Thursday, January 31, 2008

Free stuff?

I'm not giving away free stuff, but rather will be talking about free stuff on the Net. Clearly there are loads of free things you can get off the internet: music, photos, videos, software, to start with the basics. It seems to me things don't really last for free for long.

Producers need to capitalize on the Internet platform; I don't blame them. They spend their time and energy creating something; they should be paid for their creative efforts.

I had a free counter in my old blog that tracked the number of my visitors and which countries they are in. I've had visitors from all over the world, and knowing that is mind-blowing. There's no guarantee they actually read my posts, but it motivates you to come up with thoughtful and (hopefully) thought-provoking posts that (can) enlighten, inform, even entertain. If not, at the very least, this space for my mental dump can be viewed by people from all over the world.

Anyhow, I visited the same site to get a counter for this blog, but alas, it's no longer free. You get a trial version for a measly 15 days then you'd have to pay afterward.

Of course it boils down to the issue of intellectual property and copyright serving as incentive for producers to create...against which I can attempt to argue that producers are merely using raw materials from culture. But that's minimizing the value of their creative effort.

I just find it sad that ultimately all things can be commodified and reduced to monetary value.

I do enjoy all the free stuff I get off the Internet -- like my Asian music. Oh, and all my music. I hardly buy any music anymore, and I'm not guilty for it. Not much anyway. I pay loads to watch live concerts, which I much prefer. I like to think I am being fair that way.

Music downloading isn't legally a crime in Canada (if it's for personal use) -- yet. Time will come that the U.S. recording industry will succeed in pressuring Canadian government to enforce strict copyright laws. I find that ridiculous really -- it's not like the artists themselves are benefiting from their own creative work. It's the moguls up there who are pocketing most of the money. I think they have more than enough of it. And it's not like any music nowadays is completely original.

Truth is, the music industry will have to update its outmoded business model to go along with the times. It's inevitable. Some are living up to the challenge: Radiohead for instance lets their fans pick how much they want to pay for downloading their new album. That idea may be ludicrous to record labels, but I think it's brilliant: this kind of selling attracts loyal fans who will of course come to all of Radiohead's live shows and buy all their "merch." And isn't live music so much more enticing and participatory for music artists and fans alike?

Furthermore, it's not only by selling CDs or digital versions of the music that the music industry generates income -- with the new digital economy, there's a whole new world of income-generating opportunities (ringtones for instance are no small business for the industry).

Take Asian boy bands as another example. Fahrenheit, my favourite Taiwanese idol group (mostly because Jiro Wang is in it -- haha) earn most of their income not through selling CDs, but by acting in dramas and endorsing products (in commercials, print ads, etc.). It's quite remarkable how the Taiwanese model is like: jack-of-all-trades artistes sing, dance, host, model and act. Rainie Yang, F4, Danson Tang, S.H.E -- the list is extensive and these are just a few of the acts I'm familiar with -- all are prized idols by their management companies; they do everything. I hardly think that with the decline of CD-buying, these artists will lose incentive to produce (as the logic of copyright and intellectual property dictate).
Here's something amusing: a Chinese knockoff of Facebook -- format, layout, the works -- apparently are exactly the same. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg has a problem with that. I'd like to think he hasn't been corporate brainwashed yet, considering he was a college student too not so long ago.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Richard Edelman on next-generation CEOs

Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of Edelman, one of the world's largest PR agencies. His blog posts are insightful and well-thought out. He wrote about his observations of next-generation CEOs, mostly in Asia. If CEOs (who command multinationals more powerful than national governments in a capitalistic world), of the coming generation are anything like these people he wrote about, there is hope for the world.


(November 15, 2007 post)

Next Generation CEOs

In the past two months, I have met several CEOs whose companies are based in the new powerhouses of the global economy, including China, Dubai, India, Israel, and Russia. Here are my observations on these executives, many of whom are founder CEOs, not classically trained professional managers.

