An open letter to David Murray

Posted on December 7, 2004 7:30 am by | General

Dear David:

What can I say about your opening item on the December 6, 2004 Ragan Report‘s page one column, “Blog wonks need chill pill”? It’s wrong on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin. You and I have known one another for, what, more than a decade now? I’m sure that, since your editorial was distributed to all the Ragan Report‘s readers and published on the Ragan Communications Web site, you’ll agree that it’s highly appropriate—and even maybe a little ironic—that I reply to you personally via my blog.

Your overall premise is that those of us who blog about public relations and organizational communications are unjustified in trying to push the public relations industry into adopting and leveraging blogs. Or, as you put it:

“These guys—they are all guys, as far as we can tell, in a profession dominated by women—use their blogs to wonder why their communication colleagues aren’t more blog-savvy and blog-happy.”

You conclude:

“The truth is, organizational blogging will move forward at its own pace and communicators don’t need geeks…whipping them in the behind while whipping themselves into a lather.”

Allow me to enlighten you on the many reasons why your conclusion is naieve at best. When I’m done, if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to take issue with some of your other comments.

Let’s start with the importance of blogs. I don’t want to spend much time on this topic, since it’s been addressed well throughout the blogosphere. Still, in response to the assertions in your column, it’s worth covering the highlights.

The impact of blogs has little to do with technology and much to do with culture. The ease of publishing through a blog has resulted in the fulfilment of one of the Internet’s great promises—that anybody can publish. Now there are millions of people publishing and even more reading what they write. According to some estimates, more than 11% of those who go online read blogs.

Because the community is large and growing, it wields a certain amount of influence. Some examples:

  • Bloggers report news the mainstream media misses or ignores, often forcing the media to cover stories they otherwise wouldn’t. US Senator Trent Lott’s remarks about Strom Thurmond, which led to his loss of the Senate leadership, is a good example.
  • Many reporters have turned to bloggers to promote their stories, hoping to drive traffic to their publications’ web sites.
  • Bloggers have corrected misinformation reported by mainstream media, most famously Dan Rather’s claims to have documentation of US President George Bush’s failure to fulfill his National Guard service.
  • Readers have turned to blogs for information. For example, authors who can’t get reviewed in mainstream book review publications have seen sales increase when bloggers have reviewed their works.
  • Similarly, popular blogs have served as platforms to complain about institutions and their products and services, influencing opinions and affecting reputations.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Just read some of the blogs of those CWTOBs, as you call them (communicators with their own blogs), and you can gain even more of the insight that appears to have escaped you.

There is, however, an even bigger picture. As a consequence of the blogging phenomenon, we are witnessing the birth of the “social constituency.” These are audiences—running the gamut from customers to shareholders, from activists to employees—that have the ability and the expectation to interact with real people. As one writer put it, by listening to members of social audiences, “companies have the opportunity to create the tightest relationships between vendor and customer we have seen since the days of the corner store.” Of course, this writer focuses solely on the customer. The relationship potential extends well beyond customers, though, to any constituency whose opinion can affect an organization’s performance or reputation.

Clearly, then, there is a role for communicators to play. It naturally falls within the realm of communications and public relations to guide the production of official company blogs, to work with influential bloggers, and to monitor and react to the blogosphere when bloggers turn their attention to the client.

Sadly, organizations in general tend to be slow on the uptake of any new relevant communication technology, and the public relations profession tends to be even slower. Think back, David, and you’ll remember that the earliest company Web sites were managed by IT, not communications. While the World Wide Web phenomenon exploded around us, communicators blithely continued to ignore its existence while programmers and system administrators assumed responsibility for organizations’ online presence.

To put a slightly different spin on the situation, organizations that ignore blogs are at risk. They risk missing out on the potential blogs afford them while their competitors reap the benefits. And they risk the damage blogs could do them if they aren’t paying attention.

We in the communications profession know from experience that organizations don’t wait around for their PR counselors to figure out new technologies and their application to communications. If we’re unable to help them, they’ll turn to others who can. Thus, as the PR profession lumbers along at its glacial pace of technology adoption, we, too, are at risk. And that, David, is why your claim that communicators don’t need to be prodded along is mistaken. Communicators have always needed prodding. Without it, as companies become aware of blogs (and other tools that enable the social constituent, such as wikis and social networking), they’ll look to alternatives and we’ll be left to fulfill secondary roles.

Besides, David, even your own publication, the Ragan Report, contains little that isn’t intended to whip communicators in the behind. In the same issue in which you so denegrate bloggers dedicated to dragging the profession kicking and screaming into the age of the social constituent, RR implores communicators to embrace videos, write better headlines, make HR communications interesting, and use creative means to solicit employee feedback.

The efforts of the community of PR bloggers—those CWTOBs—has already paid off. PRSA, which had no sessions on blogging slated for its annual conference—added one at the last minute. They even enlisted some of the bloggers who had been critical of the oversight to run the session.

By the way, David, the last time I checked, Elizabeth Albrycht and BL Ochman were not guys.

Which brings us to some of the other off-base points you managed to pack into your brief editorial. (I trust I’ve made the case against waiting patiently for “organizational blogging (to) move forward at its own pace.”) Let’s start with your opening salvo:

“Back when the Internet was new, we heard a serious argument among the arly adopters in the communication profession. Some of these ‘Internet geeks,’ as the more Luddite-ish of the Ragan editors dubbed them then, asserted that the Internet was as important as the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Others argued fiercely that the Internet was way bigger than the Gutenberg press; they said it was as big as the invention of fire. The argument was imbecilic then, and it hasn’t gotten any smarter in the meantime.”

