Michael O'Connor Clarke is proud to be a card-carrying flack. Currently based in Toronto, Michael has spent almost 20 years in corporate communications and marketing roles. He started blogging at almost the same time as he first moved into PR - over five years ago. Now he's trying to figure out how to combine these two areas of expertise for the benefit of clue-seeking clients. In his time, Michael has pitched people, products, processes and pop-tarts, but he has a congenital inability to peddle fluff.
I'd love to know something of what the hell happened here...
At 08:31 yesterday morning, a news release purporting to be from Innotrac Corporation of Atlanta, Ga. hit the wires, announcing a "multi-year, multi-million dollar customer service and technical support agreement" with a large corporate client.
Trading in the company's stock went crazy, with the quote doubling and trading volume coming close to 300,000 shares (compared to an average of just 10,000).
Later in the day, the company issued a statement saying that the release "was not authorized by the Company and is totally untrue."
Now would be a good time to call in your crisis communications counsel.
2006 Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education
I've barely had time to skim the Executive Summary of this so far, but will read it properly and come back with some comments soon. In the meantime, here's a link to the complete 2006 report, subtitled "Public Relations Education for the 21st Century".
I hope that, if nothing else, the report emphasizes the importance of encouraging PR students to read. I'm still astonished, every time I speak with a group of young PR students, to find how few of them make a habit of reading daily newspapers. Surely a prerequisite of being in this business should be a natural fascination for the process by which news is made...?
More on this once I've had a chance to read the whole thing.
One of the things us PR folk are often asked to do is to help research and identify the most important and influential conference events our clients ought to be attending.
It looks like that part of the job may have just gotten a whole lot easier with the launch of Confabb, described as "an aggregate database of major conferences, conventions, and trade shows sorted by industry with social networking tools designed to empower conference attendees to improve their overall experience."
It's too early to know for certain whether this thing will become the central magnet for conference listings and discussions it is aiming to be, but from a design and functionality perspective alone it certainly gets my vote already.
I'll confess to being a little biased, as I'm a long-time fan of the co-founders, Salim Ismail (of PubSub fame) and Cameron Barrett (blog pioneer). These gents know what they're doing.
The search and browsing capabilities of Confabb already give the service a considerable edge over competitors. It's a lot more flexible and easier to use than the old approach, as epitomised by sites such as the American Tradeshow Directory. I know where I'll be sending my account teams to do their research from now on.
I only have one other quick observation on the sevice so far, but I'm going to spend some time digging deeper into it.
It's mildly exciting to note that I have a listing already in their Speaker Directory. Rather puzzling to note that a number of much better speakers (most notably David Weinberger) are not yet listed. Odd. But then, I see that even one of their initial investors, the inveterate conference-goer Dave Winer, hasn't made it into the lists yet. Doubly odd.
Still - a valuable and very interesting thing they've done here. Excellent stuff.
Comments are temporarily b0rked. I'm sorry. No idea why. Highly-trained primates are scampering through the tubes even as we speak, attempting to unscrew the inscrutable. In the meantime, there's always email.
NewsNosh is billed as "a a searchable, user-contributed directory of online business news sources of all types: blogs, podcasts, news sites and newsletters... designed to help fellow PR folks and other communicators follow industries and identify media sources..."
I should confess, first, that I've been a little sceptical about this whole "Social Media News Release" thing put together by Todd Defren and his firm, SHIFT Communications. I'm still somewhat sceptical, to be honest, but the problem is that, while I've been thinking this through for a while, I'm having some difficulty defining the shape of my misgivings.
And now I've just read something that has convinced me that my inchoate scepticism may indeed be completely misplaced - or that, at the very least, I need to re-visit the idea and think things through properly. What's changed my mind?
I just came across this post on Todd Defren's blog, wherein he describes, with remarkable candour, an all-too-familiar outbreak of cluelessness on the part of one of his clients, and his agency's response to the same.
Pardon me while I blow a few cobwebs off the template, and dust down the ol' blog widgets.