1) They are comfortable across cultures. To sit with Lev Leviev of the Leviev Group, while he juggles conversations easily in English, Hebrew and Russian, is a most amazing sight.
2) They are instinctive and entrepreneurial. Sunil Mittal, who runs Bharti Enterprises, has moved from a strong base in wireless communications in India to a joint venture in retailing with Wal-Mart. He gives passionate speeches about the potential for changing the Indian rural way of life, to have refrigerated trucks able to take fresh produce to rural markets, to provide the Indian farmer access to world markets, to reduce the spoilage and thereby increase the income, to slow the migration from countryside.
3) They are very philanthropic. Mr. Leviev gives substantial funds to charities in Israel, Russia, US and in diamond producing nations of Africa. He said that he wants to grow his business so that he can give even more money away to worthy causes.
4) They are patriotic and demonstrate this allegiance by giving of their time to help the economic development of their home nations. Mr. Mittal recently headed a contingent of Indian businesspeople who came to the US to celebrate the 60th anniversary of India’s independence, funded in part by the private sector’s leaders. Mohamed Bin Ali Alabbar, chairman of Emaar, is a relentless promoter of Dubai as a global business hub and tourist destination.
5) They recognize that business may be the most effective and fastest way to make change in a country. They follow the same theory of GE’s Eco-Imagination, where “Green is Green,” with business needing to make money while incorporating societal benefits. When Mr. Leviev brought diamond cutting and polishing jobs to Angola or Botswana, he was lowering his cost of goods to end users while enabling local workers to move into higher skilled and better paid jobs.
6) They are believers in leadership from the front line, not back at headquarters. They work tirelessly, defying time zones and jet lag, in order to put their personal stamp on far-flung operations.

Perhaps the best news is that they are believers in public relations. They recognize the need to earn a license to operateto earn the trust of all stakeholders--particularly in the US and Europe. They’re not obsessed with media exposure (Donald Trump), nor are they averse to telling their stories. They want advice on everything from Non-Governmental Organizations to employee engagement to public policy, in addition to our classic media relations skills. This is not a universal truth; one Chinese client told me that he wanted to continue his present low profile “because tall flowers get cut down in China.” As always, I would appreciate your views.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Learning PR the hard way

Okay, let's do a bit of clearing up here.

First of all, PR is not "spinning," lying, cheating, flack-ing, or stunt-producing.

PR is not advertising. Nor is it marketing. And it is not "publicity" though most people seem to feel it is exactly that.

And I refuse to be called a press agent because I do so much more than that.

PR is a management function. It's managing communication between an organization and its publics. If you're a nonprofit, I help you send your messages out to the community. In fact, I don't just send the messages. I develop a comprehensive plan so you establish a good relationship with the community, strategies and tactics included. I help you meet your overall goals and objectives. After all, you're not an organization if you don't have a public or publics. That's why it's called "public relations."

If you're a business, I help you build a good profile in the community. In fact, I don't just help you establish a good corporate image; I help you establish a good relationship with the community and your investors/stakeholders and even with your own employees. I'm all about the bottom line. Product launches and special events are tactics I use to meet that bottom line. But I am not advertising.

If you're in a crisis and have seriously fucked up by putting lead in your toys or something, I step in. I wouldn't work for you if this was something you did intentionally and knowingly have put consumers at risk. I do not "spin" or skew news to your favour but encourage you to be honest and show that you are doing everything in your power to solve your problems, and let stakeholders know about it. I'm actually telling the truth when I send out those press releases.

