Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Swedish TV Tells Blogger to Quit
Swedish Public Television has ordered political blogger Per Gudmundson to shut down his blog. Gudmundson is a producer for Swedish television.
JKL blog reports:
Outspoken Swedish political blogger and public service TV producer Per Gudmundson has been told in no uncertain terms to shut down his increasingly popular eponymous blog: “My boss says the blog runs counter to our policy of refraining from public commentary and action that could be construed as biased.”
Swedish public service broadcasting has recently been embroiled in controversy over the impartiality of its news reporting following unfortunate comments by a political reporter regarding her unabashed support for then-U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry. Gudmundson quite aptly noted in his final post: “I’m doubtless a walking PR disaster.”
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Branding the World's Oldest Political Party
What if you could brand a political party simply and effectively? US political parties spend hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle -- and that's just for Congressional races. Part of the problem is that candidates finance and manage their own campaigns. The result is that voters are treated to a barrage of skilful (or not, depending on the campaign's professionalism) marketing assaults, all trying simultaneously to market an often complex message.
One reason all this effort is necessary is that the two main political parties have never really "branded" themselves. Indeed, to the extent that either party is "branded", the brand has been manufactured by the opposition. Ask a Democrat what the Democrats stand and you will get as many answers as there are Democrats. Ask her what the Republicans stand for and you will almost certainly hear some variation of "Deficit spending Christians fundamentalists". The same goes for the other side.... Republicans often find it hard to define themselves, but Democrats are "Tax and spend godless liberals."
Oliver Willis thinks the Democratic Party could easily brand itself with simple messages about what it stands for as the world's oldest political party. Interesting idea and worth an effort. Willis has created an ad template, licenced under a Creative Commons license, and invites blog readers to create submit their own ads. Tee-shirt and button sales are already underway!
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Embarrassing Start for IABC Blog...Drop It or Restart
Update (December 1): It only took five weeks, but today David Kistle is back in the fray. Item: he's decided to start asking chapters about the "critical issues they are facing". Go for it, DK.
The IABC Chairman's Blog got off to a false start, and an embarrassing one. No new posts in a month, and only 2 posts since the launch in early October. And while the IABC community enthusiastically responded with 23 comments and several other blog references, none of these evoked response from IABC Chairman David Kistle. Despite friendly prods from IABC friends who would like the blog to succeed.
(I am assuming that DK even saw the references on other sites... while the IABC Chairman's blog accepts trackbacks, it does not display them... another blogging failure).
One interesting comment, asking David Kistle for a direct reply about the future strategy of the assocation, was dealt with by a staffer... Kistle never bothered to show up.
This isn't a blog... it's not even a good website. And it's an embarrassment as an IABC communication tool. IABC cannot credibly sell or even sponsor seminars, conference sessions, etc. about micromedia, until it demonstrates that it understands micromedia.
Here's a suggestion:
Make an IABC collective blog. Appoint past, current and future leaders... 10 or 20 or so... to blog on the site. Let them rotate. Let comments and trackbacks flow. Let debate happen.
Here's another suggestion:
Look around at the IABC members that are blogging about communication. I don't mean me; I am small fry. Look at the others: they are blogging hundreds of times a month between them. Tack on the blogs of non-members and... Well, David, you don't need to be original... synthesis and analysis would make your blog invaluable.
And here's an admonition:
IABC was embarrassingly slow on the uptake 10 years ago when email and the Web happened along. It's probably one reason that our membership has not ticked up even 1% in 15 years. Let's not make that mistake again.
Update (30 November): Canadian PR pro Brian A. Kilgore reports that the IABC home page no longer carries a link to the Kistle blog. And so it doesn't, although the blog is still up. So is the press release announcing the blog.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same
One of my professors used to say "As an English major, nothing should ever surprise you. If you have read your Shakespeare and your Milton, then love, death, joy, treachery and everything base about Man will never again surprise you."
Sound advice; though one must remember not to mumble "Richard III" aloud to an overly-calculating client.
Proving that nothing new exists is the Samuel Pepys Diary Blog. Pepys was a blogger before blogging existed (like Madison). Courtier, politician, shrewd observer of the important and the mundane, Pepys is hands-down the most entertaining reporter I have ever encountered.
I've read the Diaries twice, but, through this blog, am reading them again. Each entry is posted daily, so the November 4, 1661 entry was posted on November 4, 2004. Fun idea, and instructive. Nothing happening in the White House or Downing Street can surprise you after you have read your Pepys.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Measurement Requires Knowledge
Excellent article in PR Week on why measurement is one of the things PR practitioners do least well.
Via Guillaume du Gardier.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Natives Speak to Shel.... We Should Listen
Shel Holtz spent 12 hours this weekend in focus groups with digital natives: teenagers.
What he finds out is surprising -- and should be a comeuppance to the "blogs will flip the media landscape on its head" crowd:
"I've spent the last 12 hours in hybrid focus groups-usability tests with teenagers. I watched and listened to a total of 18 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds talk about their online experiences and expectations. Most spend hours online every day; all of them go online at least several times a week. Nearly all of them connect at high speeds. They all instant message and text message. Yet not one of them had ever heard the term "blog." Not one of them knew what RSS was. Not one had ever heard of a podcast."
