Category Archives: Publicity

PR Bludgeons Itself :: Again

Kelli Matthews, of the University of Oregon, has a good post in PROpenMic.org entitled PR Taking it in the Teeth (Again).

I’ll share my response, but ask that you visit her post and read the comments by students (sign up required, membership is free). (After visiting that post, also consider going to Kelli’s blog at PRos in Training. It’s a good one.)

This revolves around a recent wiki (prspammers wiki) created by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done. Gina’s Web site is here: Gina Trapani, tech writer and web developer.

The short story? She’s been getting pitches to her personal e-mail address, whereas she has clearly stated links for pitching her and the other editors of Lifehacker (see left hand column). None of them say, “Write to my personal e-mail account.”

So, she has reacted in a public manner. Her choice to do that, of course. Most of us would likely have just filtered the emails and moved on with our lives. But, sometimes we all feel compelled to make a very public point. Right? So, yea! for Gina’s team. I really don’t see anything about her coming off as being malicious in her approach. So, I don’t have a problem with what she’s done.

Update: Kelli has pointed out something I didnt’ see. Gina did post this in Twitter: Twitter / Gina Trapani – “my PR blacklist: http://tinyurl.com/5xj5qh Feel free to add to it.” Well, by publishing it that way, and not providing any safeguard against people maliciously adding to the list with those that are not guilty, she’s just as guilty as those she condemns. Why? Well, she’s just created a vehicle that can harm others. In fact, it is worse. She has not just bothered people with spam, for instance, she’s created a process that may damage one’s reputation unfairly. Talk about Lifehacking. Sheesh!

Here is my comment to Kelli’s post. A bit long for a comment, so I’m adding it here in case you don’t want to go to PROpenMic. But, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to. ;o)

Gina’s process of handling it, and how she’s dealing with it online, is much different than Chris Anderson’s. I’d say she has a valid argument and the nature of online business is that you can feel the backlash in a very public manner.

To me, the days of broadcast e-mails is long gone. It has been gone for over a decade, really. Maybe longer?

An example. That’s one thing I don’t really like about our network here. The invite tool is an invitation to print what many people likely perceive as spam. Scraping your address book to invite people isn’t personal in any way. It isn’t targeted, unless you consider a scattershot approach targeted. I don’t. Facebook’s many widgets are even worse. How many Facebook apps have you blocked? I think I block about 1 every other day.

My point? These practices and strategies (if you can use that term) are still being practiced, even built into the software we use, let alone built into PR firm practices and firm culture.

Years ago, and I mean 20 or so years, you could do a blast mail campaign to newspapers and almost be assured of vast pickup, particularly if you were looking to get into the class C & D papers (local dailies & weeklies). You can still do that today (for class C & D papers, only) and bet on pretty good pickup. But, does this really serve a client’s best interests? I don’t think so. It is lazy. It is unprofessional. It is not PR. Does anyone see any bridges being built through these scattershot approaches? Nope. The key phrase here is “mutually beneficial”, as in the PR practitioner needs to be giving Gina something she wants, not what the practitioner wants to have printed or covered. Why is such a no-brainer concept repeatedly lost on so many PR people?

Everyone holds responsibility here, but the onus is really on management. Is there frequent re-education / training? Is there a vetted process to assure who is using what names from what list? Is there oversight? Sadly, I’m betting the reality is that less than half of firms and organizations actually do that. And, I’m betting I’m being generous, too.

The reality may be a combination of two things. First, firms are trying to get the most out of every possible tactic (billables) and the client’s need for a ROI that they can buy into (retaining your client). These combine to engender a culture furthering these bad practices. Also, note that I’ve used the term ‘tactic’ yet, do we really believe there was any true strategy at work here? No. Strategy leads to tactics. There is no shortcut. You don’t have one without the other.

At least Gina exhibited mature and rational judgement in her effort to deal with the problem. Eh, not so fast … see above. Chris Anderson, on the other hand, well … he just came off looking like a very impudent child. Many of those he outed were not even PR people, some were people he asked to write to him and, worst of all, he uses the term PR and public relations to cover a wide variety of practices, like sales. Finally, his effort – by his own words – intended to do harm. Gina, on the other hand, just dealt with it publicly, yet (with a few exceptions) only published the domains of firms. Anderson is malicious, ignorant and myopic in his approach.

