PR from the Bathroom

15 07 2008

Not quite sure what it is about toilets and PR, but for some reason, some of the more interesting examples of PR seem to come from the lavatory (here too).

Maybe it’s the intimacy of the situation. I’ve said it before, online technology provides the intimacy organizations/groups/etc. seek in creating relationships with strategic publics. What better intimacy than sharing the personal confines of the organizational “throne”…as the Rock Group, Barenaked Ladies, have demonstrated quite well in a new PR campaign on YouTube:

Here, Ed Roberts of the Barenaked Ladies fame, records and distributes through YouTube, low-budget, seemingly webcam quality, songs produced in the bathroom.

Simply Brilliant.

The value of intimacy, sacrificing perfectly honed, crafted, and designed productions in favor of imperfect and seemingly unrehearsed productions in order to relate to publics, is so underappreciated in PR discussions. The producers of The Blair Witch project discovered this value over a decade ago, when they produced a low-budget film that attained cult classic status because of the raw artform it used.

Videos like the one above by BNL represent PR as art, rather than science, and a real understanding of an organization’s public (in this case, the fans, who crave an insider, up-close-and-personal access to the band). This raw viral video form also depicts an organization as human, an organization that makes mistakes…and thus, an organization that is more real (which might entail posting bloopers, which BNL also does on YouTube).


Rochambeau and Internet News

23 06 2008

For the past few weeks I have been doing some in-depth research on technology and journalism, and one thing I have concluded is that online technology is requires a new approach to journalism–one that gets the audience involved. It’s a reader-experienced based model–no more of the age-old rhetoric: “Just the facts mam.”

Now, news is emotional. News is personal. News is a story in the dramatic sense….in other words, it’s nothing like the AP report I found online today on the Rock Paper Scissors championship in Las Vegas.

After watching this clip, I thought: That’s it? What about the experience? What happens there? So many questions of curiosity. And then I was struck by just how badly journalists blow it by sticking to the traditional model. And intuition tells me, a good majority of journalists are still blowing it.

What is PR and Why on Earth does it Matter?

11 06 2008

About a year ago, I was having a conversation with someone about my current academic endeavor. After telling this individual that I was currently working on my Ph.D., the following brief interaction took place:

Him: So, what are you getting your Ph.D. in?

Me: Public Relations

Him: Wow, you can get a Ph.D. in that now?

Needless to say, the conversation was short, but it made me think. I ignored his apparent ignorance on the value of a Ph.D. in PR (it’s one of the fastest growing needs at universities and organizations increasingly need research-proven individuals to help them manage this complex environment of public-organization interaction). Frankly, I’m used to responses like this (which is why I commonly say my Ph.D. is in Communication, which it is…), but the whole interaction has got me thinking…what does PR mean to everyone else. I’ve come up with 4 categorizations, two from the general public perspective, two from a business perspective…first the public

1. Public Relations is Spin. I can’t say how annoying it is to read this somewhere. It’s out-dated, it’s antiquated, and it’s usually something someone who has no idea what PR is says. In fact, such a person would call it PR and not public relations, as in, “that’s just PR”. At the same time, this is probably still a valid opinion…because some PR practitioner out there still thinks his or her job is about spinning stories in the company’s favor.

2. Public Relations is lip service. Seemingly related to point number one, this one has a point of departure, and that is in the way organizations actually RESPOND to the general pub’s concerns. On some level, yes, organizations use PR to pay lip service to what people want to hear, but on a slightly higher level, PR is, to the general public, the body that carries out socially responsible endeavors for the community.

Now…the business perspective…

3. Public Relations is Promotion: This perspective seems like the most common. Public relations is a disguised form of marketing, and comprises everything that the company does that is not paid for as or by advertising. For example, sponsoring an event, giving away some free product, or reaching out to blogs to sponsor contests. In other words, PR is marketing that seems like it’s more than just marketing.

4. Public Relations is Strategic Management: On higher business levels, PR is about strategic management of corporate image and reputation. It’s more than just branding, it’s working out the organization’s existence–and the legitimacy for its existence–in the global community. This part comprises everything from gathering reputation issues, listening to customers and activist groups alike, and then advocating the interests of the public to the organization, and that of the organization to the public. At this level, PR is total communication management, from issues management to crisis response to whatever fits in between.

