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Archive for March, 2007

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How to Handle Fred

Loving all the spin and swirls of Wag-Ed’s memo on “how to handle Fred” being leaked. What’s most amusing is the two assumptions that all PR Pros are doing this. Really they aren’t. And 6,000 words, don’t worry hacks, Execs generally don’t read anything exceeding 500 words.

All of this stems from Wired’s story on transparency. I also chatted to Fred on the Channel 9 piece. Fred’s a terrific journalist and very, very smart. Frank, like Fred, is also a good guy. I’m surprised anyone feels the need to defend this practice or conveniently bundle it under the guise of transparency.

But while I’m on this track, how about every journalist publish all their notes for all of us to read post publication of a story. Tapes become podcasts. Notes loaded into a blog or Wiki. Sources disclosed. Now we’re talking transparency.

Chris makes a great point:

By the way, as far as I can tell, everything in the memo is accurate. I also think the executives were very well served by the document; they did indeed stick to their message and they got pretty much the story they wanted. This was also, as it happens, the story I wanted–or was it just the story I thought I wanted because I was so effectively spun by Microsoft’s PR machine? The mind reels…

And therein is the rub, when great journalists with good ideas meet willing, prepared participants, terrific stories are generated. I don’t mean prepared in a cynical way – I mean in the sense they know what they are meeting about, what the other person wants from the meeting, what the context is, and what the key facts are. From that perspective, the Wag-Ed memo was good. Long, but good…

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Fancy A Gig In Exec Comms…

Sun is on the hunt… “This key member of Sun’s Executive Communications team will be responsible for researching and identifying emerging market conversations, working across Sun’s Global Communications group to develop discrete proposals, and incubating concepts with members of Sun’s leadership team including the CEO and his direct staff.” They are a great bunch and this would be a terrific gig if you love communications and technology. Give Noel a bell if you are interested.  (

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The Naked CEO

This great piece on the value of transparency and pretty much a must read for communicators. Clive’s blog is worth a look as well.

As with most pieces on the rise of blogging and participatory media, Clive can’t help but take a swing at PR folks and their craft. This marrs the story with causal assumptions. While I agree with the central tenet of the story – transparency is great and should be used to your advantage, the notion that you need to “fire your publicist” and “abandon the message” to be transparent is nonsense.

In fact, nothing in the story seems to support this or point to the fact that complete transparency is the luxury of the unlisted, closely-held start-up. Nearly every corporation other than RedFin cited in the story have an army of PR people encouraging and driving transparency. Not does it point to another real-estate brand – Zillow – that has achieved superior mindshare (albeit in a different segment of the real-state market) on the back of a great PR effort.

Now that’s not to say I don’t like Redfin. In fact, I love it. Redfin also has a PR rep and still seems to issue press releases… I wonder why…

Transparency and engagement are the hallmarks of all great communications – that doesn’t mean they don’t require publicists or messages.

I also find it hard to see Google as a “reputation management system”. It does no managing. Customers, bloggers, pundits and the like all have a new found power to shape reputations. Google mirrors the popular vote, effective optimizer of search, and ranks sentiment that isn’t necessarily a reflection of what your customers think but is a reflection of where the heard is running. Does that make it a “reputation management system” – I don’t think so.

What I do agree with is that Secrecy is dead. And Google is a terrific truth machine. And that customers have become “working partners”.

Thanks to Noel for the pointer… btw Noel, get a blog man!

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The Beginning of The End for Newspapers

There is no question in my mind that we are at the beginning of the end for newspapers. Tim O’Reilly jumps in this morning:

[from SF Chronicle in Trouble?]

I hate to play Valleywag, but I’m hearing rumors that the San Francisco Chronicle is in big trouble. Apparently, Phil Bronstein, the editor-in-chief, told staff in a recent “emergency meeting” that the news business “is broken, and no one knows how to fix it.” (“And if any other paper says they do, they’re lying.”) Reportedly, the paper plans to announce more layoffs before the year is out.

It’s clear that the news business as we knew it is in trouble. Bringing it home, Peter Lewis and Phil Elmer Dewitt, both well-known tech journalists, were both part of layoffs at Time Warner in January (they worked for Fortune and Time, respectively), and John Markoff remarked to me recently that “every time I talk to my colleagues in print journalism it feels like a wake.”

Meanwhile, Peter Brantley passed on in email the news that “a newspaper newsletter covering that industry publishes its own last copy”:

The most authoritative newsletter covering the newspaper industry issued a gloomy prognosis for the business today and then, tellingly, went out of business.

Many newspapers in the largest markets already “have passed the point of opportunity” to save themselves, says the Morton-Groves Newspaper Newsletter in its farewell edition. “For those who have not made the transition [by now], technology and market factors may be too strong to enable success.”

Buffett said that newspapers are “a business in permanent decline.” Stowe also hits out hard this morning: “We should stop wringing our hands for the moribund local newspapers. They are going under. Period. Full stop.”

There are several drivers:

  1. We get information digitally, most newspapers haven’t made this easy or convenient.I drive over what lands in my driveway. I read what lands in my inbox.
  2. Information is live. Most newspaper sites aren’t. We want live news, not dead news.
  3. Content is a commodity (that doesn’t mean it isn’t unique or valuable – just look at all the money made selling pork bellies and salt). If I get content – even their content – from my personal network, why would I pay to subscribe? Doc says this well: “Stop calling everything “content”. It’s a bullshit word that the dot-commers started using back in the ’90s as a wrapper for everything that could be digitized and put online. It’s handy, but it masks and insults the true natures* of writing, journalism, photography, and the rest of what we still, blessedly (if adjectivally) call “editorial”. Your job is journalism, not container cargo.” Right!
  4. Their content is mostly irrelevant or of no value to me. I’m less and less interested in what they write about. The local community I care about isn’t geographic. It’s a mash-up of topics, interests and locations that I build myself in my RSS reader.
  5. Their business model is flawed. Print advertising has been replaced by more efficient mediums (CraigsList, eBay, LinkedIn). Better deliver mechanisms mean I don’t need paper dropped in my driveway. My community is a better prioritizer of news, and feeder of content.

Doc has a good list of what Newspapers might do. His most compelling advise (for me) is that they have to figure out how to encourage participation from their communities. That means linking, pointing, incorporating bloggers, allowing photos to be posted to the site by readers. If you’ve got a printing press – even a virtual one – why not unlock it for all to use?

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Crazy Ivan vs. The Boy Scouts…

Alan has an insightful post on the latest Oracle vs. SAP skirmish… Is this just playmaking on Oracle’s part or a legitimate case of corporate espionage? Either way, Alan makes a key point that the court of law is different than the court of public opinion…

For SAP, which cultivates a Boy Scout brand, this presents the ongoing problem of whether and how to respond to yet another Oracle gambit, not simply in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion. If it deigns to play ball, it will hedge its “Rise Above” philosopy (a little different than Oracle’s), stooping to its competitor’s aggressive play-calling as it recalls for the marketplace that, c’mon folks, Oracle’s the dirty one here. Whether it does this directly or through surrogates, the reminder that Oracle is a media-convicted trash-sorting secret-stealer will be run by way of simple Mirrors, plays that expose the truth, or Recasts, plays that spin the truth. But that, of course, will put one SAP foot into a well-laid trap because it will allow Oracle to run its own Mirrors on SAP’s possible new penchant for pinching private data.

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