Here's the thing: as I mentioned in that post from February, below, I had stopped being a flack for a while - so it was kind of hard to pretend that I was as fully immersed in the troposphere as the author of a blog entitled "Flackster" really ought to be.
Well it seems I've got my flack mojo back. I just couldn't keep away.
Yes, I'm going back to being a PR guy again. I realised I missed it. It's still one of the most utterly messed-up areas of business in the world, but I kind of love that messed-upedness.
Plus, I have a lot more hope these days than I did a few years back. Winds of change, PR 2.0, Social Media coming of age, and all that.
Feels good to be settling in here at Corante again. I wonder if Hylton's still talking to me...?
In the extended gaps between posts here, there's been a regular explosion of bloggery in the flackosphere. Flackery in the blogosphere. Floggery in the backosp...
See, I'm not really a flack any more. (SHOCKING REVELATIONS! Full story: p24). After five remarkable years as yer actual senior PR industry exec bloke, I opted to return to my first love: the software industry. So it's fair to say that I'm not really as deeply plugged in to the day-to-day rumblings in the PR business.
Having said that, I'm still fascinated to follow the foibles, failures, and fanfares of my former fellow flacks.
Delighted, for example, to see that Richard Edelman has almost completed his plan to collect a complete matching set of influential flack bloggers. He already had a Guillaume du Gardier, a Phil Gomes, and a Michael Krempasky . Now the limited edition Steve Rubel model has taken up residence on the Edelman mantelpiece.
Reminds me just slightly of the silliness back on Orkut, when the blognoscenti seemed to be competing with each other to "collect the full set" of cool/influential "friends"
All snarking aside, however, this is excellent news for Edelman. They're fast proving themselves to be the smartest and most blog-savvy BigPR firm out there.
I have it on good authority from a close friend that Richard Edelman really does pretty much get it. Top bloke. Now if only I knew what "it" was, I'd be well on my way... somewhere.
Belated congratulations to Steve, and kudos to Edelman for continuing to pay attention to the blogosphere and, even better, working to do something interesting and worthwhile in the space.
This puts Richard Edelman into one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet, btw. The number of genuinely blog-savvy executives who sit at the very highest level in mainstream PR firms is a set of no more than two members, as far as I've been able to tell. Richard is one; Larry Weber is the other. Larry's lunchtime keynote at last December's Syndicate conference was terrific - and empirical proof that he's seen the bloglight. (Hey, Larry! Where's your blog?)
Reactions across the blogosphere would certainly seem to say so. Boyd is an Irish Times writer who has just contributed what some view as the Times' own "Attack of the Blogs" diatribe.
I don't know. The Irish Times certainly doesn't do anything to help convince us they might have any kind of a clue, by throwing up a paywall around their stories. Click here if you really want to pay a couple of Euros to read the piece. Or you can go here to read the full article for nothing, courtesy of Gavin Sheridan. (To paraphrase John Gilmore, the blogosphere treats a paywall as damage and routes around it).
For me, I find it hard to tell what position Boyd's really taking in this piece. He bounces around a bit, gets a couple of things wrong, a few other things right, recycles some of the stock inflammatory Chicken Little-ish comments about the "threat" of the blogs, but then settles down into a rather more balanced conclusion:
"There’s a whole new world of reportage out there. It can be fiery, extremist and inflammatory, or it can be unshackled, uncensored and progressive depending on your own leanings or prejudices."
Let's skip the grovelling and get on with business, shall we...? To whit:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.'
I've used this Gandhi quote as a post heading elsewhere in the past, but it seems even more appropriate for the topic at hand this time around.
There's been a minor bushfire spreading through the blogvines in the last few weeks, building into something bigger and more important as each successive blogger and MSM outlet picks up the story.
In short: Gaurav Sabnis, a blogger in India quit his job with IBM after something of a dust storm blew up over his online criticism of a local IBM client, IIPM, and that client's pigheaded and disproportionate over-reaction. As a result, what was a minor dust storm grew into a tornado of criticism and intense online scrutiny of IIPM, spilling over into the mainstream and causing no end of embarrassment for them.