Related Posts:

POP! PR Jots: PR Pitching and Blacklists – by Jeremy Pepper

“Unsubscribe Lifehacker: My Email to Gina Trapani” « socialTNT

A Young Pro’s Take: Media Relations and the New PR Blacklists « PR Interactive

Tech PR Gems: Block & Tackle PR: Tackling the Blocking Bloggers

PR 2.0: Making Mistakes and Amends in Blogger and Media Relations

PR Squared: Open Letter to Gina Trapani of Lifehacker

A Whole Lotta Nothing – Stop asking, start filtering

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Princess Lea Lives :: Too Cool Condensed Air Video Display

Condensed air video projection screen. It is very cool. Tj Swafford, from the Adrants Soflow forum, shares this little gem.

This device is called a heliodisplay. The manufacturer has a new version with touchscreen abilities.

The M2i Heliodisplay is the most advanced free-space display. The M2i supports up to a 30″ diagonal (4:3 aspect) image. The M2i utilizes cursor control interactive capabilities enabling ‘virtual touchscreen’ control.

heliodisplay logoSure, once you see the video, you’ll likely say it needs refinement. But, everyone will want one. Sadly, the cost is now about $20,000. Yikes.

So, PR-types, want something cool for that tradeshow display? This will draw them in. However, I fear the device will overwhelm the audience and your message about your product / service / cause may be lost in all the “ooooh’s” and “aaaah’s” that will ensue. And, if it is a windy venue, well … then I think you’re kind of in the tank.

Why am I so enamored with this device? There was a display I wanted to create where the video displayed in mist, fog or smoke. A bluescreen image sort of flying through the mist. I wanted it to be much larger, too. A 4:3 40-inch, or so, diagonal sized display, or larger. It almost worked, but never quite made the grade. Hey, I was experimenting with dry ice and also a smoke/fog machine, and doing it on the cheap side. These things cost money, ya’ know.

This video is relatively old, dated June 09, 2006, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. How about you? And, are there any other such cool displays out there?

View it at YouTube.

Awesome Dudes Fraternity and Sorority of Ole Miss

You will want to read this true tale of Greek Life at Ole Miss in the L. A. Times National news section, Column One.

…The Awesome Dude Fraternity / Sorority of Alpha Delta…

I do take a small bit of issue with the title – A frat for misfits at Ole Miss. Oh, misfits they may be in the eyes of some traditionalists at Ole Miss, but they are actually a quite positive cause celebre to most.

Fraternities and sororities at Ole Miss date to the 19th century. They remain serious business here, with big, white-columned houses, elaborate rules for rushing and pledging, and a history of turning out the state’s future leaders: U.S. Sen. Trent Lott was a Sigma Nu. His fellow Republican and Mississippian, Sen. Thad Cochran, is a former president of Pi Kappa Alpha.

The men and women of Alpha Delta are changing the old world character of Ole Miss. Good for them.

The Daily Mississippian covered the story back on November 13th.

Sports Illustrated even covered it in their SI Campus Chronicles section.

Unlike a lot of other fraternities, the Awesome Dudes have stayed out of trouble. Well, there was the one report by the Oxford Eagle Online of civil disobedience concerning a smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

Most customers were not lighting up inside establishments, with the exception of four Ole Miss students who are a part of the College Libertarians and the Awesome Dude fraternity. Instead of leaving Parrish’s and smoking outside as the other customers were doing, these students decided to smoke inside the bar in protest of the new law.

The group is said to have a Web site, but the adfraternity.com URL I found referenced is down. They are not mentioned on the official Ole Miss Campus Organizations Web page.

If you’ve never been to The Grove, you’re really missing an experience. It is beautiful, in so many ways. CNN featured the traditional symbol of southern football life. A good video, although Christi Paul fumbles the toss by calling it “Ole Miss University.” Um, it is THE University of Mississippi.

Dove Real Beauty Campaign :: Super Bowl Ad Reach on a Dime

As we continue to discuss viral videos in class, here are a few more examples of success for you to consider. Let us remember, although they spent more than a dime – to be sure – the cost was likely not equal to the production and ad expenditures for a traditional advertising campaign.

Kevin Dugan, of Strategic Public Relations, directs us to the latest news about dove evolution from Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto.

…viral video offers new opportunities, but how do we gauge results and acheive results for those with miniscule budgets…

Two Advertising Age articles show how viral videos brought the ad reach equivilent to a Super Bowl advertisement to Unilever/Dove for a fraction of the dollars. It also likely generated more, and for a longer duration, word-of-mouth buzz for the products. Add to that the personal and emotional appeal of the videos and we begin to see how viral can work wonders. Can it work for everyone? No, not likely. But, as with all strategies and tactics, sometimes they work like a charm.

First up is Jack Neff with Better ROI From YouTube Video Than Super Bowl Spot, Dove’s Viral Hit ‘Evolution’ Is a Real Beauty.

