Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Losing control?

One of the more interesting blogs I peruse periodically is Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel of Edelman. He recently spent a day in Paris (geez, life is tough) meeting with European marketers and PR pros who specialize in online communications.

In spite of their cultural differences, he found they all shared one concern: loss of control! Here's an excerpt:

Control is the lingua franca that unites us all. Every single person around the table shared an experience of how communicators are concerned about losing control. They simply don't want to give it up. While it was somewhat refreshing to hear that we all are dealing with similar issues, you could also see that the dominoes are starting to fall. We shared lots of inspiring success stories that give hope that bit by bit, we are all changing mindsets together.

I don't blame marketers/PR pros for being afraid to lose control. Nobody wants to. However, the genie is out of the bottle. We can't put it back. We need to look this gorilla in the eye and accept it. We need to embrace this change and do so globally.

Fear of losing control...the need (and the reluctance) to embrace change...where have I heard that before? Wait a minute -- it's the story of my life! On second thought, maybe it's the story of everybody's life. Must mean marketers are people too.

To read the rest, here's the permalink.

Disgraceful? I call it heroic

President Bush called the recent New York Times article that revealed the administration is tracking international financial transactions "disgraceful." I call it heroic.

The Times did what the media is supposed to do -- they told us what our government is doing. That's especially important when our government is secretly doing things that are unethical and illegal...and when there's so much pressure to give the administration our unquestioning support.

As I recall, it wasn't that long ago that Bush got mad when word seeped out that his administration was tapping our international phone calls, without a warrant or judicical oversight. Then, of course, we found out that it wasn't just our international calls they were monitoring, it was domestic calls too. Oh yeah, and later we found out that they're trying to monitor all our e-mails and web browsing trails too.

Given the latest revelation, how much do you wanna bet they're only tracking international financial transactions? Fat chance.

Yeah, I know some consider it unpatriotic to question anything done in the name of the war on terror (and that includes the president, apparently). But we didn't get to be known as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" by acting like a bunch of stupid, compliant sheep. Our nation's founders weren't afraid to question authority, and we shouldn't be either.

Today's NYT editorial page offered a strong defense of the story, noting that this latest revelation about the administration's spying program "looks like part of an alarming pattern." Here's an excerpt from that editorial, "Patriotism and the Press":
Ever since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

...A half-century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

We need to run that risk. Democracy is too important to leave to the politicians.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A road map for PR majors

A senior VP at a major PR agency says it remains "puzzlingly difficult" to find qualified early-career PR candidates.

Writing in his 21st Century Communications blog, Marcel Goldstein of Ogilvy PR Worldwide says university and internship training now gives most young PR professionals a good understanding of communication theory and the mechanics of public relations. But many, he adds, are lacking three key "starting gate" skills.

What's lacking?
  1. Writing skills: "Few read enough and read enough of quality to become good writers."
  2. Studiousness: "Success in our career requires a thirst for learning."
  3. Agility: "A new public relations professional must be flexible, adaptable and quick to comprehend the need to change in client and team situations."
A road map for PR majors, perhaps?

To read the rest of Goldstein's comments, here's a link to his blog.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Delusions of privacy

"All good things must come to an end," notes an editorial in today's New York Times, "including the chance to post lascivious photographs and diary entries on the Internet without repercussions."

Reflecting on recent reports that many companies have gone from "Googling" their job applicants to checking in social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, the NYT editorialist wrote:

A recent survey found that more than a third of large American companies read their employees' outbound e-mail, and just under a third fired someone as a result. We are only just beginning to wake up to the wider ramifications of the Internet on the personal and the confidential. In the meantime, don't leave a digital trail. That photograph from your friend's party could be more than just embarrassing. It might cost you your dream job.

This particularly struck home to me after running across a post on Weblogg-ed yesterday on "Adults and MySpace" while browsing through some of the blogs linked to the BlogHer site. In that post, Will Richardson talked about how hypocritical it is for us adults to get our knickers in twist over what young people are posting on MySpace when we know they're being exposed daily to ads, videos, films and TV shows that are full of bad behavior, sex and violence.