To me, the most interesting aspect of what's happened here is not the tale of IIPM's cluelessness -- although that is indeed mighty, and certainly worthy of the scorn and outrage being directed their way by many in the blogosphere.
No; what resonates most for me is the exact point Mark Glaser chooses to make in the closing paragraphs of his piece:
"Bloggers + MSM = better media?"
Mark gets that there is an inevitable and appropriate AND logic in play here. As he says:
"The story of IIPM and its battle with JAM and Indian bloggers follows a familiar trajectory here in the U.S.: There's a story in a smallish magazine, picked up and magnified by bloggers, then picked up and magnified by the mainstream media (MSM). This snowball effect has bloggers exulting, and the MSM taking bloggers much more seriously."
As I've said before - this is why I don't buy into the ongoing "journalism vs. blogging" debate - it's because the "vs." part is so painfully wrong. This is what Forbes failed to get in letting Dan Lyons run off leash.
It's not "Them" OR "Us", it's You AND Me.
Bloggers + MSM = better media. Damn straight.
Complementary, collaborative, mutually reinforcing, keeping each other honest.
When a blogger fisks a poorly-researched, badly-argued MSM piece - that's good. And when an MSM reporter responds to an inflammatory, baseless blog post with their own dissection, rebuttal, and counterpoint - that's good too.
Conversation. Debate. Ebb and flow.
Blog-like "participatory" media initiatives such as Newsvine clearly have the potential to OR and then NOT mainstream media outlets that fail to understand this.
But seeing the AND value is a much smarter path, and one more likely to improve the quality and amplitude of reporting everywhere.
Cherry Beach Sound is this weeks worthy recipient of the Flackster Rancid Kipper Encomium for Ridiculous PR (aka the FRKER).
A friend who works for a prominent enterprise technology publication has granted me permission to pass on this sublime example of hopelessly befuddled pitchery.
Lets lead with the email.
OK first problem. The reporters name is not Paul. You got one consonant correct, but Im afraid that just isn't good enough. Please try harder.
>I have a story or press release to deliver. Something in the now, a very hot topic in all the >magazines and talk. Have a look and put it in your next issue. I have more information on the >project and I can also send you a photo of Cherry Beach Sound studios where it was mixed
[Name Removed to Protect the Guilty]
>Cherry Beach Sound
Im almost at a loss for words. What kind of nitwit would think this was an even slightly appropriate way to approach a reporter?
[About bloomin' time. I know, I know. Sorry. Busy trying to find a job and stuff.]
This is the subject which (if I was still actually employed) could get me fired. In a way, I guess it already did when I became the man who knew too much at one firm.
Irregular, creative, or downright unethical billing practices are the dirty secret in too many PR agencies. Some of them dont even realise theyre doing it or they just dont recognize that what theyre doing would, at best, raise serious questions were their clients to find out.
I should point out, before wading in too deep, that there are many clean, open, transparent agencies agencies run by people with both the ethical intelligence and the business sense to understand the importance of setting and enforcing rules around what you can and cannot bill. These agencies deserve to succeed.
Sadly, Ive also learned that the opposite situation is more often the case. There are very few hard set rules in the agency business about what constitutes acceptable billing practice. In extreme cases, the standard seems to be: if youre even thinking about the client, you should bill it. If I thought this approach was even remotely fair, Id be able to bill an extra fifteen minutes every morning in the shower, as my mind gears up to go to work for the clients.
To try to characterise the worst kind of billing machine, lets start with a few horror stories Ive collected over the years.
Omarion was in London during the tragic bombings that struck this morning, a statement by the singers publicist AR PR Marketing, released hours after the bombings, said. Making no mention of the fatalities or casualties of the blasts, the singers statement concluded, He would like his fans to pray that he has a safe trip and a safe return home. He appreciates your support. Asked why anyone should pray for him, [publicist Shauna Gilmore] said, He wasnt hurt or anything, but just the fact that he was there and all that.
As youd probably expect, my first reaction on reading this story was: "what a wanker". As my friend Chris Wood at Maverick put it: While tragedy unites us all, it also brings out opportunist maggots. Sad, but true.