Okay, David, I agree that harnessing fire. But you have to forgive the enthusiasm many felt for a medium that can rightly be compared to the printing press. The most significant contribution the printing press made to society was the redistribution of power. Before the printing press came along, the average person had to hear the word of God from a priest. Once a bible could be printed and given to that same average person, he was free to read and interpret it for himself. The Protestant Revolution would never have happened without the printing press.

Not much has changed in the world of communication since the printing press. Even sound and video are incremental advances. The Internet represents the most profound change to the communication model since Mr. Gutenberg put ink to his first sheet of paper. It once again redistributes power, this time the power to publish. If you haven’t seen the result of that change, maybe you need to get out more.

Don’t worry, David. I’m not personally offended at being called “imbecilic.” The Internet’s impact on culture, society, business, entertainment, and virtually every other walk of life is evident to nearly everyone. Those of us who proclaimed the inevitable impact it would have were right then, and our argument has only gain more relevance in the meantime. Blogs, as you might guess, are the latest development to reinforce the relevance of that argument.

To support your point, you picked on Neville Hobson:

“Recently, Hobson harrumphed, ‘With so much debate and discussion going on about blogging and organizations in a wide range of business blogs, I’ve been surprised to note that hardly anyone who is an IABC members is joining any of these discussions.’ Hobson also joined the ranks of blog wonks who piled on IABC Chairman David Kistle when he introduced his own blog in October and then failed to post a new entry for more than a month. OK, Kistle’s lack of follow-through was bush-league. But perhaps the crime was not quite heinous enough to justify Hobson’s nearly teary post of Nov. 24—the 30-day ‘anniversary’ of Kistle’s last blog entry: ‘I’m just too disappointed to add any comment at the moment,’ he sobbed. Good Blog, man, get a hold of yourself!”

Neville’s blog is widely read, David. In fact, he’s among the nominees for best European blog in the 2004 blog competition. One reason he’s gained such a following is that he’s a fine writer. He uses writing techniques to make a point. I suppose Neville could have taken three or four paragraphs to articulate why Kistle’s failure to maintain the blog was disappointing. It’s the mark of a good writer that he was able to make the same point in a single sentence.

It was a point worth making, too. More than just “bush-league,” a chairman’s blog that remains untouched for a month is a reputational problem waiting to happen, particularly when the chairman represents a communication association.

Thanks for sticking with me on this, David. I hope I’ve been able to help you figure out why the Internet is important, why early adopters need to drag the profession into the world of blogging, why Neville didn’t deserve to be singled out for attack, and why the IABC chairman’s blog really did pose a problem worthy of attention. I also hope we’re still friends.

Warmest regards,

Shel Holtz, ABC

12/06/05 | 51 Comments | An open letter to David Murray

 

Comments

  • 1.Shel--

    This is incredible! First, I'll begin at the end: Of course we're still friends. You and I have been going at it hook and tong since the mid-1990s on the importance of technology. I remember one private e-mail exchange about the importance of the Internet that must have consumed 10,000 words. That we would have another go-round on the subject someday was probably not only predictable, it may have been inevitable.

    But I didn't think it would happen over this particular editorial, or over blogs in general. Unlike the Internet, about which you--who, as I recall, were on the printing press side! the right side! (of a dumb argument)--were 90% right, while I was about 90% wrong, I think I fully see the relevance of blogs.

    No, I don't FULLY see the relevance; I guess no one does at this point. But I recognize that blogs and their breathren may change our business. And I've written a great deal about blogs in The Ragan Report and in Speechwriter's Newsletter.

    It's just that, my miss of Elizabeth Albrycht notwithstanding, I HAVE had a look around at the blogs of communicators, and I HAVE found some of them a little on the hysterical side, especially when they're going hard at a David Kistle or a Dick Edelman for blogging fouls. I'm not objecting to some communicators' enthusiasm for blogging, just the proportion of that enthusiasm.

    As I always do whenever I go near technology in my writing, I thought of you as I wrote this column. And I thought that, on the whole, you would agree with it, because many of the posts that I read on THIS blog seem to argue for a sober, reasoned, proportional understanding of blogs and their impact.

    In fact, I may have actually thought: There is no one more passionate and excited about what communication technology can do to make the world a better place than Shel Holtz. And Shel wouldn't have written something as exaggerated in its emotionalism as what Hobson wrote, and what others have written.

    But you make many good points in your open letter; may we publish it in The Ragan Report?

    Even WARMER regards,

    David

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 2.Whew! So David, are you saying that we passionate bloggers are hysterical but not imbecilic? I feel so much better now.

    As Shel noted, PR people have been among the last communicators to understand the Internet. The bitching about blogging that I got as feedback from the 15,000 subscribers to I-PR was basically "omigawd! How Can I possibly do one more thing. This can't be important. I don't care." Your basic head in the sand attitude.

    When I began counseling the PR staffs of Fortune 100 companies several years ago, I told them to take back the website from IT and sales and make it a PR function. They still haven't done that. And they have diminished their own power in their organizations as a result.

    The same thing will happen if PR people don't pick up on blogging and bring it into the marketing mix.

    I am quite sick of talking about whether or not blogs are important. I am too busy helping my clients blog.

    One of the many good reasons for that, in addition to the ones Shel so eloquently outlined, is that blogs are perhaps the most effective tool ever for increasing search engine placement.

