End of an era. Albeit a short one.

On March 27 last year, I welcomed Strumpette with the words "My God, if PR professional Strumpette’s blog posts are as good as her ‘About me’, she’s a must-read from now on."

Well, she blew hot and cold, like most of us. When she was ‘outed’ as Amanda Chapel, most of us thought that this was a made up persona, despite immediately receiving personal emails to try and convince us otherwise. I received twenty, which I will treasure.

Anyway, (s)he’s had enough. Hanging up the stilettos and moving on. We’ll miss you, whoever you are.

Tom Foremski over at Silicon Valley Watcher used her departure as an opportunity to explain what is wrong with PR. He sees it as Wily E Coyote hanging in thin air – an industry going nowhere. The comments are as interesting as the post itself.

Who writes Skype’s Heartbeat blog

After a couple of days of mayhem at Skype, its ‘Heartbeat‘ blog had this to say:

The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We
love our customers too much to let that happen. This problem occurred
because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking
software.

Am I the only person who finds the second sentence to be utter tripe?

And, as for the third, isn’t this a glorious way of saying ‘it was a bug’?

UPDATE: Ah, I see the the Heartbeat author has now posted that it was, indeed, a bug. Hooray for plain speaking.

UPDATE: And I’ve just read this self-description of the blog author: "Yes, I'm a PR flack." It all makes sense now.

Social Media Analysis

Nathan Gilliatt has written a 75-page guide to the companies who  monitor, measure and analyse social media for business worldwide. He claims it’s the most complete guide available. If it’s any good (and I suspect it is), it could save you a ton of leg-work. The pdf download covers 31 providers in nine countries.

Nathan is a member of the Social Media Today blogging group (I used to be a member until I realised it was defining me too narrowly) which is why I’m prepared to pass this information on.

If you don’t like it, you can always ask for a refund on the $500 price.

Was Wired WaggEd?

Once upon a time a PR firm accidentally sent a British journalist the profile it held on him. It started "This guy’s a lush." Oh dear.

Well it’s happened again, more or less. This time it’s Wired contributing editor Fred Vogelstein who has been accidentally (or maybe not!) sent briefing notes from Waggener Edstrom prior to interviews with Microsoft executives.

Although it contains a short briefing on the journalist, it is mostly a backgrounder and ‘game plan’ for the Microsoft executives for a feature on its "video blogging initiative, Channel 9, and its overall campaign to embrace corporate transparency". From this perspective, it’s an excellent insight to how thoroughly Microsoft is briefed for interviews with influential publications.

If you’ve ever wondered about how to brief and steer your executives, it’s worth a read. Scale your approach to the importance of the publication otherwise you’ll end up paying PRs a fortune in bloated briefings.

I can’t help wondering whether Waggener Edstrom deliberately copied the information to the journalist. He and the PR know the game. Both know that preparation on both sides is key. So why not be transparent and pretend to reveal all? Then, with the journalist suitably off guard, send a second, confidential briefing to the executives that takes them deeper into the journalist’s psyche and the interview strategy.

The journalist would have a great resource to get him up to speed in the areas that Microsoft wants to talk about. Result: a fast start and an implied boundary to the conversation.

But, regardless of whether the leak was deliberate or accidental, any self-respecting journalist would still find ways to throws interviewees on the back foot and not let it change their approach in the slightest.


A PDF of the memo

Waggener Edstrom president Frank Shaw comments on the fuss.

Fred Vogelstein blogs his perspective.


Traditional media vs social media – Shel Holz ‘gets it’

A man called Stowe Boyd has been attracting a lot of attention to himself by lashing out at people who "don’t get it" when it comes to social media, new media or whatever you want to call it. Most people I know in the social media world hold Boyd in high regard. I have yet to reach that particular Nirvana.

Ever since I first entered the blogosphere (as a latecomer in 2004 with a mainstream media background) I’ve noticed that, when cornered, fanatical insiders like to hurl the "you don’t get it" accusation, without clarifying quite what it is that needs to be got. At least Boyd tries to help in this regard, but with mind-numbingly long posts.