But then my inner fact-checker kicked in and I decided to dig deeper. The plot... curdles.
If you go to Omarion's website right now, you'll find a note denouncing the Reuters story as a hoax:
According to representatives at the artist's record label, Sony Urban/Epic Records, statements and sentiments appearing in a Reuters-syndicated article (Thu Jul 7, 2005 9:22 PM BST) and attributed to the American R&B singer Omarion were never made by the performer. Contrary to statements made in the article, Omarion is in no way affiliated with the pr marketing firm mentioned in the piece. The "publicist" quoted in the article is not a legitimate representative of the artist, is not known to the artist, and is not acting on the artist's behalf. Omarion regrets any association with the article and hopes that fans will not be taken in by unfounded and unauthorized statements.
Strange. Stranger still is that this is a revised version of the original disclaimer that went up the day after the Reuters piece appeared:
"Statements and sentiments appearing in a Reuters-syndicated article (Thu Jul 7, 2005 9:22 PM BST) and attributed to the American R&B singer Omarion were never made by the performer. Contrary to statements made in the article, Omarion is in no way affiliated with the firm, AR PR Marketing, nor is "publicist Shana Gilmore" a legitimate publicist acting on behalf of the artist. Omarion regrets any confusion and sends his thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims of this horrific tragedy."
Curiouser and curiouser. The totured layering of deniable disavowal hints at much lip-biting and hair-pulling at the record company.
Yet two minutes of Googling brings up a couple of stories seeming to confirm that Omarion IS "affiliated" with AR PR, including this puff piece about the agency stating: "AR PR Marketing has also successfully planned events for Omarion's album release..."
The AR PR website appears to be down at the moment, but Google's cached version of the site last week showed they were still prominently touting their work with Omarion at the top of the page.
Before the site went down, it went sideways. For a few days the front page of the AR PR site went unchanged, except that all of the links went to Google, Yahoo or MSN search pages. Now all you get is a default Windows IIS error message.
So what the fjǿrk is going on here? Is someone screwing with AR PR, or with Omarion, or both? Id love to see a statement from the PR agency explaining their side of this puzzle. Youd think theyd want to do a little reputation management here, before the flying fickle finger of fisk flicks them into the wastebasket of failed agency startups.
Our hosts here at Corante occasionally encourage us to link to stories posted by fellow contributors or new blogs set up under the aegis of the Corante service. Makes perfectly good sense its the kind of network family cross-promotion that is common within the big media conglomerates. Theres certainly no pressure to do this kind of thing at Corante and Hylton and Stowe always approach such suggestions in a tactful and polite manner.
I mention this as preamble in the interests of transparency, as Im about to point to two new Corante blogs. This way, I hope youll recognize that Im doing so simply because I like what they have to say and the subject domains theyre addressing.
First up is Rebuilding Media, a brand new blog looking at "the economics of content". I'm already a big fan of one of the blog contributors, Vin Crosbie, having followed his work at Digital Deliverance for some time. Together with Robert Cauthorn, Vin has already thrown up some good stuff at the new Rebuilding Media blog. Nicely put thoughts such as: "By now, media companies should start to realize that the time to start new-media subsidiaries has ended and the time to replace their old media with new-media has begun."
Worth following for anyone with an interest in the evolution of traditional media.
Next up, Corante has also recently launched Future Tense, where the purpose is to explore "how the modern work 'place' is evolving and adapting to new trends, technologies, and economic factors."
Quite apart from the fact that this is an interesting topic in its own right, Future Tense also happens to feature some great early posts from tireless and extremely influential PR blogger Elizabeth Albrycht. Great to welcome a fellow flack to the Corante stable.
OK - enough fluffy bunny stuff. We now return you to your regularly scheduled fisking...
