Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Web 2.0 Name Doesn’t Promote Understanding

Names are important. Which is why posted last week about the new PRSA Counselor’s Academy needing to change its name. It is also why I offered a comment to the For Immediate Release podcast #148 about the trouble I see with the Web 2.0 name. I thought I was offering just a little “something that makes you go Hmm.” I really didn’t expect much discussion to follow, but it did.

To summarize my comment: The labels 2.0, 3.0 and so on typically refer to application upgrades. But what folks mean when they use the term Web 2.0 is much more than that. And many people are confused by the name. While the term “social media” is insufficient, it at least provides a picture of this new thing.

There are actually two issues here. The first is that there is there is little agreement about what “Web 2.0” actually means. Some conversations on the blogosphere by folks who are “in the know” demonstrate this disagreement, like the O'Reilly blog and a list of several people’s definitions summarized by Richard MacManus. Wikipedia gives a decent, but wordy definition of Web 2.0.

I kind of like the “web as platform” definition. But rest assured, if you’re confused you are not the only one.

There is a loose knit group of people whose life revolves around technology. It’s the focus of their jobs and super-hobbies. They are the ones who test beta versions of applications and operating systems. They are the ones in measure their lives in the blog world in years rather than months. They are the ones who know all about what’s next, while the rest of us are trying to get a handle on what’s now. They are the “innovators.” And I strongly suspect they are the ones who came up with the name Web 2.0.

There are two rationales, I see, for how we name things:

1. Sometimes we chose a name that has meaning to us. George Jr. for example. My first dog’s name was Marvin Alfred Elis because those were the names of my parents’ groomsmen. The name itself has no meaning to people outside the family. It’s just a name.

2. Other times, when we have something new or complex that we want others to buy, use, adopt or advocate, we give it a descriptive or other name that has meaning to them. Shel and Neville have given us a good example of this point when they agree with others who suggest we quit trying to describe “RSS” and use the term “newsfeed” instead. The name “RSS” is a barrier because it is a teckie word.

That’s my point about Web 2.0. It’s a teckie term, and it is a barrier. It doesn’t help people understand what is meant by it. It probably wasn't meant to originally.

Shel and Neville did agree that they’d be happy to use a better label if someone could come up with one. It’s tough challenge. But it’s worth it because names are important and so is Web 2.0.

This sounds like a job for a professional communicator!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News Release Getting a Makeover

By: Monica Faulkenbery, APR, San Antonio PRSA – Published in San Antonio Byline eNewsletter, July 2006

In an age when the vernacular is becoming seemingly space age… vlogging, vloggercon, blogs, vcasts, podcasts…I came across an article that just made me feel like the old hack of years gone by. The article was titled, “The Press Release Is Dead! Long Live the Press Release!” by Shel Holtz.

Some 10 years ago at a national conference I attended, PR icon Pat Jackson, APR declared the demise of the press release, but I refused to believe that would happen. We argued, especially since my job at the time was pretty much being a Pez dispenser for news releases.

Like Holtz, I resisted jumping upon the “press release is dead” bandwagon. One of the main reasons cited for their demise is that most press releases have no news and are poorly written. I think you can say the same for some VNRs also. The drum majors for the “press release is dead” parade say that the “new media can better serve the objectives that press releases have offered in the past.”

In quoting Holtz, “There are plenty of current stories of press release effectiveness. And while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not require material disclosure through press releases, press release services like PR Newswire and Business Wire know how to reach all the right audiences concurrently and satisfy the regulations that do exist.”

So, Holtz and I both concur that the “new” media doesn’t necessarily need to kill the “old” media. The old media must adapt and evolve (and us old hacks with it.)

Shift Communications has now given the press release a “nudge” along its evolutionary path. Shift’s Todd Defren, responding to others calling for press releases to get with the interactive, social, digital era, proposed an approach that would satisfy Defren’s desires. According to Todd, Shift has released a social media press release template, which the company is making available to the profession. (See June 8, 2006 post on this blog.)

