27 février 2004

The marketing of The Passion of the Christ

I've been hesitant to blog about The Passion of the Christ. Just too many people going way overboard on the anti-Semitic or not issue.

So let me first start by saying that that's not the angle I want to look at. I haven't seen the film yet, so there's not much I can say about it.

What I do want to blog about is about the way that the movie has been marketed.

1. Pre-screening to various groups is a good thing but to refuse that some groups (that had made noise about the risks posed by the movie) see it is not a good thing.
2. "Subcontracting" your marketing to groups or communities that'll do for you for free is a very good thing.

The first point is very much PR-oriented. If you want to look fair, a perception of openness is essential. Let's say I represent a development project (instead of a movie) and I invite the residents of the target neighborhood to view the plans for my development. I'll have the plans, the experts' reports, a small-scale model, a PowerPoint presentation, a buffet, the whole shebang.

Obviously, my objective is to get some buy-in from the residents and reduce the chances of having them complain.

Now, let's say I don't accept that those residents that seem likely to be critical see the plans. I'm talking people that seem likely to complain; maybe they have long hair, or tattoos, or whatever. What's going to happen?

It's going to exacerbate their criticism! And this is particularly true when there is reason to believe that the promoter (in this case, Mel Gibson) might have some kind of a bias.

The second point is more marketing-oriented. I've been thinking more and more about how communities of users are being used to back up marketing efforts. I hesitate to use the word "evangelists" but it does apply (in this case particularly). Other products or services or events can do the same.

The one thing that I'm finding distasteful is all of the merchandising that's been going on. I mean, I can understand that there's a CD (there's always a CD). But a coffee-top book, a t-shirt, the nail pendant, a mug... I don't know. Didn't Jesus try to kick people out of the temple for selling their products?

UPDATE: Not only can the products be found online, but the products' designer (I hesitate to use the word creator) sent out a press release touting his own horn.

Would this be in the "bad research" category?

Conservative Party leadership candidate Stephen Harper had to issue an apology for a letter sent by his staff to the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres after wishing its members a happy India Republic Day.

The Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres is an aboriginal group, not an Indo-Canadian group.

Federation president Rick Lobzun wrote back that: "This is 2004, Mr. Harper, not 1492 - the last time a man got lost looking for India."


Stupid PR pitch

We've all heard of stupid pitches made by PR reps to journalists. Most of the time it's because a story is off-topic or because it really isn't newsworthy, sometimes it's because it's right on a journalist's deadline.

This one is funny in another way. This time, it isn't a story pitch, it's a business pitch. A PR agency that will remain nameless (although you might follow the link to find out who they are) pitched their services to Om Malik.

What's wrong with that, you ask? Mr. Malik is a freelance journalist who covers the broadband industry and a blogger! He wonders why would he need PR services (and if he did, if he would hire this particular agency) in a post aptly headlined Really Dumb PR People. The funniest part of the pitch reads:

Please Note: This email was sent because we have legitimate reason to believe that your business would benefit from our services.

By the way (nameless PR agency), something tells me that if you ever pitch Mr. Malik for a story, he won't be very impressed.

New PR blog

I just found another interesting PR blog in this big blogosphere of ours. Michael O'Brien, a freelance writer, "talks" about "news, notes, and opinions on effective marketing and communications strategies" here.

I hesitate to welcome Michael aboard, since he started before I did, but I'm sure others will.

26 février 2004

Microsoft bloggers

There are number of people that are in marketing or communications at Microsoft that maintain blogs. John Porcaro (marketing) and Michael Wolf (public relations) are two of them.

By coincidence, they're both on the Xbox team.

25 février 2004

The political non-politician strategy

Well, well, well. This is really contrary to a number of recent examples. It seems that NYC's mayor Michael Bloomberg is attempting a makeover into a regular pol, if you believe today's New York Times (free registration required).

Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, in the US, and Belinda Stronach, in Canada, are all examples of candidates that have attempted (all with some success, perception-wise) to position themselves as non-pols. At one point, Clark is quoted as saying: "I'm an outsider. I don't owe anybody anything and I make my decisions based on what's good for the U.S.A. It seems like my worthy opponents in this race, they're good people, I like them, but they are part of that culture(...). While they've been talking and debating about issues, I've been (...) making decisions and leading." Stronach is quoted in the release announcing the fact that she was entering the race as saying: "I am not a professional politician. But I have met a payroll."

In fact, Bloomberg himself did exactly that until recently: "I ran for office promising to bring an outsider's perspective to government" is a quote from his January 2003 State of the City address.

