Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's Infomercial

(Poll has been closed--thanks for your comments)

Hey West Michigan Ad/PR pros, students, and consumers of media: I am interested in your opinion about Obama's infomercial, set to air tonight. This will be a first in presidential campaigns.

Put your partisanship in check, and let me know your thoughts of the communication effectiveness of the ad, based on message, format, timing or whatever. If you want to explain your answer, add a comment to this blog post.

Monday, October 27, 2008


PRSA Detroit--People from the West Michigan chapter of PRSA I've seen at the PRSA Conference in Detroit:

  • 8 outstanding GVSU student members of PRSSA;
  • Clare Wade (she's everywhere, she's everywhere!);
  • Beth Dornan, Robin Luymes, Cindy Droog, Anna Bryce from Amway;
  • Rick Chambers of Pfizer in Kalamazoo;
  • Jeremy Bakkan of Lambert,, Edwards and Associates.

    There may be more, but it's a crowded place.
  • Another Take on PRSA

    PRSA Detroit--Beth Dornan of Amway is also blogging about the PRSA Conference on her Amway blog.

    New Media, Old School PR

    PRSA Detroit--The presenters I've been hearing at this conference with an emphasis on social media all seem to think we need to be told that the communication landscape has changed, that social media is different.

    We get that. At least I do. Maybe I'm ahead of the curve and that's why I'm a little disappointed in the presentations. As I told some of the folks here from Amway, they (and others in West Michigan) have already demonstrated the concepts being discussed.

    What we need to get is some thoughts on the subject of your actual presentation. Such as, strategy that is unique to social media. In other words, stop dwelling on the tools and get down to strategy.

    So, I guess the strategy counsel that emerges from what I've been hearing is this: the fundamentals of PR, such as the RACE process, still applies. It's just that we do it differently in a social media environment, and we can do it faster and easier.

    Research involves listening by monitoring blogs, Twitter and social forums. To paraphrase the X Files, the focus group is out there!

    As for the action plan, we need to have objectives and strategies that make sense for each PR program or campaign and fit the culture of the online communities we engage. As always, these objectives should be outCOME (about a desired change in awareness, attitude or action in our key publics--and not so much about outPUT--looking at the fact that we have a blog or Twitter account. It's especially important--as always--to not confuse tactics with strategies. A Twitter account is a tactic. The strategy is how, with whom, when you use it in a way that delivers objectives.

    Communication translates to conversations--seeding them and feeding them by posting comments on blogs, starting our own, following key publics on Twitter, encouraging key publics to follow us, 'friending' our stakeholders in various online networks, hosting our own networks, etc. In any event, participating in the conversation that will happen whether we talk or not. Listening is also part of communication, as it always should have been if we believe in two-way symmetrical communication.

    And finally, evaluation is all about monitoring the quantity of online mentions, posts about you, comments on your posts, followers you have attracted, topics you've introduced that are maintained in social media discussions, share of discussion in your industry, the ratio of positive to negative mentions of you or your organization, and all the action objectives that are met as a result of your social media involvement--such as sales, volunteer recruitment, votes on an issue, donor retention, etc.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    PR Service Companies

    PRSA Detroit—As technology advances in the PR profession, so do the various companies that offer to help practitioners in their work. Many are incorporating bloggers into their media list, Web content in their clipping and monitoring, digital photo/video/audio in their distribution, and dashboard management metrics in their evaluation. Here’s a rundown of the companies in the exhibit hall at the conference this year:
  • Blue Sky Factory (email service provider):
  • BurrellesLuce (planning, monitoring, measurement):
  • BusinessWire (media research, news distribution, online newsrooms):
  • Cision (formerly Bacons—research, distribution, monitoring, evaluation):
  • CleanPix (digitial photo and news release distribution, especially in travel industry). They publish your media in the online marketplace for journalists:
  • Critical Mention (search, track and view broadcast news):
  • DNA 13 (software for brand and reputation management):
  • eNR services (editorial calendars and opportunities):
  • EurekAlert (science, medicine and technology release distribution, experts database, multimedia gallery):
  • Evolve24 (traditional and social media brand, reputation, and risk management):
  • The FeedRoom (Online video):
  • Influencing (Twitter like platform to connect PR pros with journalists and bloggers):
  • iPressroom (Online newsroom):
  • Marketwire (SEO, social media, media lists, multimedia, distribution, monitoring):
  • Medialink (TV, radio, and web distribution to mass and micro targeted audiences):
  • MyPRGenie (global social media delivery platform):
  • NAPS—North American Precis Syndicate (feature, VNR, ANR creation and distribution—often advertorial):
  • Newsforce (online media placement):
  • PRNewswire (distribution and measurement to journalists, investors, government, public):
  • Radian6 (Social media monitoring):
  • MyMediaInfo (media contact database, ed cals, distribution):
  • StatePoint Media (feature placement service):
  • Strauss Radio Strategies (radio media services):
  • TEK Group International (Online newsroom analysis/distribution software):
  • TV Eyes (TV and radio monitoring):
  • Visible Technologies (Consumer social media analysis):
  • VMS (monitoring of print, broadcast, online, and out-of-home media):
  • Vocus (PR management software, including distribution, RSS feeds, social and traditional media):
  • PR Pros Using Web 2.0

