Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What's with the name of this blog anyway?

Hi, I'm back after about a three month hiatus. Those that know me will likely think it's impossible that I ran out of things to say and I'm sure I didn't - I simply ran out of time. So it's back to the drawing board. A question I'd always thought I'd get about this blog but never did is "why is it called inperspective2020?" Surely a more fitting name might be "flack attack" or "confessions of a spinmeister", right? Wrong. This blog isn't about me. Rather it's about our profession - yes, there I said it, profession (and I don't need an academic to define for me what that means or any determination over whether we posses the requisite "body of knowledge"). When a CEO looks you in the eye and asks you "what should we do" then my friends you have all the proof you need that you are a member of a very real and very meaningful profession. But, what's that you say? You're CEO doesn't ask you what to do that much? Excuse me, did you say you report to an HR executive and have little access to the top? Sadly, you are not alone. We still have much to do to completely credentialize the profession of public relations - and while we're doing that let's shred the multiple choice APR exam - only other PR people care about that (and yes, I have an APR - and not from the multiple choice exam). So, that brings me to the name of this blog. The mission as stated in previous missives is to put our profession in perspective - warts and all. But why 2020? Well, in 1920 Ed Bernays (yes, THAT Ed Bernays) gave out the first business card saying "of public relations counsel." Now if you asked Bernays he might say that he not only gave birth to the idea of public relations, but the act of giving out the business card listing himself as public relations counsel was the first step in "professionalizing" public relations. What's more, if Ed was still with us he'd probably realize that the year 2020 would mark the centennial of our profession and that what we needed most today was a 2020 vision of where we were going as a profession and how we were going to emerge as trusted business advisers in time for our centennial. Alas, Ed isn't with us any longer. I hope to use these pages to help frame that 2020 vision and maybe along the way prove that we are a profession after all - and more so than the two other more seemly ones that charge by the hour (lawyers and whores). More to come soon - promise.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Can we talk?

So, I read in a recent issue of PR News about a new approach to measurement that would help practitioners have a better sense of their company's or client's "share of discussion." We would accomplish this feat - gasp - by finding more detailed ways to measure media coverage. Ugh. Why is it that whenever we discuss measurement we make it sound harder and harder? Maybe I missed a meeting, but the last time I looked up the definition of discussion it involved two parties that were, well, TALKING about an issue. Some of my more academically inclined friends might call that two-way symmetrical communication. Can we really say that media placements foster discussion? Granted if your client is Tom Cruise perhaps the answer is yes. And maybe even the coverage of Oprah travails at Hermes might count, maybe. Truth is even if media does sometimes inspire discussion is that consistently meaningful if our clients or our companies are not participants in the process? I don't think so. Folks, we need to find better ways to communicate above the media filter and find ways for our clients and companies to be active participants in discussion that impacts the way they do business - blogs, for example - but what about good old fashioned town hall meetings or dinners? Dialogue, discussion, debate - that's what we need. And we need a way to measure the outcome of all that. Building a better mousetrap for measuring media coverage to me doesn't sound like the answer, but I could be wrong.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Sounds of Silence

Hello folks! I've heard from some readers wondering why I haven't posted the last few weeks. Those who know me surely realize it couldn't have been that I ran out of things to say.

It was more of a personal silent protest against the PRSA's recent legal proceedings in the matter of the e-mail criticizing the job performance of Catherine Bolton. To be honest the whole affair has left me speechless. I did want to speak out on it, but since I'm not a lawyer I wondered if that might be too risky. Hey, if the PRSA wanted to sue me - well, there's nothing anonymous about this web site so I'm easy to find.

Alas, I settled for silence since the PRSA's actions seemed to me to be calling for just that. I have not seen the full text of the e-mail signed "Catherine Hater," and frankly I'd hope for something more profound in the nom de plum of someone acting as a whistle blower of sorts to an association's board. However, I fail to understand how concerns about the performance of a senior officer at an organization sent anonymously to board members could negatively impact governance, as PRSA has publicly stated as a cause for their concern. Isn't such "whistle blowing" and the response such a communication receives from a board a test of effective governance in the first place?

