Wrigley Field’s Lesson: Charm Without Substance


I was really excited to visit Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Spending most of my baseball dollars at the shrine we call Fenway Park, I expected similar, nostalgic feel of an old park coupled with a "major league" game experience.

I was wrong.

Wrigley felt more like an extra-big minor league ballpark, badly in need of a coat of paint and updated amenities (one word, gentlemen: "trough").

As one of America’s oldest ballparks, Wrigley Field carries an aura of charm across the nation. Inside the ballpark, the scent of stale Old Style beer wafts.

You can never really know something until you have first-hand experience with it. Leaps of faith aren’t enough.

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Big with Resources or Small with Agility?


Thanks to "Colonel Tribune (http://twitter.com/…eltribune)," I got a personal tour of the Chicago Tribune tower and offices during my recent vacation. One thing that impressed me was the extent to which the staffers I met, starting with Daniel Honigman, are using social media- as outlets, as sources, and as an inevitable future.

The question surrounding the newspaper industry is how to harness digital distribution for business survival; are they moving fast enough? Can they?

>From the outside it is hard to see how the success of smaller, nimbler moving parts within the Tribune affect, the bigger, slower whole, especially in light of the Tribune Co.’s money problems and the dour outlook on the newspaper industry.

Of course, that’s what’s so fascinating about this new media era.

(Disclosure: my agency, SHIFT Communications, has been doing PR for The Christian Science Monitor, a paper with its own innovative response to the changing media industry)

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Social Media Top 5: OMG OPRAH!!!, PR Rules Social Media, & NHL Tweetup




Ev Williams of Twitter went on Oprah’s show to talk Twitter (no, I haven’t watched it, you can’t make me). This is perhaps the American equivalent of Stephen Fry going on Jonathan Ross’ Programme in the UK, which resulted in a Twitter ‘splosion. Will the result be the same?

Now, for all you folks worried about celebrities taking over Twitter, manage it how I manage it with the television: ignore them. Otherwise, have fun!

Social Media and Our Loose Hold on Intellectual Property

Geoff Livingston is right tom wonder if the appearance of his Twitter avatar in someone else’s marketing materials is a potential copyright infringement. I’m not sure the Twitter terms of service, in this case, really cover third party uses. My guess is the use of a photo as an avatar on a public web site may constitute consent for fair use, but is this fair use (marketing materials)? If a company does this to someone who cares we may have a legal tussle to enjoy.

Unilever Chairman Talks Up Public Relations in AdAge C.C. Chapman played up the “Five New rules of Marketing” laid out by Simon Clift in this article, but of particular interest to me as a PR flack is this choice bit:

As a result, public relations may become the fastest-growing focal point of marketing services for Unilever in the years ahead, he said in an interview after his talk.

This raises the question again: is PR more suited to the conversational nature of social media, or can advertising, best known for but not limited to broadcasting one-to-many messages, adapt? There’s enough broadcast TV left to live on, but what’s next when the “creatives” need to let the hoi polloi speak?

I Love a Good Fight:

that doesn’t mean I have to understand or read the whole thing, but if you have any interest in “Government 2.0” read the post by Aaron Brazell– and all the comments, including those by his “adversary,” who wrote the e-government report he questions. Like I said, far from taking sides, i’m too tired at the end of the week to even digest this. Have at it though, if you like.

NHL Tweetup

Two really cool things:

  1. The NHL had a Tweetup to commemorate the beginning of the payoffs (and the near-end of the Canadiens’ season– sorry, Habs fans). These things are becoming more common, and not simply dominated by the same old “social media” crowd anymore.
  2. Old colleague Mike DiLorenzo has the job he was born for, as the NHL Director of Corporate Communications

Dejected NYR fans via @schuylerb #NHLtweetup on Twitpic
Of the photos on the Tweetup site, yes, I purposely chose the “dejected Rangers fans” photo. I’m with the Bruins, thank you very much.

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Of Tea Parties and Muddled Messaging


The April 15 Tax Day tea parties were a great example of grass roots, viral organization to move thousands of people (whether you believe the reported attendance or not) to do something.

But here’s the problem; what were they doing? In PR, we counsel clients to have consistent messages that leave no doubt who you are and what you stand for. Were the tea parties:

– Libertarian tax protests?
– Conservative protests against Obama?
– A stand against pork-barrel spending and government waste?
– An anti-gay marriage event?
– FOX News sponsored GOP pom-pom waving?

Depending on what you believed, the event was either a success or was muddled by a lack of central messaging.

If you fail to define yourself- or worse, define yourself badly- then others will gladly fill the void.

Were the tea parties a success? Can anyone tell?

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Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Social Media Top 5: Spock, Caucasians and Cockroaches

Star Trek Screening Was Social Media Marketing? Well, it’s not just the Twitter reaction, which helped and becomes more and more valuable as Twitter gains steam. But the Word of Mouth value among a passionate affinity group (Trekkers!) and a jaw-dropping stunt (switch a beloved movie, Star Trek II, and replace with the untested new one, but bring the Real Mr. Spock along to introduce it!). anyone familiar with the Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon Movie festival knows that social marketing and word-of-mouth are neither confined to online, nor new to online (see Ain’t It Cool News coverage here). Hat-tip to Mike Troiano for the post.

