Thursday, May 28, 2009

ESPN's PR department wins the 1st Professor Irwin Corey Award this week

When David Meerman Scott so succinctly broke open the stats on what he called "gobbledygook" -- the nonsensical overused phrases used in press releases -- you knew it was just a matter of time before you could play a game of "Can You Top This?"

With the economy crashing down, large corporations were coming up with some pretty impressive ways to describe their layoffs. BusinessWeek compiled some of these beauties last winter, such as "offboarding" and "rationalizing."

Periodically, I will be awarding my Professor Irwin Corey Award, named after the brilliant comedian who pioneered "doublespeak" comedy, making up serious-sounding but fictional phrases that ended up meaning absolutely nothing, twisting his creations with authentic words until you didn't know if he was real himself or not. He was always known as "The World's Foremost Authority."

ESPN inaugurates my Professor Irwin Corey Award, manufacturing a personnel statement of such mind-boggling runaround jargon today, that it should trigger a violent reaction in every PR professional with some kind of high standards.

It's layoff statements like this which make journalists want to strangle PR people (italics are mine):

"Most of the jobs are being repurposed in support of initiatives which will more effectively grow our company, and our headcount number, ultimately, will remain consistent with current levels.”

According to, "repurposing" is "To use or convert for use in another format or product: repurposed the book as a compact disk."

The word "repurposed" is not even being used accurately in this ludicrous statement, as these employees are being laid off, not converted into other jobs.

Did somebody repurpose the dictionary at ESPN?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kerr's Law of Pavlovian Press Release Response

Let me introduce Kerr's Law of Pavlovian Press Release Response.

My theory states that any nomination or award given to any group of companies, it doesn't matter who is behind them, will produce an automatic press release barrage from at least half of those companies.

This is especially true with many technology companies, often serviced by press release-happy Silicon Valley firms, which would announce their CEO had a new parking space if it meant getting any kind of attention.

Let's look at today, when a brand spanking new mountain of press releases hit the paid wire services. Those wire services will gladly count their fees for their service and the PR firms who issued those releases will proudly strut that they did something for their client to earn their retainers.

That mountain was generated by the announcement of the Red Herring 100, "The Top 100 Most Promising Tech Companies," which ties in with their annual three-day event, in which you have to fork over anywhere between $2,300 to $3,000 to attend.

I don't know how much weight Red Herring carries now, long after his dot com heyday, or if there is a measurable benefit from winning this award.

All I know is that as soon as the 200 nominations were announced just a mere two weeks ago, the in-house PR departments and outside PR firms shot into overdrive, cranking out a slew of "we got nominated" press releases across the wires. On Google News and of course,, you'll find missives from Cymphonix, Zenverge, LogRhythm, Top Layer Security, Reality Digital, Rapid7, INRange Systems and many others. There were just a few genuine press pick-ups on vertical trade web sites:,, and the Denver Post.

Today, the other shoe dropped, the actual awards were announced, and boom, PR Newswire, Business Wire, Marketwire and others were stuffed with another release landslide.

The upside to all this: I'm sure these releases look good on each of these companies' web sites, their investors may nod their heads in acknowledgement and they'll be easily found on a Google search. And you have to feel bad for the companies that trumpeted their finalist status on paid press releases, only to not be named winners (like Cymphonix, Zenverge, and LogRhythm).

Red Herring also got a huge link click boost from knowing that famous Pavlovian response would be in effect.

This has prompted me to go into the event business. I am creating a new award -- "The Four Corners 100," a ranking of the 100 PR firms that have issued the most press releases on PR Newswire, BusinessWire, Marketwire, and PR Web.

I'm going to outdo Red Herring and have 300 nominated companies, relying on those finalists to fire off press releases about their press release quantity capabilities, thereby clogging Google News with insane amounts of linkage to my company's web site.

Somehow, I'll have to create an event and charge a few grand to attend, which is what I should have done with my son's bar mitzvah two months ago. Can somebody please check if the Fountainhead catering hall in New Rochelle has an open Tuesday night next year?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How to make effective referral introductions

Are individuals, friends and colleagues who you speak with on a regular basis willing to help you out as much as you'd want to return the favor?

For all the aspirational stories we hear about how networking has opened doors to job and projects, such as Fortune magazine's recent "How To Get A Job" cover package, real life is not always beautifully scripted in developing new business and network connections. There are those who give and those who take.

