Saturday, September 30, 2006

Get a Taste of Second Life for PR

I’m not a Second Lifer, but I do recognize that it has significant opportunities for public relations especially as more and more companies are using it.

If you are wondering and want to see what it looks like with out signing up just yet, go to YouTube. An innovative PR firm, Text 100, has put together a short video “illustrating how companies can use Second Life to improve both internal and external communications.” It’s less than three minutes long.

Then you can talk with our own Kami Huyse. She recently held a successful “meetup” in Second Life for PR folk.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shel Holtz Leaves ‘Em Beggin' for More

A couple of weeks ago we had a great visit from Shel Holtz. He led a professional development session, “Introduction to Social Media” held jointly by the San Antonio chapters of PRSA and IABC and sponsored by Frost Bank. Not surprisingly, people are still talking about it.

I circulated a follow-up survey by e-mail to participants who had registered through PRSA’s web site. Here are the results.

There were 10 responses to our follow-up survey (out of 44 registrants through PRSA, a few of whom were not able to attend). Thre were about 70 people at the session.

Most respondents (80 percent) rated the event a 5 (highest), the rest (20 percent) rated it a 4.n Below are all of the responses to the open-ended questions. I did not filter any.

When asked what was the most useful thing they learned in the workshop was, responses were:

  • Big picture truths, plus, I now have a better understanding of microformats and edge content.
  • About new processes and resources such as social tagging, edge content and RSS• I learned a little more about microcontent and the talk sparked some interesting thoughts that I will be able to use with my clients.
  • Too many interesting things to list.
  • Considering my low starting point, it was almost all useful.
  • General info on social media. Overview was great. Speaker engaging and knowledgeable.
  • All the different monitoring sites.
  • Everything he presented was new information that I was not familiar with. Very interesting and insightful!
  • That social media is real and is, to some degree, disrupting the PR business.
  • Citizen marketing

When asked what they wish they knew more about regarding social media, the responses were:

  • The rationale for elements of a social news release so I can determine which elements are right for my situation.
  • More about nuts and bolts of "how to use"
  • How to measure results of social media
  • How to better deal with pushback from upper management
  • More on open source marketing & co-creation
  • Technical training on how to create podcasts, other similar tools to communicate with our audiences.
  • Applications

Additional comments included:

  • This was my first PRSA-SA participation. If all of your future topics are as interesting and useful as the social media workshop, you will be very successful in your educational mission.
  • Unsurprisingly, Shel led a great presentation! His use of both data and real-world examples help paint a clear and credible picture of social media and communications. I'm sure this will prove to jump-start many of our professionals into the world of social media.
  • Great program!
  • Great collaboration of IABC and PRSA. We should do more of this kind of partnership. Better to have fewer great meetings than more less-than-great meetings. You're doing a great job on the programming! Thank YOU.
  • Good speaker, good event.
  • This was one of the best seminars I have been to in a very long time. Shel was articulate, funny and informative.
  • Wonderful high caliber speaker - great job!

By the way, Shel was interviewed by Shel (Israel) the other day.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

There is No Such Thing as Bad PR

Let me qualify that. Of course, public relations professionals make mistakes, and there are many – myself included – who are not as competent as they should be. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Public relations is, by definition, a field that serves the public interest.

When so-called PR activities do not serve the public interest or when they hurt the public, then they are not public relations.

Such activities include the “clueless telemarketing/spamming” of “drones” that Dan York has been “ranting” about. And they include astroturfing and other deceitful campaigns. We should call them what they are: propaganda, laziness, unethical… But we should not call them public relations!

It’s like we’ve given in to the perception that all this stuff is a part of our profession that we don’t like. Our acquiescence is a big reason for the PR profession’s PR problem that we keep talking about. It is also a key reason some people are easily led to believe that such tactics are ok.

No, it’s not all black and white. Terry Fallis and David Jones, focused their Inside PR #21 podcast (August 22, 2006) on the issue and asked honest questions about when an activity is astroturfing and when is it not. It was a healthy conversation. We need more of them. As public relations leaders, it is our job to help define the gray areas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Astroturfing – Slippery When Wet

It’s football time again. Whew, we made it threw another off-season! Welcome back to the sounds and smells of the gridiron. The stadiums are open. The sodas are ready. And the grass is green. But is it real, or is it Memorex?

That’s the question many folk are asking about some grassroots campaigns. Is it really grassroots-driven or is it Astroturf? Which strategies are OK and which ones are foul?

Real grass is unpredictable. It doesn’t grow evenly. Sometimes, weeds pop up. Grass needs the right amount of water and sunlight. Often, it needs to be nourished by a little fertilizer. Working with it is messy business. It takes time to grow. But once it gets going, it is strong and long-lasting. Watered grass smells really good.

Watered Astrotuf is slippery. Astrotuf is, by definition, artificial. It leads to injuries. Each Astroturf field has a hand-selected texture, hand-selected fiber, hand-selected pad, and hand-selected color. Astroturf is easily controlled.

When public relations works with a grassroots campaign, it provides support. PR may provide resources or counsel. It’s complicated and it takes time.

When public relations works with an Astroturf campaign, it does so to be in control. PR becomes deceptive and manipulative. It’s relatively easy and fast.

Astroturfing clearly is not an ethical practice.

Paull Young and Trevor Cook have launched an anti-astroturfing campaign and are asking PR folk, agencies and other communicators to sign on. Go to the Anti-astroturfing PR Wiki for details.

It may not be as clear-cut as it sounds. So discussion and debate about it is healthy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Out of Hiding!

As PR professionals, I am sure that most of you know what it is like to have too many things on your to do list and not enough time in the day. This has been so true for me over the last few weeks. That is why I have been missing in action.