And…now…one bonus point for good measure

5. Public Relations is building relationships with stakeholders, or people who affect or are affected by an organization’s decisions. This one is by far the most intriguing, because up until this point, this seems like a very academic (read: unaccessible) definition of public relations. For those of us in the Ivy Towers, this makes sense. Yes, PR is for building relationships…there you have it! But practically speaking, what does it entail? What does it preclude? Can you really hire someone and say, “Welcome to the PR position…now, go build relationships with people who affect or are affected by our decisions!”? Not really. Now, there are plenty of studies revealing what goes into building relationships, but as of yet, it seems like there is no set of practical guidelines or instructions for a new PR person to jump in and start working (at least, in the same way that “PR practitioner as news provider and press release writer” has).

Now, my rambling is done…but, when all is said and done, I think PR Research has to go further than just saying, “It’s about building relationships” we have to establish standard operating procedures.

Instant Academic

31 05 2008

You may or may not know, but I’m launching into my Summer of Horror…in September, I’ll be taking my comprehensive exams for my Ph.D. program in Communication/PR. So, that means I’ll be reading like a mad man all Summer long, taking notes, burying myself in my office, growing a beard…ok, maybe not that last one.

In commemoration of this “joyous” time, I’ll be posting regularly…Yeah I know, shocking. But hear me out…

I’ll making regular weekly posts on the subjects that I’m studying, particularly: Public Relations, Marketing, Branding, Qualitative Research, Global Public Relations, and New Media. In the Academic world, we live and die by endless “literature reviews” that comprise far too many pages, and are usually quite boring to read…I’ll be posting these mini-lit reviews on this blog…

Rest assured, they’ll be “Cliff’s Notes” of my Ph.D. program…read it, enjoy it, and have fun studying for my comps with me!

A Modest (Book) Proposal

3 04 2008


So, my wife Staci is really into reading. She loves sitting down with a good book. Jane Austen is usually the preference, or anything similar (she’s really into Stephenie Myer’s Twilight Books), though she’s been branching out lately. And we’ve come across an interesting situation. Being conservative and religious, we’re finding reading isn’t as “safe” as it used to be. In particular, she’s finding some of the books that are highly recommended, have sexually explicit material.  It’s hard to pick out a book and get a sense for the kind of content you’re going to come up with. Even in Harry Potter books, you would come across some explicit language.

So, my wife came up with this idea: Books should have a rating system. Movies have it. TV has it now. Even video games have it. Music at least warns you of explicit material. Why not books? They’re considered entertainment media, right?

So why is this on this blog? Well, it’s always my endeavor to define PR, and I think this is PR. The first book publisher to offer a rating system, is the first book publisher to show that it really does value its readers. Public relations is about creating a relationship with publics who are affected by or who affect organizational decisions. And readers are probably the most important public a publisher can focus on.

This is going beyond getting book reviews at the NY Times and sending out press releases about a new book release, this is creating a relationship of trust with your readers that says, I know your interests go deeper than reading a story. You have values, morals, and interests that we value. The first book publisher to do this will be the first book publisher to branch out from PR as promotion to PR as strategic relationship management…and…

The first book publisher to do this should be the first book publisher to thank my wife in the acknowledgments section of the book. 

Calling all Bloggers

2 04 2008

So, the fun of being in Academia is my life is defined by the research I do. Currently, I’m doing a rather large study on blogger opinions of PR people, and the idea of companies approaching bloggers for publicity on their blogs. I’m looking for any range of blogger who has experience with or opinions on (mostly experience with) public relations people regarding their blogs.

If you have time for a quick interview, either comment to this post with your email, or drop me an email at squirrelzipper at yahoo dot com.

Communication: The Link to Progress

15 01 2008

Yes, it has been a while since I’ve posted. You’ll forgive me, but I’m an academic, so I completely check out from Christmas until midway through January. Our travels this past vacation season took us to Orlando, and the land of Disney! Having grown up in California, I’ve had my fair share of Disneyland trips, as have the kids, but we’ve never seen Disney World.

While there, I my wife pointed out a bit of inspiration. At Epcot, the ride inside the huge golf ball is called Spaceship Earth, and it’s a trip through time to see the sparks of innovation that have driven progress, invention, and technology.  Tracing history back to the pre-historical days, the narrator on this Disney ride proclaims that language and communication have driven progress (Below, I’ve posted a pic of one of the animatronic scenes featuring Socrates).


At the end of the ride, my wife pointed out how interesting it is that everything comes down to communication, and what that means for the future of the communication industry (public relations, communication scholarship, etc.). It got me thinking that in after growing up with things like The Jetsons’ and looking to a future with flying cars and living in Space, that it’s easy to miss the mark. The future of society is based on communication. The ability to connect with more and diverse people, and the growing technology to do so on a large scale and in real-time will dictate the future of our society…

Just food for thought I guess.