To illustrate his point, Richardson linked to an explicit advertisement and to a MySpace page that curled my hair (so maybe I'm easily shocked), and wrote:

...repeat those images about 500,000 times until (kids) get old enough to put up a MySpace site and watch what happens.

Some youthful indiscretions can be overlooked (hey, our president admits to "youthful indiscretions" well into his 30s), but it's harder when they can be Googled indefinitely on the web.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Web politics

Is the internet going to do for Democrats and other progressives what talk radio has done for the Republican Right? That's the idea behind an commentary on Daily Kos's convention in today's NYT. Here's an excerpt:

There are some cultural reasons why Democrats may be more attracted to the Internet. Democrats, as a group, may have warmer feelings about science and technology, or perhaps they are attracted to the decentralized, anti-authoritarian nature of blogs and e-mail (the exact opposite of a show like Rush Limbaugh's, where the host speaks and the "dittoheads" take it all in).

Makes sense to me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The web journalism we've been hoping for?

Are we finally getting a glimpse of journalism's future?

Award-winning business journalist Christopher Carey is leaving the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to start a new investigative business journalism site,, devoted to exposing stock fraud and corporate malfeasance.

The venture is being backed financially by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur whose current holdings include HDNet, HDNet Films, Magnolia Pictures, 2929 Productions and the Landmark Theatres chain.

It sounds promising. I've been wondering how investigative journalism could survive in an era when the mainstream media seem cowed by the Bush administration and hamstrung by the financial interests of their corporate owners. Perhaps enterprising reporters like Carey and "investment angels" like Cuban will help create a new model of journalism.

As reported in Talking Biz News and in Romanesko's PoynterOnline blog, Carey's blog-style news site will spotlight "questionable companies and activities, and dig deeply into the people and tales behind them." will take a multimedia approach, using the Web and Cuban’s television network and movie-production capabilities.

I'm hot again!

After years of being ignored by marketers, I just found out I'm hot again. And, no, it's not another hot flash.

According to a recent NYT article, over-the-hill consumers like me are a hot growth market for internet sales.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. The article cites U.S. Census Bureau figures showing those of us who are over 50 now make up 40 percent of the U.S. population, hold 75 percent of the nation's financial assets, and account for 55 percent of all consumer spending. But marketers still tend to focus on the 18-to-34-year-old market.

"A lot of companies have an antiquated way of looking at older people, which makes little sense when you look at how much more disposable income they have now," said Heather Dougherty, an analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.

The article also quotes Howard Byck, vice president of business development for AARP Services (no, I haven't joined yet), who said, "...In many ways marketers have taken the 50-plus market for granted. The reality is that you can't do that anymore."

I can't wait to be wooed again!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A word to the wise

Be careful what you post. It could come back to haunt you.

According to a recent NYT article, more and more companies aren't just "googling" their job candidates, they're also checking out social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster:
Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.

When viewed by corporate recruiters or admissions officials at graduate and professional schools, such pages can make students look immature and unprofessional, at best.

Remember, the web is not a private place.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Microsoft's loss is SV's gain

It's only appropriate that the news broke in blogs. Microsoft is losing The Scobleizer, a.k.a. blogger Robert Scoble, a JMC alum who's returning to Silicon Valley for a podcasting gig.

As reported Saturday in blogs like TechCrunch, and Sunday in a Reuters story in the (datelined Monday), Scoble plans to join, a Menlo Park, Calif., start-up that has begun podcasting video interviews of "technology industry luminaries." He will be vice president of content, in charge of creating shows.

Scoble helped bring blogging into the mainstream...and into the PR/marketing mix of a growing number of organizations. Maybe he'll do the same for podcasting.

In the Reuters article, Scoble offered some advice to other corporate bloggers who wish to keep their day jobs:
"Understand your company's culture before you start mouthing off. When you start breaking the rules, you better know you are breaking the rules."
Sound advice.