    PRSA Detroit—I get the sense in West Michigan that many PR pros are reluctant to fully embrace new media, while some others offer stellar examples of real leadership on the topic. One interesting study presented by a fellow PR professor determined that PR practitioners are more likely to accept and use Web 2.0 tools in their work if:
  • They sense increased productivity or compensation;
  • Senior management and peers support it;
  • They see the content and creativity of it, versus code and technical side.
    These factors explain 57% of the variance (reasons why) professionals will start to blog and in turn use other new media as part of their professional work. Other factors include self-efficacy, or the confidence that they can get into PR 2.0.
  • PR Pedagogy

    PRSA Detroit—This conference is always a nice blend of academics and professionals. Professionals add validity by talking about full time experience in the field. Academics add scientific rigor by sharing research involving large samples from which generalizations can be made.

    But I also like getting together with other academics to learn from their ideas for pedagogy, or ways to teach PR. It’s affirming, in that we at GVSU are already doing things most others are doing, and its innovative, in that there are always new ways to approach teaching, and new things to teach. My students, in talking to lots of other students, concur that GVSU's PR program is where it should be.

    Among the ideas here that resonate with what we’ve been talking about at GVSU:
  • Using portfolios to assess students, possibly as a major-specific capstone course;
  • Using current events in the fundamentals course to get students to be news consumers and thinking broadly and critically about PR, incorporating the RACE process into current events assessment;
  • Integrating IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) into the classroom;
  • Discussing how professionals use ethics to guide their decisions, and teaching students to make ethical decisions as professionals; possibly replacing the philosophy course on ethics with a PR specific ethics course;
  • Using professional case studies to teach new media technologies.

    More faculty and new classroom technology would help with all of the above.
  • PR History Wiki

    PRSA Detroit—I picked up a flier at the conference promoting a new wiki site all about PR history. Check out, touted as a clearinghouse archive of sources by and for the PR community, including a searchable database.

    Detroit PR

    PRSA Detroit--On the day that thousands of PR professionals from around the world arrive in Detroit, the Wall Street Journal weekend edition has a ‘Weekend Journal’ section cover story headlined “How Detroit Drove Into a Ditch.”

    Ironic and funny, yes. (Maybe the timing was planned by the author, former WSJ Detroit Bureau Chief Paul Ingrassia?)

    But aside from the obvious negative publicity, the article is an interesting PR case study for reasons not expected by readers, nor noted by the author (there are very few quotes in the article, and none from PR professionals). But the article’s central thrust is that the bad management-union relationships by Detroit automakers is to blame for the decline of the Big Three. Japanese and other automakers, meanwhile, reached out to earn the trust of employees and succeeded.

    I have rarely seen a stronger case for the importance of employee relations to the success of an organization. It’s why PR professionals who get it understand that they should not just do media relations, but manage relationships with ALL publics on whom an organization’s success or failure depends—to paraphrase the classic definition of PR.

    I’ll be interested to see if Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of product development, mentions this when he speaks at the conference general session Monday morning.

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Help Wanted: PR Professors

    PRSA Conference, Detroit--Talking to a group of professorial colleagues at the Educator's Academy session at the PRSA Conference in Detroit, something I already know became accutely obvious--there is a serious shortage of PR professors.

    GVSU is hiring, and we haven't had many apps. I've been recruiting here, but everyone I talk to is also hiring, and having the same problem. People can make good money in the profession, why would they want to teach? If they do want to teach, do they want to go through the haard work and expense of getting a PhD? Every university insists on the PhD for a tenure-track professor; you can get away with just a master's degree if you want to be an adjunct or instructor.

    I'm not sure what to do to attract good people with experience, a doctorate, and teaching ability to GVSU. With such a demand, it may be I'm the one who gets recruited.

