Monday, October 31, 2005

PR blog surveys

Expert analysis from Robert French.


Newspaper Ad Circulars Find Their Way Online

Gannett, one of the nation's biggest newspaper publishers, said it would introduce a new service on its newspaper Web sites next month that displays banner ads that readers can expand into a virtual version of the weekly local circulars so familiar to offline newspaper readers.

Industry executives said the service, called PaperBoy, devised by a unit of Gannett called PointRoll, would give national advertisers a way to reach online readers in local markets with promotions tied to neighborhood stores.

Newspapers and their advertisers are going to do just fine.

Congratulations Wins Big at ONA Awards won the General Excellence award, Outstanding Use of Multiple Media for its "Class Matters" series, and Breaking News for "Asia's Deadly Waves," the Web site's coverage of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. A table filled with Times staffers celebrated the awards.

They also have The New York Times latest headlines on a registration free RSS reader.


Happy Halloween

Sunday, October 30, 2005

This Just In: Customers Hate Their Software Vendors

Joshua Greenbaum, Intelligent Enterprise

The last implementation was a total disaster. Of course, it was the implementer's fault, but let's not cloud the issue with facts. Anyway, it really is the vendor's responsibility to make sure that its partners are doing a good job. Being an enterprise software vendor means having to sell against the sins of the past every day. And the past was pretty sinful—software was expensive and hard to implement. And often still is.

Of all the work that IJIS does, none is more important than bringing together the users and vendors in the criminal justice technology community. Vendors do not always understand user requirements and users need to be educated on the available technology in order to make informed decisions. I really think IJIS can stand as a model to the larger technology community as to how we can work together to improve technology and its implementation.

Nothing says "can't-put-it-down reading!" like census data.

Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post has a summary of the latest Census Report on Computer and Internet Use. It seems more ladies are online and more Internet users are shopping. I'm sure there is no connection. :)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kitty Genovese and the cold call six

On March 13th, 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered outside her apartment building in an assault that lasted thirty-five minutes. Thirty-eight people witnessed the attack, not one took any step to stop it, not even to call the police.

In July of 2003, Scooter Libby shopped a story with six different journalists, Matt Cooper, Judith Miller, Walter Pincus, Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell, and Robert Novak, that Joe Wilson’s wife was the CIA Case officer in charge of monitoring the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Libby was trying to paint Amb. Joe Wilson as the beneficiary of nepotism, that his wife was responsible for his assignment to investigate claims that the Iraqis were trying to obtain Niger uranium.

Not a single reporter put his country first. Not a single reporter understood that his first obligation was to his readers/viewers/listeners. The real story here was that the administration was so desperate to discredit its critics, that they were prepared to blow an entire intelligence operation for the sake of political payback. It should never had required a special investigation. All of these reporters should have run with the story instantly, and the story should have been that Scooter Libby’s political warfare was placing an intelligence operation at risk. It would have been possible to write such a story without indicating which intelligence operation. Let me make this clear. Citizens have certain obligations, one of them is to report crimes in progress. A reporter’s obligation to their source is trivial by comparison.

Try to imagine what it was like to have been Valerie Wilson that morning, to wake up before dawn to the sound of your beeper, to be informed that your cover has been blown and you have hours to warn whichever agents you can.

Try to look at this from point of view of international opinion. The world sees the United States insisting that a war against Iraq is necessary to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The world is told we cannot wait for diplomatic efforts. As the war progresses it becomes embarrassingly clear that there are no weapons of mass destruction.

Imagine the diplomatic corps opening their Washington Post on the morning of July 14, 2003. Imagine them reading Robert Novak’s column to discover the name of the CIA case officer in charge of monitoring the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Attachés from our allies are on the phone with their counterparts in the CIA demanding an explanation. Attachés from hostile intelligence agencies are convulsed in laughter. But for the American people this is no laughing matter.

It will now be far more difficult for our spies to recruit agents. Allied intelligence agencies will be hesitant to share information. Hostile intelligence agencies will be more aggressive, and with Plame’s network shot to pieces (in some cases literally) we will have great difficulty monitoring developments. We are at great risk.