I've had a handful of wonderful referral networking experiences. For example, a former colleague of mine invited me to look through his LinkedIn connections, pick a few, and he wrote letters of introduction to each of them. In return, I took him to sumptuous lunch, gave him some valuable business intelligence and asked him if there was anything else I can do for him, please let me know.

On the other hand, I believe there are many colleagues who don't know how to make a referral properly or are legitimately afraid of doing so.

Let's start with this tenet -- referrals are meant to go both ways. That's how jobs are found, new business is recommended and friendships are bonded.

Here's one of the best ways to introduce people, because if you're going to do it, do it right: find out what your colleague wants you to say about them, and then send one e-mail to both parties simultaneously, explaining what they have in common (i.e. you... and other things), why they should meet, and each other's contact information.

Even better: bring these people together in person in a low-pressure scenario, perhaps over beers in after-work hours.

Public relations professionals need to practice the communication they preach, especially when jobs are scarce and leads are coveted. Referrals are both a short and long term investment -- you're giving colleagues direction and help, and in return, you'll earn goodwill that should pay off in referrals in kind and valuable information to you. You'll feel better after you do it.

There's no guarantee that referrals will work out, but your efforts should be appreciated, noted and reciprocated.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Getting to know: Advertising Age's Matt Creamer

Fresh from his New York Times-documented search for a Manhattan apartment, Advertising Age's Matt Creamer is just back from Raleigh, N.C., if you follow his Twitter feed.

Creamer used to cover the PR industry for PRWeek and moved over to AdAge to join another former PRWeek-er, Jonah Bloom, to take on the advertising world. My favorite article of his is "Optimize Me," in which he gets a crash course in search engine optimization to monopolize Google's first page when looking up his name.

He periodically has some choice public words for PR people on that ticker when they rub him the wrong way, as they did today: "I'm going to do a digital Guantanamo on the next PR person who emails me that their client is on Twitter." After seeing a few of these PR SCUD missiles, I decided it would be to everybody's benefit to learn more about the Philadelphia Phillies-lovin' Mr. Creamer.

What were you covering at PR Week? What got you moving over to Ad Age? How familiar were you with what you were about to cover?

I covered the media business for PRWeek. I moved over to AdAge to cover the agency business, which i did for about two years before taking on the role of editor-at-large. I left PRWeek mainly because AdAge offered me a bigger platform and more varied topic to write about.

You are an "editor-at-large." What does that mean and how has your beat evolved over time?

I was an editor-at-large. I'm now senior editor. The difference should be obvious. Kidding! Basically now I'm responsible for general editing duties, for figuring out how we can enhance our global coverage, for getting a bunch of special reports we do out the door, and for some thing that I can't talk about yet.

You periodically take a shot or two at publicists who bug you ("Extraordinarily tired of PR people asking 'What process does AdAge use to decide X?' Answer is we looks for shit that works"). Having covered the PR field at PRWeek and now being hit up by publicists at AdAge, have they learned anything about dealing with journalists? How do you suss out a smart publicist?

I generally regard taking indirect potshots at publicists as a low-hanging fruit and try to avoid it unless I think doing so will help the PR community interact more productively with me or with my AdAge colleagues. Also, sometimes I'm get really pissed off and Tweet before I think it through. Anyway, I actually prefer directly dealing with PR people who bother me simply because there seems to be more integrity to one-on-one dealings even if they often result in major time sucks.

I wouldn't say PR people have gotten any worse or any better. Some get it, many don't.

Good tactical media relations is all about relevance. Does a publicist know the publication and does a publicist know the journalist he/she/it is pitching? This is usually evident immediately.

Did you ever have the itch to go into PR? If you ran a PR agency, what would your first three mandates be?

The idea of doing PR doesn't particularly appeal to me, but in a bizarro universe where I started up my own agency I'd do with these three tenets, adapted from the penultimate line of...wait for it... T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." That line is "Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata" and means "Give. Sympathize. Control."

Give: Pitching a story isn't the same as buying an ad. Too many flacks try to order up stories. There has to be a give and take in the reporter-PR relationship

Sympathize: Journalists aren't there to do PR people's bidding.

Control: By this I mean, control of your message or your client brand. Don't manipulate, don't let it go. Keep both hands steady on the wheel and don't overreact to bumps in the road and don't fall asleep.

Twitter: Passing phase? Dumb addiction? Have you ever been pitched on it? What can people learn about you from following your feed?

Twitter will be bought. It's a feature on a platform, not a platform unto itself. I like Facebook as a buyer simply because I think the choice these days is between spending time on Facebook or Twitter. Why not combine them?