    When the blog and the company website are well-integrated, better search engine placement leads to more website traffic. And, if the site is well-done, that leads to more sales.

    Put PRSA 2004 Conference into Google;s search bar. You'll see that two of the top 10 results are from my blog's challenge to PRSA to add blogging to the program. Which they did. It took all of three days to cause a turnaround.

    Bloggers have influence beyond their passion. Any communicator who doesn't learn to work with those influencers is missing a huge opportunity.

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 3.People, you do not want to scoff about blogs in front of friend Neville Hobson and friend/client Shel Holtz unless you like your arguments handed back to you, deep-fried. Though it's surely an education to watch them react. What's great about their p...

  • 4.Shel -- I largely agree with most of what you say here, but when the web revolution began, it wasn't corporate IT people setting up the first web pages -- it was the corporate librarians. A lot of IT people believed the web would go the way of eight-track tapes -- because the future was Lotus Notes!

    I think this may help explain why so much innovation in any professional discipline comes from the outside -- those of us on the inside have too much of a vested interest in the status quo.

    Cheers! And I hope this discussion continues.

    Glynn

    Glynn Young | December 2004 | St. Louis

  • 5.Mr. Ochman--

    Yes, that's exactly it: You passionate bloggers are hysterical but not imbecilic.

    I'm the imbecilic one, as I'm about to reveal. Help me understand how you "help" your "clients blog." Here's why I ask: As far as I can tell, the best blogs are one-man/woman shows ... like newspaper columns.

    They're regular, they're immediate, they're personal, they're courageous and they rely on familiarity and the desire of the audience to get to know the writer.

    Here is my one real skepticism about blogs: There ain't many Mike Roykos or Bill Safires out there--people not only able to be interesting every day of the week, but willing to do what it takes to continue to be interesting over months and years.

    You ever read about the life of a daily columnist? It's a biography called Hell.

    And I don't see how the "help" of a consultant could ever create a truly sustainable blog in an otherwise balanced businessperson.

    I'm quite sure I don't know what I'm talking about. Please enlighten me.

    David

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 6.David:

    That's MS. Ochman.

    Shel

    Shel Holtz | December 2004 | Concord, CA

  • 7.Shel, I can feel your delight from Chicago.

    (Sorry, Ms. Ochman.)

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 8.I'll tell you what's imbecilic: you called me Mr. Ochman twice. That indicates that you had the timerity to criticize me in your column withiout ever having looked at my Website http://www.whatsnextonline.com OR my Blog http://www.whatsnextblog.com Both have my picture all over them. Jeez.

    To answer your question: I should have said I help my clients start blogging. Then I send them off into the blogosphere on their own.

    Here's what I do for them:
    -- Introduce them to a designer who can integrate the design of their blog with their website
    -- Give them a copy of my book, "What Could Your Company Do With a Blog?" http://whatsnextonline.com/blogbook/ which has 85 examples of successful business and marketing blogs
    -- Look at their early posts and make suggestions about how to make them better
    -- Register their blogs in blog and regular search engines
    -- Show them how to find other blogs to read and quote
    -- Show them how to properly attribute and link to other bloggers
    -- Demonstrate how to search engine optimize blog posts
    -- Explain how they can build an audience for their blog
    - Send them links to stuff they might want to blog about
    -- Cheerlead and enourage them

    Two of my three blogging clients are turning out to be talented bloggers who will soon find an audience in and perhaps beyond their industries.

    The third is no Mike Royko, but he's a brilliant man, and a good writer, so he'll get the hang of it. And since his subject is newsworthy, he will eventually build an audience if he can get over his fear of creating controversy.

    It's fun helping clients take off their training wheels and go out into the blogosphere. And it helps boost their search engine rankings.

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 9.Ms. Ochman--

    I am very interested in your work coaching people how to write blogs, and I'd actually like to interview you for Ragan's Corporate Writer & Editor, or its Journal of Employee Communication Manageement, perhaps after the new year, if you're willing.

    By then, I will most certainly have visited your web site and your blog. '

    UNTIL then, however, I reserve the right to criticize someone without looking at their Web site, or their blog, or their pet lizard.

    Best regards,

    David "Blogless-Not-For-Long" Murray

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 10.Well, I???ve been seriously rapped over the knuckles by the Ragan Report newsletter. They???ve called me to task for critical commentaries I???ve posted in this blog about the IABC Chair blog. I???m accused of being hysterical, harrumphing, making tear...

  • 11.In the August 2004 issue of Ragan's PR/Reporter, Editor Roula Amire interviewed BL, Shel and myself about blogging/media relations. It was called "Beyond the press release".

    Roula contact me because she had read a rant on my blog about the difficulty of media relations. We had a long, enjoyable conversation, which I guess she thought worthwhile as she followed up with others and wrote a story.

    Interesting. Perhaps David should read his own publications.

    I have been blogging about PR and communications for a year and a half. It has re-ignited my enthusiam and passion for communications as a practice. I have met dozens of new people, and learned more from them and my own experiences in that time than in my previous 14 years in the business.

    So, I won't apologize for my passion and my enthusiasm now, not when I have found so many other people who share it.

    Davie, you should be thanking the roughly 30 or so PR bloggers who are striving so hard to change the negative image of PR through their gifts of knowledge and enthusiasm. We are all dedicated to improving our profession. How is that something to denigrate?

    Elizabeth Albrycht | December 2004

  • 12.Sorry - David. Inadvertent typo.

    Isn't blogging great? I can fix or address a mistake in moments. You can't go back and change the text in your article stating no PR females are blogging.

