Strategic Public Relations
Focused on public relations strategy within the integrated marketing communications mix.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003  

Cincinnati's Participatory Journalism

Cincinnati is hosting its own review of the phenomenon below within independent media. Independent Media Exposition 2003 will cover “DIY Publishing, Blogs, Webzines, Net Radio, Minority Voices in the media and much more.” This event will be interesting as audience-created content is clearly at home at the independent, grassroots level.

Note: The IME mention above is a direct result of someone pitching this public relations blog. IME did their research and sent a targeted, low-pressure pitch to me via e-mail. The end result is a link back to their site, per their request.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 11:34:00 AM

Participatory Journalism

There’s already a ton online about this topic. PR Opinions does a fine job of showing where. Here is Strategic Public Relations’ take on the topic.

The We Media paper uses Nicholas Negroponte’s online news customization theory to introduce how online media is evolving “from me to we” thanks to new technology. Interesting examples of audience-generated content I’ve seen include CNN’s QuickVote.

QuickVote asks one question related to a recent CNN news story. You see the results upon voting. The sample is unknown and an individual answering multiple times could easily skew the results. But no one is planning on using the results to support an assertion—QuickVote is merely content related to the top story.

Yahoo News and MSNBC allow readers to rank content. Readers note the importance of a news story and you can quickly see which stories are getting the most attention online. CNN shows story popularity by tracking how often stories are saved, e-mailed and printed.

Steve Outing provides an example of how the audience is completely redefining “man on the street” interviews. It is reality content that might actually be useful and it takes advantage of new technology.

Bottom line? Participatory journalism is changing news from all sides. Audience-created content gives stories a new dimension—enhancing them and extending their shelf life. This is just for starters as We Media notes “the intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.”

See the First Amendment for more details.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 11:16:00 AM

Tuesday, October 28, 2003  

Sweeps Strategy

We all know the saying, “if it bleeds it leads,” in relation to the types of stories that get news attention. It seems the worst news gets the best media coverage.

This maxim seems most accurate during sweeps season. Around November 1st, national and local ratings are most closely monitored for a few weeks. The results help set network and affiliate ad rates for the coming year. This can translate into some circus-like news coverage.

For example, not only will we see made-for-TV movies on Jessica Lynch and Elizabeth Smart, we will see exclusive interviews with each person. Even an interview with my friend and traffic-magnet Martha will air next month.

The momentum of this cycle is too massive to try and change. Public relations folk should merely steer clear—despite the temptation to take advantage of it. This brings to mind two related examples. One involves tying your product/service/client/news to a larger, tragic news story. We have read about poor taste pitches trying to tie in with 9/11. The California wild fires could unfortunately bring more of the same.

My client has received media inquiries connecting their product to the fires in a positive fashion. Rather than take advantage of this disaster, we have merely answered each inquiry with a short statement. We are doing no pitching around the connection.

Unrelated to sweeps, a TV station offered airtime for cash. This pay-for-play tactic is usually only seen with smaller trade publications. Its appearance in electronic media is unfortunate, but not surprising.

There are plenty of bad public relations performances—most in an effort to get coverage. Take the high road even if it seems like the media are waving you on. If it does not feel right, it isn’t. Coverage is fleeting. Our character is our career.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 2:55:00 PM

Wednesday, October 22, 2003  

Satanic Strategy

This is not a Halloween post or a stretch for relevant content. It's an ad for my mentor, Steve Kissing.

Running from the Devil is his first book. It's "a funny, poignant, memoir following the saga of Steve Kissing, an epileptic boy who believed he was possessed by the devil for eight years. A quirky kid of the '70s, he begins hallucinating in the fifth grade, and he was certain Lucifer was waging an all-out war for his soul."

Steve was interviewed today on the Diane Rehm Show. Some well-deserved, national attention. You can listen to the interview here.

Then you can buy the book. Read about "the Prince of Darkness versus the Prince of Dorkness." You'll enjoy it.

And with that, we now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 11:29:00 PM

Friday, October 17, 2003  

Curve Ball

Martha has thrown me for a loop folks. She'll appear in a new K-Mart ad debuting during this weekend's World Series.

Side note: I'm bummed the Sox and Cubs won't be playing in the Series. But, where would we be without their curses?! Each team's curse is a thread woven tightly into their respective brands. You come to expect it. It makes you an even bigger fan.

Martha and K-Mart's strange marriage makes MSN wonder if any publicity is better than none at all. It also asks who needs the publicity boost more—Martha or K-Mart?

