Thursday, April 26, 2007

Seth Godin in Ann Arbor

Seth Godin, the guru author of books about marketing, will be in Ann Arbor--which is close enough to "West Michigan" to merit a mention in my local blog.

Read more about the event, and about the group effort to bring Godin to Michigan, at this event blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When the Bylines Go Bye Bye

I found out in the process of pitching a story today that the Grand Rapids Business Journal's Tim Gortsema and Elizabeth Sanders are "no longer with us," to quote the receptionist at Gemini Publications.

That terse bureau-speak usually gets one's mind wondering what happened. Turns out nothing major.

Later, Editor Carole Valada informed me that Elizabeth followed her husband out of state for a new job, and Tim is on sabbatical. "I just tell you that so you don't worry," she said. "It's really only intereting to PRSA."

Well, yes it is. And everyone else who pitches stories only occasionally. Especially when reporters and editors don't return every phone call or email--we're told not to pester them, they get lots of messages and can't respond to all of them--it would be nice to know if they are gone and our good story ideas aren't resting in voicemail/email purgatory.

How hard would it be to mention their own personnel news in the their "Change Ups" section? Other media have the same problem. I once got chewed out by the 'new' health reporter for not alerting her to a story. I reminded her that I had sent an email and left a voicemail and faxed an advisory to the old health reporter, who had left the building. But they never disconnected old voicemail and email accounts. TV and radio are especially bad at this--they tout their "personalities" but do little to announce changes, except for anchors. The Press carries a column by Colleen Pierson called "Broadcast Notes" that discusses such moves, but not their own reporters.

In my PR career, I introduced myself to reporters when I was new in a job. And I sent an alert when I was leaving one. I did the same thing when I was a journalist with all my beat contacts. That's because the relationships matter. It is both common courtesy and common sense for media to share their personnel moves, and not just with PR pros. While they hate to admit it, they depend on information from PR pros (this is called "news subsidy" and has been studied for years--don't tell me it ain't so). It's in their best interest to inform us all when editor duties or beat structures change.

But the community at large also cares about this. TIME magazine was among the first to use bylines on stories because they felt the readers needed to know who was writing these articles as a matter of interest and credibility. Readers today notice who's writing, and will likely wonder when that byline goes by-bye. In an era of declining readership, you'd think area media outlets would get that.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Google Bombing

GVSU PR major Lisa Travnik is vice president of advocacy for the Public Relations Student Society of America, a national position. Her latest work is an interesting commentary on the concept of "Google bombing." You can read it online at PRSSA's Web site.

Since Lisa is an intern at Quixtar, you can also read about her at the company's own blog, which among other things is worth checking out for the way-cool photo of PR pro Rockin' Robin Luymes.

Google, Double Click, and West Michigan

The New York Times reports today that Google bought Double Click, a company that provides software to Web sites and to agencies to facilitate Web display (banner) ads.

As the media continually migrate to the Web either wholesale or in hybrid format, the business of advertising on the Web gets more sophisticated. Google is going from simple search and small ads, to the big enchilada of online ads. They will integrate search, creative, and the bane of print advertising: efficient and comprehensive measurement of ad response. This is what media economists call "a gale of creative destruction."

Double Click is in New York City, but I ponder the West Michigan connection. You all remember that Google has its AdSense operations in Ann Arbor. As Google integrates DoubleClick into its other operations and offerings, the Michigan location may become more prominent. And ad professionals in Michigan may be able to jump on this digital juggernaut.

As I've said before, I think innovation in advertising will emerge from shops that are small and nimble. I met a guy who used to work in a Grand Haven coffee shop I frequent who taught himself various Web related software while in junior high school. He now works for a small design firm doing Web branding for a variety of impressive clients. He's not through college yet. In fact, he plans to attend seminary in the fall. Who knows where other Web related talent will come from? Why not West Michigan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Transparency Overrated?!

Advertising Age blogger Eric Webber opines that transparency is overrated in a post titled "Transparency Shmansparency: It's Not the Business of PR."

I disagree. You can read my response and others. Then come back here and post a comment. I'd like to know what West Michigan PR pros in particular think about transparency.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


As academics do, I've been involved in some research lately. One subject related to what I'm working on is the idea of "enncroachment"--namely, when professions other than PR do what is essentially a PR function.

Academics study this because it relates to theories of which model of PR is practiced in an organization, whether PR is treated as a management function, and so forth.

So it was interesting to read in the past few days that journalist Kevan Chapman of WGVU radio will take over the press secretary function for Rep. Vern Ehlers, replacing long timer John Brandt. Meanwhile, former politician Jerry Kooiman has been hired as community relations manager for the MSU College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids.

Now, I know Kevan and Jerry and respect them both. I was a journalist before I went into PR. They probably both will do good work. But, I do worry a wee bit that hiring people without a degree in PR runs the risk of perpetuating perceptions of PR that aren't entirely accurate. Will PR be portrayed as merely getting publicity, a journalist's common understanding? In the case of Kooiman, he speaks of making the new MSU college part of the fabric of the Grand Rapids community, which is exactly what I teach my students about community relations. But how will he do it? And will he and his colleagues realize that this is PR?

Without licensing the PR profession, there is no way to prevent professionals from other backgrounds doing PR work. So those of us long-timers have a responsibility to engage them and ensure they are well equipped and have the PR perspective, and join us in "enhancing the profession."

Memo to the membership chair of WMPRSA--send packets immediately to Kevin and Jerry.

Will Airport Ads Fly

An overhaul of the advertising in the Gerald R. Ford International airport will be as fun to watch as the planes taking off and landing.

Interspace is an agency that specializes in airport ads, and got the contract with "GRR" last year after a bid process. They plan fewer ads but more tech, including changing, scrolling ads at various locations in the terminal.

I plan to check them out and ponder their appropriate use in other venues beyond the airport.