Sword and the Script

Is Google-bashing useful?

Yesterday Google announced Account Activity a new feature designed to show users data across all their user accounts.  I’d venture to guess this is a response to growing criticism about search giant’s efforts to unify all of its services – an effort that began with Google+.

For example, AllThingsDigitial wrote recently that Google hasn’t explained why users would want a unified online identity.   It strikes me as rather intuitive (although there’s a case for diversification as well), but a week later, Google announces account activity; a step to respond to the critics.  Read More…

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Technology, distracted

Technology.   It makes life both easier and more complicated; it simplifies and streamlines, but it also complicates and adds a line or two on the to-do list.

The irony of technology has become more apparent to me over the last year while serving overseas.  As my closest Twitter Buddies know, I’m a Guardsman, a part-time Soldier, recalled to active duty and spent the last year deployed.  This was my second deployment; my first tour to Iraq ended in 2007; 40% of the members in my unit have been on three deployments.

My first deployment was for war; this deployment was for peace and ironically, the latter has left me with a far more cynical, perhaps isolationist, view of Middle East:  We give and give and give; they hate and hate and hate.  The more we give, the more they hate us for it. War gave me compassion, while “peacekeeping” has chipped away at my empathy and hardened my soul; it’s made me, to my own astonishment, bitter.

I’m home now, with a few weeks off before returning to my day job, my civilian job, as Director of PR for Vocus.  Vocus is an employer, I might add, that is understanding, supportive and patriotic.  They’ve allowed me the freedom and time, which during the months leading up to this past mobilization was substantial, to devote to preparing my unit for deployment. There’s no doubt the company has sacrificed too — something that businesses all across the country do without recognition.  Maybe that’s a story the mainstream media might wake up to one day.

In exchange, I’ve given Vocus everything I’ve got and soon I’ll be ready to give again with a renewed enthusiasm for a company that’s about doubled in size since I left:  I smile when I think about how we’re going to kick ass.  Read More…

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The essence of the PR’s drama

“Art is why I get up in the morning; my definition ends there. You know it doesn’t seem fair, that I’m living for something I can’t even define. And there you are right there, in the mean time.” Ani DiFranco

def·i·ni·tion:  a : a statement expressing the essential nature of something Merriam-Webster

Ask 10 PR professionals to define public relations, you’ll likely get 10 different responses.  Ten different responses can only mean the essence is not known.  If the essence of PR is unknown, then like silence in a crisis, the function and industry will continue to be defined for us.  

There’s an acute problem with the unknown:  It is impossible to present a consistent and cohesive value proposition around a function that we cannot define.  

This is the motivation behind PRSA’s well-intended attempt to tackle the definition of PR. However, the resulting PR definitions have left much to be desired. They are not suitable PR definitions. While there’s several discussions aimed at improving these definitions, I think there’s a subconscious catalyst for how we arrived here:  an aversion to PR’s history and lineage of propaganda.   Read More…

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PRSA’s #PRdefined: please don’t redefine failure

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”That’s the old definition. There are three options for a new definition:

“Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.”


“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”


“Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

PRSA has listed these definitions here; notice there’s not a single comment on a post that so far has garnered a mere 25 tweets (currently) according to the counter PRSA has implemented on the site.  Redefining PR?  25 tweets? That alone should be a red flag that something is wrong. Read More…

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A few more compelling thoughts on influence vs. popularity

Last week Arik Hanson published a guest blog I wrote on the difference between influence and popularity.   The post boils down to these two paragraphs:

Ashton Kutcher, though intensely popular, probably lacks the credibility to pitch expensive Nikon cameras to professional photographers. However, change the context and market segment to the more affordable CoolPix S60, and he’ll likely earn sales because it fits the financial means and photographic experience level of his fan base.

If Nikon wants a lot of clicks, followers and buzz, Kutcher is a great choice no matter what the pitch, but measurable results may vary. However, if Nikon wants to influence buyers to exchange dollars for Nikon’s cameras, motivation, context, timing, and credibility — all factors of influence that tools cannot measure — matter greatly.