With not a penny of paid media and in less than a month, “Dove Evolution,” a 75-second viral film created by Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, for the Unilever brand has reaped more than 1.7 million views on YouTube and has gotten significant play on TV talk shows “Ellen” and “The View” as well as on “Entertainment Tonight.” It’s also brought the biggest-ever traffic spike to CampaignForRealBeauty.com, three times more than Dove’s Super Bowl ad and resulting publicity last year, according to Alexa.com.

Next up is Bob Garfield’s review of the spot: Tackling Ugly Truth, Dove Effort Evolves Beautifully, New Spot Punctures Our Anorexic, Breast-implanted, Tricked-up Barbie Doll Fantasies.

This Dove ethic corresponded so nicely with the lessons of inner beauty our parents always taught us, and with what sounds morally right, that it resonated far and wide. Never mind that it conflicts with all of our actual experience from the time we enter kindergarten. We all wish for it to be so, and so we credited Unilever with taking a stand.

At which point, the Dove Campaign for Wishful Thinking began evolving into something truly special.

Watch the videos: Dove Evolution and Dove Film. The first is a morphing-style video that shows a young woman transformed into a cover girl beauty through makeup, hair extensions, and the wizardry of Photoshop. The second is of younger girls expressing their frustration with body image in middle and high school. Pretty powerful stuff, really.

Combined, just the videos from Oglivy’s Tim Piper alone equal 1,212,750 views to-date. Add to that the views of the 100K+ related videos (consumer generated, for the most part) and you see the ground swell of attention. When I click on “Related” videos (sorted for “Relevance”) and just count the views for non-Tim Piper videos, the count is around 300,000 – on just the first page of results. That’s pretty impressive. Understatement.

Finally, we should not forget that this campaign had many agencies working on it with a variety of tactics and strategies. It brought Edelman and Dove/Unilever a Silver Anvil award in 2006.

Now, let us go in search of those videos that work successfully for a smaller organization with a miniscule budget. Face it, although the Dove campaign cost much less than a Super Bowl ad, their budget is still way out of reach for small organizations – particularly nonprofits. So, can we find them? Are they out there? Look around and report back.

PayForPlay, PayPerPost … The Bane of Online PR and Marketing – Link Fraud

Pay for play isn’t new. Think Armstrong Williams, VNR scandals, CEO vanity magazines, advertorials and more. Now, there is shock and horror about PayPerPost.com (PPP). It is a bane. It is a poison. But, it is as old as hemlock in digital years.

…as the web grows, more mature or less mature, aren’t these attempts to monetize blogs (for good or bad) inevitable?…

I’ve been waiting for some enterprising federal prosecutor to pump out a string of indictments for link fraud online. Is this the perfect opportunity? I’m not a lawyer, so maybe one will jump in here and help out with a definition.

Payola online? Hey, I imagine it has already happened too many times to count. Will Google and Yahoo! and others join with prosecutors to help keep their link rank / page rank algorithms free (or, as free as possible) of taint? Why not. They have a lot of advertising dollars at stake here. Link ads have been propping up Google from the beginning, haven’t they?

In a conspiracy charge, “a group of conspirators (have) banded together to achieve some harmful or illegal purpose” and if that purpose is fraud – well, do we have the open door to a trial? I imagine that intent plays a role here. If the company seeking the links can be proven to use blog posts knowing that the testimonial is insincere and the blogger can be shown to have made the post solely to make money, well we have a beginning. However, that’s not likely to be easy to determine from the willing participants – after the fact. So, what we can expect is a sting operation. Yes, just like the guy on NBC that has been phishing for perverts, some industrious blogger or reporter (TV or print) can at least make a pretty good expose out of all this. How long do you think it will take for that to happen?

as seen on tvPayPerPost.com has a pretty funny tagline on its header – “As seen in BusinessWeek.” That brings back some scary memories. Just check the logo to the right. Now, most people that see that logo, I believe, think of the product as schlock.

as seen on tvThe funny thing about the tagline at PayPerPost.com? Jon Fine decries it – and the ensuing online meme about it – in BusinessWeek as “a rhetorical race to the bottom.” He’s probably right.

Wonder if PPP will be asked to take that tagline down. And, what hubris does it take to use a negative article to help promote your own product? You’ll notice that there is no link to the BW column so people can see what it is about. Makes sense from a company willing to foresake transparency in their own business model.

It isn’t as if this hasn’t been happening all along, is it? My feeling is that anyone believing that these types of scams haven’t been occuring – under the table – for a long time in blogs is quite naive. And, it is a scam if the intention is stated that disclosure may not occur. That’s fraud, no matter how you spin it.