While there are PR people who do not live up to industry standards of honesty and integrity, most would prefer to practice their profession ethically. That's why there are organizations like the Public Relations Society of America, International Association of Business Communicators and Canadian Public Relations Society. These orgs provide accreditation for practitioners and set the standards for PR practice. Anyone can call themselves publicists or press agents, but PR is so much more. There's:

-media relations
-internal or employee relations
-investor/financial relations
-consumer/customer relations
-community relations
-special events management
-public affairs
-marketing communications
-issues management (proactive)
-crisis communications (reactive)

If you're a small business looking for exposure on the community newspaper, take out an ad. You'll see ink on paper for sure, if that's all you want. You'll have the message exactly the way you want it to be seen. Don't get the false idea that PR ensures good coverage if you said things to the media that can be blown way out of proportion. Case in point:

...So she tried again on her own. Last year, Ms. McKay heard that television newsmagazine "20/20" wanted to interview female CEOs. She got in touch with the show and in an interview revealed that she sometimes kept her cellphone turned on in movie theaters and slept next to her laptop. She assumed she'd be portrayed as a busy business owner.

But when the segment aired, she learned it was titled "That's So Rude! What's Happened to Manners in America?" Five minutes into the segment, she says, the hate email began rolling in. Six consulting clients left. "I never thought we'd recover," she says.

Because that's one of the things distinguishing PR from advertising -- you have no control over what is being said in the media. There are gatekeepers -- the editors, the reporters. You have to find the right PR firm for you (don't think all PR agencies are the same), one that specializes in your trade/industry and truly understands your goals and objectives and whom you can have a good working relationship with. Case in point again:

Ms. Zable Fisher had read about Ms. McKay's business and initially contacted her. Reassured that she could simply end the contract at any point if she wasn't seeing results, Ms. McKay paid $1,000 to get started. Ms. Zable Fisher asked Ms. McKay about her PR dream (appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show") and what she wasn't so interested in (radio interviews).

Ms. Zable Fisher reaches out to media contacts when she thinks Ms. McKay might be a fit for them — on topics from women-owned businesses to her animal-rights activism.
For instance, Ms. Zable Fisher says her bill for arranging the interview that led to this article will be $6,000. Landing a feature in a large newspaper tops her price scale, which starts at $500 for a mention on a low-traffic Web site or small radio or TV show. Ms. Zable Fisher occasionally forwards interview opportunities without requesting payment. Ms. McKay likes the exposure she has gained so far.

If you equate "results" only to the number of times you're mentioned in the media, maybe it's better that you just take out an ad. Secure a 30-second commercial spot on the radio, pay for a billboard or print some fliers to stick around the neighborhood. There's a lot of unseen PR "results" that just can't be measured by the number of articles in the newspaper -- the local journalists knowing of or about your business, better communication with and among your investors and employees, better standing in the community etc. Public RELATIONS is the name, not Exposure or Publicity, though these could be integral components of the comprehensive term "public relations." Of course, a good PR specialist or firm would have established the means and method of results measurement before they've even started any strategic tactic, media mentions, sales increase or whatnot. But bear in mind there is no direct correlation to the number of products you sell and the amount of work the PR person put in.

Paying for PR only when it "works" is a potentially confusing concept. Make sure you are in agreement with your PR person over what "results" really mean. Make the distinction between long-term results (e.g. good corporate image) over short-term ones (e.g. mentions in the paper which could easily be done through advertising, though the weight of credibility is much higher if you're mentioned in a tiny column of news than when you're seen on a gigantic one-page advertising spread).

PR is a strategy, not a tactic. In chess, it's the gameplan, not the move.

Online sources

(highlights -- see for full article)
**comments in italics

Survey of Business Journalists by Arketi Group Finds Blogs and Other Online Sources Growing in Popularity
Study finds journalists believe monitoring of employee blogging ethical, news releases are not dead

ATLANTA – October 22, 2007 – Arketi Group, an integrated marketing and public relations consultancy, today announced the findings of the 2007 Arketi Web Watch Survey: Inside B-to-B Media Usage of Web 2.0. The survey reveals that when it comes to using blogs as primary or secondary sources for articles, 84 percent of journalists say they would or already have.