    Welcome to the world of blog fact checking!

    Elizabeth Albrycht | December 2004

  • 13.Neville--

    I WROTE the article in Speechwriter's Newsletter about CEO blogs; I also wrote a completely friendly piece about communicators who blog in The Ragan Report, cheerfully titled, "Blogs, for us!"

    As I have said: I LIKE BLOGS; in fact, I shall HAVE my own blog soon, on the SpeechwriterCity.com Web site.

    In my Ragan Report commentary, I simply meant to remind us all that the brick world is still turning and these mini-tempests over David Kistle's blog or Dick Edelman's blog or not enough IABC members paying enough attention to blogs ... are out of all proportion.

    What's the harm in focusing so intently on the degree to which people embrace blogging? We don't focus on a number of 75 other issues that must be resolved if we are to "move the profession forward," or whatever it is we all pretend we're doing with our various rants.

    As far as the New Communications Forums, that sounds great; but if I try to tell the old 35-year veteran cranks at Ragan that I'm going to Napa Valley or Paris, they'll laugh me out of the conference room.

    Do you have anything in Cleveland?

    David

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 14.My issue with your piece was the notion that communicators don't need a push. I've made a real effort to balance the enthusiasm about blogs with the reality that it's nascent and most of our audiences rely on more established media. No matter how enthusiastic we get about blogs, they will be additive, as have all new communication channels.

    That said, not adding them is not an option. Companies will be embracing blogs in a variety of guises, and communicators unprepared to support these efforts will be replaced by others who can. The push, therefore, is necessary -- as it has been with everything from desktop publishing to e-mail to the Web. As I said before, the communication profession is slow to embrace new channels and technologies, making the push by early adopters necessary and desirable.

    About Kistle's blog: The most senior leader of a 14,000-member communications association launched a blog and then proceeded to display a lack of understanding about the medium. Nobody would have complained had Kistle never launched a blog, nor would we have taken issue had it been "David Kistle's Blog." But Kistle's not an ordinary, typical, individual blogger; his blog is on the official IABC site and it's called "The IABC Chairman's Blog." If you're going to represent the profession, there's a greater obligation to reflect the best practices in the media you choose to communicate. We probably would complain just as loudly if IABC's magazine, Communication World, came out on crummy paper with fuscia duotones, dozens of typos, meaningless headlines, and a grip-and-grin photo gracing every other page. Nothing to do with technology, everything to do with a communication association practicing what it preaches.

    As for your "75 other issues," we bloggers have chosen to focus on blogging. There's no point in denying its increasing importance. I'd bet it's going to become a more significant issue than any off the other issues you cite. But if others want to focus on any of those 75 issues, I'll be happy to pay attention. I may even blog about them. (I've probably already blogged about some of them, such as the profession's inability to use its own skills to improve its wretched public image.)

    One more thing: Tell Mark the conference is in Oakland. Napa's a short drive.

    Shel Holtz | December 2004

  • 15.David: I'd be delighted to be interviewed for one of your publications. I've done two well-attended bloginars for Ragan in the past six months and hope to do more.

    But I really take issue with your statement that is is ok to criticize someone without even knowing what they said. You apparently used my name simply because you knew it, not because you knew what it stands for.

    The age old criticism media have of PR people is that they pitch without reading the publications they are pitching. It's unprofessional of PR people to do that and it is unprofessional of you.

    I say again, you do not have the right to criticize me without even knowing if I am a man or a woman, and without ever reading my site or my blog.

    What you owe me is an apology, not a smart ass comment.
    B.L.

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 16.Shel, Neville--

    Let me give you one example of what I see as a more important issue in the communication business, and then perhaps you'll see why I object to the hue and cry over a perceived lack of interest in blogging:

    Despite intranets, e-mail and blogs, the term "upward communication" has almost been extinguished from the employee communication lexicon over the last 10 years or so. In the rush to prove that every last thing we do is "strategic," many communicators have abandoned basic responsibilities and functions of the job.

    Do I think that's more important than whether or not communicators are a year behind the curve on blogging?

    Yes!

    And I've got, perhaps not 75, but a dozen other, similar worries. I recognize that they are all opinions, however, and though I may get frustrated at people's unwillingness to listen to my bleating, I will never write, or even allow myself to think, "I am too disappointed to comment."

    And Neville, you say in your blog that you have "as thick as the next blogger" (at least I didn't call bloggers "thick"), but your reaction to my article doesn't suggest so.

    "Bashed about the head with a keyboard"?

    You bloggers WILL have to learn what mainstream media dinosaurs like me learned long ago: If you're going to be in the game, be ready for a little contact every once in a while and don't cry every time you get hit.

    Yes, let's keep talking: You buy the first beer, and I'll buy the next two.

    David

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 17.Why is upward communication not strategic? And please don't tell me you don't see how blogs could reinvigorate upward communication. At one company I'm working with, a new CEO on his first day on the job will launch an intranet blog called "My First 100 Days," commenting daily on what he's learned and inviting discussion from employees in the comment section.

    Get it now?

    Shel Holtz | December 2004

  • 18.Shel, yesterday morning I wrote a 1,000 word piece for Corporate Writer & Editor on how a communicator might use a blog to facilitate upward communication.

    Yes, I GET IT.

    Although I do question the ability of CEOs to do good blogs--and deeply question the ability of speechwriters or others to ghostwrite such blogs.