Think about it. The link loving bloggers – linking in faux adoration circles – are just one such example. How so? Think of the many feigned adoration posts by bloggers about some a-lister (just praying for a link back) and think of the lil’ chunk of their soul given up for that link. Don’t think it happens? Wanna buy a bridge?

If that doesn’t do it for you, then think of all the splogs out there. They are playing the links, too. But this one (PPP), using blogs with heretofore legitimage page ranks, is particularly sleazy. I think the hubris of admitting that disclosure won’t necessarily happen is the sleaziest part of all. No, it isn’t transparency to admit you are not practicing transparency. OK, if you mean the people behind the endeavor are being transparently sleazy. Yep, that’s transparent – in so many meanings.

A poster in Adrants Soflow Network says it (PPP) “is going to destroy the credibility of all bloggers even the ethical ones like myself that have even forgone monetizing my traffic via advertising so as to maintain an independent perspective on the industry that I choose to cover.” Funny thing is, on his mobile blog (not his personal one) I found this ad among a plethora of ads.

FAKE Testimonials?
That’s what Your Visitors Think. Get the Seal and ProveThey’re REAL! (Ad by TrustedTestimonials.com)

You will note, I hope, that the Trusted Testimonials site and the Pay Per Post site both have the same “Secured by GeoTrust” logo on them. Wonder if that Adrants poster knows he is running an ad for what may be the same type of site he abhors?

That company – GeoTrust, like those blogger associations (honesty police), will no doubt fail in securing trust among readers of blogs. And, of course, given the relationship noted above I am curious as to whether any of them are legitimate.

Let’s face it. Blogs are a combination of facts (as they are interpreted by the author) and opinions of the blog’s author that you cannot – with any hope of universal accuracy – trust to be truthful. At least you cannot trust them until you have done a lot of your own research and fisking. And, who’s going to do that – really?

Take a lesson from journalism. Approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism – even traditional mainstream media. I trust blogs, in general, much less than I trust traditional media. The blogs I do trust are always as upfront as possible. They also only gain that trust after a great deal of time spent reading them and following links – researching what they write – to see if I agree. And then, even if I do agree, that’s just my own infopinion, too … isn’t it?

Gee, just look what social media has wrought. Anyone ready for another update to EPIC?

Seeking Suggestions :: Social Media for Promotion of Nonprofits

Social media will be incorporated into a summer project I’m working on for Easter Seals Camp ASCCA. I know you’ve seen me write about Camp ASCCA often, but this summer – get ready – you’ll see it a lot here and at the Camp ASCCA Web site.

I honestly believe that this will be the largest nonprofit use of social media (blogs, podcasts, video, forums and more) that has ever been attempted (aside from political sites and some national / international NPO sites). But, I can’t say that for certain until I do some more research. You can help, if you like. Do you know of any site for a nonprofit organization that has posted this much, this often and using online communication?

Below you will see an outline of what our plans are and how we seek to accomplish these tasks. I have abbreviated the plan as it is actually written out and is 12 pages – single-spaced – in a Word document. I’m still working on it, too.

Here, in a nutshell, is what we’re going to try. I’d love to receive your feedback, suggestions and criticisms.

ASCCA is a nonprofit organization and resources are limited. They have devoted two internships (paid) to the process. The students will receive free housing, meals and $1,000 per month (the same salary camp program staff receive). That, I believe, is a remarkable commitment.

Beyond that, ASCCA has invested in two multimedia computers, digital audio recorders, video recorders (straight to MPEG) and software. I am donating the use of a digital video camera, digital photo camera and a digital audio recorder, too. This should enable the interns to easily capture, and quickly edit, the content they capture. More on that below.

…this will be quite an experiment into social media for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and we are excited about the potential…
  • Two interns will run the operation. Their work hours are quite different from other jobs. They will follow, essentially, the same day that all of the campers and staff do – 7:00 AM until 10:00 PM each day. The camps traditionally run from Sunday at Noon until Friday at Noon.
  • In an attempt to be realistic, I am seting an initial “minimum” number of blog postings at four per day. Actually, I believe it could be 8 or more per day.
  • Posts will be a combination of audio, video, photos and text.
    1. VIDEO: Our initial goal is to do short video pieces and they will be loaded up to our Google Video site and YouTube. These will highlight the program areas from lakefront and the pool to horseback riding and high adventure. We have over a dozen activity areas, so content will be widely avaialable.
    2. AUDIO: These will be short interviews with campers, parents, counselors and visitors. The length will not, I pray, go beyond 10 minutes each. These will be hosted on our servers and delivered through the WordPress Podpress plugin and iTunes.
    3. PHOTOS: Digital cameras will be used to capture dozens of photos each day. They will highlight four main areas: programs, camper/counselor relationships, barrier-free architecture incorporated into activities and cabin life. These will be hosted on our servers and in our Flickr Pro account.
    4. WRITING: These will be observations by the interns about Camp ASCCA and the experiences of the campers and staff. Visitors (fund raising) will also be highlighted. We want honest observations. ASCCA has always been about the reality of abilities – not focusing on the disabilities. We want to offer answers/solutions which allow people with disabilities to participate. We don’t want any “poor pitiful crippled children” stories. Those always irk me.