This week's Flackster Rancid Kipper Encomium for Ridiculous PR (aka the FRKER) goes to this quintessentially cack-handed pitch, received in the Corante mailbox earlier today:
From: Four Corners Communications
As your site is all about the Foo Fighters, I thought you would be interested in the September issue of Guitar World magazine which features an in depth interview with Dave Grohol. The below quote is just a part of the larger story which I know your readers will want to check out. Thanks for your time, hope you can put this up for the fans!
As Hylton put it in his message to me: "Um...Gets what we cover wrong, spells the name of the person she's promoting wrong..."
Anil Dash has a smart, funny post about the horrors of misguided PR people pitching bloggers. Classic Anil - dry, charming, well-written, and absolutely right on the money. All PR people with their sights set on the blogosphere should read, digest and act on Anil's advice. Hell - even if you're just pitching a regular reporter, his post is still sound counsel.
Meanwhile, Russell Beattie - whose blog I've been enjoying for some years - responds to Anil's comments with a somewhat over the top rant against the PR industry as a whole. He's not wrong, but I don't think he's being entirely fair either. It's a sweeping generalisation and, like absolutely all generalisations, it's inherently flawed (yes, there's a joke in that, btw. Not a very good one, but it's Friday afternoon...)
In a post titled "PR People Are Morons", Russell says: "now that people in Public Relations have "discovered" blogging, I'm seeing a notable downward trend in the quality of the discussions online."
It's harsh. A lot of what he says is absolutely right, of course. I see no cause for debate in the point he's making. But the casual dismissal of the entire PR industry hurts.
Here's the comment I've just left at Russell's blog.
There are flacks and there are flacks.
That the PR business has more than its fair share of clueless mouth-breathers is pretty much a universally acknowledged truth.
And yes, it's insanely irritating and depressing to note that so many of these idiots and the dinosaur agencies that employ them have woken up to the existence of the blogosphere and are now trying to figure out how to "game" it.
But to suggest that the PR industry's discovery of blogging has directly led to "a notable downward trend in the quality of the discussions online" is hyperbolic to say the least.
I am a PR guy. I'm also a blogger. Have been since March 2001. That's a long time in blog years, but it's not even as long as many of the other PR people out there have been blogging. Personally, I dont think Im responsible for adversely impacting the signal-to-noise ratio. Nor do I think many of my colleagues in the PR world deserve such calumny either people like Jeneane Sessum (blogging since November 2001), Steve Rubel, Constantin Basturea, Renee Blodgett. All fine, interesting, clueful writers all people who get it. All, incidentally, PR people.
But lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear: Im not upset by your post. In fact, I agree with you in most respects.
Let me say it again there are an awful, awful lot of horribly bad PR people out there doing jaw-droppingly stupid things to try to get some kind of attention from the blogosphere. Wankers, without exception. Pitching blogs and bloggers, in particular, is a just a ridiculously bad idea (an issue I ranted on at considerable length, here).
Couple of quick pointers to interesting AdAge pieces.
First, the horror continues at Marketing and PR industry giant Interpublic Group, with news of a deeper and wider SEC investigation into their rather...um...interesting accounting practices (hey - they're a creative company, what do you expect?). As AdAge also notes: "...in what has become an annual summer event, Interpublic announced the departure of another chief financial officer."
What a mess. I witnessed some of the ugliness in my relatively short stint with one of the Interpublic companies. More on that topic another time.
"Nearly one-quarter (21%) of Web users who do read newspapers now read the daily paper online," according to the AdAge piece. (The Nielsen news release is rather more conservative - they tag the result as "a fifth". I agree with them - 21% is much closer to a fifth than a quarter. But I'm quibbling).
AdAge goes on to cite ABC numbers that indicate the fall in newspapers' average daily circulation in the six months to March 31, 2005. Dailies are down 1.9% to 47.4 million - Sunday papers fell 2.5% to 51 million.
What I'd really like to see now is a much more direct, single-survey comparison of growth against the fall off. Maybe the numbers are in the full Nielsen//Netratings report, which I haven't read.
One fifth of all readers choosing to get their news primarily online is an interesting stat - but I'd love to see a hard stat that proves the correlation between falling print circulations and growing online news audiences. It seems intuitively right and obvious, but where's the research? Guess I've got some Googling to do...