So, hello darkness my old friends... it's good to talk to you again. And remember sometimes the words of the prophets are in an e-mail, a blog or a face-to-face conversation - they're not always on the subway walls and we shouldn't be afraid to look for them. Words seldom hurt people, but lawsuits sure can.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Communications Begins at Home

I come from a lower middle class background - hell, let's face it I grew up on the government's welfare system so you might say I know what it means to be poor. As a result, I have these memories of my mother telling me when I was a kid that charity begins at home. At the time I thought she was just cheap, but I came to realize that if we didn't address the needs of our own house first we wouldn't be able to help anyone down the road. She was right. The same lesson applies to communications. How many of us see our firms or our clients invest far more (in time AND money) on external communications than we do on internal communications. As my mom might say, communications begins at home. If we don't communicate within our own houses first we won't be able to communicate with anyone down the road. Someone showed me some interesting data from Towers Perrin recently. They found that employees trust what a company says to its shareholders and customers more than they trust the information the company shares with employees. If that's true and if that is how employees view your organization then you're in for a very bumpy ride. In an age where media is increasingly becoming disintermediated how your employees communicate news about your organization to friends, family, colleagues and customers and how you communicate with them is more important than ever. Hey, you never know one of them just might be blogging and someone might actually be reading it! See you on the information highway.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Paradise by the Dashboard Light?

So, I just saw Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway - a must see. And this morning for some reason I keep hearing Meatloaf's Paradise by the Dashboard Light in my head. Ed Bernays' uncle would insist the two events are connected somehow, so being a big fan of Bernays and Uncle Sigmund I pondered what the connection might be. And then it hit me: the search for the holy grail or in PR parlance, measurement. I must have met with a dozen firms in the last year or so - all offering various public relations measurement "dashboards." Like some high tech tool in the PR man's batcave, the so-called dashboards are supposed to give me a real-time look at where my firm or client stands in the world. But whose world? Most dashboards I've seen only look at media coverage. These days that's nowhere near the full picture. The media landscape has changed. It's the age of MEdia (or what I'd call the day of me), as I think my friend Richard Edelman recently called it in a white paper. We are all media. You, me, my mom, your neighbor. You don't need to be a blogger to voice an opinion and you certainly don't need to own a newspaper to be an influencer. Where's the dashboard for that? As PR professionals we must constantly be in tune with all of our stakeholders with open communications channels established to reach them all effectively - and that means inside our own organizations as well. It's a two-way information superhighway out there and if you're spending too much time looking at your dashboard, well, you're probably going to end up like road kill. Buckle up people - the game has changed and it's time to keep your eyes on the two-way communications traffic that waits on the road ahead.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Making it Ad Up!

You may have noticed there are now ads on this blog. Let me explain. Almost 20 years ago one of the great New York PR counselors - Bob Dorf - heard I was trying to run my own agency on campus at NYU. He reached into his jacket pocket and wrote me a check for $500 on the spot. We bought stationery and beer - at his suggestion. Google (which runs this blog) has given me an opportunity to start trying to repay what Bob did for me. Google will pay me for any click throughs to the PR-oriented ads you see on this page. I will take any fees paid to me by Google and donate them to the NY area Public Relations Student Society of America chapters. Maybe I can make a small difference. It's a start. So click away. And if you think it's a really bad idea let me know that, too. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

An Apple a Day Keeps the Spin Doctors Away

So, the PRSA's NY Chapter held their Big Apple Awards last night. I've gone to dozens of these affairs and they're usually dreadful, but last night's event was something to write home about. It was a class act all the way - lighthearted; yet elegant at the same time. The organizing committee is to be congratulated. The John Hill award went to Howard Rubenstein. Howard urged the practitioners in the audience to always do the right thing and to encourage their clients or employers to do so as well. If you don't do the right thing, Howard noted, you might find yourself on 60 Minutes - this said as Mike Wallace waited to give the evening's keynote address. As Howard spoke I remembered one of the guiding principles he gave to all his new employees when I worked for him all those years ago. "When you send your monthly bill out to your clients," Howard said, "ask yourself if you would feel comfortable paying that amount out of your own checkbook. If the answer is no then you're doing something wrong." Pretty basic concept, but rather profound given issues we've read about in the press recently, especially those concerning my good friends at Fleishman Hillard - who in my book are worth every dime. I may no longer be a member of PRSA, but I was delighted to be there last night and I'm already looking forward to next year. There were no spin doctors in the room last night - just some of New York's finest counselors.