All of this we owe to the pernicious practice of anonymous sources. And who are these sources? Well, in many cases our clients. Let us put an end to this evil practice.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Daniel Lyons’ anti-blogging screed

Forbes Magazine has, for reasons best known to itself, has published an anti-blogging screed. It is filled with misinformation and spectacularly bad advice. The first paragraph says it all:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Katie bar the door! The blogs are coming!

Gregory Halpern knows how to hype. Shares of his publicly held company, Circle Group Holdings, quadrupled in price early last year amid reports that its new fat substitute, Z-Trim, was being tested by Nestlé. As the stock spurted from $2 to $8.50, Halpern's 35% stake in the company he founded rose to $90 million. He put out 56 press releases last year.

Then the bloggers attacked. A supposed crusading journalist launched an online campaign long on invective and wobbly on facts, posting articles on his Web log (blog) calling Halpern "deceitful,""unethical,""incredibly stupid" and "a pathological liar" who had misled investors. The author claimed to be Nick Tracy, a London writer who started his one-man "watchdog" Web site,, to expose corporate fraud. He put out press releases saying he had filed complaints against Circle with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Did Circle Holdings post a response on its website? Did it engage sympathetic bloggers? No, it got into it with the blogger. Because putting a stick in a hornets’ nest works so well.

...Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. "I'd say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors," says Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for targets of online abuse.

And the evidence to support this contention would be?

Dry treatises on patent law and trade policy don't drive traffic (or ad sales) for bloggers and hosts; blood sport does.

Depends on the blog.

... "A blogger can go out and make any statement about anybody, and you can't control it. That's a difficult thing,"says Steven Down, general manager of bike lock maker Kryptonite, owned by Ingersoll-Rand and based in Canton,Mass.

George III felt the same way.

..."Blogging is still in its infancy. Imposing regulations would create a chilling effect," says Annalee Newitz

It would also be unconstitutional.

Gregory Halpern at Circle Group, in Mundelein, Ill., used this approach against his nemesis, Nick Tracy, a.k.a. Timothy Miles. After the first attack Halpern contacted the blogger's lawyer but got nowhere. He demanded a correction, only to get mocked:Miles posted on his blog an audio file of a perturbed message Halpern had left on his voice mail.

Halpern had better luck, however, when he allied with Gayle Essary, who runs the FinancialWire online news service and had tangled with Miles, too. Halpern dug up details on Miles (his photo and Oregon driver's license; his links to a litany of questionable companies; his claim to be an ordained minister; his Web site that describes a mysterious crystal that contains a message from God) and fed them to Essary. Essary did 15 articles on Miles without citing Halpern as a source, and when Halpern heard from people asking about Miles' allegations against Circle Group, he referred them to FinancialWire, saying it had "exposed this guy a long time ago."

Great, character assassination via anonymous sources, because it's working so well for Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.

But you just have to love the ending:

Halpern has had less luck getting anyone in Congress to listen to his plaint. He says that may change if a few politicians get a taste of what he has gone through. "Wait until the next election rolls around and these bloggers start smearing people who are up for reelection,"Halpern says. "Maybe then things will start to happen."

Mr. Lyons, why didn’t you call Trent Lott for a quote?

New Communications Forum 2006, call for speakers

The deadline has been extended to November 4, a week from tomorrow. The last one was super, so I am planning to go to the next one.

New Communications Forum

Where the government blogs are

David Fletcher points to Nick Mudge's government blog aggregator.

Now all he needs to do is put it on a RSS reader.

Another sign that blogging has become part of the establishment

From Steve Rubel we learn that the World Bank is blogging.

Safari, not ready for prime time

I have been trying out the Safari browser. Not good enough. Renders most sites slowly and some not at all. It seems to have great difficulty with web forms. It won't work at all with Blogger, publishes the titles; but swallows the body of the post whole.

Stay with Firefox.

Never rise to bait

Randall Sanborn shows us how it's done.

