Your Blog is Dead… So Give Up

Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851)I:101
I thought my blog was dead and that I should give up until I read a blog post by Bill Sledzik today called “The death of blogging? Kill me now!” I have to admit that’s a pretty killer title for a post. But this guy’s a self-proclaimed storyteller for God’s sake! So his title had better be. All joking aside; he’s a legitimately excellent and qualified storyteller, and he makes a great point in his post.

Bill said (while paraphrasing) that according to a USA Today article, brands are…

“bailing out of their blogs in favor of social channels that are less labor intensive and more connected to their audiences…”

What a terrible excuse! This is true laziness on the part of corporate America. PR pros and marketers alike need to use the mediums that effectively reach their target publics to reach their objectives. Just because you can pop out a 140-character post in less than three minutes doesn’t mean you should discount the power of a blog. Companies are killing their own blogs by drowning their readers in self-promotion and ego-centric posts. It’s no wonder they’re not getting any ROI from their blogs.

A blog needs to be strategic like any other communication vehicle we use. Why would it be any different? Because we’re lazy? Well, the answer is YES. I’ll be the first to take the blame. It’s a pain in the ass to keep up with a blog. But if it’s done with a central strategy in mind, carefully planned and well-written with rich content it may just work!

It’s always been about content. If you’re a technical company, it may take 1,500 words with technical diagrams to effectively reach and engage your audience. If you’re a consumer-driven company selling candy, quick 100-200 word snippets with several fun photos may be the solution.

In either case, if a blog is identified as a tool that will help reach your business objectives, use it if you can. Sometimes the easier and faster solution isn’t the best one.

Thanks to Bill Sledzik, my former prof from Kent State University and beer drinking pal, for inspiring me to write this post. Check out his blog ToughSledding.


SOPA and PIPA kill Freedom of Speech

Google's homepage during the 24-hour black out

We’ve been inundated in the media with the proposed legislation of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) acts, which were written by lawmakers to stop online piracy.

But as a PR professional, I find it ridiculous that the core thrust of this legislation arose from intensive lobbying efforts by Hollywood movie and music industry conglomerates.

Having worked in industries that heavily lobby and done a bit of lobbying myself for causes, I know how it works. To discuss important issues with our legislative delegates is important and needed, but to use the influence and funding this industry has for specific and self-serving purposes really ticks me off.

Hey, I love movies and music as much as the next person, but to black out sites because they just “might” be breaking this law is heinous. That’s why we created the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, according to Julianne Pepitone in a recent article from CNN Money. More importantly, websites that provide information and provide products and services among many others, would have no right to due process or to appeal.

A Potentially Illegal Video

*If I shared this video as an example, the Attorney General would have the power to shut this blog down even though I am attributing it to Editor-in Chief, Evan Hansen, from!

Can you imagine YouTube just shutting down the moment this bill was passed? Businesses link to millions of their videos hosted on YouTube; bloggers use YouTube to upload and embed videos on their blogs; and let’s not forget that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine! That’ll impact Web searching, as well as possibly end social search, or at least be a huge detractor.

Think about the sheer amount of invaluable information that would be reduced to rubble and how we, as a society, would react. We rely on the Internet like we rely on breathing. Well, stop breathing people if this bill is passed.

And the whole concept of content marketing, creation, distribution and aggregation would be almost impossible to achieve. Our country is founded on the First Amendment and freedom of speech; and we as PR pros and communicators base our existence on this as a guiding light to promote our messages, changes perceptions and educate the communities we serve.

A Final Thought
My final thought on this subject for the moment before Federal officials take down my blog (insert frown emoticon) is that we better fight this. If we don’t, we’ll be at the mercy of relentless Federal legislation restricting our use of content, in every form. PR pros, agencies and organizations like Shel HoltzOgilvy Public Relations Worldwide and the Public Relations Society of America as a united organization have opposed these bills. Follow their lead!

