Friday, January 30, 2009

Small PR firms deliver value in recession

Lisa van der Pool, ace reporter on the advertising/marketing beat at the Boston Business Journal reports on the economy’s impact on larger Boston public relations firms in her article Area PR firms trim their ranks in today’s BBJ.

Lisa writes: “Massachusetts public relations firms have laid off workers or decreased employee numbers through attrition in anticipation of a year that will see more companies looking to cut back on “soft” expenses, which for many includes public relations.” While these layoffs are a reality, Jennifer Boyes makes a compelling case for “PR During a Recession” in a article subtitled “How Public Relations Can Help Your Company Survive an Economic Slump”

Lisa’s article prompted this comment from me:

“When companies decide to cut back on PR expenses, many opt to work with small PR practices, partnerships and or sole practitioners--- as the monthly expenditure is much less than what they have been paying for large agencies (whose overhead is higher). PR remains an effective and tool to help drive awareness about companies’ products and services.

Recessions are no time to "go dark"! "


Enough noise about the recession. PR can and must continue to spread “Good News” on companies whose offerings deliver real value, that help their own customers succeed or derive benefits.
Bottom: Small PR practices can deliver value in a recession.
Time to pump up the volume!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Does Blog Buzz Lead to Buck$?

No doubt about it, TechCrunch gets almost 2MM RSS reads and lotsa street cred from Technorati and others who rate site popularity and authority--- but does coverage in a major blog, accelerate the sales pipeline?

Does blog coverage precipitate what salespeople call “hot opportunities” and what CEOs and CFOs crave: revenue?

HubSpot in Cambridge (whom I wrote about in my Social Media SeeSaw post last week) has an interesting post on their Inbound Internet Marketing entitled Stop Begging TechCrunch to Write About You.

It’s a great read and an interesting and detailed analysis of how blog-related traffic does or does note convert into clients.

HubSpot’s Pete Caputa sagely advises “choose your online PR targets wisely.”

I've helped clients like secure coverage in TechCrunch, but no single blog or media outlet is a panacea.

Effective PR/audience communications is an ongoing drumbeat of outreach and honest engagement, and if PR was an arsenal—you’ll need both a sharpshooter’s rifle (to zero in on specific niche audiences) and a shotgun (to communicate to a broad, dispersed audience).

Relevant communications is about fostering bi-directional bullseyes.
In the world of new marketing, ROI is an acroynm for "Return on Interaction"

Read the HubSpot post---lots of food for thought.

What do you think?

Social Media for Employment

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
~ Winston Churchill

My personal economic barometer tells me the recession has hit home hard with a lot of friends and colleagues. Many people I know have lost their jobs, others (who run their own businesses) have lost clients, customers have not renewed, and as employers--they've had to reluctantly let people go.

We all know that we're in tough times...
My question to you all is:

What are we (individually and collectively) going to do about it?

The first thing we can/must do is help one another:
Social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook) can help.

Kevin Fogarty has written 2 helpful articles for that are well worth a read:

1) Can You Facebook Your Way to a New Job?
Fogarty notes "Done right, online networking will support your offline network, not replace it"

2) Social Netiquette: Mind Your Manners
This is a useful "etiquette guide for using the Web as a tool in the executive job search"

Kevin's a "Reluctant Luddite" who's also a veteran tech/science journalist (who was previously on the mastheads of some great IDG/ZiffDavis pubs including Baseline, Computerworld, Illuminata and NetworkWorld). As someone who has successfully reinvented himself and is embracing new media head on, Kevin's setting a good example of how being an ever-ever evolving, creative chameleon is what communicators should do in order to thrive in this Ice Age.

My own maxims for employment in the recession:
1) Be yourself-- remember who you are, what you like to do, what you do well
2) Adapt to what's going on, and what's coming. The only thing that's constant is change
3) Reach out-- to friends, colleagues and associates (old, new, and future)
4) Give back-- it is better to give than to recieve. Connect those you know with others who will value and appreciate them.
5) Keep smiling

And as Churchill said in the midst of even tougher times (the Blitz the Battle of Britain")
"Never, Never, Never Give Up"
"Let us go forward together"

Shall we?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Social Media SeeSaw

Social Media: Real World Lessons
Hats off to Tom Hopcroft and the rest of the team from The Mass Technology Leadership Council for the awesome break fast seminar and networking event they held on Jan. 22 at Communispace.