Much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair in the PR world over how the practice of public relations must evolve to tune into the rise of citizen's media. Perhaps the answer is much bloody simpler than we all thought:
The necessary evolution of PR is blogging. That's all.
No more news releases, no more pitches, no more one-to-many media relations. Just bloggers talking to bloggers and blog readers.
"...top leaders...understand that powerful cumunications skills are not a warm-and-fuzzy evil but vital to their success. Regular, effective communication from the top can enhance employee pride, offer inspiration and directly correlates to employee satisfaction and retention."
Alix sets out seven simple, constructive steps to improve executive communications. It's the sort of straightforward stuff any communications pro would nod sagely at and mumble "true, true..." - but it's well worth saying, nonetheless, and well said in this piece.
My only gripe with the article is that there's one particular word sadly conspicuous by its absence.
Mark Twain is reported to have once said that you should "never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel".
As the Internet continues to level the playing field between reporters and the subjects of their stories, Twain's quip (sometimes erroneously attributed to Bill Clinton) could probably stand some updating. It's still not smart to go after a newspaper if you think they've done you wrong, but as some reporters have learned, when the battleground is online, it can also be pretty dangerous to pick a fight with punters who purchase pixels by the pound.
A reporter at Moneyweb, a South African business news website ("South Africa's leading source for independent investment information"), recently waded into a scrap with Elan Suisse Capital - a somewhat less than transparent investment group.
[N.B. I'm not taking sides here - but there's precious little information available about Elan Suisse online. Hard to form an impression of the firm when their corporate website is so elegantly content-free, and Google can only dredge up four rather uninformative hits].
Moneyweb reporter Julius Cobbett penned an investigative piece, digging into the background of Elan Suisse, and finding very little good news with which to encourage investors.
The people behind Elan Suisse have responded by registering juliuscobbett.com, and using the site to launch an ad hominem attack on the reporter.
It's certainly an unusual approach, and not one I can ever imagine recommending to a client - but it's entertaining as hell to watch this one play out.
The standout comment in the piece is from Sun's Jonathan Schwartz, who says: "At the end of the day, the job of any good leader at any corporation is to communicate ... The hallmark of companies that will find blogs useful is the company that cares about its perception ... and the integrity of its relationship with its customers." Damn skippy. Companies that choose the fake blog route are telegraphing the fact that they don't really care if their customers think they're idiots.
I think I'm just going to give up trying to update the blogroll of PR blog links here, and my own steadily growing list of PR-related blogs on the del.icio.us service. Now that I've discovered Constantin Basturea's canonical list of PR bloggers, my own meagre efforts seem completely redundant. Kudos to Constantin for this labour of love. It's so good, someone should be paying him for it.
Im indebted to the estimable Constantin Basturea for doing the little bit of Googling and extra research I should have done myself, and helping to reveal the full perfidy of a pitch Ive already taken one swipe at elsewhere.
I leaned in hard on what I read as a particularly brain-dead piece of blogorrhea, and fisked the living daylights out of the post over at my other blog, here. If you want the full context, start with reading that piece, then come back here.
I tend to keep topics that arent directly related to the worlds of PR or marketing off this blog, preferring to post them at my personal site. As it turns out, this particular issue has now revealed itself to be very clearly a PR-related one, so Ive chosen to move the discussion back here to Flackster.
In the AlwaysOn piece that inspired my invective, one jesse tayler (sic) wrote a confusing and inconclusive bit of puffery Why smart companies dont use corporate weblogs trumpeting the virtues of something he described as blogworking over the failings of traditional weblog publishing.
I ripped into his rhetoric for a range of reasons; the principal point of push-back being the fact that nowhere in his ode to blogworking did the author take the time to explain what, exactly, blogworking is and how it differs from plain old vanilla blogging.
Thanks to a note from Constantin in yesterday mornings inbox, all has been revealed and the truth is even more clueless and odious than Id suspected.