I realize that is a lot of uploading. Now the sad news. One of the limitations we have at a camp is our location. We have satellite web access. That means that uploading is essentially dial-up. Camp is 10 miles from the nearest highway. A squirrel on the phone line can cause havoc. We may actually drive into town for the uploading of the video, audio and photo files. The only alternative is to keep the phone lines running all night.

With few exceptions, opensource software will be used for all of these projects. We have a wiki (PmWiki), CRM (SugarCRM), calendars (30boxes and Google Calendar), forums and/or alumni database (phpBB), eLearning (Moodle), photo albums (Flickr and Gallery 2), video (Google Video and YouTube) along with WordPress blogs and plugins.

The students have already used much of the software and they have seen the rest of it in action.

New releases will be delivered via a blog newsroom setup to the state and southeastern publications serving our campers hometowns. Most of these are mid-sized to small publications and usually appreciate the content. High resolution photos will accompany the stories created by the interns. Where possible, audio actualities will be included and sent to their local radio stations. Small town radio still does radio news, you know.

I am not sure what, if any, value online press release delivery services could offer us, but we may try them. We’ll likely only use the free services, unless someone wants to spot us for free access to a paid service. That would be a blessing.

Contacts will be made to these local news organizations and offer them email notification of stories or RSS feeds. They’ll likely prefer the emails, as most of the releases will be specifically targeted by locality.

Side projects include populating the Moodle eLearning site to help expand ASCCA’s appeal to school teachers in the areas of environmental education.

Among our many goals are: considerable search engine placement and optimization, increased visibility in online social media communities, a rebirth of ASCCA’s regional media releases, active involvement with our primary audiences (people with disabilities, parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists/medical, other nonprofits and our alumni – campers, staff and volunteers).

Yes, we will be pitching – news outlets and bloggers. We will be commenting in other blogs and developing relationships with sites/blogs addressing disability issues.

We are also interested in online fundraising, but that will come down the road. We want to develop a strong respectable presence online, first.

OK, that is a brief (believe it or not) synopsis of what we’ll be doing this summer. What do you think? I’m reserving some comments I have until I hear from you.

Ike Pigott Draws RSS Blood and News

Ike Pigott, of Accentuate the Positive, 2.0, shared news of an interesting project at the Birmingham Red Cross.

Get Newsplorer! The campaign includes two blogs and a customized/branded RSS reader that you can download.

The blogs are Red Cross Media Alerts and Jefferson County EMA Media Alerts. Also, check out Ike’s version of a branded RSS reader. That is just one of many ways you could accomplish this neat little freebie. During an emergency situation, I can imagine some news people launching this to keep track of new posts.

I like this for several reasons. First, news outlets always want these Red Cross and EMA alerts. Many news outlets have not engaged in RSS and this is a way to turn them on to it easily.

…a local example of RSS and blog adoption from Birmingham…

Second, using Blogger (as Ike has) the sites are free. Any free hosted service will do. Perhaps this will spur other nonprofits into the blogosphere. Later on, they may start a blog from within their ranks – beyond news releases and alerts, after seeing how easy it can be to publish. Blogs are an easy way to tell your organization’s story.

Third – and Ike, this is where my students will love you – the branded RSS reader is so cool I’m going to require they make one as part of their final project.

Yes, I know some will say that RSS readers are everywhere and why would someone want your branded version. Well, if they have not adopted RSS and you are the one that gets them started, they may well keep your branded version for awhile. That means each time they start the reader (which you can add other feeds to, as well) they will see your logo and info. Now what is wrong with that? The effort to make one is so minimal that the real question might be “Why not make one?”

Finally, Ike is helping nonprofits get into new media and that is laudable. His efforts are also in line with the ideals behind Operation Link Love where we are trying to find examples of nonprofit blogging. Ike takes the next step of “paying it forward” and “giving back” by getting the nonprofits involved. Now that is admirable and I appreciate his efforts. Good job, Ike.