ve been avoiding a post of this nature for some time, but its time has come.

Most everyone in PR has an opinion of Peter Shankman.  It’s a bit of a litmus test – doesn’t matter what your opinion is, as long as you’ve got one there’s a strong chance you’re actually in PR.  I won’t go into who he is – if you don’t know this post is likely not for you. Continue reading No More Kool-Aid

“Writing is still important” or “Writing is like hygiene”

Over the last several months, notwithstanding going solo recently, I’ve spoken with a number of agency higher-level folks and internal recruiters  about the job market and the candidates they’re seeing and seeking.

Regardless of the position (Entry, SVP or Director) or company (from various agency-types all the way to in-house) or type of work (media relations to a social media specific position) the one thing I keep on hearing, in various forms, is “we’re not seeing a lot of candidates with really good writing skills.”  Continue reading “Writing is still important” or “Writing is like hygiene”

Too long for a comment…

This post is, in its entirety a response to a blog comment over at   Per my usual m.o. I chase down the points in the discussion to their conclusions so the answer got a bit long.  Rather than blow up the comment system at PRBC I posted the response here, with a link at the other page.  Any direct responses that might develop the conversation should be posted there.

Hi JR —

Welcome to the blog. I hope we can expect to see you around in the future as well.

All evidence to the contrary I don’t like to disagree with people but I’m intrigued by your comments. And so…..

Skipping your comment regarding the tech boom of the last decade and half, since I’m not convinced it has been driven by young people, it seems (from a number of your assertions) that we’re working with different definitions of “expert.”

Multiple definitions of expert include some mention of ‘expert’ status deriving from knowledge (through education/training) or experience in a particular area (wikipedia (whose page on this is actually quite good) and Taking that into consideration it would appear that the ‘expert’ claim should only apply to a small piece (or multiple individual pieces) of the puzzle not the puzzle as a whole, likely because the puzzle is normally too broad of a landscape for any one person to be an expert in all of it.

Now, of course a significant part of this is semantics (and this is not an issue w/ your post but rather the definition and how we frame the question). Someone can claim to be a ‘computer expert’ but to use that term implies they know enough of what there is to know about every hardware and software option from mainframe and distributed computing systems to my iPhone (which is essentially a computer with a phone thrown in).

If we pare this down to ‘expert in desktop systems’ then we’re approaching something that is actually possible. I’ve had colleagues who are well versed in the three major desktop platforms and can be called upon to express an informed opinion based on education and experience. That being said, even they were not experts at each aspect of each system — they may have known the software platform but when it came to suggesting specific hardware or applications would occasionally fall flat. Part of the question when trying to call upon an expert is finding what expert you need.

Similar to researching a doctor, attorney, accountant, or flack….errr PR Pro — what area of the field do they know about — I wouldn’t approach an OB/GYN with questions about the rash on my arm, a litigator to form a company, a personal accountant to do the books for my Fortune 500 company or a book publicist to handle a new consumer electronic launch. Unless they’ve got true ‘mad skillz’ they don’t have the knowledge or experience in my necesssary small piece of the puzzle.

Anyway —

Regarding your mention of Netscape and Napster – taking a more macro view of technology – yes people still do use Netscape and Napster. Netscape introduced at least four technology revolutions (the company made the web practical for e-commerce by developing SSL, was one side of the 1st browser war, spawned the Mozilla Foundation (one of the major players in the open source revolution) and through Firefox is a player in the 2nd browser war). There’s still Netscape code on a significant number of desktop PCs in use today. Napster spawned the entire peer-to-peer file transfer system which kicked (and continues to kick) the MPAA/RIAA’s tush for the last 10 years. So while these two individual companies may have not had business savvy, to say they (or their users/developers) weren’t experts in their respective fields may be off the mark.

I am though intrigued as to the business savvy requirement / expertise connection you mention. I’m not aware of any claim that experts be profitable (consider all the sheer-genius absent minded professors we all know who are certainly experts but couldn’t balance a checkbook with an accountant and triple beam scale). And, while we’re on the topic, Netscape was purchased by AOL for the stock equivalent of 4.2 billion. Not too shabby.