    I read a blog at www.CEOgo.com in which the head of the site advised CEOs not to blog, because they're too busy and their not free to speak their minds. You may argue with that, but I think it's a damned legitimate concern.

    I'm very interested in hearing how that First 100 Days blog works out--how much give and take there is, how candid the CEO is, how long he maintains energy for the site--all, I'm sure, stuff you're worrying about, too.

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 19.I take great exception to the idea that CEOs are too busy to talk to key constituencies AND that they are not free to speak their minds. They're smart enough to know what they can't say (allegedly that's what got them to the CEO position). I once met a CEO for a very large company who said he believed CEO should stand for "Customers, Employees and Owners." These, he said, are a CEO's key concerns as he looks out for the company's larger interests, leaving the day-to-day operational stuff to the president and the rest of the executive staff. Geez, who writes this stuff?

    Shel Holtz | December 2004 | Concord, CA

  • 20.I'm with you, Shel; I think a CEO who spends an hour a day blogging internally or even externally is a CEO I'd like to work for.

    But if you're a gambling man, do you bet that, five years from now, we'll see lots of CEO blogs even as good as that boring, stiff, noninteractive thing Dick Edeleman writes?

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 21.Edelman isn't writing a blog. He's writing a weekly column, and not a very good one at that.

    A blog, by definition, is frequently updated, link-rich and interactive, meaning that it welcomes comments.
    B.L.

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 22.And does anybody believe CEOs--the kings and queens of "challenges and opportunities"--are going to create compelling, interactive, frequently updated, link-rich blogs, en masse?

    And if they're not going to do it ... who, on the company's behalf, will do it?

    This is the crux of my question about organizatoinal blogging.

    I DON'T question that orgs should be listening to the blogosphere and that PR people and others should be responding to blogs that attack their company.

    I question the ability of many large organizations to generate good blogs on their own behalf--internally or externally.

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 23.I agree with you that most CEOs are not great writers. But some will find out they are and it will be delightful to read those.

    The CEO is certainly not the only one in a company who can/should blog. Microsoft now has more than 1000 employees blogging.
    BL

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 24.To David's point, see this entry -- http://michaelhyatt.blogs.com/workingsmart/ -- on a blog by the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing. It strains credibility to think that a CEO actually wrote that.

    Glynn Young | December 2004 | St. Louis

  • 25.David:

    You write:

    >>>And does anybody believe CEOs--the kings and queens of "challenges and opportunities"--are going to create compelling, interactive, frequently updated, link-rich blogs, en masse?<<<

    In my seminar on employee communication vehicles, I now show no less than SEVEN examples of interactive CEO columns, in print, where the CEOs field tough questions from employees and fire back just-as-tough answers.

    When I started doing my seminar six years ago, I had ONE example---from Weyerhaueser. Now I have seven, and could find more if I needed to.

    What if I wrote, ten years ago, that "Do you really think CEOs will ever voluntarily engage in an interactive Q&A with employees where they have to field tough questions?"

    It would have made sense . . . and it would have been wrong. Because it's happening all over the place, even though it was unheard of ten years ago.

    My point: Things change. Even CEOs can change. If company leaders can be shown the benefits of blogging as a way to reach their audiences, they will do it. Will they do it well? Some will, I'm sure, and some won't. But they will try it.

    And it IS up to the communicationd industry to push this. Just as it was up to the communicators to push those CEOs into doing those interactive Q&As;, and just as we should be pushing them to have more town hall meetings where employees can ask questions.

    If we don't push, who will?

    Steve Crescenzo
    (The other Ragan Report editor)

    Steve Crescenzo | December 2004 | Chicago

  • 26.The number of CEOs blogging continues to grow...see the list at TheNewPR. But it's an empty argument. CEO blogs are hardly the be-all and end-all of blogs' potential impact on the marketplace. What about employee blogs? Product blogs? How about MSN's blog to discuss complaints and issues with its new search engine? How about the way some companies are using blogging utilities to get news onto their sites faster than they ever could? What about listening to and participating in customer blogs as a form of market intelligence and engagement? If no CEO ever wrote a blog, it would still be a cultural shift worthy of our attention.

    By the way, to Glynn's point, CEOs who have their blogs ghost-written will lose credibility faster than they would if they never launched one in the first place.

    Shel Holtz | December 2004 | Concord, CA

  • 27.David Murray's message about the best bloggers being passionate, articulate people who have a (most often unpopular) cause or an idea to crusade for was just about perfect. You said it all: The best bloggers are:
    1.amateurs 2. personal to the last degree 3. passionate 4. outrageous
    5. uncompromising 6. completely outside the mainstream 7. unapproved by any authority whatsoever 8. trusted because they are outside the main channels 9. unusually articulate 10. in your face 11. subversive.

    Now, with this in mind, think of what Shel and B. L. Ochman want to do. They want to make PR people, in otherwords, those people who make an art of being behind the scenes and NEVER calling attention to themselves, into real, honest-to-god bloggers.

    And ultimately, they want to make corporate VPs of Communication into punks of the Internet, too.

    Baloney!!! It's all so dishonest it makes me want to puke!! It's the typical American stunt: Ah, here's something that temporarily interests a big slice of the American public. Let's pull its teeth, de-claw it, and try to pass it off as the real thing for as long as we can get away with it. Not just PR people, but everybody does this. It's a national habit.
    The magic word "blog" will confuse them long enough to get our message read.

    Given the average corporate exec's hatred of and fear of words and "communication," this attempt to make them into articulate web rebels with a cause and Dostoyevsky's Daily Diary Underground Men, when one thinks about it, incites one to Homeric laughter. It is ridiculously funny.