In one of my previous posts "Can It Be Done?" I mentioned that one of the goals of the UTSA-PRSSA for this year was to start a Student Run Public Relations Firm and to secure our first outside client before I left the office of president. While we were sure that we could do it in that time frame, our executive board could have never imagined that we would wind up with the carriage in front of the horse, so to speak. I say this because we have succeeded in securing our first outside client for our firm. We have been hired by the Med Center Rotary Club to do their public relations and media print creations for their "2007 Nightingale Gala" to be held on May 11, 2007. This Gala will be the second held with the sole purpose of raising money for nursing scholarships to be distributed among the five nursing schools in San Antonio. The first Gala was held in May of this year and raised a total of $20,000 for nursing scholarships in the span of 4 1/2 months of the initial planning of the first Gala.

We are extremely happy and excited to be a part of something so important. Because there is a growing shortage of nurses in not only San Antonio, but the State of Texas and the country, we will be working on a fantastic cause. So because of this awesome opportunity, I have been missing in action. I will continue to keep you posted on the progress of our firm. I also ask that if you have an opportunity that you feel is a good fit for our organization to do some work for you, let us know by contacting us at

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kami is Interviewed by Shel Israel

One of our chapter members has been interviewed by famous blogger, Shel Israel. Shel is co-author of the popular book, Naked Conversations. He is conducting a series of interviews on the issue of PR and blogging. Kami’s quick rise to prominence in the PR blogosphere through her insightful blog posting and commentary led Shel to select her as one of his five interviewees.

You can read the entire interview at “PR & Social Media Part 3: Kami Huyse.”

Note that Kami is the instigator behind this PR Byline blog as well. Without her, we’d be nowhere, blogopherically speaking that is.

Great interview, Kami!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ethics in Business Awards Nomination Deadline Extended

PRSA friend Debi Pfitzenmaier sent me the following notice about the annual Ethics in Business Awards. Since this is ethics month for PRSA, and we just held an excellent luncheon on the topic today, it is certainly appropriate that I share this opportunity with you.

Plus, the deadline for nominations has been extended. But you'll still have to act fast!

Here's the notice:

The Ecumenical Center is now accepting nominations for the 2007 Ethics in Business Awards. The annual program recognizes individuals, nonprofits and businesses that have exceedingly high ethical standards that are reflected in their relationships with individuals, businesses, employees and the community.

There is no fee to submit a nomination. It is easy to nominate an individual, onprofit or business online. The deadline for nominations was September 7, but we are accepting online entries through Tuesday, September 12.

One recipient in each of five categories (large business, medium-sized business, small business, nonprofit and individual) will be recognized at an awards dinner to be held April 7, 2007. Ethics in Business recipients in 2006 were Labatt Food Service, Monterrey Iron & Metal, OsteoBiologics Inc., Southwest Mental Health Center and Charles E. Cheever, Jr.

Established in 2005, the Ethics in Business program is designed to provide an opportunity for students - our future business leaders - to study ethics first hand in the real world, with today's leaders, as they research each of 40 finalists as part of the business ethics curriculum at The University of Texas at San Antonio. In addition, the program seeks to promote the importance of ethical business practices, recognize the efforts of outstanding local individuals and companies and provide a forum for dialog about how ethical practices can effect change in our community. Proceeds from the dinner event benefit the Ecumenical Center's programs and outreach and The University of Texas at San Antonio through academic scholarships.

For more information, please contact Vicki Boyce Ecumenical Center at 210-616-0885.

About the Ecumenical Center: The Ecumenical Center is a San Antonio-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to alleviating suffering and facilitating spiritual, physical and emotional healing and growth. Founded by in 1967, the Center offers counseling within a faith context, education, consulting and a variety of special outreach programs. More information.

What a great way to highlight someone in your business or organization!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Accreditation Keeps the River of Learning Flowing

When water stops flowing, it becomes stagnant. Icky things start to form, like mosquitoes and foul odors. It can no longer nourish people.

The same things happen when we become complacent in our profession, when we stop pushing ourselves to learn more and when we take shortcuts rather than seeking new paths.

When we don't nourish ourselves professionally, we can't nourish our profession or the society we serve.

My friend Kami has been blogging recently about the value of accreditation (see "PR professionals should consider getting accredited"). And I just saw an excellent summary of the blogosphere debate at the Forward blog.

It's a topic that's been dear to my heart since I became accredited over a decade ago. So much so that I developed a training seminar for people who were interested in accreditation. Our chapter hosted the seminar several times over the years with folks coming from across the state to attend. Others in our chapter (like fellow Byline bloggers Monica Faulkenbery, APR, and Kami Huyse, APR) have since greatly improved the seminar.

Accreditation is important to me because professional development is important to me. I couldn't do my job well if I didn't keep learning how to do it better. And while I don't believe that accreditation is the sole answer to what ales our profession, I can attest to the fact that my employer's view of public relations became much more positive when she learned about our accreditation process.

In 1995, I was asked to write a little article for PRSA's Tactics about what accreditation had done for me. I just reread that article and found some statements that could have been written today:

"We are facing a new horizon. As a result of corporate downsizing, more and more people have created small businesses and freelance operations. The current trends of two-way communication, audience-driven messages and information on demand offer new avenues of opportunities in public relations. And computer technology, now more than ever, enables the average person to produce a publication. Anyone can put a sign on the door to advertise 'PR' services."

At the very least, accreditation demonstrates that you're not just anybody.

In that article, I also outlined some personal goals, "In [these] times, I want to be creative, trustworthy and effective."

Still true.

And I could never hope to get there by being stagnant.