They said the same thing about mainframe computers

Henry Copeland

I've been arguing that anyone who thinks the "old media" model is a gonner should stop theorizing and just short newspaper stocks.

"Newspaper" is an oxymoron. Nowadays, anything on paper is either history or a novel. Though newspaper companies are buying and building online extensions, the revenue gains will never offset the scale of losses coming as subscribers and advertisers defect to cheaper, faster tools AND as individual papers lose their monopoly pricing leverage in their respective markets.

It is more likely that Henry Copeland will be offering to help advertisers place ads in a complementary mix of newspapers, magazines and blogs before newspapers disappear. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't get commissions from mainstream media for the service.

PR blunder of the day

A woman who took an unpaid leave of absence from work to see her husband off to war has been fired after failing to show up for her part-time receptionist job the day following his departure.

Writing press releases just got more complicated

Shel Holtz points to this advice from Lee Oden on writing press releases in the age of the Web:

A talented writer should be able to incorporate keywords into a press release as well as satisfy any creative requirements for a compelling read.

It is difficult enough to write a release that communicates your client's message in a way that is interesting and compelling. Inserting the critical key words adds a whole different dimension. But then if it were easy, clients wouldn't pay us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A 16-city, 4 week treasure hunt for cash prizes.

BL Ochman has orchestrated a first, an all-blog promotion campaign for Budget Rent-a-car. The first winner has been announced.

I think all of PR blogosphere will be using it as a model for future campaigns.

Well done. Very well done.

Responding to a negative analyst report

Tom Murphy pointed to this great post, When Analysts Attack. I particularly like this advice:

2. Ask the analyst firm to discuss . After you have done your preparation, contact the firm formally. Do not be angry.

It bears repetition, do not be angry. So much of good public relations consists of never getting angry, but looking for solutions.

I am still learning about analyst relations, so blogosphere has been a great resource for free information. I think the key must be preparation. Tekrati is the best place to begin research on analysts.

A dangerous precedent

BL Ochman tells us that the Delaware Supreme court has rejected a town councilman's quest to discover the identity of a blogger who was posting obscene things about him.

Now perhaps the court did right, surely we have the right to call into question the possible ancestry and personal virtue of politicians and other public figures. But if those obscenities went beyond general insult to specific obscene allegations, then that would seem to this observer to be libelous. And I don't think it would be a healthy thing for free speech if libel could hide behind a cloak of anonymity.

I don't think you have to be very sophisticated to see how that sort of digital brown shirt, as Al Gore might put it, could threaten free speech.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Towards an integrated emergency response

IJIS Institute Endorses Functional Specification for Computer Aided Dispatching

On Thursday the IJIS Institute announced that its Board of Directors, on behalf of the 140 member and affiliated companies of the IJIS Institute, has endorsed the functional specification for computer aided dispatching systems that was developed by the Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council (LEITSC).

LEITSC is a consortium of law enforcement organizations including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Police Executive Research Forum and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives who have joined forces to develop standards to improve the application of technology to law enforcement operations. The project was funded by grants from the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Whether it is flood, fire, or terrorism, jurisdictions need their computer aided dispatch systems to work together.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Freedom blogs

The eight Reporters Without Borders nominees for the blog contest

The German radio station Deutsche Welle has published the list of nominees for its weblog contest, including those chosen by Reporters Without Borders for the “freedom of expression” category. The bloggers who have been singled out include former Tunisian judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui, currently on a hunger strike in protest against President Ben Ali’s repressive policies.

The longest hurricane season ever. And it's not over.

Hurricane Wilma, Tropical Depression Alpha regional imagery, 2005.10.24 at 1345Z. Centerpoint Latitude: 26:27:24N Longitude: 76:42:39W.

Wilma tracking map

Alpha tracking map

One trusts Wilma will blow Alpha out to sea.

Figuring out community search

PC Magazine has a good introduction to, Clipmarks, et al. Pretty good for those of us who are still trying to puzzle these tools out.

Think my bank would accept it as collateral?