Regardless of the answer, it will get both camps more attention. This news has me scratching my head—up until now she has been distancing herself from her company. But it is good to see some twists and turns in the Stewart saga.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 4:22:00 PM

Thursday, October 16, 2003  

Elevator Speech

Blogs have been a hot topic at work lately. Our Internet folks in particular have taken a shine to them. As a result, I've created an elevator speech on what blogs mean to public relations. An elevator speech is the bottom line, the quick pitch. I've also heard it referred to as your 25 words. If you are pitching a script in Hollywood, you have to be able to sum it up in 25 words or less without oversimplifying it.

This technique should be standard practice for anyone in business. If you cannot quickly and concisely sum up the value in a story idea, product or service, your persuasive ability deteriorates.

But I digress.

Blogs' Importance to Public Relations

News Gathering: Newsreaders pull content from your target blogs to your desktop. This allows you to aggregate news more easily. Blogs help us know the news.

News Placement: Media Map lists more than 250 blogs in its database—250 niche outlets we did not have a year ago. Blogs offer more client placement opportunities.

News Distribution: Assuming the strategy permits a blog, a client's blog offers its own RSS feed (I know, practice what I preach). Blogs help us distribute client news.

Client Positioning: A client's blog helps get their messages and point of view to target audiences—bypassing a media outlet. Blogs help us establish our clients as thought leaders.

So, cut and paste or print this out. Take the bold and italicized parts of the list above and you too have an elevator speech (35 words, but this is not Hollywood). Now sell it.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 10:18:00 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2003  

Fast Cars, Big Brands

A co-worker has noted for months that Mitsubishi should come out with a CD mix. The tunes it picks to promote their newest models inevitably turn into rehashed hits. Business 2.0 has also been listening to this musical marketing trend. B2.0 notes it all started with Microsoft launching Windows 95 with the Rolling Stone’s "Start me up."

Per usual, the tech industry is the pioneer. Then a second industry steps in to make it de rigueur. But there is more to look at here than the usual innovation cycle.

The Big 3 have unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to branding.

Opportunity: Most obviously, automakers’ massive marketing budgets allow them to connect their cars to popular songs. They can also create unique co-branding opportunities. Take Apple and Volkswagen. With every VW Bug purchased you now get a free iPod. Thankfully the iPod plugs into the car’s speaker system—sidestepping the safety issues associated with wearing headphones while driving. In the process, they plug into a younger, digital-music-loving audience.

Challenges: You will not buy a car to get the Starbucks coupons included in the owner’s manual. Nor will a song get you to lease a new car. Automakers know this and are also making statements with unusual car models.

It started with the Plymouth Chrysler Prowler and, more recently, the PT Cruiser comes to mind. Then the ultra-expensive models were unveiled—Dodge Viper, Cadillac 16 and now the $150,000 Ford GT.

All of these cars are cool to look at—as they speed by my subtler model. But consider the money that goes into developing a car. It’s a pricey gamble to defend the value of your brand. But it is fun to look at the cars and listen to the music as the Big 3 continue to roll the dice.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 9:37:00 AM

Monday, October 13, 2003  

Set Your VCR

The last time Martha was interviewed on TV, she was focusing on her salad. ABC notes Barbara Walters interviewed her for a story that will air on 20/20 in November.

Surely the interview is designed as pre-trial ground cover.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 3:03:00 PM

Channel Surfing

Monday brings us plenty of news to start the week. We have a public relations pro sounding off against the media at Media Bistro and BusinessWeek compares advertising and marketing.

Both articles are interesting—especially considering these topics appearing in these outlets. My only wish is that BW did a comparison between advertising and public relations. I assume that article would mix church and state too closely. But it would be interesting to see how the media compare the two.

Instead I will leave you with a typical over-the-top article from the New York Post. This one concerns Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's stock price. The only reason I link to it is that it brings some light to Martha's old silence strategy. If you have nothing good to say...

posted by Kevin Dugan | 1:18:00 PM

Friday, October 10, 2003  

MARTHA—the update

Consistent referrals to SPR from "Martha Stewart + public relations" searches made me curious about the latest Martha news. Since traffic logs driving content translates into giving readers what they want, here are my findings.

Overall, the wheels of justice are still turning. According to Yahoo News, her civil case will proceed along with the criminal case claiming she obstructed justice. In all fairness, U.S. District Judge Sprizzo notes this is not the most serious case of obstructing justice he has seen. He also wonders why prosecutors use so many press conferences to discuss the case, which begins on January 12.