Looking forward to see if this works out for him.

Disinfopedia - Another PR campaign against PR

PR Watch and the Center for Media & Democracy ride again. Yep, the authors of Toxic Sludge is good are at it again, bashing the PR industry.

Their most recent project is called Disinfopedia. It seems that this has been online for almost a year although I just learned about it today.

Quoting Disinfopedia's FAQ:

Disinfopedia is a project that uses "Wiki"-based collaborative editing (ed. note: a type of collaborative software) to produce a free, comprehensive guide to the public relations firms, front groups, and industry-friendly experts that attempt to manipulate public opinion. A number of individuals and organizations have previously attempted to compile similar guides and directories, but the sheer number of ever-changing PR campaigns and front groups has prevented anyone from developing a comprehensive list.

Notice that the only ones who attempt to "manipulate public opinion" are on the "industry-friendly" side. I guess that PR experts, front groups and experts on the industry-adverse side (I guess we have to call them) aren't attempting to manipulate public opinion.

Now I'll admit that some PR undertaken by different companies and/or industry lobbies have p*ssed me off in the past because of their disingenuousness but the exact same thing can be said about campaigns undertaken by so-called activists of various stripes.

If I had four words to share with the people responsible they would be "Propaganda goes both ways."

Great PR quote

It seems that Daniel J. Boorstin once said "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers."

Is that a great quote or what?

Thanks to Random Fate for pointing it out.

23 février 2004

Really, really personal writing styles

In my most recent post in French, discussing the use of a blog by a candidate in a local French election, I touch on the issue of using a blog in order to humanize a candidate.

This (seemingly successful) attempt at humanizing a company is a little more than I expected.

It seems that there's a company called DMR Group (no web site found) that will manually write your direct mail for you. Talk about pushing personalization to an extreme...

Fast Company quick quiz on PR

Last week, Fast Company posted a reader's question:

At the 35,000 foot level...what are the priciples of PR? (Limit response to 50 words)

Check it out. A number of fellow PR bloggers have attempted answers. Mine will be added soon.

Une bonne application d'un blog politique en français

On entend beaucoup parler de l'utilisation des blogs en politique américaine. La "révolution" pilotée par Howard Dean a entraîné des suites aussi bien chez John Kerry, que chez John Edwards, que chez Wesley Clark avant son retrait de la course (son blog est maintenant désactivé même si son site web est encore actif ici).

Le seul exemple canadien que je connaisse est celui de Belinda Stronach (nonobstant le fait que son blog est très rarement mis à jour: aucune mises à jour depuis le 11 février).

Voici un exemple français qui me semble des plus intéressants. C'est celui d'Alain Rousset, candidat dans une élection régionale en Aquitaine.

« Un "blog" de campagne, comme on dit dans le vaste petit monde de l'Internet, un moment de recul pour que ce retour sur soi devienne un bon moyen d'aller à la rencontre de l'autre, l'écouter, échanger avec lui, imaginer, projeter. Prenons le chemin de ce carnet de route à partager qui, malgré toute sa virtualité électronique, peut être aussi l'un des outils concrets de la construction de notre projet : vivre et travailler ensemble, au pays qui nous ressemble. »

Le message qui m'a le plus frappé est celui du 17 février dernier où M. Rousset discute de certaines des difficultés de bloguer, notamment en ce qui a trait au ton à adopter au sein de ce médium, mais aussi des côtés positifs de la chose.

En termes de ton à adopter, c'est pourtant simple: les blogs doivent notamment servir à humaniser le dialogue. Si j'utilisais le même ton lorsque je rédige un brochure corporative que lorsque je blogue, je n'aurais pas beaucoup de clients :-)

Si on compare la communication à une conversation, un blog serait une discussion ("parler avec vos électeurs") alors que quelque chose comme une brochure corporative serait un discours ("parler à vos clients").

Le blog de M. Rousset, particulièrement lors des échanges avec les gens qui lui laissent des commentaires, donne vraiment l'impression que c'est lui qui rédige (je peux me tromper mais ça ne semble pas être le ton léché qu'utiliserait un quelconque conseiller en communication).

J'ai l'intention de revenir aussi bien sur le sujet de la communication via un blog, que sur le sujet des blogs partisans.

En attendant, merci à mediaTIC qui l'a appris de Temps Réels.

19 février 2004

Online newsrooms white paper

A few days ago, someone on the YoungPRPros Yahoo list asked:

Can anyone point me in the direction of a few company Web sites that have excellent media relations/press contact pages? Recent news releases, media relations contact info, bios, high-res photos for download, etc. Trying to come up with great examples to show a client who needs the same thing. Bonus points to those who find good RETAILER Web pages that fit the description!