There's much, much more... go read for yourself
Friday, November 19, 2004
RSS ads worth the price?
Wired reported yesterday that Advertisers Muscle into RSS. That RSS would catch the eye of advertising folk is unsurprising; nor is it unsurprising that some bloggers might want to create a revenue stream for themselves.
In the article, Jason Fried of the Signal v. Noise is quoted as saying:
"All RSS is is just another content-delivery medium," he said. "Someone has to pay for that content, either through subscription fees or through advertising. I don't know why (RSS) should be sacred or any different than a website."
I visited Signal v. Noise to see how Jason's subscribers feel about the move. As of this writing, 114 comments had been attached to Jason's terse post
that SvN would start running ads "every third post".
As you would imagine, the posts range from the vehemently opposed to the mildly cautious. Many of the posts are Jason defending his move:
"Bottom line: People put a lot of time into their blogs and I don't see a problem with them being compensated for their time."
It's Jason's blog, so he can do what he wants. But I wonder at the wisdom of running ads in an RSS feed, unless you are utterly sure that your blog is such required reading that subscribers would rather compensate you than unsubscribe. Several of Jason's subscribers seem to believe that Jason's content is worth little -- they're unsubscribing.
Moreover, it would seem evident that the place for ads is on the blog site -- not the feed. If the feed summary is interesting enough, the site will be visited.
What is certain is that inserting ads will not increase readership.
Another problem, a psychological one perhaps, is that many (most?) of us read our feeds through desktop aggregators. They render RSS into the familiar email format -- but that means that RSS ads are rendered in the familiar spam format. Very, very poor tactics that a savvy ad agency could have warned Jason about.
(It doesn't help that many of the ads are for 2nd mortgages -- sound familiar?)
I hope that Desirable Roasted Coffee content is so compelling that none of you would be put off if I started running RSS ads. But until there's a half million or so of you, I won't be bothering to ask you for compensation.
Update: Shel Holtz reports on software that will strip out the ads. God, I love technology.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Loyal Opposition: Not Just for Countries
Josh Marshall notes that what characterizes the early 2nd term Bush appointments is not a shift to left or right, but a shift toward greater control. By appointing Gonzales, and certainly by appointing Rice, Bush gains two loyalists who have no political base to curb their bit.
This isn't new in American history, and it doesn't always turn out badly. Wilson's 2nd Cabinet was "his"; Lincoln was able to disable Chase and Seward politically in his first term. I'm sure you can find other examples.
But... it can turn out badly. Harding. Grant. And....Nixon. I am re-reading these days Seymour Hersh's The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. With Bill Rogers, Kissinger, and Mitchell, Nixon appointed a first-term Cabinet whose only loyalty was to him, with decidedly unfortunate results. Loyalty, for Nixon and, I am afraid, the Bush family, is "never, ever, disagree with me".
The idea of a "loyal opposition" is alien to the American experience, and I have a hard time explaining it to my countrymen. The idea is: "we want the same things; we have the same goals. We differ about how to achieve them, but I am shoulder-to-shoulder with you in getting them." This concept is the basis for government throughout most of Europe.
But that just doesn't work back home, where anyone who does not fall in line is, ipso facto, disloyal. The other team. The enemy. Whereas the "opposition" might be nothing more than "here's another way to look at it...."
For a long time, after moving to Europe, I was bemused and baffled that organizations that I belong to that are primarily American (Democrats Abroad, various expat associations, "international" (but basically American) professional assocations) are almost always aggressively binary: "you on the train or not? with the program or not? if you can't back me 100%, you shouldn't be on the team") . But organizations that are primarily Danish or European absorb differing views -- sometimes clumsily, but generally successfully..
Why is that? Call me simple, but I'm sure it's because the American political and organizational view is so often "Are you with me? Or against me?" Whereas the European view is "OK, we are five at this table. I have this view, and I have these reasons to back me up.... let's see where it goes." (Some Americans like to call this the "Euro-weenie" view.... these Americans have, presumably, never played poker very well).
The European leader is no more willing than his American colleague to part with power. Nor is he or she more ready to change an opinion. But European leaders meet opposition with "Show me I'm wrong, if you can", whereas the American says "Tell me I'm wrong, if you dare."
Right approach? Wrong approach?
It's culturally ingrained, so "right or wrong" is fruitless to discuss. It just is.
I think my country is not served well by "are you with me or against me" loyalist thinking, but its existence is not immediately threatened.
But that is not true of "American" companies and organizations. I suspect that those who do not accept loyal opposition are setting themselves up for a fall.
IABC Settles Allan Lawsuit
Good news for IABC.
The association settled in the suit brought against it by former president and CEO Elizabeth Allan.
Allan left the association in 2000. She later sued IABC and her successor, interim president Lou Williams, for breach of her separation agreement.