    And Shel, that blogging exec with Sun Microsystems in the case you e-mailed me is NOT representative of his own industry, let alone business in general, and YOU KNOW IT. He is in an industry that is changing rapidly all the time, that feeds on constant innovation, and is in the forefront of such efforts to innovate, a glamour industry that has been hot for the lasty dozen years. It would be peculiar if an industry in which EVERYONE is VITALLY interested in the Internet did not produce at least one such man or worman.

    Send me an honest, controversial, pull-no-punches "blog" from some obscure Communications VP who works in an agribusiness, and I'll start paying attention to your and Ochman's whoopings.

    Bill Sweetland | December 2004 | Chicago

  • 28.Bill, Bill, Bill. If "Common Sense" had been written three years after the printing press had been invented, I'd be right there with you. Blogging has been around for about three years. It has become more commonly recognized in the last ONE year. They have enough momentum that it is clear they will become entrenched in the media landscape. For an agriculture exec to be blogging this quickly is to suggest that the printing press would be used for protest and social change while Gutenberg was still trying to figure out fixes to glitches in his moveable type machine. Patience, my friend. At one point, only IT nerds had Web sites.

    As you can see from the list at http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/Resources/CEOBlogsList, most CEO bloggers so far are in high-tech (thought not all -- one runs an interior design firm). It's gotta start somewhere.

    But it's not just a matter of CEOs, Bill. Take a look at the list of Sun EMPLOYEES who blog: http://blogs.sun.com/roller/ The company is ENCOURAGING employees to speak candidly, without corporate approval, to customers and other constituents.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, they work for Sun and not Monsanto or ConAgra. It's coming. I'll bet you a great big juicy steak dinner.

    David's list of attributes is about PERSONAL bloggers, individuals with journals. If you read my stuff (have you been reading my blog at all? anybody's blog at all?), you'd know that we PR folk are equally interested in the inevitable evolution of blogs as channels for other kinds of content. It's equally important to pay attention to blogs that talk ABOUT our businesses, since these blogs (like it or not) influence a hell of a lot of people.

    I agree with you completely about the fixation on the word "blog." Again, if you actually read anything I wrote, rather than simply make uninformed claims about what you think I think, you'd know this! Find my post about the teenager focus groups I sat in on a couple weeks ago. It's easily discovered at http://blog.holtz.com

    As for blogs being of "temporary interest," time will tell. I doubt it. This represents a social shift that raises all boats. So many people thought the Internet was the CB radio of the 90s. Some may feel that way about blogs. (I feel pretty good that every trend in communiation technology I've identified as important has actually turned out to be important, despite all the dismissals and rejections. Just call me Cassandra.)

    Shel Holtz | December 2004 | Wherever

  • 29.Okay, folks.

    I'm in the blogosphere trying to tell bloggers to consider feeling less self-important about their blogs and the gravity of the blogosphere than they currently do.

    I'm also trying to talk several people who are making money consulting with organizations about blogging that the future of organizational blogging is questionable.

    Which puts me not in an unwinnable position, but actually two.

    But please do not make any more accusations that I'm anti-blogging.

    I'm not anti-blogging.

    Much to the contrary. I'm blogging.

    And having the best time I've had in weeks.

    It's just that I'm not going to turn around and tell my wife, who wouldn't know a blog from a yule log, that I changed the world today.

    I'll wait for the world to change. THEN I'll take the credit.

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 30.Had to add this, amigos.

    My sister, who is a scholar of rhetoric and composition at a big university, just saw this blog thread and wrote: "Oh my god. And I thought *academics* were good at chasing each other's tails. . . ."

    I had to laugh.

    David Murray | December 2004

  • 31.I hope this column was not intended to spark discussions as a "clever" tactic for pre-launching the Ragan Report's David "Blogless-Not-For-Long" Murray blog.



    Links:
    # Blog wonks need chill pill, David Murray,

  • 32.

    Folks, folks, folks,

    I just have two questions:

    1) Don't you guys have anything to do?
    Jeez, you've spent the whole day writing to one another. You could have done a conference call, kissed and made up in a third of the time.
    2) Correct me if I'm wrong, Shel, but all of this dialogue seems to be between a half-dozen people. Where are the masses? Or are they secret readers who haven't commented?

    Now, as they say in the radio talk show world, I have a comment:

    Shel Holtz and the corporate communicators who pioneered the Internet revolution were right: the Internet was as important as the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, and, David, it may even be as big as the invention of fire.

    I'll go further in my praise of Shel---nearly everything he predicted when I first met him in the mid-1990's, turned out to be true. And I have no doubt that his opinion of blogs will likewise turn out to be accurate. Hell, our own blogger, Steve Crescenzo, is gaining a nice following, (though it's nowhere near what our printed columns give him). Plus, it's just so much damn fun to read.

    On the other hand, David is right as well. As he has pointed out repeatedly here, there is far too much time cheerleading for these damn things. What my esteemed editor said correctly is this: Give it a while, like everything else Shel predicted, it will take hold among corporate communicators in its own time.

    I am fairly certain that many communicators as well as business types take the same position I have taken over the years, rightly or wrongly: Wait to see how this technology develops before putting huge resources into it.

    If I had launched every Internet bell and whistle when it first took hold in the world, I would be the envy of my peers & on the way to bankruptcy at the same time.

