Thursday, March 30, 2006

Blogfree Companies in San Antonio

In my last post, I wondered how many companies in San Antonio have entered the blog world. I decided to see for myself.

First let me explain the process I used. Disclaimer #1: I selected the top 10 San Antonio Area Publicly Traded Companies as listed by the San Antonio Business Journal in late 2005. I did not look at more than 10 or at any private companies. Disclaimer #2: I used Google to find their web sites and checked the contact info to make sure I had the right company. Disclaimer #3: I reviewed the home page and some pages that were only one click away from the home page. I did not investigate every page. I spent about two minutes per site -- because I have a life to get on with.

Here are the companies I reviewed

Here’s what I found

Of the top 10 San Antonio Area Publicly Traded Companies zero have blogs from the executive office or anywhere else that I could find. None provide RSS feeds. Three provide podcasts or webcasts regarding investor relations activities (Tesoro, Kinetic Concepts, Argonaut Group). And four provide some kind of listserv for email updates (AT&T, Clear Channel, Kinetic Concepts, Argonaut Group). The audience and purpose of those updates varies by company.

Clear Channel of course does offer podcasts through many of its stations, but not from its corporate office, which is probably by design. This brings me to another point. Just because “everybody” is doing it, is not a good reason to start a company blog. In fact, that’s a potentially disastrous reason. It has to be part of a larger communication or engagement strategy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

PR, the Umbrella Over Marketing?

The San Antonio APR Lunch and Learn study group met this week to start its studies to take the Accreditation in Public Relations exam later this year. One of the things we talked about was the role of public relations and how it relates to marketing.

One of the group mentioned that marketing students learn that marketing should serve as the umbrella under which PR, and a number of other communications functions such as advertising, should fall.

Yesterday, in a post on the Auburn University student’s Forward blog, guest blogger Pete Pepinksy of Lewis Communications, a member of the Auburn University PR Advisory Council, wrote just the opposite:

Whatever textbook definitions you’ve learned about how advertising, PR and marketing fit together, I see PR as the umbrella, with the others as subordinate tools or approaches to PR objectives.

As the basis of his argument he uses the book, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al and Laura Ries.

This is a book I have been meaning to read, but haven’t found the time for yet. I will add it to my “must read” list in the next few months.

Also, take a moment to visit the Forward blog from time to time, it is a great example of how some students are learning how to use social media and evaluate things critically in their chosen profession.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It’s the Strategy, Stupid

CyberAlert has just released its latest issue of Media Monitoring News that includes an article on “Planning a Successful Business Blog.” Below are the tips, each of which is described in more detail in the article.
  • Tip #1: Pick Your Subject
  • Tip #2: Define Your Mission
  • Tip #3: Identify Your Target Audience
  • Tip #4: Survey the Landscape
  • Tip #5: Recruit Your Blogger(s)
  • Tip #6: Refine Your Subject/Mission and Differentiate Your Blog
  • Tip #7: Recruit a Champion
  • Tip #8: Pull the Plug or Start Implementation
Hmmm. Sounds like the steps we take for most of our PR projects. Success depends on many things, not the least of which is how strategic we are from the outset. Although a unique and vital point under Tip #5 is that “Almost by definition, individuals write blogs – not companies.”

Most Big Companies Are Ignoring the Blogosphere
At the end of the article are links to several other articles on business blogs and samples of good business blogs. One of the articles, “The Inside Story on Company Blogs” (from Business Week, Feb. 2006) states that only 22 of the 500 largest U.S. companies operate public blogs from their “executive suites.”

Another article, “Why there’s no escaping the blog” from Fortune states: “The blog--short for weblog--can indeed be, as Scoble and Gates say, fabulous for relationships. But it can also be much more: a company’s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it. Blogs are challenging the media and changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs. A few companies like Microsoft are finding ways to work with the blogging world--even as they're getting hammered by it. So far, most others are simply ignoring it.”

I’d be curious to see how many San Antonio companies are still ignoring it.

More Tips
By the way, a second article provided by Cyber Alert focuses on “Implementing a Successful Business Blog” with the steps of “selecting development tools, working out a content plan for launch making a debut, developing a style and personality, handling responses, monitoring consumer discussion on your subject, and enjoying the process.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taking the Plunge into New Technologies

I remember sitting in a seminar sponsored by our chapter 10 years ago on “Communicating in a Wired World.” Speakers included some of the greats, like Shel Holtz and Charles Pizzo. Most of the participants had never traversed the Internet. We were there to learn how the Internet would impact our work. Many of us needed data to help convince bosses and clients to create web sites. Our primary homework assignment was to take the plunge and get online. Can you imagine?!?!?

Today, we are in a similar situation with blogs, rss, pods, wikis, etc. I suspect that in a few years, we will look back to today and giggle. But honestly, it takes time to figure out this new stuff and to find ways to work it in to our day-to-day work.

