Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Further proof of PR's damaged reputation

This Mac commercial is an embarassment to PR professionals everywhere. While the ad is done in good humor, the fact remains that it is perpetuating the stereotype of PR people being spin doctors. While it would be nice to fault Mac for misrepresenting the public relations profession, we have no one to blame but ourselves for creating this stereotype. The responsibilit lies with each one of us as PR professionals to change this stereotype through good public relations practices.


Friday, November 9, 2007

A breach of ethics?

While listening to a recent episode "For Immediate Release" this morning, I was disappointed to hear about a recent catfight between two PR agencies, BlinnPR and 5WPR.

Shel Holtz goes into greater depth about this spat in a recent post on his blog, so I will only give the highlights here. I welcome your comments on this matter.

The debacle began with a blog post by Chris Anderson, the executive editor of Wired magazine. Anderson was upset with the barrage of e-mail pitches he receives from PR people and, as a result, blocked more than 300 people from sending him anymore e-mail. Furthermore, he actually posted each one of these blocked e-mail addresses on his blog. A quick scan of some of the e-mail addresses show that many of these are from notable companies and PR firms (Wal-Mart, Edelman, etc.). What's worse is that The New York Times actually wrote about this in an article this past Monday.

I wish I could say the mess ends here, but it gets worse. Upon seeing that his firm was not on the list of blocked e-mails Steve Blinn, president of BlinnPR, began bragging about this fact in e-mails to employees and clients of another PR firm, 5WPR. Instead of being big boys and just letting the matter die, the CEO and executive vice president of 5WPR decided they would go on the offensive against BlinnPR, and they were not nice about it. A post at Silicon Valley Insider lists a number of e-mails from 5WPR in which they made threats of stealing employees and clients from BlinnPR. Adam Handelsman, 5WPR executive VP, actually even stooped to the level of name-calling by calling Steve Blinn a moron. Here's just a taste of some of the wording in these petulant e-mails:

Handelsman to Blinn

I am going to hire someone to stand outside your office... 5k commission on new business to your staff, plus a 20% raise just to leave with your clients.You made my night. And yes, I am forwarding to all of your clients your note that you don't work late or hard... thanks... I do.

This is disheartening to see this kind of behavior from so-called PR professionals. What makes it worse is that the perpertrators were leaders of their respective companies.

Shel Holtz is advocating that the Public Relations Society of America, International Assoication of Business Communicators and/or Council of Public Relations Firms come out and publicly censure these two firms for the way they have acted. While I doubt any of these organizations will actually censure them, I do believe that something should be done because these two firms are demeaning the practice of public relations. Holtz cites violations of each organizations' code of ethics by BlinnPR and 5WPR. The argument could be made, however, that these two firms have no affliation with IABC, PRSA or CPRF. That would be unfortunate.

As a member of PRSA I have agreed to abide by the organization's Code of Ethics. Part of my responsibility as a member of PRSA is to enhance public relations by working "constantly to strengthen the public's trust in the profession." Furthermore, I have acknowledged that "there is an obligation [on my part] to protect and enhance the profession."

With this in mind and recognizing the fact that my job is not to be a PR ethics policeman, what can I do when stuff like the above happens? Do I just sit idly by and let this kind of stuff keep happening or can I take action? I'm not sure what I can do, but I do know that people notice when PR messes up and are quick to call us on it. For further proof of this, look at what one individual had to say about the embarassing fight between the two aforementioned firms (note: language has been cleaned up):

Ah, this is nice to see. I always thought that PR was a bull[***] industry run by idiots who generally do more harm than good for your company.... and now I see that this is the case.

Thanks for the insightful emails… always good to see the shards exposed for the jack[***] they are.

Like Lawywers and Venture Capitalsits, these are parasites on the creative and productive.... and their desperation makes it clear that they know it!
(source: Silicon Valley Insider)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some thoughts on podcasting

While I'm a big fan of all things social media, I was reticent to accept podcasting as a viable medium in this realm. With the rise of online video I found it hard to believe that there is much of a market for straight audio podcasts. I have, however, changed my opinion on podcasting. Here's why.

During my summer internship at GM, our team hosted a media panel featuring some experts in social media. One of the panelists, Neville Hobson, co-host of the popular podcast, "For Immediate Release," gave my boss a copy of his and Shel Holtz's (the other co-host of "For Immediate Release") new book, How to Do Everything with Podcasting. I quickly borrowed the book from her and read through it over the course of a week. That book thoroughly changed my opinion of podcasting. I now see podcasts as a great way for PR practitioners to communicate and engage with publics.

One of the greatest benefits of podcasts is that they're portable. With blogs, newspapers, television or radio, you are pretty much confined to one spot if you want to use these forms of media. Podcasting, however, allows you to download and subscribe to what interests you most and then you can listen to it when and where you want. I often listen to podcasts while at the gym. Some people have iPod hook-ups in their car so they can listen to podcasts as they commute. It's like talk radio on demand.

Another great benefit of podcasts is the interactive nature of them. A good podcast should always be tied to a blog with comments enabled so you can get liisterner feedback. You can then address those comments on your podcasts. Very nice.

Despite the obvious advantages in audio podcasts, they have yet to really take off. Why is this? A while back Shel Holtz wrote a post on his blog titled, Why hasn’t audio podcasting gone mainstream?, Holtz refutes the notion that online video has killed audio podcasting. He is of the opinion that a lack of good infrastructure has contributed to the relatively slow rise of podcasts. In other words, if there were easier ways to download podcasts to portable MP3 players, podcasting would be more prevalent.

Well now that I'm converted to podcasting the next logical step is to start doing it. Today marked the launch of a new podcast series that my team and I created for OnStar. The series, "OnStar on Your Side," is not about marketing OnStar, but rather is a way for us to build an affinity with publics who have an interest in safety and vehicle-related issues, regardless of whether or not they are OnStar subscribers. Each episode will be focused around a separate vehicle or safety issue and we will have third party experts come on the show to give advice regarding the day's topic of discussion. The first episode is on protecting yourself against auto theft and feature Chet Huber, president of OnStar and an inspector with the Michigan State Police.

So go ahead and listen to the show. Let me know what you think. The more feedback we get the better it will be!