Although I’m still an old journalist at heart, I’ve finally resigned myself that I need to get on the bandwagon, or at least acknowledge its existence, and go to the next level of e-news or podrelease or whatever the term is now. (Yes, Pat, roll around in your grave ….although I’m still not saying the press release is dead; I will agree that at the least it is getting a makeover.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Blogs of Professional PR Associations

The big PR associations have been somewhat slow to take up new media, but I have a collection of blogs, some active and others not so active, that are associated with PRSA or IABC at the national and chapter levels.

Take a look, there is some interesting stuff, and some pretty dry stuff too. If you know of other blogs, please add them to comments section, and they don't have to be a part of the big 2, Women in Communications blogs and others are also welcome.

Maybe once we have a pretty good list we can move it to the NewPR Wiki, which by the way is an excellent resource for those just getting involved with social media. The site includes historical facts and other information that can help you get up-to-speed or just conduct research.

PRSA Blogs
* I have included the month and year of the first and the last post made to the site as of today
I have also started a del.icio.us page to track PRSA Blogs.

IABC Blogs
Constantin Basturea informed me that he has a complete list of PR/Communication association blogs worldwide, of course. Thanks Constantin!

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

PRSA Counselor’s Academy New Blog Needs a New Name

The PRSA Counselor’s Academy has launched a blog. It states that it is for PRSA's Counselors Academy “members to share ideas, read best practices, comment about the public relations industry and learn from each other.” There are 10 bloggers listed as contributors. From what I can tell, the first post was May 22.

What great news that national PRSA has finally joined the conversation! I’m tired of hearing how PRSA is lagging behind the times even though our chapter and maybe others already have PRSA-related blogs. Also, I’ve heard from Kami that at least one other PRSA blog may be in the works.

Interestingly, I didn’t hear anything about the new CA blog from PRSA. Of course not being a member of the Counselor’s Academy could by why. Once I learned about it from someone else, I had trouble finding it on the PRSA web site. But I’m sure that’ll be fixed.

The name of the new Counselor’s Academy blog is “For Immediate Release.” Problem is, that name is already taken – and not by just anybody, but by one of world’s most famous PR and communication podcasts/blogs. Seems like a quick search of other PR blogs would have kept this snafu from happening.

Sheville’s For Immediate Release got there first, perhaps the Counselor’s Academy may have to rethink the name. Otherwise they’ll be breaking one of the 7 C’s of communication.

They probably won’t change it. But just in case, here are some suggestions I’ve come up with:

  • No Embargo
  • Spin-Free Zone
  • Limelight
  • Stop the Presses
  • The Buzz
  • PR Counselor
  • Feedback Loop

“Byline” is good, but you can’t have that one. It’s ours.

If you want to help the Counselor’s Academy think of a new name, leave your suggestions under comments. And if you want to grab one of these names for yourself, help yourself. Royalties can be sent directly to me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Losing Control of the Question

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to speak to our local student PRSSA group. And the most often requested is about the dreaded job hunt. Whenever I am leading one of those sessions, I typically start by asking, “What is the Number One rule of public relations?” They always give me what I’m looking for, “Know your audience.”

There is a lot of talk in the PR blogosphere and in the podworld about the slow rate at which PR pros are adopting social media (blogs, podcasts, RSS, social networking, etc.). One of the biggest reasons I’ve heard recently in several podcasts I’ve listened to is fear of “losing control of the message.”

Larry Weber of W2 Group counters this by stating there are lots of ways in social media to have control and that those will increase. (Listen to the For Immediate Release podcast interview of Weber.)

I’ve always thought that the question of losing control is really a misplaced worry. Could it be the wrong question? The whole point of public relations is to build relationships with our publics (or audiences). And if our audiences are online, then we should be too. But it goes way beyond that. This new technology gives us a unique opportunity to dialog and work in collaboration directly with very specific publics. Isn’t that our business?

Public relations is not about control anyway. Influence, sure. But not control.

Larry Weber talked about now being the time for public relations to shape the direction of social media and how it affects our society. They stated that we messed up and let advertisers shape the World Wide Web that was supposed to be a community building medium. But social media is “made for us!”