    Here at the national PRSA conference, there are several sessions for those interested in teaching. We'll see what the draw is. If you are in West Michigan and you ARE interested in being a professor, let's do lunch!

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    PRSA in Detroit

    I'm off to Detroit for the annual PRSA Conference this weekend through Tuesday. I probably will see some of you there.

    For others, I plan to blog from the conference and send a few tweets on Twitter.

    I will avoid sending text messages to the mayor.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Business Journal Launches Blog

    The Grand Rapids Business Journal has a new blog:

    They are currently using it to report on the real estate conference in Grand Rapids.

    This is a good use of a blog for a media outlet, especially a weekly. It allows real-time, brief blog format updates that are faster than wholesale article web site updates, and especially faster than the weekly cycle for the hard copy GRBJ.

    I've added a link to the GRBJ Blog in my links list at right. As I have time I'll add links to other West Michigan media blogs as well.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    GRPS Praised in GR Mag

    Grand Rapids Magazine carries a positive piece about the Grand Rapids Public Schools in its October issue.

    You can't read it online, but John Helmholdt, GRPS Communications and External Affairs Director, was sure to pass along a PDF to yours truly. Given that Helmholdt used to specialize in political PR, including database driven communications, for the now dissolved agency Jones & Gavan, he no doubt pass along the puffery to others as well.

    There's no wonder why he did. GR Mag doesn't have the circulation (although it may reach key influentials) that local TV or the local daily has. Those media outlets seem to have nothing but negative coverage, of low MEAPs, contentious school board meetings, superintendent vs teacher union head, and so on.

    So when you get a media review of some positive progress in the district, you want to pass it around like notes between 7th graders in history class.

    Now we can wonder if John Zwarenstein, GR Mag publisher, will be seeing a sudden increase in subscribers who live in the GRPS school district.

    Creative Smackdown

    The seventh annual Creative Smackdown is October 23 at 7 p.m. at the Loosemore Auditorium at GVSU’s downtown campus. Nearly 60 college students from four colleges will have their creative work critiqued by local Grand Rapids professionals. The categories include web/motion design, graphic design, photography, and advertising.

    Frank Blossom, the organizer of the event (and a new visiting professor at GVSU this year), hopes to have lots of area professionals stop by just to watch. Please do.

    To learn more and see photos of last year's event, see the Creative Smackdown web site.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    PR History

    It's important for people to understand the history of any profession they practice. I think this is especially true for public relations, since its history is so varied, relatively recent, and because so many practitioners come into PR from journalism and other fields.

    The upcoming issue of the Journal of Communication Management, due out in late November, has a special focus on public relations history. Yours truly has an article in the issue, and the others in the table of contents are interesting as well.

    You can read more about the special issue from its editor, Tom Watson, in his blog, DummySpit. When he announced the special issue last October it was the single most visited post on his blog, showing an interest in PR history.

    If you want to peruse the issue, you can do so for free for a limited time. Instructions are on his blog at the end of the Oct. 14 post.

    Also, I'd be willing to offer a presentation of my article if the WMPRSA or other local parties are interested.

    Back From France

    I was happy to see several students, faculty colleagues, and PR colleagues following me on Twitter during my recent week in France. If you didn't, here's a recap:

  • I taught an intensive (21 hours of teaching in a week) session on public relations and press relations to graduate business students.
  • I caught a cold right before I left.
  • This was the first exposure these marketing students have had to PR. Some were excited about going into PR as a career.
  • Cointreau, the manufacturer of orange liqueur, is based in Angers where I taught. The company and its founder were pioneers in advertising and PR in the late 1800s. I visited the plant for a tour and bought a cool book in French/English that shows a progression of ads and other promotions of the company from start-up to today.
  • PR in France is evolving and 'catching up' some day to other EU countries and the US. French PR pros are going beyond media relations to public affairs, investor relations, and other advanced practices.
  • Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Follow me to France

    The old Genesis song "Follow You, Follow Me" has new meaning with the advent of Twitter. I've just noticed that my employer, Grand Valley State University, has an account. So I signed up and 'follow' GVSU. I also follow a close friend, some national media, and my U.S. Representative, which has been interesting this week in particular. A few are now following me and I've sent a few messages, or "tweets" as they are known, this week.

    I'm experimenting to see if this is just a game or has practical utility for me. So, why don't you join the experiment. October 3 I leave for France to teach for a week in Angers, at a GVSU partner institution called ESSCA. I will have access to a computer occasionally and hope to 'tweet' from France as I'm able. Go to and sign up for a free account. Look me up (penningink) and "follow" me.

    And in keeping with the old rock ballad, I may follow you as well.