My office has been using RSS feeds on our Intranet site for over a year now to stay up to date on education news. Soon, we’ll be sending out RSS feeds through our redesigned web sites.

We’ve also begun to dabble in podcasting. For starters, we have looked for opportunities to record our executive director when she is making a speech somewhere (sample). Right now, we’re working on one from a teleseminar that she led recently. (And, no, a teleseminar is not a new technology, but we’re using them in new ways, such as with web casts.) The recent teleseminar resulted in many inquiries about our dropout prevention program and one contract already signed. This means that this 90-minute phone call was more productive than last year’s direct mail campaign to 18,000 people. By posting excerpts of that phone call presentation as podcasts, we’ll be able leverage it even further.

How are you using new technologies? Post your stories here under “Comments.” Come back often for new ideas!

Monday, March 13, 2006

PR Pros Benefit from Forward Thinking

This morning in the Daily Dog, Jeremy Pepper points us Forward.

Started by Auburn student Erin Caldwell, the Web site is part blog, part webzine, and is aimed at young PR pros.

Erin is also looking for contributors for the site, including occasional guest contributors, and seasoned principal contributors and entry-level associate contributors that will post at least once a week.

She also opened the site to Forward investors who will engage in communication through comments and contribute and link to its content. She doesn’t say anything about money, but I am sure that will come in time ;-)

The site, which started on March 10th, already includes about ten posts from a number of different authors, including a post about basic RSS and choosing a feed reader, a fun piece about qualifiers (or what the author calls weasel words), plus much more.

Visit Forward and leave a comment or two, and if you have a great post for young PR pros, ask Erin to republish it at Forward or better yet, become a regular contributor.

First published in Communication Overtones.

Monday, March 06, 2006

407 PR Blogs Worldwide

Blogs on the topic of PR are on the rise. Constantin Basturea, who is a keeper of the "official" PR blog lists reports an addition of 55 new PR feeds in the month of February alone, bringing the total number of PR feeds to 407, an increase of 9 percent over January.

(Note: For you math majors, I am aware that the math doesn’t quite work, I am in the process of clarifying the numbers with Constantin).

I am running a friendly competition at Communication Overtones to predict the number of PR feeds at the end of 2006. The person that comes the closest without going over will win a fabulous prize.

I recommend you visit Constantin’s list of new PR blogs and visit a handful of these new sites. If one or two strikes your fancy, add them to your personalized news page at MyYahoo, MyMSN, Google's personalized home page or other feed readers to which you might already be subscribed.

I added the Publicity Hound to mine, which I keep at MyYahoo. A couple of the posts that I found interesting there:

What are some of the sites you liked from the new list and why?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Does the News Release Need a Facelift?

The entire blogoshere is currently abuzz with a recurring them, is the press release dead? The theme, or meme, comes up every two months or so, and online writers have been declaring the death of the press release for years.

So much talk has occurred around the meme (or idea) of the press release is dead that whenever it comes up again, everyone writes a reactionary response about their entrenched opinion and goes on with their life, only to have another boxing round again in about two to three months. I admit that I have done it myself on my Communication Overtones blog.

I think that everyone agrees on the following points:
  • The press, or news release, is something that has been entrenched in the media/PR culture
  • The format can lead to overblown claims and other information
  • Reporters generally use information from only a fraction of the releases they receive
  • Some releases are written better than others

Very few have offered a true alternative, and fewer yet a sample of what they think a press release should look like. Here are a few that have:

I must admit that I like the idea of a modular news release. It fits with today’s mad pace of 24 hour news and is easy to read. I think that by linking to online sources and giving direct numbers, the “release” becomes even more valuable. If a reporter can get his or her story written with minimal contact with the PR folks it really is better. I work this way with reporters all the time and they usually appreciate it and call back for more information. However, Todd disagrees with me on this and wants to maintain a little more control.

All of this said, modular formatting, fact sheets or any other format we may dream up, does not prevent bad writing or a blatant marketing focus from emerging. So many have said it over the past few days – in the end it boils down to the competence of the human behind the format.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Blogging Don'ts: Tips for Increasing Blog Usability

As this team of bloggers gets off the ground, we are naturally looking for ideas and suggestions to learn from and share. Dr. Jakob Nielsen is a self described user advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group which he co-founded with Dr. Donald A. Norman (former VP of research at Apple Computer). He has developed many articles and books with tips and how-tos. His Alertbox article on October 17, 2005 provided the Top Ten Design Mistakes of Weblog Usability. Here’s the list that he expands on in his article.

  1. No Author Biographies
  2. No Author Photo
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
  5. Classic Hits are Buried
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
  8. Mixing Topics
  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

He says, “When you want to reach new readers who aren’t your mother, however, usability becomes important.”