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Apple, Heal Thyself

29 April 2010 2 comments

Well it has been quite the week for corporations in my little part of the online sphere.  Earlier this week my good friend Will has his car towed by an Albuquerque towing company of meth addicts because he accidentally parked on the wrong side of a McDonalds and “McDonalds Parking Enforcement” officers had his car towed away.  Parking enforcement officers… yeah really.

(BTW, this is the same lot I’ve parked in many times to eat at a different restaurant – come tow me, bitches.)

But more importantly, this has been one of the weeks where Apple has crossed over the line of corporate paranoia and let their cyberpunkish “Corporate Overlord” mentality show through.  And from a PR standpoint Apple’s not looking too great.

Jesus Buddha Christ, Apple. Really? Let’s break this down:

  • A tech blog gets a hold of your super secret next generation iPhone that was lost at a bar,
  • And then returns it to you after reviewing it
  • (Which happened after you denied the prototype’s existence),
  • Then you send your super secret “Apple Force” to the journalist’s house demanding to look around
  • (Which he says “hell no” to.  Makes sense.)
  • And then you have the reporter’s house busted into by the cops and multiple computers, et al “taken for examination.”

Let’s see, did I miss anything?  Nope, didn’t think so. I’m just surprised that Apple didn’t hire a private group of mercenaries to bust this poor guy’s door down.

Wow Apple, you have really opened yourself up to ridicule at the least, and a potential lawsuit on the more serious end.  (and if the EFF and other technology or media non-profits don’t sign on to object to this kind of treatment of a journalist, then y’all just need to pass your 501c3 cards forward because y’all are dismissed.)

But in true Apple form, Steve Jobs has penned a letter about… Apple’s problem with Adobe’s Flash??  It’s like Steve-O really thinks that by ignoring the problem, or dictating the terms of engagement, he can control all of the coverage he gets.  And right on cue, noted tech journalist (and Steve Jobs apologist) Walt Mossberg will pen a column decrying Flash (and asking why the hell Team “Apple Force” didn’t tase the entire Gizmodo staff over and over).

So this is a PR and tech blog.  What advice would I give Apple if they asked?

Well, this being Apple, they never would because in their minds “The Jobs” can’t do anything wrong.  That said, I’d tell them to cut this crap out.

  • Drop any charges,
  • Get the police to turn over all equipment taken from Jason Chen’s house,
  • Replace any broken or damaged equipment on Apple’s dime,
  • Pray that Apple doesn’t get sued,
  • And one more thing, stop acting like jerks.

I guess Steve-O really hasn’t learned anything about tact (or new media) from the Think Secret lawsuit. Jon Stewart is right, chill the hell out Apple.

(And before Apple Evangelists start typing a response about how I’m some Apple hater, this post, much like this video in years past, was completely created on a Mac.)

Snoochie Boochies.

TechCrunch and Embargoes. What’s the problem?

23 December 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve been reading about Michael Arrington (the guru behind TechCrunch) and his decision to no longer honor embargoes asked for (demanded?) by PR professionals when certain stories are sent to TechCrunch.  This has apparently caused quite an uproar in certain quarters of the PR community, with comments flying back and forth on the post at TechCrunch and throughout the Blogo/Twito/Globo-Sphere, with people picking sides.

The first thing that hit me was how this sounded like Gina Trapani’s wiki where she whipped out the ban-hammer and listed the PR companies that she got tired of spamming her personal email address and gave people a quick and easy way to include these companies (5WPR, Ogilvy, Edelman, etc) in your spam filter. There were a lot of big PR companies being called out, and a few New Media PR companies that appear to have been caught in the wake of e-blasting out stories that people don’t want to read.

The following thought was, PR people still use embargoes?  Seriously?  I mentioned this to a co-worker last week and she asked the same thing.

Embargoes were usually used to give news companies (alleged) “exclusives” or dictate to a media outlet when they could run with a story.  Big surprise, they only succeed at pissing off journalists/media outlets while getting ignored part of the time anyway.  Then you get pissed, and they get more pissed, and it spirals down from there.  And unless you’re a company crucial to a media outlet’s coverage, or large enough to have an impact if you decide to stop sending info their way (like Microsoft, Apple, Ford, Google, etc), then the media outlet doesn’t need to change the way it does business.  You do.

Reporters and editors, especially of New Media outlets, wouldn’t care if most of the companies out there stopped sending them press releases.  In fact, all of them would probably start popping open the bubbly in celebration.  When I was still working at the local newspaper, I was in charge of manning the fax machine (yeah I’m dating myself a little bit here) in addition to my regular duties.  In my time at the paper, less than a dozen releases ever made it past the trash can.  Most of the people the sports department (where I worked) reporters spoke with already had personal relationships with the writers (coaches, players, sports info officers) and knew to contact them personally and didn’t need the fax waste.

Contrast that to when I was working at my first PR firm, on the other side of the “send” key.  We’d invested in some “media relations” Web site, with a database of thousands of reporters and (allegedly) how to get in touch with them, forms set up to enter your own press releases and the potential to blast them to thousands of reporters, whether they wanted your information or not.  I watched as one pitch went out to over 2,300 business reporters all over the U.S. (Somehow I don’t think the farm business reporter from the “Peoria Pittance Proper” really cared about the NYC client’s pitch)

When you use these pitch-fest programs, you don’t have to know any of the media outlets you are e-blasting.  You don’t have any personal relation with the reporter you want to get interested in your stuff.