Journalists becoming Consultants? Jon Fine’s BusinessWeek column takes one shop to task for possibly corrupting journalistic ethics, but more interesting to me was the much less cynical leadoff bit about Kaspersky labs hiring journalists to produce content for them. This is in line with a recent post by David Meerman Scott plainly saying that paid corporate writing gigs may be a great safe haven for the growing number of displaced journalists. A related side note: I have been seeing requests on LinkedIn recently from journalists asking about the transition from journalism to PR (one I made ten years ago, so feel free to ask).

Why we need the “hyper-local” publications to blog:

So they can compare the mayoral candidates to characters in “The Big Lebowski.” Priceless (I wonder if candidate Setti “The Dude” Warren drinks White Russians aka Caucasians?).

Earned Media (PR) to Trump Paid Media (Ads)? Venture blogger Fred Wilson thinks so. PR people, are we running with this and jamming it down ad peoples’ throats? I just love to see the ad folks show their thin-skinned side and would hate to miss an opportunity. Wilson’s case may not be bullet-proof. However, the idea that earned media is less expensive is very old, and the better value has long been suspected (or suspect if that is your view). Declining return on paid media is the only thing that will really close that case once and for all. But, of course, there are never, ever any absolutes. Ever.

FriendFeed cool But Doomed? That’s what TechCrunch says. Robert Scoble disagrees, but does concede that Twitter has won the war for now among short-attention-span social media vehicles. Scoble brings up the Friendster/MySpace history as an example. Fair enough, but I see FriendFeed and Twitter, if they develop in certain ways, as complementary. I use FriendFeed as just that- an aggregation of peoples’ feeds, and while the threaded conversations are very functional, it seems the level of instant engagement and stupid ease-of-use of Twitter make it a real unkillable cockroach of social media (not the first time I have said that).

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

PR? Or Just Social Media?


It occurred to me that all my talk of social media probably gets me pegged as a "social media" guy. Thing is, I’m a PR guy. Social media does play a big role, but more to the point, it plays a more visible role. Communications and messaging strategy are still big parts of our job, as is pitching print, broadcast and "Web 1.0" media.

People may see me and my employer, SHIFT Communications, as social media entities because that’s the most visible part of what we do. It’s also what I write and talk about more, because it is new and we have been able to assimilate social media expertise into an overall PR program.

I don’t know if SHIFT and I get pigeon-holed as strictly "social media" rather than PR, but the thought sometimes occurs to me.

There is another side. Should I/we make more of an effort to show it?

To put it another way- is a well-rounded PR agency/person better off being known for social media leadership or should we push knowledge of "the basics" forward more?

Or, to use one of Duke Ellington;s favorite phrases: should we all be “beyond category?”

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Bad Pitch Rants- as Plentiful & Predictable as- Bad Pitches


How should PR people contact media people? However those media people say they prefer. Period. If that’s too much work for PR people. well, that’s our job. If media people don’t put up preferences, well’ they make their own jobs harder (and "preference" can be "don’t contact me, PR people- ever").

How should PR people take the constant "bad pitch" complaints? In stride, and as opportunities to do our own jobs better, not as an attack.

This isn’t just about Robert Scoble’s or anyone else’s, latest rant about bad PR pitches. In the mere ten years I have been in PR, these rants have been a constant. I’m not saying that these ranters need to eat a nice heaping plate of Shut-Up either.

So here I am, getting bent out of shape about people getting bent out of shape. What a vicious circle.

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How Do You Handle the Data Crush?


Yesterday, I was intrigued to find that Robert Scoble, spurred by the faster-moving relaunch of FriendFeed.com, wondered aloud about how to manage the crush of information that passes our eyes every day (http://scobleizer.com/…009/04/06). I look at this as not just Friendfeed, but any content you follow.

I am in Robert’s camp; unfollowing and working from a smaller set of content and people won’t do. The more people in a group, the more potential touchpoints for discussion.

So we are left with two of Robert’s solutions: shut it off and filter it. Shut it off? That takes more energy for me than simply shutting "out" my content feeds. I take another tip- more screen space. I can then shunt applications to one side and concentrate on the other.

Filtering? Lots of great tools-what do you use? I use Twitter search to cope with daily changes of focus, but it’s also effective to develop filters and blinders with the mind.

Too much content? How do you handle your content crush?

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Boston University Students on Twitter

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by Boston University student Amanda Grinavich (to whom I am linked in a mentor program) to speak along with AJ Vaynerchuk in for of the BU PRSSA about Twitter.

I had been hearing- and experiencing- that Twitter has not exactly taken hold among college students (not a kid’s toy–hear that?) but these PR students seemed, largely, to be an exception (including AJ). The students asked a lot of smart questions about using Twitter in communications– professionally, and personally.

Also, students Ashlie Anctil and Angel Stefano produced some video from that event and a clutch of campus interviews. I thought they did a nice job capturing an introduction to Twitter from student perspective. Here are the two videos they have finished so far:

By the way, most of you reading this blog already know this, but I use Twitter. A lot. You can find me there at http://twitter.com/DougH.