Then Weber made a point about social media that is messing with my head a bit. He said, “It’s not a channel. You can’t think of it like news-pa-pers or tel-e-vi-sion or ra-di-o. It’s everything. So you’ve got to think that way before you start organizing.”

Know your audience. It means being where they are. It means listening without judging. And now, more than ever, it means creating something new together. Relax. It's all cool.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

“Social Media News Release” Could Raise the News Release from the Dead

In the midst of ongoing conversations about the future (or lack thereof) of the news release, SHIFT Communications has provided a “first-ever” template for a social media news release. What does that mean? First, it does away with the never-ending narrative that journalists have to schlep through to find the news. This template puts the key points in bullets. But it goes much further than that. It incorporates the latest tools of social media to provide background data, context and ongoing updates.

For example, following the key points, it has a link to access a specially-created delicious page (that’s del.icio.us.com, where you can provide links by keyword topics that you define). It also provides a link for reporters to sign-up for their RSS feed so that reporters are notified of future news announcements automatically.

Then, this innovative template has a built-in company logo and CEO photo that journalists can download immediately. This is followed by bulleted quotes and other elements. At the bottom it has Technorati Tags. There’s lots more – with a rationale for each piece.

You can download the template from SHIFT Communications. They encourage you to use it and have released all copyright restrictions on it. You can also read more from the blog of a principal there, Todd Defren (see PR Squared blog), and in the flurry of blog posts about it, like Shel Holtz’s post, “The press release is dead! Long live the press release!” and one by Neville Hobson, “Are journalists ready for the social media press release?”

To be completely forthcoming, I don’t know enough about social media yet to understand how a reporter would use some of these tools. I suspect they are most useful for organizations that have a lot of news. One of the advantages I see is that those long narrative news releases typically take forever to get approved internally – over a week if an outside funder is involved. But when I do an advisory that’s basically bullets, I can be done in an afternoon.

I’m planning to incorporate some of these features into my future news releases. And we’ll be offering RSS to media in the next month or so. I am curious about what the reception will be. I know that, already, one the education reporters I work with only wants information electronically (and won’t touch regular mail), another one has had a blog for over a year, and still another has set up an online news service. So I suspect they’ll be happy with this.

What do you think? Have you added any of these elements to your news releases?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Resources on Blogging

I’ve come across several really good resources on blogging, particularly related to use by businesses and organizations. Here are profiles of two of them. They are available in PDF.

Resource: "To Blog or Not to Blog"

Jeneane Sessum of the Content Factor provides this white paper that outlines the basics – and more – on corporate blogging. The full title is: To Blog or Not to Blog: How businesses can get closer to their markets through blogging. It details 10 rules for “starting your corporate blogging off right.” Sample rules include “Don’t use your own blog to sing the praises of your company” and “Comments – tread carefully.” This 17-page document includes an excellent three-page list of resources on corporate blogging.


  • “A sure way to drive readers away is to write a blog using a corporate voice rather than the discernible, unmistakable voice of a human being.” (pg. 4)
  • “It is as important to be a good ‘listener’ of a blog as it is to be an interesting blogger.” (pg. 9)
  • “Start slowly. Read extensively. Post frequently. Link liberally.” (pg. 14)

Resource: "Introduction to Blogs"

The full title is: Introduction to Blogs: A quick guide to understanding and maximizing communication efforts in the blogosphere. This five-page document by Bacon’s Information Inc., discusses four reasons blogs have gained popularity, four general types of blogs, tips for working with blog writers, tips for monitoring the blogosphere, and tips using blogs as a marketing tool. While not being as comprehensive as some of the other resources I’ve found, this is a quick-read and good as an introduction (as the title indicates).


  • “In a recent survey, people were asked to indicate their reasons
    for reading blogs. The top three reasons were: ‘news I can’t find elsewhere,’ ‘a
    better perspective’ and ‘faster news.’” (pg. 2)
  • “Blogs can create a direct outlet between a company and its
    target consumers.” (pg 5)

I will be adding other resources to this list soon. What resources have you found useful?