In seeking input for the post, had actually reached out to Arik for his thoughts on the topic when he turned the tables on me and asked for a guest post; obviously, I was happy to oblige.  However, several people did provide their input, including Ike Pigott who sent this short, but straight to the point response in the form of a video (which is an Ike specialty, albeit usually from behind the wheel of a parked car). Read More…

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Smart things: Pinterest, cogs, frogs and mackerel 2.10.12

This weekly post is usually about the smart things I’ve read or heard over the course of the week, but I’m shaking it up first with one thing that doesn’t quite fit that category.

Pawgo, an online pawnshop from Denver, which sent would-be guerrilla marketers to Boston to dump a pile of Butterfinger candybars in the middle of Copley Square with a sign that said, “Thank you Wes Welker.”  

The reference is to, as blogger George F. Snell III, summed up, “As many fans know, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker dropped an admittedly difficult pass from quarterback Tom Brady that could have sealed a victory for the Patriots.  During the press conference after the game, Welker was holding back tears and took full blame for missing the catch.”

Like many fans from the New England area, I’m still mourning the Patriots loss.  I’m no fan of PR flame outs, but insulting prospective customers, especially those especially, fanatically passionate Beantown fans, is no way to convince people to bring oddities from the attic to your online store. Hat tip to O’Dwyer’s reporters for sharing the link.   Read More…

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Sales? PR doesn’t do sales! Or marketing.

PR sales

Note:  an earlier version of this post originally ran on Spin Sucks:Breaking Down the Communication Silos

Sales.  It’s about as far away from PR as you can be, and still be in business.  But maybe not for long.

PR pros should not develop campaigns to drive sales. PR should not use calls-to-action.  PR should not be measured by leads.  Most importantly, PR should not be measured by sales.  That’s marketing.
PR is better served by measuring awareness.  In fact, “an ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior.”Believe it or not, there are those that call themselves PR pros in these modern times, who espouse suchnonsense.  The irony is that PR can succeed in building awareness, and the business can still fall short – the same way a company can book sales one month and go bankrupt the next for lack of cash flow. Read More…
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10 Leadership Tips for 1:1 Meetings with Employees

by Frank Strong

10 leadership tips for 1-1 meetings with employees
The military places an enormous emphasis on “counseling” — 1:1 meetings between leaders and subordinates that define the tasks, conditions and standards.  That is to say clearly defining the job to be done, the conditions in which those tasks will be carried out, and the standard or measurement to be achieved.

The same leadership principles are easily transferable to management in the civilian world, and I always enjoy writing about how my part-time work in the Army relates to my full-time work in PR.

To that end, here are 10 tips for 1:1 meetings.

1.Be disciplined.   The best thing that manager can provide to an employee is their undivided attention.  Turn your phone off…whatever it is can wait 30 minutes. Read More…

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Smart things: From Giraffes to CMOs (2.3.12)

New numbers from Facebook, a toddler with marketing genius and the CMO Council’s lastest survey are part of this week’s “Smart Things” post — a weekly wrap up with commentary of some of the most interesting things I’ve seen, read or heard about marketing and PR this week.

1. The 3 year-old brand manager.  Sainsbury may be the oldest retailer in London, but it’s clearly open to new ideas.  According to The Telegraph, Sainsbury renamed it’s fresh baked bread from “Tiger” to “Giraffe” after a 3 year-old, with parental help, responded to a Facebook campaign aimed at re-branding the product.  Reportedly the little girl felt the delicious spots on the bread bore a stronger resemblance to a giraffe’s spots than tiger stripes. The company has enjoyed positive coverage in trades, the HuffPost and at least 145 comments in one Reddit thread. Add Sainsbury’s efforts to similar campaigns, like well-conceived contests, to the line up of especially effective and creative PR moves (Photo credit:  Sainsbury’s Facebook page).

“It should be called Giraffe bread.”

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Fewer corporate bloggers means more opportunity

corporate bloggers

Less bloggers? More opportunity?

by Frank Strong

A new study out of UMASS Dartmouth suggests that blogging among the Inc. 500 is down. The percentage of corporations blogging dropped 13% from 2010 to 2011 and marks the first time a decline has been spotted since 2007.

There’s irony here since 92% of those using a business blog say it’s successful and that’s up several points from last year.

Conclusion?  The companies that are blogging are doing so with good success, but blogging overall has fallen from favor as compared with the previous years. Read More…

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