Sixty percent of journalists say they spend more than 20 hours a week on the Internet. When asked how journalists use the Internet:

  • 98 percent say reading news
  • 97 percent say emailing
  • 93 percent say finding news sources
  • 89 percent say finding story ideas
  • 72 percent say reading blogs
  • 67 percent say watching webinars or webcasts

“Clearly this survey shows that business journalists are embracing user-generated content like blogs, webinars and podcasts as useful in their day-to-day reporting,” said Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR, assistant professor of public relations at the University of Georgia’s Grady College. “Savvy companies know this and are looking for ways to legitimately increase their participation in creating and growing online content using Web 2.0 methods.”

Finding Story Ideas
Ninety percent of journalists say they turn to industry sources for story ideas, an equal number (90 percent) get story ideas from news releases and a nearly equal number (89 percent) say they tap into public relations contacts.

More than three out of four journalists (79 percent) report finding story ideas on newswires, while 74 percent say from Web sites, 72 percent say from other media outlets and 54 percent report blogs spark story ideas.

All journalists surveyed (100 percent) said they prefer working with known sources via email, while 91 percent prefer telephone and 77 percent say in-person. Interestingly one-quarter (25 percent) say they prefer instant messaging with known sources. When it comes to working with unknown sources, nearly all journalists surveyed (98 percent) say they prefer emails. Eighty percent say phone contact with an unknown source is acceptable.

Almost all journalists (98 percent) say they prefer to receive news releases via email from companies they know, and 93 percent of business journalists say they prefer to receive news releases via email from companies they don’t know but are in industries they cover.

All journalists responding (100 percent) said they viewed information offered online by business news organizations like the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Bloomberg as credible, and 92 percent said they viewed information reported online by national news organizations like the national TV networks, wire services and newspapers as credible. (in other words, news originating from Mainstream Media and Big Business -- there's the critical question of whether grassroots/alternative/citizen media receive the same treatment)

Others sources of credible online information according to those journalists surveyed included:

  • International organizations (89 percent)
  • Government agencies (85 percent)
  • Corporate websites (85 percent)
  • PR professionals (77 percent)
  • Activist websites (41 percent)
  • Blogs (41 percent)
  • Politicians (35 percent)
  • Chat, message boards (18 percent)

In a trend that continues to blur the line between print and online media, an overwhelming majority of journalists (92 percent) say their online publication is allowed to “scoop” their print publication. When it comes to reporting, journalists surveyed wrote primarily for a print publication, but the majority also contributes to their organization’s Web site (68 percent).

Media’s Use of Corporate Web Sites
Corporate Web sites make a difference in how business journalists view an organization. Eighty-five percent of journalists say companies without an Internet Web site are less credible. <or just richer?>

Helping organizations participate in industry-focused conversation is a cornerstone of public relations and today we have more tools than ever before to do just that,” points out Neumeier. “Organizations not taking advantage of these tools are going to be at a great communications disadvantage in the coming years because, like the Internet, these tools are not going away.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

On networking

Anyone in PR would say that networking is vital to a PR career. It's crucial; it's your lifeblood! (Coupled with skills of course.) I haven't established a lot of contacts in the industry yet so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to meeting David Holmes of Holmes Creative Communications today. He was very accommodating and definitely great to talk to ("We are a ____-$ business with 15 people." Whoa.)

Also, a Humber post-grad Journalism student from Humber Etc. actually asked me for a quote and a picture. I might appear in the student paper next week! Lol. There's a slim chance, but I really hope so. The clipping would make a great portfolio piece. It turns out there are quite a number of Humber students at the boat show. David says they mostly hire Humber students too, which is great. We'll see how I fare as a Guelph-Humber student.

This whole boat show stint has been really good for me. It's great being able to have the chance to meet different people from the media (though David says most of them are freeloaders--lol) because a lot of them have so much to say and share about their own experiences: how they started out, what field or industry they work in. I even got to meet the cameraman and the reporter of the Cantonese edition of OMNI News on my first day (fine, I watch news programs in Chinese...I just love OMNI!).

