By letterhead | January 20, 2008
For non-PR people, this story offers an example of how NOT to do PR, and why our profession is in the trouble it’s in….
The goal is to “create visibility for the Council,” but also in true “thought leadership” fashion to “give voice to how PR firms are providing ever-more value to clients, particularly in this complex communications environment” – this according to a statement emailed to Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter (JOD) from a Council VP. According to Council president, Kathy Cripps, the newsletter is a way to “communicate more deeply with member firms.”
Huh? “Communicate more deeply?” What does that mean, exactly? Cue swelling violins, wind machines, and a misty look in the actors’ eyes?
“Ever-more value?” Does it inflate forever? Or at some point does it pop?
This announcement echoes the recent nonsensical and stupendously bad release from PRSA, which was well and truly skewered by Bill Sledzik over at Tough Sledding.
(As an aside, I would link you to the press release on the Council’s website, but this organization — which claims enough 2.0 savvy to publish a white paper on social media — has not updated its own website with a 2008 section for press releases, or a 2008 section for news. Was there even a release? The last “announcement” listed on the Home Page is from Oct 2007.)
With regard to this BuzzKill announcement, the kicker is that Council Chair (and Ketchum CEO) Ray Kotcher would not even comment on The Weekly Buzz! Yes that’s right, they launched a website dedicated to “buzz” and the Chair would not comment on it. (Seriously folks, you can’t make this stuff up.) When O’Dwyer called for comment, Kotcher’s assistant gave the lame excuse that Ray “does not accept unscheduled calls.” All JOD manged to get out of the Council, it appears, is the email response quoted above.
Won’t comment on your own news? How’s that for a buzz kill!
And what about the line “Doesn’t take unscheduled calls?” Not from clients? How about his mother? That one has to go down in the record books for the lamest way to duck a press call – ever. Maybe Ray does not consider JOD to be real “press?” (FYI… He had plenty of time to do an “interview” with BuzzKill co-sponsor Bulldog Reporter.)
In the lede of the JOD story, however, there was this telling line: “revenue” from the site will be split 50/50. Oh, so they will be selling ad space to PR firms. Is this a thought leadership initiative, or just another revenue center the Bulldog?
Then way down in the JOD story there’s a mention that “an editorial oversight committee is expected to be formed.” Read: this newsletter thing is not fully cooked.
And the site launch is expected for “January or February.” Huh? Not even a firm launch date?
Wait a minute… is this an episode of Punk’d?? Are you, like, about to tell me none of this is real and I’m going to look, like, totally stupid for believing you?
But then we get to the real raw meat: the newsletter will “serve as a promotional tool for the Council.” It will publish “thought leadership pieces,” but it looks like they will only be from member firms. And it will promote the Council’s “‘benefits’ to members.”
So there you have it, in a nutshell, the whole ugly, saucy enchilada:
- A website dedicated to creating “buzz,” but a PR launch team that will only talk to media outlets on the payroll, and nobody else.
- A website launch that isn’t a launch – with no firm date, no specific content, no details on staff… bla bla bla. The worst kind of buzz-free, non news.
- An “empty suit” of a site: launching what looks to be a purely promotional, profit-oriented, circle-jerk of a website and trying to spin it as “thought leadership.”
- An organization claiming it knows how to be relevant in a wired world, but in realty acting clueless… being a one-way conduit for promotion in a world where relevance is determined by linkages, dialogue, and substance.
The value of the Web, if anything, is its ability to scrape off the gloss and get to the heart of the matter: “authenticity” as the PR 2.0 gurus like to say. But there is no “authenticity” in this announcement except for the half-baked spin job you get from reading between the lines. And that is exactly the kind of PR misstep that we should be getting our clients to avoid, instead of committing it ourselves. It seems that in eating our profession, Strumpette’s 10-Headed Hydra has also eaten all of our national professional organizations — those that are supposed a last bulwark of common sense, realism, and high standards.
Brad Delong has a favorite saying: “Why oh why can’t we have better press corps?” I’m going to steal it and ask: “Why oh why can’t we have better PR leadership?”
If this represents the state of the profession, then it truly is a buzz kill.