Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Is PR Obsolete?

By Robin Bulanti
I feel like it’s the real question underlying the conversation last month from everyone from Scoble to Solis to Arrington. It seems like every day there’s someone new weighing in on the conversation, but it isn’t really a new one. I’ve heard the same flavor of arguments on panels at Businesswire breakfasts for more than a decade.

I purposely kept the title controversial—that’s just good PR. Were you expecting to see this question on a PR website? Is it dangerous to even ask the question? Well, then I’ve done my job. I am a firm believer that you have to ask the hardest question of all to get to the real meat.

To actually answer the question is more complicated. Of course I believe the answer is no. PR is not now or going to become obsolete anytime soon. But there is a deeper current here and that is—PR is changing. And how!

Bloggers decry the end of the smart PR person. They crucify individuals for bad pitches, form or etiquette. And there will always be those individuals in any industry who are lazy, don’t know any better, or don’t take the time to do their homework and who will tarnish a reputation for the rest of us.

But for many in the industry, there continues to be a valuable exchange between media professionals (I’m sorry, I count bloggers here too = new media!) and PR professionals. It’s easy to forget that we often come from the same side—some of us were journalists before embarking on a career in PR and vice versa.

PR has changed and will continue to for lots of reasons—the Internet, blogging, social media, on-demand feeds… I can’t claim to speak for all, but in my mind there is still plenty of room and need for the PR specialist. It may be more challenging than ever, but that’s what makes this field interesting. It is no longer (and never should have been!) one-size-fits-all messaging or strategy. What hasn’t changed is this: be smart and know your audience.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is Facebook Social?

By Robin Bulanti
I stalled. I fought it. I said never! But I was curious. I kept hearing “Facebook Facebook Facebook.” I stalled and I waited for as long as possible. But as it started to seem like a business tool I was missing out on, I decided to jump in…

Yes, I’m finally on Facebook. And it’s better and worse than I anticipated. My worst fears confirmed immediately—it’s a distracting, addictive, strange and surreal mash-up of childhood pals, college friends with too much time on their hands, professional colleagues and clients, and in some cases, complete strangers who want to add me as a friend (who are they?).

It’s an ever-expanding social “utility” for pastimes like photo sharing, networking and socializing, new applications, along with the less-than-useful silly quizzes and time-wasters (and sure, I do those too). Does it have a shot as a serious business contender? Will it help mobilize individuals for social change and causes? Who cares, I’m hooked. My poor, neglected Yahoo! has been officially upstaged by Facebook.

In a strange way, what I don’t like about Facebook is also what I love about it. Online, we’re more AND less connected than ever. I miss real letters in the mail, personal connections, face-to-face meetings and phone calls (texts don’t count!). But like everyone else, I have less time than ever. And Facebook (like Twitter and others) requires practically zero effort to follow my friends’ ups and downs, every move and random thought. Now I may not have spoken to someone in 10 years, but I know what they ate for lunch…now that’s weird.

The world (and my network) is larger and smaller than ever before. It’s a little big brother, it’s a little thrilling, and for now at least, it’s pretty fun. But feel free to write me a letter and pop it in the mail, I still miss that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Communications Problems at the FAA

By Kelly Indrieri
Scary to think that the FAA does not have a quality backup system—but it looks like this might be the case. Yes, the FAA announced that, and I quote, "A failure in the agency’s flight plan processing system, called NADIN, took place around 1:25 p.m. Eastern Time today."

NADIN handles the flight plans filed by airlines before the aircraft take off. The plans contain information like the departure and arrival points, the type of aircraft, the route, the name of the pilot and the number of people on board, etc.

When the FAA went to switch to their backup system, which apparently was not running in real time, many of the flight plans had to be refiled and passengers were left waiting.

In a day and age when small mom and pop grocery chains are running zero downtime disaster recovery and backup systems and the FAA is not, one has to ask—should we be worried? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

8 Miles High—and Online

By Julie Tangen
It's really happening—American Airlines is now offering internet access on flights. As someone who used to live in New York City and a frequent flyer between JFK and SFO, I always dreaded the flights because of the long periods of downtime. Although its nice to 'unplug' and essentially hide out from the world for a time, 6-8 hours is far too long to be away from email—especially when you work in high tech. As a famous person once said, "we cannot allow ourselves to commit the sin of turning our backs on time." Companies can be bought and sold, new products launched, editors are on deadline looking for quotes...all happening while I’m 35,000 feet in the air (and may as well be on the moon, as far as internet access is concerned). Eight hours in high tech can seem like an eternity.