My blog is worth $23,710.68.
How much is your blog worth?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lends a whole new meaning to the phrase "venture capital"

CIA's investment arm expands high-tech reach

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA, is aggressively expanding its technology portfolio by pumping new investments into startups involved in networking, energy, semiconductor and software visualization.

On Thursday (Oct. 20), In-Q-Tel (Arlington, Va.) separately announced undisclosed investments in three startups and no less than six companies this week alone.

The spy agency's venture capital arm invested in two energy-related companies: Electro Energy Inc. and SkyBuilt Power Inc. It also poured money into two networking startups: Ember Corp., and Tendril Networks Inc.

I have mixed feelings about In-Q-Tel (translation, none of my present or past clients were financed by In-Q-Tel). In some ways it is like the SBIR program; but wouldn't you hate to compete with an In-Q-Tel financed firm?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

MHz Goes Nationwide

Merrifield television station links with New York satellite service

On Saturday, Oct. 15, at 12:01 a.m., a satellite feed made its way from Lee Highway to New York City, and from there to the rest of the nation. On that night, for the first time, Merrifield-based MHz Networks made its mix of local and international programming available nationwide.

The rest of the country is in for a treat. One of the delights of living in Fairfax County is MHz Networks' great programming.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Michael Kinsley gives us the memo

Whose Speech Is Free?

That 5,800-word deconstruction of the Miller affair in the Times last Sunday showed how the culture of anonymous sources leads to suppression of information.

Whatever hurts the news media hurts flacks. Let us put an end to this pernicious practice.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

3rd Annual Wireless and RFID Conference

Announcing a Call for Participation

February 27 – March 1, 2006
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC

Deadline for Abstract Submission is Friday, November 18, 2005.

The 2006 Wireless and RFID Conference will focus on technologies and strategies for government organizations working to inventory, manage, and secure wireless devices, as well as best practices and applications for RFID across public sector organizations. This conference program is designed to address the current and evolving needs of government program and information technology managers in their efforts to integrate wireless and RFID technologies to meet their diverse mission and business objectives. Those selected for the conference faculty will share their expertise and recommendations with professional colleagues focused on improving government business and programmatic results.

Adventures in project management

Excerpt, Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management

Managing One Person at a Time

Properly done, one-on-ones build relationships. Managers who use one-on-one meetings consistently find them one of the most effective and productive uses of their management time. One-on-ones provide a venue for coaching, feedback, career development, and status reporting.

This sounds about right.

I strongly recommend that PR, marketing and sales people attend meetings of organizations for project managers and developers. You learn things you can learn in no other way. You will also gain an insider's view of software selection and implementation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Using your web site as a marketing tool

David Meerman Scott has an excellent piece on how to use your corporate web site to shorten a sales cycle. I especially like this suggestion:

The job of Web content in the early stages of the sales consideration process is just to get a prospect interested in your organization. The best way is to provide valuable content that addresses their problems. You want to build empathy.

At this early stage, avoid forcing people to register their name and contact details. The best thing at that point is for your prospect to think: "These guys are smart. They understand my problems. I want to learn more."

Because Robert Novak wasn't available

Judith Miller testifies for a federal shield law.

Dana Blankenhorn comments. My own view.


Hurricane Wilma regional imagery, 2005.10.19 at 1615Z. Centerpoint Latitude: 17:29:45N Longitude: 83:09:12W.

Tracking Wilma


Active Voice

We sit behind. That's our job. We sit behind our client. We sit behind the issue. The spotlight is just in front of us. We orchestrate from the shadows. Once in a while a client will turn around, and with everyone looking, point to the PR professional and acknowledge the work being done from behind.

What’s important is not what people think of us, but what they think of our clients.

Most improbable advertising campaign ever

Thanks for your feedback

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Clever headline of the day

Health directors say HHS flu cuts are for the birds

Attack of the Splogs

Brian Krebs, Washington Post

Spam watchers have seen a huge spike over the past couple of weeks in the number of new "splogs," or fake blogs created by junk e-mail artists for the sole purpose of increasing the search engine rankings of the Web sites used to sell their wares.