A News Flash
The only positive news recently released today was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indefinitely postponed the Congressional Hearing this coming Tuesday (Jan. 24).

Find your local representative and contact them

A Voice that Counts
There’s still time to voice your opinion though and join forces on opposing SOPA and PIPA before we join the company of China, Iran and other superpowers that have censored the Web to no end. Take action! Check out Wikipedia’s page to look up your local public officials and sign the petition.

Top 5 ways you know you work at an agency

In the cynical and crazy world of PR, advertising, marketing and social media, there are many areas and niches we work within.

These include the areas of municipal, non-profit, corporate, solo and – last but not least – agency. The agency person is a very auspicious, motivated individual who thrives on the strategic plan, but equally loves the unknown. I liken this person to a creature of the wild, hunting and foraging for its prey, awaiting the final strike.

Okay, that’s a bit much, but here are my top 5 ways you know you work at an agency (in no particular order):

    1. You live life one billable hour at a time
    2. You can sit back and roll around in your chair while completing a scenic tour of each department (or at least a few)
    3. You’re surrounded by a wall of industry awards when you walk in the office lobby
    4. You start accidentally using words like “deliverables” and “client expectations” with your friends and family!
    5. You tend to have a bunch of games strewn around the office like dart boards, bean bags, chess and the infamous pinball machine!

Three steps to creating mutual expectations

I thought you said you said you were going to do more today! What's the deal?

Part two of a two-part series on setting expectations in your personal and professional life (Read first part)

Us PR folks all try and “get er done” at our jobs, but sometimes we go a little overboard. We take on so much that we begin to drown in a sea of self-imposed work. To better manage your workload and the expectations surrounding each project, consider these three simple rules of setting and managing expectations. You might just find that taking on that project isn’t the best use of time and resources for both you and your organization. Try and:

  1. Know your limitations and stay within them – We’re constantly put in positions to “learn on the job.” That happens, but be realistic. Can you do the project you’re attempting? Do you need more professional development? It’s better to admit your limitations than to fail because of pride.
  2. Be honest with yourself and your clients/bosses – We have a tendency to be “yes” people to everyone because we love to be the clutch player. That’s how we’re built. Know how much work you can handle to be successful and stay within those boundaries.
  3. Have a plan that’s realistic and routine – We’re planners and strategists, right?  So why shouldn’t our expectations be rooted in the same thought process? Well, they should. Think about your strengths and weaknesses and work to enhance your strengths and turn your weaknesses into strengths. Routine and constant learning do this. Know how much time and energy you can dedicate to each area and stick within those boundaries.

In the end, the insane world of PR can, to a certain degree, be managed. It takes setting realistic and mutual expectations, knowing  your limitations, having a routine and being honest with yourself, your bosses and clients.

Here’s a few other recent posts discussing PR as one of the top-ten most stressful jobs:

We expect the world of you… can you deliver?

Illustration by Marie-Michelle on Deviant Art

Why did I say yes to all this work?

Part one of a two-part series on setting expectations in your personal and professional life

After reading Andrew Worob’s recent post on Ragan’s PR Daily entitled, “10 reasons PR is a tough job,” I thought to myself, “Yep, he’s dead on with that list. PR people do live in one crazy, non-stop world!”

In Andrew’s article, he talks about the complexities and demands of our profession. Some of these demands include tough clients and bosses, meeting high (sometimes ridiculous) expectations, always being on call, and worst of all, getting no respect! Having any semblance of a work-life balance can seem impossible as well, unless your life is your profession.

Managing expectations is tough work!

So, if you want to have some sort of life outside of your career, it’s critical to manage your personal and professional expectations.

I can say from experience that our profession is extremely demanding, and our bosses, boards of directors and clients place extraordinarily high expectations on us. Sometimes those expectations are floating in outer space, and sometimes they’re within our atmosphere.