    Shel, as you know very well, the fact that technology exists doesn't mean it returns on its investment immediately. We all must pick and choose carefully because the time spent implementing these things--yes, even easy things like blogs--is considerable.

    Now the time for blogs has arrived, and I am certain it will mushroom in the communication world, just as it has at Ragan (Crescenzo, Murray and soon more).

    Well, there's my two cents. Thanks for a very interesting discussion, and please, puleez take my opening comments in the lighthearted way in which I intended them. You guys are all terrific.

    Mark Ragan
    D.B.
    (Dave's boss)

    Mark Ragan | December 2004 | Chicago

  • 33.Hi, Mark.

    Why not a conference call? Well, you wouldn't have been able to participate. As a blog, it's an open forum to which any reader is welcome to comment.

    The fact that blogs are, in fact, open forums, and that they have achieved the kind of momentum they have, are the reasons I believe David is wrong and that the early adopters need to step up and lead (or guide) the rest of the industry. It's not a question of adopting a new technology. As Jay Byrne put it at the recent Ragan Web Content Management conference, blogging is not about a technology. It's about a significant cultural shift. If the PR industry remains blissfully unaware of it, we'll be steamrolled by it.

    And God knows I haven't spent all day at this. Probably not more than 30 minutes.

    But it's great to see you participating here.

    Shel Holtz | December 2004

  • 34.Of course, you're right on my conference call quip. Inclusion is indeed the power of blogs, and I enjoy reading and contributing more and more.

    In fact, I hereby call upon my dear friend, Bill Sweetland, to launch his own blog.

    I say this not in jest. As Dave Murray points out so accurately, blogs work when the writer truly has something to say. They work even better if the writer is passionate and clear in his opinions. Bill may not realize this, but he is a born blogger.

    Why is Steve Crescezo so popular? Because his is a voice that one cannot just find anywhere. What I loved about Bill's contribution was his question at the end: Who wants to read the ghostwritten blog of some boring, play-it-safe, euphemism obssessed CEO of an agribusiness?

    I suspect that most CEO blogs would become the electronic counterpart of all those trashy, empty, CEO columns I so deplore in company publications.

    So come on, Bill. Let's get started!

    Mark Ragan

    mark ragan | December 2004 | Chicago

  • 35.I do love all these folk just dipping their toes in the water whilst doing a spot of fence sitting.

    Since revamping my little blog in October, I've been truly astonished by its impact on a myriad of levels. In fact, if I'm being honest, everything the 'theoretical' business bloggers ram down everybody's throat is perfectly true - and then some.

    It's no longer a case of 'can it work', but of learning how it works and getting on board. And I, for one, am happy to do my tiny little bit in that respect. I'll happily talk to anyone, anywhere about it purely because I enjoy it and believe in it so fundamentally.

    And believe me, it's possibly one of the simplest things I've managed to set up with regards to our company's web presence.

    I accept the argument about the blogosphere being the new internet is a little far fetched at times. However, it is more representative of how the internet should be.

    Of course nobody wants to read ghostwritten blogs and the nature of blogging is such that these spurious swines will be hounded out and soundly beaten like a red-headed stepchild. But, there's nothing wrong with companies finding bloggers in their midst and utilising them.

    Nobody is saying blogging is perfect, but, if done properly, it comes damn close.

    Paul Woodhouse | December 2004 | UK

  • 36.Interesting discussion! Most new blogs, like most of the early web sites, will experience a couple of months of feverish activity, then fall into neglect and disuse. However, I think the ones that thrive will really thrive. You can see it already.

    I also think a lot of blog-like web pages will sprout up, whether they are called blogs or something else, and they will serve a very useful purpose because they can serve so many purposes: a running FAQ, breaking news, customer feedback and response, the insights of individuals, etc.

    As for the role of blog evangelists, I rely on Margaret Mead for insight: "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

    Blog on, dudes!

    Eric Eggertson | December 2004 | Canada, eh?

  • 37.Bill! Bill! Bill! If one more person tells me what I think without reading what I say, I am going to scream. Arggggggh!

    a) I am not a PR person. In a former life, that's what I did, now i do Internet strategy and SEO
    b) i have written extensively about how poorly I think the art of PR is practiced by most PR people
    c) the last thing I would like to see is PR people taking over blogging. yecch. feh. we'd all be bored to death by them.
    d) I did not, and would not, say that blogs are the biggest thing since sliced bread.
    What I have been saying for the past two years is that blogs are a legitimate part of the marketing mix; that the software for blogging is as important an invention as the printing press because it makes Internet publishing available to anyone with something to say.

    No blog or website will gain an audience unless it has something people want -- news, information, access to products. Not blather or corporate crap speak.

    I gotta go back to work now.
    BL

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 38.Mark Ragan is right: there is far too much cheerleading going on for bloggers. The problem is that it is militant and not open-minded: if you dare to suggest that blogging might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, you will find your head on a poll.

    Bob Bly | December 2004 | Dumont, NJ

  • 39.I mean pole....

    Bob Bly | December 2004 | Dumont, NJ

  • 40.The day when I wind up receiving free copywriting services, free PR and free marketing is the day I might listen to some of the skeptics. Even then they'd have to convince me.

    It didn't cost a single penny to set up our company blog, but the direct and indirect effects of it have been amazing.

    By indirect effect I'm referring to the boost in search engine placement the main company site has received and therefore people finding us more easily. In turn we're also seeing an increase in enquiries which are also more targeted in terms of what we actually do as a business. The direct effect is people coming through the blog. However you want to look at it, it's all about the blog.