If you’re a tech company based in Massachusetts, I STRONGLY encourage you to become a member of MassTLC. For a very reasonable annual fee—your organization and employees will reap myriad benefits.

As Communispace is the leader in listening to and learning from "the voice of the customer," the choice of venue was particularly a propos. It was also fun to see friends Andy Updegrove
and Diane Hessan, ebullient CEO of C/Space in attendance. The omnipresent Paul Gillin
was also there and wrote a nice post about the event.

The theme of yesterday’s event, Social Media: Getting Started with Social Media – Lessons from the Frontlines--- brought together a super panel of experts who provided their lessons learned on “how to” and “how not” for companies to conduct impactful social media programs and initiatives that really engage audiences.

Deftly moderated by Debi Kleiman, Communispace’s VP Product Marketing, the speaker roster included:

  • Perry Allison, Vice President, SocialMarketing Innovation,
  • Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO, HubSpot
  • Pam Johnston, Vice President, Member Experience, Gather, Inc.
  • Dan Kennedy, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University School of Journalism

    While all the speakers had lots to say, I especially enjoyed Dan Kennedy & Brian Halligan. Kennedy demonstrated that he has a solid grasp of the status quo and likely future state of the world of journalism and made some very helpful suggestions on how to connect with professional and citizen journalists using new media tools like Twitter. His comments convinced me to follow him and read his blog Media Nation:

    Part of my INSTRASTAND philosophy is derived from my long-held belief that “old” sales comms techniques are increasingly ineffective. Halligan’s demonstration that people now don’t want to be “marketed” to—resonated with me personally. Brian’s exclamation “It’s a great time to be a marketer” was elegantly illustrated by this counterbalanced seesaw picture above.

    Whereas old-time marketing required great sums of cash (usually only within reach of big companies), New Marketing tools level the playing field and let small organizations leverage relatively free marketing tools (SEO/SEM, Blogging, Social Media, RRS) to accomplish what his company (HubSpot) is all about: “get found, convert, make better decisions.”

    Further proof that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Message is the Message

PR is dead, Long live Publics Relations

Christine Perkett (whom I like to think of as another benevolent PR practioner here in Boston),

just put up a nice post on her blog answering the question someone posed to her from the audience in a recent Q&A session: Can I do my own PR?

Christine does a nice job describing the ongoing business value of PR and gets in a nice shot at

Jason Calacanis for his absurd "Fire your PR company" post.

You'll enjoy Christine's post which made me ponder....

With so many people jumping on the social media bandwagon, its important to emphasize content, source and detail. To turn McLuhan upside down. The medium isn't the message-- the message is the message. While the various media are becoming increasingly transparent, there's no short cut to good journalism and good PR (which helps to feed and support good journalism).

Using PR strategies and tactics to effectively engage and interact with all relevant publics-- is a skill and a business imperative.

What's changing with the shakeup in the media world--- Web 2.0 tools now let the messengers share the message to both influencers (formerly press and analysts) and with audiences (formerly readership/viewership). All are part of the process. Delivery of news and pseudo-news via undirectional mass media is increasingly replaced by dialogue and discovery.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations, Mr. President

From the campaign, to the whistlestop tour, to the weekend's Lincoln Memorial cavalcade of star, to the speeches and performances at the Inaguration... it's clear:

Obama and team bring a different kind of government to Washington.

Unity amidst diversity, concern for all citizens, hope and optimism, dreams realized.

Still, today is but a beginning of what will be a permanent journey.
As President Obama exhorted us: , let us "begin again the job of remaking America."

My personal hope is that America's people will focus (singularly and collectively) on what is truly important and beneficial to us all, for us all.

As the Inaugural Poet (Elizabeth Alexander) noted in her moving words:

"All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din."

