Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More on distributed public relations

If the top Google returns for "distributed public relations" only
include "distributed" as a verb, as in a resume item stating that
someone "distributed public relations materials," and if none of the search
results use the words to describe a type of PR practice, can I claim to be coining
the term here? ;-)

Here's a first shot at a definition, with an immediate nod to Dan Gillmor for
his work with the concept of "distributed

distributed public relations: n. intentional practice
of sharing public relations responsibilities among a broad cross section of an organization's
members or employees, particularly in an online context

Distributed Public Relations? Blogs, and the "Long Tail"

From PRWeek's article on what Chris Anderson's "Long Tail" concept means for public relations: enabling its [Microsoft's] employees to write about their work and share personal views, Anderson says it has given him a better connection with the company. The sum of those voices (the "Long Tail" of minor players at a company) impacts him more than the messages coming from the top.

"It communicates the company's message in a way I want to hear," Anderson says. "[The employees] have become Microsoft PR."
Anderson sees the "Long Tail" having a lasting effect on PR, in general, and media relations, specifically....

This is right in line with our hypotheses in the experiment we ran last semester. The article's out for review, so we don't know yet if the journal we submitted it to will publish it. We're still waiting, but I think it's safe to share the

This study explores the role of corporate blogs in relationship building. First, operational definitions of relational maintenance strategies appropriate to online public relations are developed and tested. Next, these constructs are used to test hypotheses evaluating potential advantages of corporate blogs over traditional Web sites; corporate blogs are found to have a significant advantage in conveying a “conversational human voice.” Third, the variables are found to correlate with perceived relational outcomes in an online setting.

In any case, it's good to see we have an audience at the intersection of theory and practice for the idea I'll call "distributed public relations."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Long spring break, huh?

I'm beginning to realize that there are times when blogging complements other
writing, but more often than not, blogging competes for the time. April 1 is
a big day for us in journalism & mass communication education -- the deadline
for annual AEJMC conference paper
submissions. UNC Ph.D. student Barbara Miller and I sent off a paper on the
effects of blogs on relational outcomes.

We developed some questionnaire items and built an index of the "conversational
human voice," then conducted an experiment using as part
of the stimulus to see if the characteristics of communication related positively
and measurably to relational outcomes of interest in PR theory such as trust,
satisfaction, control mutuality, etc. Searls
and Weinberger
are right (no big surprise here), these factors do appear
to correlate. Or at least they did in our study. I think time will show that
our bigger contribution will be that we started to develop some somewhat-scientific
measures of these variables that have been so important to the discussion of
blogs and their impact (i.e., the stuff Robert
talks about), at least since Cluetrain.

I've got to be careful not to "publish" the details here. This isn't
a matter of secrecy, the kind UNC journalism professor Phil Meyer talks about
being an issue for bloggers in today's Raleigh News & Observer
published in the 3/30/05 USA Today
). Rather, it's just a matter
of peer review. The blind peer reviews aren't in yet, so we're still a few steps
shy of claiming accepted results in terms of the scientific method.

Besides that paper, I'm also working on a chapter on blogs for my book on online
PR. The
Edelman/Intelliseek white paper on blogs and PR
has been useful, as have
all the critical voices out there (and I do mean real conversational human voices).

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Spring Break

Logging off for the break. Be back soon.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Frank Rich on Gonzo Journalism and Blogs (and how they overlap)

In today's New York Times, Frank
Rich traces the linkage between Hunter S. Thompson and Armstrong Williams
We might call the relationship a negative correlation. Aside from the obvious
issue of authenticity, one of the things that Thompson had that others don't
was an ability to write well "firsthand." From today's NYT:

"Thompson was out to break the mainstream media's rules. His unruly mix
of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before
there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and
report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor
what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen
of minutiae and rant.

Lasting Concepts: authenticity, good firsthand writing

Implication for PR online: Blogs allow us to break the rules
of mainstream media (MSM), but we still need to write well and write based on
real experience.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Is print publishing about blogs worth the paper?

The blogging-and-information-overload concept is a double-edged sword. On one side of the blade, getting RSS feeds seems to make my reading more productive, because at least I start with sources who are likely to be talking about things I want to know and write about. On the other edge, I'm still a little overwhelmed when my computer feeds me something like, "First chapter posted on our corporate blogging book," (posted yesterday morning by Robert Scoble). A few minutes later (after printing the chapter to read slowly later), my printer is spooling out James Cherkoff's What is open-source marketing? It all makes for interesting reading, but what's the point if I'm gathering information faster than I can take it all in?