    And how do I know this? Either our customers tell us, or we ask them. I can also look at our stats - the first month of the blog saw double the amount of traffic of the previous two combined. It isn't tricky.

    Before we incorporated a company blog we maybe received three or four enquiries a month. Now we receive at least that a week. They're also better, more focused enquiries that are turning into nice little earners.

    I also appreciate our web presence could be far better integrated. I beggar to think what might actually happen once it all comes together and I know what I'm doing.

    I can only speak from a small business perspective which is operating on an extremely small/non existent budget. We don't advertise and everything has been done in-house, so to speak. But for our company, it's proven to be better than sliced bread. It's sliced bread and jam.

    I can provide more details if required, but I neither wish to bore anyone further, or betray customer confidentiality.

    Blogging is easy, fun and, most importantly, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

    Now if any of you naysayers can offer me any of this for nothing, I'll happily oblige you. Until then, I'm a blogger 'til I die.

    Paul Woodhouse | December 2004

  • 41.What are the hard numbers?

    How many inquiries are blog generated?

    What % convert to sales?

    What is your blogging generated annual revenue?

    In direct marketing, I can answer those questions for everything I do down to the penny.

    Please share your figures with us....

    Bob Bly | December 2004 | NJ

  • 42.remember the tale of Little Black Sambo, where the tigers chased eachother until they turned into butter?

    That's what we've got here. I think we already had this conversation with Bob. Enough already.

    I'm outta here. Got work to do.
    BL

    B.L. Ochman | December 2004 | New York City

  • 43.I've read much of the conversation Bob has generated in other forums and don't much care to rehash it here. I'd note that advertising and marketing are about sales and public relations is about other factors, such as reputation. Plenty has been written about the value of reputation, such as the impact of gained or lost reputation on share value (see any of the work by Charles Fombrun of the Stern Business School for more). PR can avoid boycotts and strikes, improve relationships with activist groups, boost the value of the company's stock, build goodwill with the public, raise brand visibility -- none of which translates necessarily into sales.

    Thus, unless a blog is specifically designed as a marketing tool rather than a reputation tool, conversion to sales and other such numbers are essentially meaningless. Leave that to Madison Avenue. I work in PR.

    Shel Holtz | December 2004 | Wherever

  • 44.Shall we save it for the teleconference, Bob?;-)

    My point is that since the blog was started all the figures you're asking for have increased significantly.

    I don't think it's a case of whether direct marketing offers you a better way to measure your ROI, it's whether you're that bothered in measuring it in the first place.

    Personally, I've always seen the customer as a potential relationship as opposed to a sales statistic. It might sound a bit corny, but that's just the way it is.

    But, in our game, if you mess up the relationship people can go bankrupt. There are a million and one things that need to be checked with regards to certain jobs and a blog at least allows more transparency in that respect for any potential customer.

    You don't get the chance to offer refunds, or play the hard sell. It's not some general cure all spiel that you can offer all and sundry. It's all about trust - from both sides.

    For example, just this week we quoted a seven figure job - by far and away the biggest we've ever had the pleasure to quote. Now I very much doubt that we'll get it, but if we do and certain quarters haven't done their homework, a few people will be losing their houses. A blog allows other companies to at least do a little bit of homework on us.

    And I apologise if I'm going over old ground B.L.

    Paul Woodhouse | December 2004

  • 45.Kistle's blog was a disgrace, as was his letting it get a month out of date. Ragan and IABC are business partners.

    Should we expect Ragan to recognize the bumbling of IABC in creating a blog that was short on content, then out of date, then failed to rspond to comments from readers, then was dropped by IABC, then was reinstated a day later?

    Or should we expect Ragan to attack people who took the time and made the effort to nudge, cajole, pressure IABC and /or Kistle into at least trying to fix the mess?

    In the world of blogs -- a word badly defined whenever there's even an attempt to define it -- the editorial intergrity of the author is frequently unknown.

    As for IABC's blog, I think this really is Kistle's work, not the work of the IABC PR department. But the PR department should have monitored it, and made sure it did not deteriorate.

    As for David Murray's comments in his original article; I do NOT think he was playing favorites with his employer's business partner. I believe David is a man of intergrity, I believe the same thing about Steve, and since I believe that about the two of them, I believe it about Mark, David's boss.

    But I believe in these guys being honest because they are known quanities to me; they work for a real company. I know two of them. I've read their words for years. I don't think they are con artists. For that matter, I know Shel and sort-of know Neville.

    But most blogs? Shaky integrity, even when there's some identified company behind them. I'm a cynic -- does that Ajax Widget's blog provide the straight goods, or were the words manipulated by some MBA-owning marketing manager playing the angles?

    And when an organization has both a genuine web site, and a blog, I certainly think the web site is more likely to be clean.

    For that matter, I'd actually prefer that blog content was cleared by workng PR professionals before it is posted. I have more confidence in them ensuring accuracy and truth than I do in marketing managers and IT leaders and electd politicians.

    And I've got more confidence in the original posters than I do in the people, unless I know them) who tack comments onto the oroginal messge (i.e., this kind of stuff I wrote)

    BAK


    Brian Kilgore | December 2004 | Toronto, Canada

  • 46.I hope glasses are clinking somewhere. Today marks the one-year anniversary of this series of postings, which will surely go down in history as one of the most entertaining and enlightening dust-ups to grace the blogosphere. Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

    I'm still waiting for Bill Sweetland to start up a blog. Although a Sweetland podcast might even be better.

    Ron Shewchuk | December 2005

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