Only just found this, and I've spent the last hour or so reading through the archives. Katie Paine is THE expert on PR measurement. She's proven again and again that, contrary to popular misconceptions, the value of PR is explicitly measureable - and that companies needn't spend a fortune figuring out how to do it.
I've admired and respected Katie for a long time, ever since I first met her at an international PR group meeting with the Lotus Development folks a few years ago. If you're in the PR business and don't yet know Katie's work, you have to check it out, for the good of your company and your career.
My Dad's fond of saying: "Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your kids." If that were true, we might almost be able to hold a certain notoriously airheaded heiress accountable in the latest Hilton Hotels debacle.
Renowned marketing strategist Joseph Jaffe is fuming at a clause in the hotel group's upcoming $45 million agency review, which stipulates that candidate firms sign over all rights to creative materials developed for the pitch - regardless of whether they win or lose the account.
He's absolutely right. As he says: "It's highway robbery and the worst possible insult to every last bit of integrity left in the ad business to have ideas from losing contenders implemented down the line."
Hilton get some twisted credit, I suppose, for at least being up front about their duplicity. I pitched a major consumer products firm about 18 months ago. Didn't get the business. Two months later, I got to watch the chosen agency execute exactly the big campaign idea we'd developed for the pitch.
Not really, but if anyone's going to tear into this topic, I'd love to hear Seth's take.
A Wired News report describes how zombie advertisers want to eat your brain:
"The nascent research, known as "neuromarketing," could one day lead to new advertising strategies that directly stimulate hard-wired mental reflexes rather than appealing to fuzzy consumer attitudes...Earlier this month, Stanford University researchers reported that they've pinpointed the parts of the brain that handle two major parts of a choice -- figuring out how nifty something is and then calculating how likely it is that you'll get it..."
It gets scarier:
"...At stake is more than just greater understanding of the brain's mysterious inner workings and boons for advertisers. In the wildest dreams of researchers, their findings could help political leaders fine-tune how they make choices about everything from geopolitics to government finances."
Let us be thankful we have commerce, THX-1138. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy...
Pause, if you will, and offer up a small happy bunny dance in honour of American Business Media - the association of business publishing houses, whose members include CMP, Crain Communications, The Economist Group, Elsevier, Hearst Business, IDG, McGraw-Hill, Penton, PRIMEDIA, Scholastic, Ziff Davis, and many other print and online powerhouses.
Kudos is due in this case for their courage in taking a position on the blurry line between advertising and editorial - calling on member companies to keep a clear separation between the newsroom and the schmoozeroom.
In their release, Gordon T. Hughes II, president and CEO says: "The cornerstone of editorial integrity and credibility is the ability of media to make content decisions based on mission and the needs of the reader, and to make these decisions without undo influence from outside interests such as advertisers."
The real test now, of course, will be to see how many of the member media companies follow through on this call to action. Specifically, how many publishers will have the balls to decline lucrative advertising from the likes of BP or Morgan Stanley, in cases where the contracts include slippery ad pull clauses?
Tom Murphy, on his splendid PR Opinions blog, points to this interesting survey of the use of blogs in corporate PR:
"Tim Jackson is a student of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK. As part of his coursework he is conducting an online study exploring blogging and public relations. The deadline for the survey is June 03, 2005. Why not participate by clicking here - it only takes a couple of minutes."
Some of the questions will definitely give you pause for thought (e.g. "Is the ghostwriting of corporate blogs by PR staff on behalf of senior executives acceptable?"). Good stuff.
A quick object lesson in the perils of media manipulation from today's papers.
Yesterday, Canada's largest and most closely-watched public company, Bell Canada Enterprises, held their Annual General Meeting in downtown Toronto.
The Toronto Star ran a surprisingly brief piece, buried on an inside left-hand page. The accompanying photo shows BCE's chief exec on a TV monitor outside the room where the meeting was taking place. The caption notes: "The Star's Rick Eglinton said photographers were forbidden to take pictures at the meeting."
The Globe and Mail's choice of photo is even more pointed. Denied access to the meeting room, the Globe's photo editor chose to run a shot of the protesting union workers picketing the meeting outside.