I’m also of the opinion that examining twitter as the area of expertise these youngin’s can excel at might be under-inclusive.  Any PR Pro relying on twitter as the only aspect to a social media presence has not only missed the boat but is likely not anywhere near the shore. Social media is not just about a single platform but using the appropriate platform for the appropriate audience.   A photographer on twitter — great…I hope they’re also using flickr (or other photo site). A musical performer – they need to also be using a platform to distribute their files. A really long-winded PR Pro (*ahem*) that likes to analyze and discuss everything ad nauseam must have a blog to handle the volume of the writing because comment boxes can explode and Twitter’s just too short.

And to say Social Media hasn’t rewritten the ‘book’ (though I’m not sure which book we’re referring to exactly) would be, IMHO, a tad late as SM, in one form or another, has been around for approximately 2 decades and has rewritten many books. We didn’t call it social media back then — but AOL chatrooms, BBS systems, message boards, etc. were all early social media platforms.

Podcasting’s dead? Don’t tell the folks at the Wall Street Journal, Wired, or the other podcasters (especially the piles of music blogs). Same question regarding direct mail (I still get tonnes of it) and billboards (which I saw plenty of this weekend). As far as today’s “experts” being replaced — that’ll be the true test of expertise — whether today’s crop can adapt and move with the technology. I have faith that they can.

Plenty of ‘old skool’ flacks have joined the twitter revolution — it doesn’t mean they don’t pick up pen and paper (some literally — thanks Heather) and write a long form press release before announcing its presence to the twitterverse and flacking the dead horse there.

I don’t think we’re going to find piles of ‘underqualified for anything other than social media flacks’ anytime in the future, at least not the good ones (the bad ones will weed themselves out at some point no matter how much we try to help them). There’s plenty of hours in the day and days in the year for everyone to pick up a new skill to help them excel. In fact, the highly talented Valerie Simon has an excellent guest blog post on this topic at the blog.  [Shameless plug — Valerie will be guest posting at on Wednesday]

For comparison in another field Consider Marc Andreessen – one of the Netscape founders (an example of your choosing). Following the AOL acquisition of Netscape he went on to form Loudcloud (later Opsware) which was acquired by HP for 1.6 Billion and has recently formed Ning. If memory serves he’s one of the few silicon valley guys to have 2 billion-dollar (plus) companies acquired (Thanks @sarahcuda).

He co-founded Netscape in 1994, when he was 23. Opsware 5 years later, so he would’ve been 28. Ning in 2005 making him 34 at the time. He’s currently an investor in Digg, Netvibes and Twitter and sits on the board of Facebook, eBay, the Open Media Network as well founding his own VC firm, which (literally) days ago acquired a majority stake in Skype. At the age of 38. While we can’t all be Andreessens there are plenty like him who evolve and move with their markets. Learn the new tools when they become worthwhile and discard them when not.

That’s what life is all about – taking in the new, experiencing things, getting the most out of them, seeing how they work for you and then picking and choosing which parts you choose to retain and which you choose to not hold onto, carrying on and repeating.

Simple fact is there are still people using AOL notwithstanding how horrible it is. There are still people using non-smartphones even though there are plenty of options out there now for smartphones that do so much more. But their chosen tech works for them and their purposes. The same applies to direct mail, billboards and podcasts. If they didn’t fit the needs of the person or company using them they’d stop, but they do continue to work.

Given our prior discussion on what makes an expert I’m not sure how one can call oneself an expert when we can lead “a team working on technology we don’t even understand,” when one of the requirements of being an expert is knowledge or training in the field. Further I’m mystified where any kind of leadership requirement comes in. Is being able to lead a team a valuable skill — of course.

Can people who are not experts lead a team — yes: usually to failure unless that leader surrounds themselves with others who are experts in that area. Good leadership without specific expertise is done all the time with great success — Politicians lead their constituency without knowing everything there is to know about business, education, environmental issues, healthcare, etc. of their designated regions. Military leaders don’t know everything there is to know about the local population, geography/terrain, politics, climate, etc. of the region they’re working in. Rather they are successful because they know how (and when) to call upon the experts in the areas of knowledge in which they’re lacking.