Martha Talks continues to focus on her as a person while updating you on the trial. She currently shows a picture of her celebrating her mom’s 89th birthday. The picture is to keep reminding us she is a person, not a company. Distancing herself from MSLO is key to helping preserve the brand and not allowing her current legal issues to impact MSLO business performance.

Unfortunately this strategy is not working.

The New York Times reports that Martha Stewart Living is cutting its rate base by 22 percent due to declining readership. Thanks to Media Map’s new blog for the link to this story.

In defense of Martha, Martha Stewart Living and MSLO, her current legal issues are not to blame for most of the readership decline. Competition from other publications, a glut of new home shows like Trading Spaces and retail promotions are the more likely culprits.

Yahoo News tracks Martha for us. I added the link to your right.

So what's next? My guess is that team Martha and the prosecution are both planning feverishly for January 12 and the circus that will surround this case. I know this clown will be watching.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 3:33:00 PM

Tuesday, October 07, 2003  

The Recall Eclipse

Public relations professionals everywhere are sighing relief as the California Recall comes to an end. The Recall seemingly eclipsed other news in the past few weeks. USA Today notes it has received “unprecedented national TV coverage for a statewide election, receiving more airtime on the Big Three networks than the White House race.” The Tyndall Report claims it came in fourth place last week.

But there are public relations lessons to learn from the Recall. Media relations campaigns should be run like political campaigns.

Story of the Day: Whether we liked it or not, there was *always* a new story to be told each day of the campaign. Most of us will not have a new, newsworthy story to tell about our company, client, product or service each day. But we should establish a steady rhythm of communication with our media contacts. You establish yourself as a source and you get in the habit of digging for relevant news to send them by doing this. Current events and industry trends often hold a follow-up story opportunity. If you have established yourself as a source, media will either approach you to do a story or pay more attention to your pitch for a follow-up story.

Shaping Messages: A lot of time and attention is spent on the messages we distribute. But we should not consider them sacred cows once legal has *finally* signed off on them. Your industry might not be as fast-paced as politics, but you may need to change your message based on external influences. Candidates’ messages changed accordingly as the field shrank from more than 130 candidates down to two. Post-debate, when it became clear it was a two-horse race, Arnold and Davis went from discussing their party contenders to focusing solely on each other. All promotion turned on a dime to support this new strategic focus.

Instant Feedback: An army of pollsters provided instant feedback on the success of the candidates’ every move. We cannot tap into this Herculean resource, but we have plenty of intelligence we can use to determine the need to change our messages. Top early warning systems include customer feedback, or lack thereof, and response from influencer audiences.

Thought Leader: Positioning your CEO or other spokesperson as a thought leader puts steak behind the sizzle. When Arnold unveiled his 100-day plan, his campaign gained credibility and momentum. An opinion is worth 80 IQ points. If your CEO or spokesperson does not have a point of view on key issues, you need to establish one with them and reflect it in your work as appropriate.

Don't be fooled by the three-ring circus political campaigns become at times like this. Even a circus has a ringmaster orchestrating the spectacle.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 12:38:00 PM

Blog Blather

The results are in from BloggerCon...blogs do not suck. GASP! Industry events can devolve into a mutual admiration society. Since a blog is second only to a mirror when it comes to must-have vanity tools, I’m betting Bloggercon was no different.

That aside, Poynter notes that The New York Times is predisposed towards establishing a blog. This is good news for public relations professionals. While tech journalism blazed the blogging trail, if THE Times takes it up, the rest will surely follow. PR Opinions offers more background on this topic.

In other so-called news, Media Post reports on the latest attempt to map the blogosphere. The research also revisits the fresh blog vs. stale blog discussion.
Perseus estimates there are 4.12 million blogs on eight hosting services. But the research company estimated that 66 percent – 2.72 million – haven’t been updated in two months and that 1.09 million haven’t been updated since the first day. The average duration for an abandoned blog was 126 days, according to the survey of 3,634 blogs. The study was done for the BloggerCon 2003 conference.
This is “déjà vu all over again” and not news in my opinion. The same thing came up when Web sites were new en route to becoming standard. “Keep your Web site updated. If it does not have fresh content, it will be considered a ghost town.” This ad nauseam thought is circa late 1990s. We will surely see more similarities between the evolution of Web site publishing and blog publishing.

posted by Kevin Dugan | 11:55:00 AM