Let us replace that which is around us, with that that is best within us:
Clarity, harmony, love, respect and generosity.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

National Buy A Newspaper Day-- Feb 2, 2009

My friend Ross Levanto (of Schwartz Communications) let me know that there will be a
celebration called National Buy A Newspaper Day on Feb 2, 2009.

As a regular newspaper subscriber, I do my part already, but plan to buy some more papers that day.

The name made me smirk and think which Newspaper (business) do I want to buy?
Seattle P-I's up for sale, NY Times?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Future of TV (and other media): "Monetization"

While many of my peers continue to watch TV for news, sports, movies-- surveys have been showing that broadcast/CATV viewship with 20/30somethings has plummeted.

My friend, Laura Locke (TIME Magazine contributor/first-rate tech observer) has an interesting new piece up on Conde Nast The Future of Television: Streaming Ahead.

Laura's prediction:

"more on-demand, ad-supported, free internet video interlaced with user-generated and commercial content, more personalized programming with interactive options-all watchable on screens of any size at anytime."

In a companion piece,'s Bryan Gardiner comments
"the real future of TV is on the Web".

My conclusion---Beyond TV.. the future of ALL media is on the Web (for the immediate future).

Who will pay for the creation, delivery and use of online info and entertainment content is in flux.
As Locke points out in her article: "Monetization remains the trick."
Or as Cuba Gooding told Jerry Maguire: "Show me the money!"

Newspapers have found out the hard way....
This week the citizens of Seattle became the latest major city to wrestle with how to
save their hometown paper
(the Seattle Post Intelligencer).

The P-I's name and challenge in the new media world---is epyonymous for what print media
are faced with: where will we find intelligent commentary/thoughtful news in a Post-Newspaper world? A topic for Paul Gillin's excellent Newspaper Deathwatch blog?

New Marketing and "Publics Relations"

I've been saying for years that"PR isn't just about the media, but interacting with all the publics that an organization wants to get involved with"

Here's an video interview I did recently with Mike Lewis (Market Guru and President of the Business Marketing Association/Boston) for NewMarketing TV.

In the interview, Mike and I compare notes on the blurring between PR and Marketing, new media tools, the power of the press, even "industrial abrasives in Botswana".

Winter "Sing-Fling" (A Cappella in Boston, Feb 7)

Winter and the Economy Giving you the Blues?
Jazz it up with some great tunes from some of The Northeast’s best a cappella singing groups

When: Saturday, February 7, 2009, 4-6 PM
Where: Noble & Greenough School
Lawrence Auditorium, 10 Campus Drive Dedham, Massachusetts 02026
(Just west of Boston)
Click here for door-to-door driving directions from Google Maps
Plenty of Free Parking nearby

Suggested Donation: $10 adults, $5 kids/ at the door
There will be one Intermission with Refreshments

Your Hosts: The Works

Special Guest Groups:
Cahoots (Pan-East Coast Mixed Quartet)
Conn Artists (Connecticut Men’s Group)
Mamapella (New Hampshire Women’s Group)

For more information: Patrick Rafter (The Works) 617-901-2697 m

How do Teens stay informed?

A big concern of mine is that it appears to me that a significant number of young people do not appear to be interested in the news.

As a parent of two teens and a five-year old, this issue hits home.

While lots of teen/Millennial websites are focused on popular culture (celebs, fashion, music, dealing with friends/boyfriends/parents)... are kids from 16-25 paying attention to what is going on in the country/the world? Facebook and texting their peers won't fill them in on what's going on...

While youth involvement in Obama campaign is encouraging-- I'm still concerned that not enough young people read a daily newspaper (offline or online).

One bright spot (out of Boston) Teen Voices is an intensive journalism mentoring and leadership development program for teen girls in Boston that creates an internationally distributed print and online alternative magazine reaching 60,000 readers worldwide and receiving 7.2 million hits from 98 countries. Check them out at


Friday, January 9, 2009

To Tweet, or Not to Tweet?

I'm a social networker going back to the days when you had to schmooze with people in person!
I like the parties and perks of a first rate confab like TED, TechCrunch50 and DEMO.

My favorite-- a uniquely no-holds-barred gathering:
The Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Still there's great value in the immediacy and fascile broad reach of online social media:

  • I've been active on LinkedIn for years and am a HUGE proponent.
    See my profile:

  • Increasingly see Facebook as something that's moving beyond personal networking toward professional networking.