But I’m certain that most people reading this are a jack of many trades, doing whatever is needed from whomever asks. We’re the people behind the large curtain that make things happen. On any given day, we’ll write a press release, create an e-blast, present a strategic plan to a client and put out several fires, all before lunch time!

You think you’ve met expectations…

Even after we do all of this, there’s always more to be expected. Even Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is a tough cookie to please. When she and her entourage come face-t0-face with the man behind the curtain, she forcefully proclaims:

“If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises!” 

This response is funny, but true. When we think we’ve knocked it out of the park, we get flack and perceived failure. That’s our fault though. In most cases that means we didn’t properly set and manage  mutual expectations. If we did, then we’d all be on the same page respectively.

"There's no place like home..." I think this is what she wants me to do. I hope I meet her expectations of me!

I think Dorothy taught us a valuable lesson here. When you think you’re succeeding, take a step back in your sparkly red heels and say to yourself, “Is this what my boss or client expects of me?”  That simple question will allow you to know if you’re on or off track. I’m sure Dorothy wasn’t expecting that grand, imposing voice to be some elderly fellow using old hi-fi equipment to create the illusion of omnipotence.

Sometimes expectations can be based on illusion just like in the Wizard of Oz, especially in the PR business! We should, however, work to ensure expectations are transparent and realistic. Because if you don’t, someone will flip open that infamous green curtain to reveal the truth. You’ll definitely be in hot water if you get caught spinning wheels and pushing buttons when they find you.

Carpe Diem! A new day, a fresh start…

Seize the Day - Dead Poets SocietySo I did the unthinkable on my own blog. A no-no for PR people. I stopped posting for almost a year! Why am I posting again and trying to revive this blog that once had potential you may ask?

Well, I watched Dead Poets Society yesterday for something like the 50th time in my life, and it once again moved me to act and think in different ways. Isn’t that the idea of an inspirational movie like this one? To “seize the day” and take action in unorthodox and unique ways?

I was feeling as though I needed to reinvigorate myself in a holistic fashion. And since it’s been nearly five years since I’ve seen it, I thought what the heck, why not? Let’s see if it makes some kind of impact again. And yes, I can definitely say it did.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, watch it! Robin Williams and a slew of other young actors, now a bit older after its release 22 years ago, were absolutely moving. The writing was provocative. The acting was honest and genuine.

Here’s a little taste of what the Dead Poets Society film is all about for those of you who never had the privilege of seeing it.

Robin WilliamsNeil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard, and a group of young, teenage friends attend a wealthy, private academy in a purist New England town set in the 1950s. All of them are awkward in their own ways, trying to fulfill their parents (mostly father’s) dreams. Such was a child’s life during that generation. These adolescents have no individuality or character of their own. That is until they meet their new English teacher, John “Oh Captain, My Captain” Keating.

He was part of a secret society called the Dead Poets when he went to the academy many years prior. He returns to the academy to bring his love of poetry and the written word to these young minds. But it’s more than just the words and how they’re assembled that intrigues him. It’s the beauty they reveal; the meaning, the way they can elicit free-thinking – battling the status quo that’s forever pounded into our brains. He teaches them to break free of the shackles of societal norms. He encourages them to write from their hearts and souls, not from some highfalutin textbook.

Neil faces the worst reality. His father has his life planned in perfect chronological order for him: high school at Welton Academy for boys, Harvard and then medical school. There’s no wavering from this plan or room for discussion. This semester Neil gets to room with the new kid, Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke.  They immediately becomes best friends. Todd is a shy and reserved kid who gravitates towards Neil’s leadership and passion for life. Through Neil’s friendship, and support from Mr. Keating, Todd breaks out of his rigid shell and learns more about the person and true character within.

But the movie takes a turn (as you would imagine)! Neal defies his father, takes the lead role in A Midsummer Nights Dream and receives a standing ovation. Ah, but this would be Neil’s one and only performance. His father catches him and punishes him in front of his friends and Mr. Keating. His father then enrolls him in military academy, condemning his dreams of acting as a ridiculous pipe dream that must be squashed.