That’s what a lot of PR now a days is missing.  Public relations is kind of a misnomer for what needs to be done.  It needs to be called “Personal relations”.”  Too many PR professionals, especially when pitching nationally, are still depending so much on these databases or yellow books of media contacts.

Please, my fellow PR peeps, if you are going to use one of these databases to pitch a story nationally, at least make sure the person you are calling a) covers the area you think they do, and b) wants to receive your email.  Chances are they don’t. And then you’re making the rest of us look bad.

Push vs. Pull

A lot of PR needs to start shifting from the idea of pushing press releases to some kind of “narrowcasting,” creating meaningful content for your specific target audiences that they can then pull to their desktop/email/browser.  It’s the difference between forcing your message onto someone or getting to know them and letting them be genuinely interested in your information.  Your audience probably won’t be as big as you’d like – but the media landscape has been shifting from large distribution channels to many more, but smaller, means of communicating to your target demographic. (think about the difference between network TV and cable – while network TV has a larger audience, you can better target a narrow audience by selecting a cable channel that matches your audience needs (food network, SciFi, etc) and tailoring your messages to match not only your audience, but that specific channel.

And finally, for those PR people complaining about Mr. Arrington or Ms. Trapani’s actions.  Remember, TechCrunch and LifeHacker are their media outlets, they get to decide how they want to run them.

Heads Up Corps, Be Careful How You Blog…

Because starting May 26th, you could be arrested and thrown in the dock in the United Kingdom for misrepresenting your company as a consumer (Walmarting Across America comes to mind here).

The legislation is already in practice in Europe, the UK is just getting into the act a little (fashionably ?) late.  On one hand this can be good because it’s going to cut down on the amount of BS astroturfing that companies and their PR firms do.  It’s a kind-of enforced authenticity.

Is this a good thing?  Isn’t it better if people know that a company isn’t communicating authentically of their own accords?  The press, and other bloggers, are more than happy to shine a light on the astroturfing efforts of those corporations and PR firms.  Isn’t that the way it should be?  Online news organizations, like the newly created New Mexico Independent or well-established PR Watch, are sprouting up to watchdog various organizations and report the news without fear or favor (if not partisanship).

And another question I’d like to ask is, for activist groups throughout Great Britain – do these rules apply for them as well?  Will the same group of activists who misrepresent themselves as a greater number of people (think about the blogger equivalent of a phone bank calling talk radio shows to comment) be subject to the same rules and punishment?  Ad Age explains the law as applying to “Brand Owners” and Greenpeace, or the Sierra Club, or the Christian Coalition, or Wake Up Walmart are all brands and should be subject to those laws as well.  All things being fair and all that.

What this means is that companies and organizations should be authentic and true in their online communications.  A lesson to corporations, activists and PR firms around the world: if you represent themselves truthfully when dealing with online and social media communities, they can avoid a lot, if not almost all of, these kinds of problems.

It will be interesting to watch Great Britain in the upcoming months and see what happens.

Hat Tip: Ad Age

Flacky Goodness

Finished reading this by CNET blogger Charles Cooper. He takes a look at how press releases, especially those that are stacked with easily searchable words, are showing up higher and higher in online searches. It’s a great story, I highly recommend giving it a once over when you have time.  One of the ideas I liked to mull throughout the article is the idea that the mainstream media is becoming increasingly marginalized, and how organizations can take advantage of that.

Cooper starts the article with a scenario familiar to many public relations professionals.

A few years back, representatives from the Industry Standard, Wired, and Upside were invited to a public-relations gathering to talk about how they decide what to cover. After they finished their prepared remarks, a young woman in the audience stood up to ask a question.

“You talk a lot about tricks and tips on what we should do,” she said. “But I’ve done all that and I still can’t get you to cover my clients.”

The reporter from Upside recognized the opening and rammed a Mack Truck right through it. “Ma’am,” he replied, “you need better clients.”

Read more…

The Bell Might Not Toll for Thee, Tribune

This report is in from the Santa Fe New Mexican – Doug Turner, CEO of DW Turner Strategic Communications and Tom Carroll, President of DW Turner – are making a bid to buy the Albuquerque Tribune.  If this is true, it would be a very interesting turn in the saga that has been the potential closing of the Albuquerque Tribune.  In full disclosure,  I have worked at DW Turner before, and have many friends currently working at the Tribune.  Doug and Tom are great people to work for, and they know how to run a dynamic company that is capable of changing in the ever fluctuating media landscape.

As I said in previous posts, anyone buying the Tribune would be faced with many possibilities and pitfalls – they would not have any income coming in from the Joint Operating Agreement, they would not have access to the Journal’s equipment or advertising and publishing staff, they would have to start from scratch.  That said, they would also be able to publish a morning paper, print on Sundays, switch design from a broadsheet design to a tabloid design and they could remain creative with their design and online content.  In fact, who knows what they could plan to do with the Tribune!  It could be something completely different than what any of us are thinking.
I’ve got to jet to bed – long days today and tomorrow – but I am looking forward to  the future of the Tribune and media in Albuquerque.  As I said earlier tonight on DCF, It’s going to be an exciting time!