Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'Is this off the Record?'--UITA's PR Tips from the Trenches

Today UITA hosted a PR breakfast event / panel discussion with several of the Utah PR 'illuminati.' While a little behind-the-curve on syndication technology’s role in public relations (IMHO), this group shows us ‘Utah public relations’ is not an oxymoron.

Being the Utah technology company booster that I am, I sat in on this morning’s Utah Information Technology Association (UITA) a.m. B2B soirée entitled 'PR Tips from the Trenches.'

Sponsored by PR Newswire and the Salt Lake City campus of the University of Phoenix, the event is a continuation of UITA’s invigorated efforts—in times past arguably resembling CPR—to generate synergy and momentum amongst Utah’s technology community.

I’m pleased with what they’re doing, actually.

The panel (moderated by Chris Tunis of The Enterprise) consisted of some of Utah’s finest PR experts (I say that with authority, as I used to work with two of them in my agency days) including:

- Susan Richards, director of corporate communications for Altiris, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATRS)
- Debra Lund, public relations director for Franklin Covey (NYSE:FC)
- Mark Fredrickson, director of marketing for NextPage
- Blake Stowell, company spokesman of The SCO Group (Nasdaq: SCOX)
- Cheryl Snapp Conner, partner and executive director of public relations services at Snapp Norris Group

A substantial amount of practical PR wisdom was dispensed, including the following profound comments I captured:

"In PR you have to be willing to take risks."
–Blake Stowell

If you’re having problems convincing people PR is worth the budget, look at what the WSJ is doing—In North America, social responsibility and how you treat employees is moving up the list. Publicity on this influences who consumers buy from.
–Susan Richards

Number five of the Seven Habits: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
–Debra Lund

The press always has the last word.
–Cheryl Snapp Conner

We waited until the Q&A segment of the meeting to get to the intersect of public relations with syndication technologies and trends. My question (the only one the panel had time to repond to) asked about public relations and the rise of social media (an instantiation of syndication technology). Specifically, I asked about traditional PR and findability, control of the message, and the return of PR to true ‘public’ (as opposed to ‘media’) relations.

There were some thought-provoking responses, including these:

PR…as an industry is not being the thought leader and leading the way in blogs. Some PR professionals are doing that, but the industry as a whole [is not].
–Mark Fredrickson

You can have some control by setting policies that encourage your employees to blog, maybe that incents them to do that, and start monitoring.
–Susan Richards

Public relations is becoming more ‘public’ relations and less strictly ‘media’ relations.
–Cheryl Snapp Conner

"There is still a widely-held consensus that something that appears on a blog is not given the same credibility weight as something that comes from a… formal publication.
–Cheryl Snapp Conner

Just like the blogs are perpetuating, what you’ve communicated is perpetuating.
–Cheryl Snapp Conner

We used to not highly regard news services…That has changed. [When] we write a press release and put it on the wire, we write an article, not just a press release. It’s going to be seen by a wide variety of audiences... I wrote a press release as a favor for a client. His son was the youngest master scuba diver perhaps anywhere—age 12—so I wrote a press release and posted on the Idaho wire only. Feature articles, world-wide, with photos, this boy with his Dad, underwater, high-definition photography. That kind of thing can happen. What you put on the Internet can perpetuate.
–Cheryl Snapp Conner

Learn about SEOPR… make sure that your headlines and your content relate to the terms that people are searching… Southwest changed their name to Southwest Airlines in their news release and saw a huge impact on sales.
–Mark Fredrickson

[Franklin Covey is] posted on two blogs this last week…That thing has been picked up all over the place. Whatever you put out there, everybody has access to it. Google—bless Google’s heart! I love ‘em!
–Debra Lund

A blog is the opinion of one individual. Okay, now that can be a powerful individual… that depends on who the person is, what their reputation is, et cetera, but it is one person—so not as credible as a news source.
–Debra Lund

We are such a society of the ten-second hit. We are a sound bite culture now… the need for utilizing public relations as it has worked for years and years is still important… Don’t send out garbage! Before you send something out, ask ‘why do I care?’ I still think media relations is a huge issue.
–Debra Lund

There is a particular blog that follows my company, and we monitor that blog very closely only because the media also follow that blog very closely, and they call us whenever something that pops up on that blog seems to take their interest. So, yes it is something we monitor closely, but it is not something that we spend a lot of time with.
–Blake Stowell

A variety of takes from a variety of companies, to be sure. What do you think of their comments? Agree or disagree? Put some of your own up and let me know.

We'll keep them totally 'off the record' (not).


At December 10, 2005 5:28 AM, Blogger Kip Meacham said...

Connect Magazine covered PR Tips from the Trenches in a December 10th online article entitled Utah Public Relations Experts Differ on Approaches to PR Success.

The last paragraph discusses PR and blogging, and even references this post.

Hey, perhaps PR isn't dead after all...

At December 10, 2005 9:31 AM, Blogger dahdahfkahfkahf said...

Hah - that's the first time I've agreed wikth Blake Stowell in the last 2 years. Yes, you do have to follow a blog that the media watches, but you can't concern yourself with what the blog is saying, you have to take care of business first.

I should mention that I'm a regular poster at, and not an SCO fan.

On that other had other than BIFF I'm not sure that there are any SCO fans left...

At December 10, 2005 10:39 AM, Blogger Kip Meacham said...

Here's the Groklaw link if you're interested in tapping the thread (the callout is toward the bottom of the page).


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