In addition to offering to write a proposal and a specific online press room architecture for him his client, I pointed him in the direction of Creating a Good Impression Online: Best-practice online newsrooms, a white paper published by Vocus (they offer "online software for corporate communications").

It really is one of the most informative white papers (on this subject, of course).

There are two sections:
- the results of a survey of journalists.
- best-practices.

The first answers about the use, by journalists, of a corporate web site for finding info (yes), their level of satisfaction (not bad and getting better), what they're looking for (press releases—unsurprisingly—is number 1), their pet peeves (no contact info is number 1), etc.

The second section covers what you/we should do about our online newsrooms. Plenty of useful tips herein. Some of the results of these tips are also documented, a very good thing IMHO. The only aspect that might rattle you is the fact that they use (at least in some instances) their clients' websites as examples.

Now there are a number of things that aren't mentioned in there that I think should be added. The first four are: lists of corporate and employee blogs and links to them, a history of their webcasts, an RSS feed for press releases and relevant artwork in different formats.

Also, I would probably go into way more details than they did on specifics. Among other things, they don't mention things like white papers (which is surprising since they publish some themselves), product specs or pricing, they don't cover the issue of tracking, nor do they mention the relationship between IR and PR.

Still, it's a good primer and my stuff might just be nit-picking.

18 février 2004

Ten Technical Communication Myths

Myth #1: Knowledge of Specific Tools Is Vitally Important
Myth #2: Sans Serif Fonts are Always More Legible Online
Myth #3: Audiences are Static
Myth #4: Minimalism Means Keeping Text as Short as Possible
Myth #5: The Optimum Number of Steps in a Procedure is 7 Plus or Minus 2
Myth #6: You Can Make a Bad Interface Easy to Use Through Superior Documentation
Myth #7: We Can't Talk to the SMEs
Myth #8: Usability Testing is Prohibitively Expensive and Difficult
Myth #9: Single-sourcing Means Dumping Printed Documents Online
Myth #10: Documentation is a Cost Center

Quoted from an article written by Geoff Hart in the August 2000 edition (V. 47, No. 3) of Technical Communication, the journal of the Society for Technical Communication. Thanks to Robert Scoble for pointing it out.

Les blogs, plus personnalisés que jamais

Introduction: Vendredi dernier, le Libération publie un article, signé Emmanuelle Richard, pour annoncer que The Pixies feraient un retour sur scène et sur CD.

Développement: Frank Black, le chanteur des Pixies, est en désaccord avec quelques passages de l'article et se rend sur le site d'Emmanuelle et sur son photoblog et, lundi, utilise la section commentaires du photoblog pour publier ses propres commentaires.

Conclusion: Emmanuelle lui explique que quelqu'un dans la salle des nouvelles de Lbération a passablement réécrit certaines parties de l'article, réécritures qui expliquent la frustration du chanteur ainsi que la sienne. Le mari d'Emmanuelle, témoin de tous ces développements, poste aussi ses commentaires!

Et puis, pensez-vous que les blogs sont personnalisés comme outil de communication?

Merci à mediaTIC pour m'avoir informé de l'affaire. Beuzl commente aussi.

How blogs can circumvent Big Media

Backstory: The French daily Libération publishes a story about The Pixies getting back together last Friday.

Comments: Frank Black disagrees with a couple of things in the story and finds the journalist's website and photoblog and, on Monday, uses the comments section to post his own.

Conclusion: The journalist explains that the very heavy-handed editing changed a number of things in her article and that she was just as frustrated as he was. Her husband even chimes in!

How's that for personalized communication?

Thanks to mediaTIC for the pointer. Beuzl also chimes in.

The importance of a good headline

PR business stands to gain from flu is the title of an article in the Bangkok Post today. Doesn't just make you want to click?

Let me spare you the trouble (there's a complicated registration process involved) and tell you that it's about the fact that Thailand's public relations business has been a beneficiary of the current avian flu epidemic and the recent Sars outbreak, which have led to increasing demand for communication services. Both the public and private sectors have resorted to PR and communication activities to rebuild public confidence of brands and services and to deal with crisis management (...) Companies and government agencies hired PR firms to create solutions and convey messages to improve understanding with different clients.

Blogs as political fundraising tools

Everyone has been reading about blogs as communication tools in the context of political campaigns. Blogs are now also being used as fundraising tools.