As I work on a book chapter and a research paper on PR and blogging, I'm reminded of this post from Kaye Trammell's blog. Her blog is called So this is mass communication?:

...With each article the case for your own study becomes more clear. It was as if all of these researchers were thinking about YOUR STUDY when they did their work over the past 20 years. And now, the glory & moment is yours to seize...

Except that now you've got all of these researchers who did their work over the past 20 years AND all the bloggers who posted their ideas over the past 20 days to consider.

The problem for us in academics - actually it's not really a problem, just what we're supposed to be doing - is finding what will matter most in 20 years. Scoble has already gracefully acknowledged Bob Wyman's criticism that he "can't help wondering if it won't be horribly out-of-date when published in early 2006" . But I think Israel & Scoble, Searls & Weinberg, et al. are on to concepts that last longer than the technologies they describe. We just need to figure out what they are, then try to test them and learn from them.

In public relations, Shel Holtz and Jim Horton have managed to churn out hard-copy books (Holtz lists them as "dead trees") on online PR that have been useful. My biggest challenge in writing a book on public relations online is not to compete with these books. These authors have provided solid information on the state of the field, and continue to do so with their blogs.

Rather, I'm looking for places where PR theory works (or not) online. Theory doesn't get people's attention like technology does though, especially as it's being developed. Another double-edged sword - lasting concepts last, but they emerge slower than the technologies and practices they explain. That's why peer-reviewed journal articles on PR theory have a readership (that's readership, not circulation) of about seven people. ;-)

But I see theory as a way to learn things that will outlast the publishing cycle of both blogs and books. Good theory is worth the paper.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Corporate Blogging an Oxymoron?

Doc Searls et al.'s idea of markets as conversations seems very much in line with today's public relations theory, which favors two-way communication and dialogue. I see blogs as a great place to test these theories -- Botan & Taylor call them "co-creational" approaches to public relations.

I had the chance to hear Searls speak here at UNC last semester, and I tend to agree with Scoble that "If Doc Searls says it or writes it, believe it." Well, almost. The social scientist in me might modfiy that a little to "If Doc Searls says it or writes it, hypothesize it."

Doc Searls yesterday (2/24/05) on corporate blogging:
  • "'Corporate blogging" is so ironic it's nearly an oxymoron. Having a "a system in place to monitor what is being said" seems more consistent with ending a conversation than with starting one.... Blogging is personal. The voices you hear in blogs are personal ones, not corporate ones, even when they serve corporate purposes.Yet companies have character too, just as individuals do. The difference is that companies themselves cannot speak.

I see this as an interesting problem for public relations.

The article Searls cites, "CORPORATE BLOG - PR OPPORTUNITY OR PR NIGHTMARE?," concludes:
  • "Although there is some trepidation about the danger of starting a corporate blog, the positive results far outweigh the problems. Companies should take the plunge and start the conversation. Just be aware of the pitfalls and make sure you have all your bases covered."

So just what are these "positive results"?

Global PR Blog Week 1.0

"During one week, 35 practioners published more than 60 articles and interviews on the impact of personal publishing on Public Relations." This happened in July 2004.

Moving pictures

I remember defacing thick books (my own books at home, of course) with stick-figure men at the outside edges of the pages. I learned this from other kids, so I'm guessing you might have done done this too. You draw a little stick man on the last page, then draw another one with the leg slightly moved on the previous page, until you reach the beginning of the book, run out of patience, or run out of time procrastinating your homework. Your payoff is fanning through the pages and watching your stick man run across the border of the book -- home theater!

I'm just getting started on a research paper on corporate blogs and public relations, and I'm wondering if I should start with some recent data about corporate blogs, including the good, bad and even the fake (not necessarily in that order): Microsoft, Sun, HP, GM, McDonald's, etc.

Technorati has some really good data for this purpose.

But this is all just one stick man on one page.

On the other hand, even if we want to understand the stickman in motion, we have to start somewhere. These links provide some of the stickman's arms and legs. I'm hoping my blog entries will help put him in motion.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Getting on the plane

"Get on the plane." That's what William Zinsser tells me as I read On Writing Well for about the sixth time.

Anyhow, I've got a couple of research projects rolling that focus on public relations online. Can't really talk about online public relations without taking a serious look at blogs. Can't really take a serious look at blogs without getting on the plane, so to speak.