Saturday and Sunday should be huge days, oh my. Those are the last two days of the boat show and all of the big media are coming -- anyone who's anyone in tv, radio, print (and lots from boating industry publications). They promise to be hectic days, but I'm really looking forward to them! I wish I had business cards to give out already, but my phone numbers and address aren't definite yet. I can't decide whether to stay in Toronto for the summer doing volunteer PR work or go home to Orillia and make money working at the casino. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gun violence isn't about guns

An (most probably, reports say) innocent bystander was killed in Gerrard St. E tonight -- and this is Toronto's third homicide this year.

I was at the media office of the boat show tonight, registering media and phoning some outlets, and I realize this was why CTV, CityTV and Global weren't interested in covering the boat show ("Bad timing" and "We're pretty full on the agenda tonight," they say).

This after a similar incident on Yonge St. last weekend. Predictably there will be more talk about the handgun ban proposed by Mayor David Miller, and more talk about capturing these out-of-control "gunmen" and putting them behind bars.

The news is fresh and will be analyzed in editorials in the coming days, and I'm hoping the focus will be in getting to the root of the problem instead of on "guns" and "criminals." Take a look at out how the suspects for the Yonge shooting were described in this CTV article

The first man is described as:

  • In his early 20s
  • Between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11
  • Medium build
  • Possibly Hispanic
  • He was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt and a white baseball cap

The second suspect is described as;

  • In his early 20s
  • Between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-10
  • Skinny
  • Light-black complexion
  • He was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt
What does this info suggest? We can all make our own guesses and not come up with any conclusive answers, but it's common sense that aggression is linked to disenfranchisement and all the influencing factors in an individual's life, if you look at it from a developmental/lifespan perspective. It's not about guns. There are so many other ways to kill. This is about what community has provided -- or not provided -- these young men.

A tribute to the Age of Anxiety

Who would not appreciate The Scream? We only saw it 12 million times back when MTV was still awesome (1997). And I love this:

He's one of the writers for Poplicks!

He's Junichi Semitsu, a law professor/blogger. His post about his experience on Millionaire is quite interesting -- particularly his comments on the questions being written for a Japanese person ("Cape of Good Sushi," yes?) being edited out and having to bring multiple clothes to make it look like he came to the show on separate days. And his conversation with Meredith about the Dixie Chicks was cut! That would have been great to watch on Youtube. Understandably his "lamenting" of Bush's election (he had the guts to say he was too depressed after the 2004 election to remember much) was cut. Oh the politics of television.

It really boils down to tv being a platform to deliver an audience to advertisers, and not programs to tv viewers. I don't think his intelligence was being tested on this show like he says; I'd still respect him even if he went home with $0. It's just one of those shows where all the random, (mostly) useless facts of the world are dumped different from crossword puzzles.

MacBook Air - form over function?

I'm no tech guru but the sexy new MacBook Air (see demo) is intriguing. Three of my friends are really interested in it, but I've been reading way too many comments about it being more about form than function. The reviews are still pretty sparse even.

As a student a laptop that's thin and very portable is ideal for me, but at the price point (CAD $1,899.00, 100 bucks more expensive than it is in the U.S., which does not make sense given the current exchange rate) it's not practical. The ultra thinness of it, wireless power and multi-touch pad are incredible, but is it really worth it? No optical drive, one USB port, non-upgradeable RAM, no Firewire/Ethernet/Apple remote -- pretty basic necessities -- do not really make the notebook work for most people. Students without MACs yet, MAC fanatics and those with money to spare might be attracted to it, but for now I'll wait 'till a more practical thin notebook comes along. (More comments about features here)

The manufacturers forgot the world isn't completely wireless yet. I should know; I live in student residence and still have to use Ethernet. And I still watch my movies on DVD, thanks much.

Hello again!

I "lost" my previous blog, so this is where I'll be posting from now on. You can still read it here.