  • A battery of my friends in the PR biz are hot for Twitter... but I'm not fully convinced that
    I have the time to be able to track the comings and goings of all the people I'd like to follow.

If Tweet is a revolutionary media development, one wonders what the great communicators would tweet about....

@BARD: "Something rotten here at my pub in Stratford"

To Tweet, Or Not to Tweet? That is the question.

Renee Lemley just put up a very interesting post on her GrayMatterMinute blog entitled
The Perfect Social Media Trifecta: Have you found yours? in which she reveals her preference for/use of Facebook/LinkedIn, and Twitter?

I may be convinced to Tweet yet!
What do you think? Let me know.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yale Whiffenpoofs turn 100!

I've been an a cappella singer for more years than I want to admit. Once in a while my personal and professional worlds come together (avocation meets vocation). Today's one of those occasions as I'm happy to promote and announce the upcoming Centennial of the Yale Whiffenpoofs---the singing group that launched the collegiate a cappella phenomenon.
Here's the news...

Press Release

Yale Whiffenpoofs turn 100!

America’s oldest A Cappella group to perform at historic Centennial concert-Jan 31, 2009

NEW HAVEN---January 31, 2009--2009 marks the 100th birthday of the Yale Whiffenpoofs-- the world’s oldest and most famous collegiate a cappella singing group (

The founding of the Whiffenpoofs began what has evolved into an American popular music phenomenon of over 1,500 student a cappella groups nationwide today.To celebrate their Centennial and the centennial of collegiate a cappella singing in America, the Whiffs plan a gala concert in New Haven on January 31, 2009: Century on a Spree!- The Whiffenpoofs Centennial. The evening will feature a performance by the Whiffenpoofs of 2009, with the comedic stylings of hosts John Hodgman (The Daily Show's "Resident Expert") & Jonathan Coulton ("The Colchester Kid"), additional songs from Whiff alumni over the past 70 years, and a film tribute to a great Yale tradition.

This “once a century” event commences at 8:00 PM on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 at Yale University's Woolsey Hall in New Haven, CT. Tickets: $40/Priority, $20/General Admission, $5/Kids 12 & under, $5/Yale Students. For more information or to buy tickets online, go to: or call 800-595-4849.

About The Whiffenpoofs
While students on other college campuses have “rushes” each year to get into fraternities and sororities, in New Haven—there’s a Yale Singing Group Rush to get into one of the university’s 15 singing groups. Every year, 14 men entering their senior year are selected to be in the Yale Whiffenpoofs, the school’s most exclusive a cappella group.

The “Whiffs” began as a senior quintet that met for concerts at Mory’s Temple Bar, the renowned Yale tavern that dates back to 1849. Cole Porter, Yale Class of 1913, highlights the list of noteworthy Whiffs, as well as U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, father of former Pres. George H.W. Bush.“The Whiffenpoof Song,” the group’s signature ballad, gained nationwide recognition when Rudy Vallee (Whiffs of 1927) recorded a solo version in the 1930s. The song would later become one of the popular tunes of World War II. Later on, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald (made an honorary Whiffenpoof in 1979), and Elvis Presley followed suit with their own recordings.Today, the group has become one of Yale’s most celebrated and hallowed traditions, and it looks forward to celebrating a full century of musical excellence and professional showmanship at Yale, across America, and around the world. In recent years, satisfied clients have included hotels, corporations, and the likes of Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, Mother Theresa, and the Dalai Lama, in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Rose Bowl, and for events such as the World Series, Saturday Night Live, NBC’s Today Show and The West Wing. A cappella arrangements of jazz standards, classic ballads, traditional Yale songs, and recent popular hits continue to delight audiences all over the world.The Whiffenpoofs maintain a performance schedule of over 200 concerts annually, in addition to recording an album and embarking on a 17-week world tour. The Whiffenpoofs are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports a worldwide children’s literacy campaign and educates students about music and a cappella singing.

Whiffenpoofs Press Contact: Patrick Rafter,, 617-901-2697 mobile