I've been pitched plenty on Twitter. I'd rather not be pitched there unless it makes sense within the normal procedures of my relationship with the person who's pitching.

In December 2007, you wrote that great Ad Age story "Optimize Me" on raising your own profile on Google, way before Julia Angwin copped the idea earlier this year. Yet, when I type in "Matt Creamer" into Google now, I don't get the same page, but a Twitter feed on a black Wordpress blog. What happened to the "Matt Creamer" brand hub? Do you still actively do homemade SEO to keep your name on the first page of Google? I see a Boston-based Matt Creamer's Facebook link crept onto that first page.

Time is in short supply, which is why I lost track of the blog. I'd like to start it up again, but I'm not sure when. Twitter is much more calibrated to my attention span these days. But I really would like to get the blog going again. That said, I'm not terribly unhappy with my performance on the search engines, especially since I'm not writing less because I'm editing more. Considering a search for "Matt Creamer" used to yield some idiotic basketball coach spewing sports cliches or, worse, a Christian rock star, the current state of affairs isn't too bad. I'll knock that bastard from Beantown outta there though.

Absolutely most "out there" PR pitch ever received?

Where to begin... I'll paste in a snippet of one I got today. This person introduced herself by mentioning an article on AOL I wrote recently then wrote this:.

I was wondering if you would consider linking to our website as an example of a successful dial-up provider that may meet the needs of your readers. The html below provides a link to our home site. You can replace the word dialup in your article with this entry:">dial-up

Perhaps you'd like to write about us in the future! If you prefer to mention in an article directly, this link would also take readers to our home page:"> Dial-Up Internet Access

I think the problems here are self-explanatory

Ever had a Susan Boyle moment when you were non-plussed about some demo and then when you saw it, it was the greatest thing since Swiss cheese?

No. It's usually the other way around.

Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch? Please explain.

Ah, yes, my Facebook movie favorites. Gremlins is my favorite Christmas movie. Vicious and funny, it's also got a great scene where Phoebe Cates explains the sadness of the holidays by telling how her father died while coming down the chimney in a Santa outfit. The Gremlins sequel is brilliant corporate satire. Watch it and see!

Predictions for the Phillies this year? Will the pitchers stop giving up homers?

The Phillies will finish in first place because of the failings of its divisional rivals, but lose in the playoffs. It'll be a lost season for Cole Hamels, but they'll score enough runs to pull through. The Mets won't make the playoffs and will proceed with breaking up the team.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

AllThingsD's Peter Kafka on playing hide and seek with publicists

In public relations, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

AllThingsD's Peter Kafka ("Media Memo") was at the receiving end of this eternal PR dilemma when he posted the tweet to the left.

How do you convince a reporter to check out your embargoed news or product when you don't want to tell them about it in advance?

"Microsoft tried this a while back," Kafka told me, "with what ended up being their giant table computer... well, they're Microsoft and most people won't say no. I did. Worked out fine."

So you'd rather people just come right out and say what it is they want to show you?

"In English. In small, precise words, please, thank you very much."

And will you keep it under wraps? Or is that off the table?

"If I agree to an embargo, I'll honor the embargo. But no, I won't automatically keep a pitch under wraps if the pitch itself was newsworthy. I'd write about it. But here's the thing -- NONE OF THIS IS NEWSWORTHY. That's why you're pitching me. If it was newsworthy, you wouldn't need a public relations professional drumming up interest, so don't handicap said professional."

Do you really think most execs and developers know how to handle their own press, Peter?

"No, they don't. I get a new iPhone app pitch a couple times a day, so it's unlikely I'll pay attention to any of them. I certainly won't pay attention to one that won't say what it is."

So how do you sort the newsworthy apps from the poseurs?

"Some are obvious, like when Amazon creates a Kindle app. The others? Those are the ones that tell me in two short sentences what the app is and why it is I should care. Here's a pitch from a CEO.

This my ideal pitch:

Hey Peter

Hope you are doing well and congrats on the new-ish blog. (Last time we spoke you were still at Alley Insider.)

The UpNext team is launching a new IPhone App next week and we are meeting with NYC tech writers this week to give in person demos. (Imagine the website on your iPhone).

Honestly, I am not sure if our app fits within the context of MediaMemo but perhaps one of your colleagues at All Things D would be interested in learning more. I would appreciate any introductions to them if possible.

If you are interested, please give me a couple of available times on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and we’ll set something up.
Best, -- Danny Moon CEO, UpNext