Friday, September 28, 2007

Is it possible to be too transparent?

Sorry for the two-week lag in putting up new posts. I'm in the Boston airport right now waiting for a flight back to Detroit, so I figured now is as good a time as any to catching up the blog. I spent the day today hosting some bloggers at a GM-sponsored luncheon. We had a GM executive on hand to answer questions and then to take them over to the Chevy booth at the AltWheels Festival in Boston this weekend. It's always fun hosting bloggers, especially those who don't normally get invited to be a company's guest at events like this.

Anyway, hosting bloggers is another post for another time. What I want to write about today was inspired by part of the For Immediate Release podcast hosted by Shel Hotlz and Neville Hobson. Shel spent a few minutes discussing how we at GM (more particularly my boss, Christopher Barger) handled a sticky situation through the use of corporate blogs.

GM has recently been in some pretty tight-lipped negotiations with the United Auto Workers Union, and endured a two-day strike while details of the negotiations were hammered out. Due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the negotiations we are limited in what we can say about them, and rightly so.

Shel compliments (click here to hear the clip) Christopher on how he used GM's Fastlane blog to address readers' comments about the GM/UAW negotiations and strike. Simply put, all Christopher did was put up a little post (commenting was disabled) that told people we know they want more info on the matter, but that we are simply not allowed to comment (mainly because we really don't know much more beyond what's in the papers and on the blogs). You can access the post here.

This is one of those times when being completely transparent is actually the wrong thing to do. I'm an advocate of corporate transparency, but I am not naive enough to think that companies should put everything out there for the public to see. To do so is neither practical nor smart.

It's been an interesting week in corporate social media communications. I'm sure learning a ton!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Pitching" Bloggers

I have written more than once on this blog about the inherent problems I see with pitching stories to the media. While I agree that we need to inform the media when we have newsworthy information, I have a hard time buying into the notion of pitching stories that are nothing more than free ink for our ourganizations or clients. If it's newsworthy do I really have to pitch it?

In light of this, blogs give PR practitioners yet another medium to pitch company and product information. Neville Hobson, a blogger and co-host of For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report podcast, recently wrote an entry on his blog about what it takes to "pitch" bloggers. Hobson and his co-host on For Immediate Release often talk about how many pitches they get, so Hobson is well-qualified to speak on what works and what doesn't.

I found this post to be extremely educational for me and my efforts in working with bloggers. Here are some of my key take-aways from Hobson's post:

  • "Most [pitches] illustrate only that the sender has not actually read my blog . . . and so has no sense at all about the type of thing that interests me and which I write about."

  • Leave relevant and well thought comments on the blog you are thinking of pitching

  • Reply to comments from the author; basically, engage in a conversation

  • Only after you've done the above can you send a "pitch" over

While I am not involved in pitching bloggers on GM and our cars and trucks, I do, however, frequently invite bloggers to attend various GM media events. I now realize that I need to establish some sort of relationship with potential blogger invitees before I actually invite them to the event. This will take a little longer than usual, but will, in the long run, yield greater results.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

What? PR Degrees Are Unnecessary?

A recent forum discussion on, brought my attention to a disturbing item from the Princeton Review. According to the public relations career profile on the Princeton's Review's Web site, "though some colleges offer a degree in public relations, most industry professionals agree it's unnecessary."

Wait, say that again? Well, I guess I better throw away that diploma I just received a few weeks ago. Yeah, whatever.

I completely disagree with Princeton Review on this one (is it a coincidence that the initials for Princeton Review are PR?). This "summary" of public relations shows that maybe they don't have all their facts straight. Another line further validates this point:

"Any major that teaches you how to read and write intelligently will lay a good foundation for a career in public relations."

It gets worse:

"Or, as one PR person put it 'if you can write a thesis on Dante, you should be able to write a press release.'"

Who is this "PR person" they're quoting anyway?

Anyway, this goes back to something I harp on constantly: PR is the art of building relationships. Yes, writing is an important part of this field, but it's not all that PR people do. It doesn't matter how well you can write if you can't articulate a good phone pitch, presentation or speech. There's so much more to PR than writing!

My PR degree taught me things I would never have learned in any other course of study, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I feel sorry for the students who read this "summary" and pursue a different major only to find find that all the PR jobs they apply for after graduation require a PR degree.