According to this interesting post by Dave Sifry over at Technorati, in the past two weeks there were 805,000 new weblogs created, out of which Technorati tracked 39,000 new fake and/or spam weblogs.

Clearly Google is going to have to do something about this as Blogger seems to be the main offender. Surely they could have something to the funny shaped letters verification system they have for comments.

CNet reports.

Minimalist web design

I thought I might have over done simplicity at Presto Vivace; but PR Nation is even more austere in its look.

Why it is important to be gracious

Or how snark can backfire.

The difference between and public relations and stakeholder communication

Over at Jay Rosen’s Press Think Anna Haynes pointed to Peter Sandman’s columns on risk communication and specifically to Stakeholders vs. Publics:

Both public relations and stakeholder relations are important tasks. One of the problems in risk communication is that they call for radically different skills and strategies, yet they must often be done simultaneously. ...

In a controversy, it is usually wisest to pay more attention to stakeholders, even at the expense of a less-than-ideal approach to publics. It is important to apologize to stakeholders for a screw-up they know all about, for example, even though this may mean that millions of others who didn’t know find out.

... Managing [a] controversy well means addressing it honestly and respectfully. [In contrast,] Selling the product well means ignoring the controversy if you can ... and if that won’t work, then it means sticking to a one-sided self-serving sound bite. Once again, stakeholder relations and public relations are in conflict.

... The alternative to good outrage management early on is likely to be unmanageable outrage later.

Excellent points and ones to keep in mind.

Well done Financial Times

For weeks we have been reading articles about the Plame investigation quoting sources close to the investigation or alternatively sources familiar with the investigation. Well today the Financial Times did not succeed in getting anyone on the record, but at least they gave their readers a good idea of who they were quoting:

CIA leak probe 'widening to include use of intelligence'

Evidence is building that the probe conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald, special prosecutor, has extended beyond the leaking of a covert CIA agent's name to include questioning about the administration's handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence.

According to the Democratic National Committee, a majority of the nine members of the White House Iraq Group have been questioned by Mr Fitzgerald.

Oh, so that is who has been hyping these stories. Who would have thought? I had assumed it was defense attorney’s trying to prepare public opinion and signaling to other possible defendants. I had not considered the possibility that the opposition party had been paying close attention to the proceedings and was giving reporters the benefit of their observations.

We got into to trouble by the use of anonymous sources. Let us abandon this pernicious practice.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Most improbable PR gesture ever

Dion Nissenbaum on his life in captivity

You know your kidnapping is probably going to turn out alright when your abductors give you souvenir baseball caps to take home.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Codecon 2006 Call For Papers

Adam Shostack points to CodeCon 2006

CodeCon is the premier showcase of cutting edge software development. It is an excellent opportunity for programmers to demonstrate their work and keep abreast of what's going on in their community.

All presentations must include working demonstrations, ideally accompanied by source code. Presentations must be done by one of the active developers of the code in question. We emphasize that demonstrations be of *working* code.

We hereby solicit papers and demonstrations.

* Papers and proposals due: December 15, 2005
* Authors notified: January 1, 2006

Possible topics include, but are by no means restricted to:

* community-based web sites - forums, weblogs, personals
* development tools - languages, debuggers, version control
* file sharing systems - swarming distribution, distributed search
* security products - mail encryption, intrusion detection, firewalls

Note - I think they are serious about code that actually works.

A victory for interoperate ability

Mircorsoft and Yahoo have agreed to make their VOIP and IM systems compatible. I think AOL will have to follow suit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In related news, water is wet

Study finds latest tech toys a major part of teenage life

Email, users respond

What's Your Biggest E-Mail Peeve?

Almost a third, 29 percent, said being copied on the "reply all" function was the most irksome practice. An equal percentage cited receiving large, unsolicited files in their e-mail.

When you send unsolicited email it is important not to push your luck. A short note with a link to your website is the way to go.