IABC is keeping quiet about the details of the settlement, as it should. What is praiseworthy is the speed with which IABC announced the settlement. The association was criticized for not informing its members of the suit when it was first filed. While I don't agree -- the association did announce the suit when it was filed -- public perception is everything.
This time, IABC surely escapes carping. Good work.
Via email, but Shel scooped me
IABC, through its insurance carrier, has reached a settlement with Elizabeth Allan in the case of Elizabeth Allan vs. IABC, Louis C. Williams, Jr., and LC Williams & Associates. The details of the settlement are still being worked out between the parties' respective attorneys. Until the agreement is finalized, we are unable to comment further.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Does IABC's Chairman Need Help Blogging?
The IABC Chairman's blog is off to a slow start. That's understandable, perhaps. But that it took a big step toward being a PR puff-maker this morning is not understandable, if IABC realizes what a blog should be.
In David Kistle's first entry, he invited us all to "Give me some feedback – good and bad – about how we’re doing and what’s important to you. I look forward to matching wits with more experienced bloggers and giving all of you a chance to tell me what’s on your mind."
Almost a week ago, member Leila Zogby took him up on that, asking:
"Dave, This organization seems to be getting more focused on internal communications. This latest issue of CW Online has 95% employee communications articles. The LA conference was so dominated by this topic that it was difficult to feel you got a well-rounded sampling of information...
"Requests to try to expand coverage of the larger communications world in the magazine, Web site and conference sessions seem to go unheeded. What gives? Have you all decided to go back to let IABC return to its internal communications roots and let other organizations tackle the rest?
"This would not seem to jive with your growth strategy."
I anticipated a swift respose from Kistle. Partly because the post offers a fine opportunity to speak from the bully pulpit about the future of IABC. And partly because the post gives him the first outstanding chance to start a blogging "conversation".
Instead, Kistle waited most of a week and then directed Communication World editor Natasha Spring to respond with a numbing analysis, in which she tallies recent CW articles for their "internal" and "external" content.
David-cum-Natasha's answer to Leila is "We don't really have an answer we are prepared to give".
Well, I suppose that is conversation, after a fashion, although not the one most people expect of a blog.
But what's worse is this: Spring closes with "If you can spare a few minutes, please send me a note with your thoughts."
That's what Zogby did! But what Kistle-Spring seem to assume is that a) a non-answer is OK on a blog and b) if you want a real answer, submit your question again off-line.
None of this is surprising: blogging is new to many "bosses". But IABC's Chairman needs to think harder -- much harder -- about what blogging is supposed to be.
Call it a rocky start... one that can be corrected. But one that must be corrected for his credibility, and IABC's. Idea: send David to the New Communication Forum?
New Communication Forum site goes live
Earlier I noted that New Communication Forum is organizing two blogging conferences in the next few months. The conference website is up with preliminary details.
Friend Neville Hobson is one of the speakers.
Via Elizabeth Albrycht's CorporatePR
Guillaume du Gardier is the other organizer
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Bloggers Fail to Prove on E-Night?
BL Ochman takes issue with Frank Barnako, who claims "Bloggers Blew It." I have no brief for Barnako, but I believe he's mostly right. Ochman also claims timely reporting from bloggers, and there she's mostly wrong.
Over here in Denmark, it made sense to sleep early and rise early to catch the returns. So at 5AM (11PM EST), I had the RSS rolling, CNN and BBC on the telly, and my friend Adam Gould in my cellphone (Adam thinks faster than 99% of the population).
I fully expected to be "ahead" by following the blogs. But, no, I always got my first news from CNN and the Beeb. Not only that, but I felt I got far better analysis of the news from "old media". While there were occasional snippets of insight -- and to their credit, I should say jewels of insight -- from Gadflyer and Joshua Marshall, Kos was overrun and crashing with the banal comments of every sophomore in America. Bull Moose and NewDonkey? Forget it.
In short, if you wanted timely news and generally good analysis, you were better off turning to old media. And if you had any ability to read body language, you were even better off -- Larry King's scowl, arm folding, and petulant silence after Wolf Blitzer called Ohio "too close to call" showed the true fate of Ohio better than any speculation on Kos.
The truth is, old media does events like election night pretty well. Better than bloggers ever will. And there's no surprise in this: old media, when it focuses all of its attention on one thing, is faster and better than tens of thousands of independents. Sorry BL, that's just the way of it.
But... old media can't stay focused on one event. If Ohio's vote count was in doubt; if New Mexican voters were intimidated at the polls, if ballot boxes in Iowa turn up three weeks from now, I'm sure my RSS Bandit will bring me the news. That's the power of the blogosphere -- someone is always watching and ready to report.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Electoral-Vote.com Writer Reveals Himself
Electoral-vote.com has been one of the most-followed websites for state-by-state polls this year. One (well, the only) problem has been that the writer would not reveal who he/she is... so while the math looked credible, and the reporting was A+, readers always had to wonder "Who's behind this?"
Fellow expatriate Andrew Tanenbaum of Amsterdam is behind the site. I'm glad to see him come forth, and wish only the best for him. If there's a Karma bank, he's entitled to open his own branch.
Andrew, if you get up to Copenhagen, I'm buying.