Here is the story of Ben Chandler, the Democrat who won the special election to the Congress yesterday.

With an investment of only $2,000, and in less than two weeks, the campaign has raked in between $45,000 and $50,000 in contributions from blog readers, and that number is growing every day, said Chandler campaign manager Mark Nickolas.[...]

"It has been phenomenal," Nickolas said. "I get an e-mail every time there's a contribution -- and we know from the e-mail the source is a blog when they come through that avenue. Since the morning of Jan. 29, the FEC [filing] cut-off, I've put all those e-mails in a separate file. So far there are 711." [...]

Nickolas said the contributions from blog readers are "averaging in the $40 to $50 range." The vast number of contributions are between $20 and $25, but every so often a $1,000 or $2,000 contribution will pop up to "boost the average."

While Nickolas was initially hoping simply to make back the campaign's $2,000 investment, the gamble has brought in more than 20 times that amount.

I'm really surprised by their results. I've had client set up secure fundraising sections within their websites with very interesting success but, for some reason, I didn't expect that using banner advertising on third-party (albeit sympathetic) blogs would work as well as it seems to have worked in this case. Kudos to them.

Brought to you by Roll Call (paid subscription only) by way of Daily Kos.

17 février 2004

Should Bloggers Post Exit Polls' Results Before They Close?

The good people at Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk certainly don't thing so.

And it so happens that I don't either. Anything that decreases voter participation is IMHO a bad thing.

Drudge and Wonkette disagree with me. And with each other (they have different numbers).

UPDATE: And voters disagrees with both of them: 40, 34, 18 were the final numbers.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Strategy Regarding Gay Marriages

Here's a great story on how San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom decided, twelve days into his mandate, to back same-sex marriages. Seems President Bush made him do it.

Last week, San Francisco city hall announced its intention to start granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The first marriage took place on Thursday and more than 2400 marriages had been celebrated by Monday.

It seems that people are flocking to San Francisco to wed. Not only from elsewhere in California but also from other states and from abroad.

I don't want to take a pro or con position on this, I just wanted to point to the story in the Chronicle where the strategy and timeline is explained. It's a fun read.

Oh yeah, why did I say Bush made him do it? It seems that the mayor got the inspiration while attending the State of the Union speech where the president supported a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages.

Update: The judge who was asked to invalidate the "gender-neutral" marriage licences delays his ruling.

Fleishman-Hillard (and Los Angeles Community College District) Slammed in L.A. Daily News

L.A. Daily News columnist Mariel Garza vows to "never to call anyone at the public relations firm of Fleishman-Hillard ever again."

Her beef stems from the fact that Fleishman-Hillard bills the Los Angeles Community College District. Duh.

Although she says she's a big fan of community colleges, she thinks there's "something fundamentally wrong with a government spending the public's money to manipulate the public's opinion, particularly at champagne prices. (...) So that's why I'm removing the Fleishman-Hillard card from my Rolodex. I just hope they don't call me."

11 février 2004

Some things just make me want to cry...

Ok, let me start out by saying that I'm not a huge fan of press releases and of using newswires to disseminate them (email is the way to go, as far as I'm concerned).

In addition, I think that the fact that so many press releases are news-less is one of the main reasons why they're not being picked up the way they were twelve years ago, when I started out in this business.

This is a perfect example of both problems. The story is bereft of news value and a newswire is used. If this story is picked up anywhere, I just might cry.

News Outlets Provide Coverage Regarding Beta Test on Motorola SmartPhone

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 10, 2004--Roaming Messenger(TM) today reported that the company has received news coverage in publications around the world related to its beta test of the Roaming Messenger system on Motorola's(TM) XP200 SmartPhone.
From Canada's MobileMag.com to London-based MSMobileNews, and a multitude of U.S.-based news sources, Roaming Messenger has been put on the radar screen of consumers and investors around the globe.
"We're very excited about this recent coverage by industry analysts and opinion leaders. It is a validation of our unique value proposition in the wireless marketplace," said the company's President and CEO, Mr. Jon Lei.

4 février 2004

An inaugural post

Like just about everyone else, I'm launching my blog.

It'll discuss mostly my professional life (I'm a communication consultant that specializes in corporate communications, media relations, crisis communications and politics) but I might add some personal stuff also (whenever I see fit).

I've been following blogs for a while and just felt it was time to add my own. You'll see in my links section the people I read most. Don't hesitate to point me in other directions.

I'm based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and I'll be blogging in both English and French. Some posts will be in only one language, others will offer both (I think).