Monday, October 10, 2005

On Web design

Jim Horton points to Jakob Neilson’s excellent page on common problems with web design. It appears Brother Murphy’s anti-flash message has not gotten through:

I view it as a personal failure that Flash collected the bronze medal for annoyance. It's been three years since I launched a major effort to remedy Flash problems and published the guidelines for using Flash appropriately . When I spoke at the main Flash developer conference, almost everybody agreed that past excesses should be abandoned and that Flash's future was in providing useful user interfaces.

I may have gone overboard in simplicity of design in the Presto Vivace web site. But I like a clean look.

Build security in

Adam Shostack points to the Department of Homeland Security’s new site, Build Security In. Developers, take note.

Voice over IP and emergency service

Dispatch Monthly

While providing some important cost-saving s to consumers, current VoIP technology does not provide for the transmission of the caller's physical location along with the voice call. If the caller dials 911, there is no inherent protocol within the VoIP technology for routing the call to the nearest PSAP, or to display the caller's location, telephone number or other information.

Another issue involves E911 funding-- VoIP users can arrange for E911 service with their Internet provider, and yet not pay any applicable 911 surcharges for the service. There is anxiety among public safety agencies, county and state-level 911 agencies that E911 system funding could be reduced as more persons convert to VoIP telephone service, and drop their wired telephone service.

These are the sort of issues which providers must address if VOIP is to work.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Skype and the demo demon

Skype CEO Muffled by Bad Audio Feed

ECM Case Study – Government Accountability Office (GAO)

NCC-AIIM Monthly Meeting
Thursday, October 13, 2005

Carol Brock
Director of Information Assets, GAO

Organizations have quickly come to realize that Records Management (RM) is a critical component of their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) infrastructure. With that said, how does an organization improve its Records Management practices with a limited staff of Records Managers when the amount of electronic content is growing exponentially? It isn’t an easy task - particularly when your organization audits the work of other government entities and is held to the highest standards.

Sooner or later the GAO is called into every controversy that sweeps the federal government. The unique challenge they face in satisfying all of their stake holders has lessons for us all.

What should a newspaper do if circulation is declining?

The London Evening Standard hired 20 additional reporters with an eye to boosting its business coverage. Improve the product, what a concept. Let’s hope other publications take note.

Wasn’t XML supposed to put an end to the platform wars?

Greg Gianforte has written an opinion piece about how the platform wars hurt customers and ultimately our industry. He then goes on to join the platform wars:

The second part of the answer is open source. Open source commoditizes the stack. MySQL replaces Oracle. Linux replaces Windows. TomCat and JBOSS replace Websphere and NetWeaver.

Not if the customer has already installed Oracle, Windows, Websphere or NetWeaver. Any solution that does not work with the customer’s present system is no solution.

One of the reasons I promote the work of the Federal XML Work Group is that the collective buying power of the federal government has the power to oblige vendors to build interoperable products.

Reporters are customers too

Brian Krebs of the Washington Post requests a copy of his credit report and is given the run around when he tries to correct errors on his report. The illustrates something I often tell clients, have a policy of courterous efficient service, that way you won’t have to make a special effort when dealing with reporters.

Law enforcement net goes IP

Dibya Sarkar, Federal Computer Week

The National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (NLETS), a highly secure system that shares private information among public safety and justice agencies, has upgraded to an IP-based network, making it possible to encrypt the 41 million-plus transmissions the network carries each month.

Very good news indeed.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Computers are like cars, we are going to have to learn to lock them

Gregg Keizer, TechWeb News

Lonesome PCs pose a security risk that enterprises underestimate, a research firm said this week. Making matters worse, corporations just don't pay attention to the major security hazard of unattended workstations, according to Gartner research vice president Jay Heiser.

More from Governmment Computer News.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bali. Again.


At least 25 people were killed and 100 are injured during two simultaneous attacks Saturday.

The blasts hit two packed seafood restaurants in Jimbaran beach and a bustling tourist shopping centre 30 kilometres away in downtown Kuta.

Expressions of sympathy can be made here.