Before I go any further, this is where I place the final period in my overview of this narration for you. I could go on, but it would ruin the story. Wouldn’t it?

Here’s a clip of one of the most popular scenes in the movie to give you a taste of this movie’s greatness…

The point of this is that many times we find ourselves deeply falling into the status quo in our lives – whether it’s at home or at our jobs. It happens to me all too often. It’s how you overcome that regimented world that locks you in one train of thought that defines you. It separates you from the herd.

I’m not saying that having processes and procedures is a bad thing. On the contrary, I believe it’s important to our field and our society. But we as PR professionals especially are prone to falling into ruts. Whether it’s the daily grind of pumping out press releases, or filling out that notorious budget report, it happens. I would challenge you, as I try myself to do continually do, to remember to rekindle your own voice, your own thoughts, your own character. Keep yourself unique and free of the prison of regularity.

Creating new ideas and ways of thinking is what makes our profession and the individuals within it special. I see college graduates fresh out of school with that fire in their eyes and think, “yeah, that’s exactly what many of us lose and never work or care to get back.”

Like Neal fighting his father to be his own person and change the world for the better through acting, I say let us do the same. Let us have our own individual characters that speak volumes and let us YAWP from the rooftops of the world that we have an individuality no one else has!

So I’m committing to getting this blog up and running again with this movie experience as the impetus! This time with more of my own thoughts and what I’d like to think of as flavorful rhetoric. Since I shared with you a movie that inspired me, please do the same. Post some comments of your favorite, awe-inspiring movie for all to see.

Is cause-related marketing becoming the new trend?

We should all inherently feel compelled to give back to those in need and society as a whole – but we usually fail to follow-through on those feelings. Only when a major catastrophe occurs do many of us feel compelled to help others through donating money, time and resources. Look at Haiti as an example. When this devastating act of nature occurred, millions of people around the world united to support the Haitian people.

However, I feel that we’re changing our ways a bit. As people become increasingly aware of the blight and challenges we face around the world, an emergence of “giving back” has occurred in many levels. Just look around; turn on your TV or the radio, watch for billboards and you will find a vast amount of brands and non-profits partnering to promote a cause. This is cause marketing at its most rudimentary form.

A brand engages with a non-profit organization seeking to harness the power of the brand reputation of the company to propel the cause’s name and mission into the public eye. A great example is the Tide “Loads of Hope” campaign that’s been on-site at major disasters all across the country. The microsite gives a little background on the endeavor:

More than 33,000 loads of laundry cleaned for families affected by disasters, and counting….The Tide Loads of Hope program provides relief by means of a mobile laundromat. One truck and a fleet of vans house over 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers that are capable of cleaning over 300 loads of laundry every day. We wash, dry and fold the clothes for these families for free. Because, as we’ve learned, sometimes even the littlest things can make a big, big difference.

The company gives $1 for every bottle sold to a family in need, as well as sells Tide vintage t-shirts to raise money. All proceeds from the shirts go directly to those affected by disaster.

This is a campaign that is ongoing and lives on to continue to provide assistance to those in need, while being a great example of solid corporate social responsibility in an age of greed.

What’s this mean?
I think that organizations, businesses and people have begun a movement to support and advocate for causes and non-profits that seek to help others. This not only includes people, but also includes animal and citizen rights, legislative change, curing poverty and abolishing racism.

I venture to say this resurgence of cause-related marketing and support from brands and people across the country is the new trend. As much as I hate to say it, giving and caring about each other and influential and important causes is trendy. It shouldn’t be. We should all seek to give back if possible without recognition. But let’s face it, we don’t.

What I do think we can all do is take advantage of this desire to create social change in this age and fight to make it a regular part of our lives. We can create longevity out of this cause-related and social movement by engaging and advocating the causes and campaigns that seek to be change makers.

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