A couple of days ago Boyd took Shel Holtz to task in a post headlined "Shel Holtz Is The Perfect Example Of PR People Not Getting It". I guess he knew he’d provoke discussion with that one and crank up the links to his blog (which carries ads, of course). Just like he did when he chastised the organisers of the Office 2.0 conference last year, making liberal use of the attention-grabbing word f**k.(My asterisks.)

Perhaps what he didn’t expect is that Holtz would reply with a long, reasoned and definitely not mind-numbing, response.

If you want to understand what’s happening in the media space – traditional as well as new – Holtz’s post is a fine place to start. (It’s ostensibly about digital press releases but it’s way more valuable than that.)

PR and marketing

Stuart Bruce is usually a good read. I ought to mention his stuff more.

Catching up this morning, I see that he’s been writing about PR and social media and he highlights a paradox:

As I’ve often pointed out public relations is a two-way process,
therefore it should be easy for PR people to adopt to having
conversations. Marcoms and advertising has always been about one-way
messages targeted at an audience.

Unfortunately, PR people often
have to report to marketing and too many of us have been willing just
to do narrow marketing and product PR, rather than look at the big
picture.

When PR and bloggers collide

Once upon a time, PRs considered me to be an "opinion former" and they used to hound me endlessly about their clients. Quite often they had no idea about my interests or specialisations. While it’s nice to have such a level of attention, I much prefer today’s more thoughtful approaches. Those that contact me now usually know where I hang out (very broadly – collaboration and information management behind and at the edge of the firewall).

In a reminder of the old days, today I received an email from a well-known PR firm trying to interest me, as a blogger, in the activities of its even better-known client. My initial reactions in blue:

Subject: Blogger interviews with head of ******* UK

Gosh, the head of the UK arm of the company. And me just a humble blogger.

We’re in the middle of organising a blogger relations programme to coincide with the business launch of ***** *******.  In short we’re looking to see if any bloggers would like to participate in a interview/chat regarding the launch (and other ******* topics) with the managing director of ******* UK, ******* ******.

Before the Queen dishes out honours, the organisers ask each prospective recipient whether they would accept. This seems like a parallel approach. A bit of flattery, a chance to hob-nob… A chance to avoid embarrassment.

Your name along with around four others was recommended as a potential interviewer.

Wow. Five bloggers in the whole of Britain. And I’m one of them. Why? It’s not as if I’m gasping to blog about the company. Maybe it thinks that after such an irresistable offer, I wouldn’t be able to help myself. But I bet the MD will be scripted to within an inch of his life. Where’s the interest in that?

The time it would take place would be early December.

Thank goodness I’m going to Silicon Valley at that time.

Basically, I’m testing the waters at the moment to see if anyone is indeed interested. 

Make this a public invite and the bloggers will be queuing, matey.

Anyway, hope you’re well and hope to hear from you soon.

An unusually matey ending. I scanned my machine (104,000 emails and all my files) and can find no mentions of your name, just three cookies which show I’ve visited your blog. I am well thank you, since you ask.

STOP PRESS: A re-scan discovered seven emails from you and one mass mailing. So my sincere apologies for the last remark. We have been in touch as a result of our blogging activities.

I suspect this blog post is going to go down like a lead balloon with the people involved. This is why I’ve anonymised them. I have (or had) good relationships with both the PR firm and its client.

Normally, I’d hit the ‘delete’ key or say ‘sorry, not interested’ but, because I was being approached as a blogger, I thought the email was interesting. It certainly reveals some background to new media PR activity.

I’m not sure what made the PR firm single me out. The offer didn’t relate to the subject matter of this blog. And it certainly didn’t relate to thinkerlog. And, frankly, it barely worked for the IWR blog.

Presumably the PR firm wanted to invoke warm feelings towards its client and the opportunity in the hope that this would result in more positive and less critical coverage than they’d get from the regular press.

Then again, I could be completely wrong. Anyone care to pitch in?