“Technology changes, the basics do not.” I certainly agree with you here. I certainly hope the basics are still being taught. For flacks – proper sentence structure, persuasive writing, client and journalist relations, all that fun stuff. From the high skill level I’ve seen among the youngin’s around me it would appear we’re secure in the basics.

Though I am mystified by “only years of experience can give us the foundation that is needed to be truly effective with the twitters of the world.” Based on your own comment Twitter will be replaced in short order and no textbooks re-written because of it. When do these “years of experience” come in and why would you want “the foundation that is needed to be to be truly effective with the twitters of the world.” The great thing about “emerging technologies” is that those on top of their game will continue to learn the technology and stay at the front line of the tech revolution.

Since it seems from the lack of profile attached to your comment (and a quick google search) you’re not a Twitter user yourself, though I could certainly be wrong on that (I’m skipping the Facebook possibility because I know a number of people, myself included, prefer not to attach their professional work to a personal Facebook profile).  I am curious what “fancy computer witchcraft” you prefer/endorse for your professional activities.

I’m also a bit perplexed that you can’t do the jobs of the the ‘pen & paper generation,’ specifically if the basics do not change. Shouldn’t their skill set be an integral part of your own formal or on-the-job education? Perhaps you wouldn’t be able to do it with the same speed, flair or success rate, but certainly I’d expect you’d be able to do the work, even as the most jaded SM-worshipping PR Pro can still put together a press release that conveys the important information in some manner that is engaging.

This is a Call (Out)…

I’m frequently asked why I don’t name names when addressing bad marketing / PR practices.  The answer is usually in part because this person may have mitigated what seems like bad conduct elsewhere and I may just not have found it or I see no reason to call someone out for an innocent blunder (at least what I consider, IMHO, to be a blunder).

Usually it’s something I’ve seen elsewhere, to some degree or another, but there’s always one particular incident that stands out and I base the post on that, without calling anyone out.

That’s not a strict policy.

It’s all case by case, and will continue to be.

But today we break the 4th wall and go deeper than ever.

Why…because when it’s obviously not innocent, obviously offensive, resorts to ad hominem attacks, and is against someone I know and trust (who I know wouldn’t deserve such conduct) it’s time to point out the line in the sand that’s been crossed…and to do so with gusto, if at all possible.

That it also happens to be bad PR and is just plain ol’ shi#y, just makes it all the more fun.

If you’d like a soundtrack with this post, try this….play it loud…

[clearspring_widget title=”Grooveshark Widget: Single Song” wid=”48f3f305ad1283e4″ pid=”4a8c8ee2fb328e34″ width=”400″ height=”40″ domain=””]

