Monday, June 30, 2008

Are newspapers going away?

I wanted to stand up and applaud when I read a post by Steven Hodson at Mashable who refuted Robert Scoble's opinion on the death of newspapers. Scoble, probably one of the most well read bloggers out there, recently remarked that his son would be probably be witness to the end of the newspaper industry.

I won't rehash, Hodson's post, but I highly recommend taking a look at it. Check out the following quote from his post:

The fact is that newspapers aren’t going anywhere and chances are they will
still be around by the time your grandkid’s children are having kids. Sure they
are facing some hard economic times much of which is of their doing, but you
don’t kill over a $45 billion industry within a generation especially if that
industry contrary to popular belief is still growing.

This is something I've discussed with a number of individuals before. Newspapers and other forms of traditional media outlets are not going away. They will have to adapt, but they are not going away. Take for example the advent of radio. When radio came out people were certain that newspapers would go away. The rapidity of radio news seemed to negate the need for newspapers who were reporting the news a day after it happened. Yet, newspapers survived. Then along came TV, and with it speculation that it would replace radio and newspapers. Still, radio and newspapers escaped demise. Finally, the Internet was born. Now users can read the news, listen to podcasts and online radio and even watch videos and TV shows. Surely, this is the end-all for other forms of media, right? Let's see...I listen to the radio every day, read a hard copy newspaper every day, watch the news nightly and am on the Internet throughout the day. True, maybe I'm an anomaly, but I use these diferent forms of media because I get different content from each one.

Like I said, traditional media will have to adapt to the changing nature of information sharing, and they are already doing so. Most major newspapers already have all their content online for free (The Wall Street Journal is an exception). You can listen to radio online now. Many journalists also blog. I've even started to see some publications on Twitter and Facebook. Reuters also recently reported that newspapers may even be free in the future.

Hey, and don't forget about the oldest medium out there...books.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back to school!

I’ve barely been out of college for a year, yet the thought of going back for grad school fills me with unspeakable dread. I know, however, it’s something I must do and soon because my family, work and personal obligations will only continue to increase.

I briefly considered going to get an advanced degree in PR or communications, but from what I’ve heard from others it sounds like many of these programs are very focused on theory. While I understand that there is some value to learning theory, I don’t think it would be something I would really be able to enjoy (yes, I do believe I need to enjoy what I’m learning!).

I’ve heard a number of people recommend an MBA as a great advanced degree for PR practitioners. It exposes you to more aspects of business, and helps you better understand how companies work. I’m pretty sure that I want to stay in PR my whole career, but am not sure if getting an MBA will really put me on the fast track to an executive PR position (which is my ultimate goal). I know that an MBA will enhance my business acumen and make it so that I can better speak the language of business.

I’m about 99 percent certain that I will pursue an MBA, but am unsure of whether to go back full-time or part-time in an evening or weekend program. I’ve heard that full-time is better from a recruiting standpoint, but I’m comfortable in my job at GM and don’t foresee leaving the company anytime soon. I’m interested in hearing whether or not anyone has heard anything about the quality of education from an evening or weekend MBA program compared to going back full-time. Is there a difference? Is one preferable to the other? An executive MBA program is out of the question for me because I don’t want to get the average seven years of experience before going back to school.

What do you think? I welcome any input! GMAT preparation tips are welcome too!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Keeping it real

The idea of “keeping it real,” in PR has been on my mind for sometime, and in light of recent events with Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secretary, and his tell-all book it seems appropriate to write about it on my blog.

Lying is wrong. Period. There is no other way to describe it. Despite the comments by CBS Sunday Morning legal analyst Andrew Cohen, about the only truthful PR people being those who are unemployed, I have to believe – some may say naively – that the majority of my fellow PR practitioners do not outright lie. (See PRSA's response here) However, I think an all too common practice has infiltrated our PR work, and that is the practice of never saying anything negative about your organization or client. This practice has led PR practitioners to be labeled as “spin doctors,” and, dare I say, rightly so. Maybe this worked in the past. Maybe people just believed all that was being said by a spokesperson or executive, but \ this is no longer the case. Our publics have caught on to this game, and will readily dismiss anything we say. They will seek alternative sources of information. Hence the popularity of social media. (Consequently, I believe the traditional media can be just as guilty of spin as PR people.)

Take for example, America’s current presidential race. I watch with frustration as TV anchors ask the candidates tough questions and the candidates lightly touch on the question (without answering it) and then jump into one of their key messages. Guess what: Once they fail to answer the question, I immediately tune out. Call it sensationalism, but I like it when the media ask controversial questions of politicians and company executives. I just wish the interviewees would answer like real people.

If we only ever have good things to say about our organizations or clients then we are doing a disservice to our publics. I mean, come on, do we really expect people to believe that everything is perfect? Keeping it real means not shying away from all of the truth. Maybe that means we have to share some information we’re uncomfortable sharing, but I believe that this will only engender trust and goodwill among our publics.

I had this experience once in my short PR career. During an event with some media I made a comment about something I personally disliked about a certain thing and immediately got a look of displeasure from a well meaning colleague. Some may argue that it’s not my job to share personal opinions, but I would counter that by so doing I make myself more of a real person and in turn, more credible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we all go out there and find negative things to say about our organizations and clients; I’m simply saying that we can’t be afraid to tell it like it is. If we do so we build a relationship of trust with our publics and they will come to see us as reliable sources of information. Conversely, doing otherwise makes our public less willing to listen to what we have to say and again, they will go elsewhere.

I, for one, will do all I can to keep it real during my career in PR. How about you?