I'd absolutely pay the $12.95 for internet access on a flight—in fact I'd probably pay a lot more. But since I live in California now and rarely do cross country flights, I suppose its a moot point :-).

I’m curious to hear what everyone else thinks about internet access on flights—let me know!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not as "Cuil" as Google

By Julie Tangen
I've been testing out Cuil...If only its product worked as well as its marketing! With weird search results, a strange service architecture, misplaced images, and the name itself working against it (I heard a guy on the radio pronounce it as "Quill"), Cuil’s launch was less than stellar.

While I love the idea of a newer, hungrier search engine, my workload became increasingly difficult using Cuil because I couldn't find accurate references to the things I need to do my job. In fact, most of my searches resulted in nothing useful at all. Also, the style of content layout (with thumbnail inclusion) is not to my liking. Call me old fashioned, but I've grown accustomed to Google's simplicity. And it works so well that some of us probably take it for granted. If you want to rekindle your ‘Google Love’ I suggest trying Cuil for a day (or even just 5 minutes). You’ll coming running back!

I’d love to hear from others who have checked out Cuil—what was your experience?

Monday, July 28, 2008

How to Stay Motivated During the “Dog Days” of Summer

By Kristina Molfino
We have all been there, 3:08 at work on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in July. Your gaze travels back and forth from computer screen to the blue cloudless sky out the window. Tick, 3:09. You daydream of laying on a deserted beach working on your tan. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my job! Even so, it can be hard to remain motivated during these summer days. If you find yourself having trouble fighting off summeritis here are a few tips:

Get out of the office—I know that not everyone has time to get out for lunch. But, at a minimum get up and get outside, even if it is just for a quick walk around the block. I always notice that even a few minutes in the fresh air gives me a whole new perspective.

Set goals—Make daily lists of reasonable tasks that you will accomplish. This will not only keep you focused, but also help you stay organized.

Stay hydrated—According to the World Health Organization, there is an immediate improvement in cognitive performance and immediately following a drink. Better hydration = better concentration!

Try something new—With co-workers taking vacation time, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer for projects that maybe outside of your norm. This could be a great opportunity to learn how to do something new!

If all else fails… take a vacation day!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Aerial Inbox

By Dave Struzzi
For some, six hours of unchecked emails can result in an inbox that’s more crowded than a Japanese subway car during rush hour. As a New York City representative for companies based in Silicon Valley, I frequently find myself on flights to and from both coasts, on this six-hour communications black hole. Some might argue that this void is a good way to “disconnect” from the pervasiveness of the Internet and “relax,” but for those dependent on email availability, it can be a nightmare. (And who can ‘relax’ on a planes filled with shrinking legroom, bad movies, and choruses of crying babies anyway?) After all, what’s the use of owning a Smartphone and laptop that can access email only if it’s tethered to the ground?

It’s all come to an end, however. Finally, my savior has arrived. American Airlines, Jet Blue and others have begun to introduce in-flight Wifi to planes. Initial reception to the in-flight Wifi service has been very positive, and it’s about time. It’s interesting to see that for every leap in wireless data technology, the airline industry was notoriously missing from the mix. We could send information from the earth to the moon, but not to planes a few miles up?

Offering the Internet on planes will be a boon to many in the communications industry, but it might turn out to be a mixed blessing for the average traveler. In-flight Wifi will undoubtedly bring with it VoIP and the ability to make in-flight calls the norm. As much as I like staying up-to-date on emails, this might be a difficult tradeoff. I can already hear the incessant chatter.

As eager as I am to try this new Wifi service, I think we sometimes take for granted how fortunate we are to be able to send email through the air. In the public relations industry, being agile and responsive with correspondence is critical. You snooze, you lose. It makes you wonder how PR existed before computers and the Internet were commonplace and word processing software was there to change your “hte” to “the.” Imagine typing a press release on a typewriter, getting to that final character, and hitting the wrong key. Or, (gasp) snail mailing or faxing that press release to 300 reporters. Need same day distribution? You had better know some good carrier pigeons.
Though the idea of working with carrier pigeons intrigues me somewhat, I think I’ll stick with my Wifi, wherever I can get it.