Continue reading This is a Call (Out)…

Be Reliable

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)
Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.
At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)
Anyway, the message itself had a link pointing to a ‘security’ problem with my identity.
Explanation: For those of you who don’t know, my real identity is a very close secret.  There’s a small handful of followers/friends who know my real first name and they don’t know who else knows it and know not to begin using it with me in conversation.
That is the cause of all the masked events, etc.
I do take this seriously, going so far as to have separate cell phones, email accounts, even paypal accounts for my identities (more on how to maintain a secret identity in a future post).  When necessary I have other smoke & mirrors to pull out if I need a ‘real’ person to exist.
Anyway, obviously I was in a bind, and while I do have exit strategies for almost any fiasco, being stuck in a meeting wasn’t part of any of those plans (it is now).
Arms crossed, looking down while typing I asked this person drop a note to the person who could fix it.  Certainly an odd request to begin with.
Within 5 minutes of my request I got a note that she would.
Less than 20 minutes after that I got a CC of the email sent.
Less than 40 minutes after that I got a Fwd of the reply saying it had been handled.
I stopped sweating.
The point of this post (besides so much navel gazing we all do on our blogs)?  And “Is there a PR discussion in here?  It’s tagged ‘PR’ Cog…get to it.”
This person, who I consider a real friend, not only let me know about the problem, but was able and willing to help handle….no make that singlehandedly handle it when I was in a bind — all in just over an hour.
Not only had she proven herself a good person and trustworthy in the past, but this went above and beyond – this is someone I know is reliable and can depend on in nearly any situation and someone I would go out on a limb for myself.
Can we all say the same thing?
How many unanswered emails are in your inbox?  I’ve got at least 3 I know of in my PR Cog account, and 2-3 more I need to initiate.
Through your career, how often have you not called someone back on time (perhaps because the client told you to dodge or because it was a small outlet).  Did you apologize afterwards?
When was the last time you (either on your own or to cover for the boss) pushed back on a deadline for a “barely honest” reason?
How many weeks have you been saying, “I’ll get to it later this week” to something started 3 weeks earlier?
We’re in a business where the client’s time is money (and possibly a few hits), the journalist’s time is coverage, and our own time is not ours from 9-5 (or whatever hours you work).
The best parts of this –
There’s no experience required to do it, or teach it.  Everyone from the intern to the CEO can master it and teach it to the other.
There’s no learning curve — you can begin today and if you screw up, start over.
It’s not a zero sum game — we can all do it and win without taking anything away from each other.
It works in all sectors, at all agencies, and you can take it with you without it taking up space in a cardboard box.
Do the hacks on your call list know they’ll get a callback?  The client an answer that’s not a dodge? The intern their shoes back? Once those members of our audience stop considering us reliable we’re of minimal use to them.  In this quickly changing time and tone of our industry there are a few things th

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)

Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.

At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)

Continue reading Be Reliable

“Man Up” (Woman up works as well)…

Or, let’s stop stroking each other

This post was originally going to be about how often it seems we’re stroking each other’s egos in the industry — can we all really think all of our friends’ blog posts are that fantastic that we’re retweeting them to everyone and commenting?

Of course not, but we’re there supporting each other in the industry and trying to provide new and insightful commentary.  Of course much of what we say has been said before, perhaps not as well, by others and we’re just adding our own spin to it.  While not necessarily academic, it is supportive, and given what I’ve seen lately probably for the best.

Now, as far as “Man(ning) Up” …

Over the last several weeks (and the last week in particular) I’ve seen a number of negative, condescending, passive aggressive and/or half-assed tweets directed at campaigns or individuals.  Some of the campaigns being run by our brethren (or at least their clients). (No I’m not naming names or linking tweets, no need to call anyone out).

Seriously folks — we’ve got the world at our disposal to get our ideas out there – twitter, blogs, podcasts, video blogs, etc.

If you’re going to muster up the energy to type in 140 characters or less being negative or objecting to someone’s content (whether it’s a campaign, blog post, or twitter stream) at least “Man Up,” put on the track suit and run the race (This is particularly true if the receiving party calls you on (what is likely) your BS).

If you’re (considered) a thought leader in our field, or actually do have deep  thoughts about these things (and simply don’t have the 5-figure fanbase), you owe it to your listeners to give them more than 140 characters on your groundbreaking, cutting edge, revolutionary [how many more horrible press release words can I use] theory/conclusion.

A Campaign sucks? Tell anyone who will listen why in a full blog post or podcast – talk to them about branding, how the LCD (lowest common denominator – i.e. the great majority of the populace) will view the campaign, how it damages the company’s prior reputation or image in the sector where they were the leader.

A twitterer’s stream bothering you? Tell ’em why and offer advice on how they can fix it to your liking, not just to ‘stop.’ Or, when they respond, engage in what we call dialogue and perhaps you’ll find a meeting of the minds, or at the very least a more thorough understanding of each other.

Whether or not the advice is taken at least at that point you’re providing a real opinion, (hopefully) backed up by coherent thought, logic, perhaps even case studies or the like.  Not firing off a half-assed, extraordinarily brief, (non-rebuttable since there’s nothing to respond to but a conclusion) attack on their work in the public sphere.  We’re all professional communicators (heaven help us), don’t we owe it to each other, and those that learn from us, to give it our best each and every time we try to express a professional thought?