Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blogs: a writer’s store window

Notes for the National Writers Union, DC Chapter
Thursday, October 26
Alice Marshall
Presto Vivace, Inc.

I am Alice Marshall, founder of Presto Vivace, Inc., a PR firm specializing in small and medium size technology firms. My blog is called Presto Vivace Blog.

I am not much of a believer in presentation software, so I will just speak from my notes.

How many here have their own blogs?
How many here read blogs?
How many here are doubtful about the whole proposition?

The Internet and social software (blogs, wikis, podcasting, YouTube, etc.) will change our society as profoundly as the Gutenberg press changed Europe. Nobody knows where this is all going. This presentation is not about blogging, the meaning of it all, it is simply about how writers can use their blogs as a showcase for their work and a loss leader for their marketing.

I started blogging because I thought it would be fun. If you don’t think you would enjoy it, you probably would not be a good blogger. Since my clients are local technology companies my blog focuses on the local technology scene.

Your blog is a free sample of your writing. By reading your blog potential clients and employers will get a sense of your work and how you would write for them. So a professional blog should focus on your field.

Choose you subject and stay focused.
A narrow focus will help you to build and audience by attracting readers in that field.

Presto Vivace Blog averages 100 hits a day. I have 95 subscribers on Bloglines RSS feeder and another six on Feedburner. Most RSS readers do not publish subscriber numbers for blogs, so I have no way to know how many readers I have. Blogging software makes it possible to limit the amount of your post available to RSS readers. I strongly advise you not to do this. Almost all your regular readers will never visit your blog. They won’t subscribe to feeds that cut off posts.

Joshua Micah Marshall’s blog, Talking Points Memo, started as a loss leader. He wanted a place for opinion columns and stories he could not sell to editors. It just blossomed into an online news organization. He was early to market, I don’t think it is likely anyone could duplicate his business model.

Ideally your blog should be part of your corporate website. Otherwise you should incorporate your or your company’s name into the blog URL. For example, it would have been better had I chosen That way, it would have reinforced the brand both with readers and search engines. I originally called it Technoflak blog because the humor of it appealed to me. Blogs should not be too serious. Readers like light hearted blogs.

Your sidebar will tell your readers what sort of blog you are writing. Most sidebars consist of the other blogs the writer recommends or news publications they like. My sidebar starts with professional and trade associations that are likely to appeal to my clientele.

Your sidebar should not be your reading list, either blog or news organization, but reading matter directly related to your blog. You want to keep a professional image, I don’t recommend Fark or The Onion.

Don’t confuse the world with people who care about your personal life (unless you are striving to be the next Erma Bombeck). Keep your subject matter professional. It’s OK to publish the occasional picture of your pet or mention a movie you saw. Just keep in mind why your reader reads your blog. I try to inform my readers about things that would help them make money. That is why I publish Call for Participation for conferences and related information.

Push as Well as Pull
Cultivate relationships with other bloggers in your field. The best way to get inbound links (according to Technorati I have 49 links from 33 blogs, it used to be twice that) is to link to other blogs in your or related fields. High traffic blogs are unlikely to reciprocate your link, but lower traffic blogs are likely to appreciate inbound links. It is no longer considered good taste to ask for link exchanges, although that was common in 2004.

I created a blogdigger group of local tech blogs as a way of cultivating a relationship with the local tech community. Constantin Basturea became a leader in the PR community by creating the blogdigger PR list and the NewPR wiki. More recently he created CrispyPR New, which is a kind of social tagging site.

Use Blogging Software Meant for Professionals Right from the Start
Don’t make my mistake. Don’t use Blogger. Use Six Apart’s Typepad or Moveable Type software, or WordPress, or software that has categories and tagging. By incorporating tags (those little symbols you see at the end of posts) . These tools make it easier for readers to search your blog and more likely that it will be tagged in social software sites like and Digg.

Post regularly and carefully
Regular posts (ideally daily) will encourage readers to regularly check your blog. Remember that this is your showcase. Think before you press the publish button.

Pay a copy editor for long pieces.
Occasional I write long pieces. For these posts I pay a copy editor. A second pair of eyes is very useful, especially if your grammar is a tad uncertain.

Original Content Makes for Well-Read Posts
One to the things I do with my blog is write account of the meetings I attend. Links to these posts can then be sent to members of the group, or even posted on their discussion list. It is way of building your audience in a way that builds your relationship with a community. Do not spam links to your posts. Carefully select your recipients. When I did an interview the Fred Thomas of MHz Networks, I sent the link out to the DC Pubs Yahoo discussion list. I assumed, correctly, that many on the list would be interested.

I wrote a series of accounts of meetings of the Federal XML Work Group which I sent to many federal contractors I know.

These are examples of how individual posts can be used as a substitute for direct mail. I wrote a post about my view of strategic PR and sent it around. It was linked on Bulldog Reporter’s BlogRun feature. Posts with original content are the most likely to be linked by other blogs.

Blogs are A marketing tool, not THE marketing tool
Blogs offer a way to showcase your work. They offer a way for readers to get to know you before they hire you. They are a useful tool and I recommend them.

Related reading
What's Next Blog's Successful Bloggers Interviews: Alice Marshall on How to Use a Blog to Get Clients
How to pitch bloggers

Monday, October 23, 2006

11th Annual NCC-AIIM Educational Seminar

Collaboration that Works: Creating, Sharing and Utilizing Your Information Assets

Thursday, November 9, 2006
7:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn, VA

Federal XML work group

XML Community of Practice

Since the xmlCoP's charter expired on September 30, no further meetings have been scheduled pending determination of whether new co-chairs can be identified. However, the XML Schema Interoperability Work Group (XSI WG) and the Strategy Markup Language Community of Practice (StratML CoP) are now meeting regularly.

This is very important work, for our government and our industry. I trust it can be continued.

Government Printing Office's XML plans

Transcipt, online discussion at Government Computer News.

Transparent whether we like it or not

Poor William Kennard wrote an editorial in the New York Times opposing net neutrality. While he disclosed that he sits on the board of directors at the New York Times he neglected to mention that he also sits on the board of directors of Sprint Nextel Corporation, Hawaiian Telcom and Insight Communications. Naturally a high traffic political blog pick it up and ran with it.

Selective disclosure is just as bad as no disclosure. We need to teach our clients that they have to disclose all relevant facts; because if they don’t their adversaries will.

At the first New Communications Forum Andrew Lark said “We are all walking around without our clothes.” I think that just about sums it up.

Circling the Statehouse

As Federal Spending Tightens, Contractors Seek Out New Clients

At a time when federal spending is slowing , state and local governments -- flush with cash from rising property-tax revenue and a generally healthy national economy -- are an increasingly juicy target for government contractors. Many have flocked to the state and local market after years on the sidelines, following the money being poured into information-technology projects ranging from humdrum computer system upgrades to innovative wireless networks.

It is rare for states to outspend the feds and with the housing crash upon us it is naive to suppose localities will be flush. This is a very bad sign for government contractors.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Taming the email monster

Craig Ball

E-mail should be easy. It's got those handy subject lines. It's electronically searchable. The circulation list's right up front. It's a cinch to file.

In reality, e-mail conversations veer off topic, search is hit-or-miss (CUL8R), addresses are cryptic ( and only the most organized among us file e-mail with anything like the effort once accorded paper correspondence. Personal messages rub elbows with privileged communications, spam and key business intelligence.

During WWII, everyone knew, "Loose lips sink ships." But does every employee appreciate the risk and cost of slipshod e-mail? Get tough on e-mail through policy -- then train, audit and enforce. Train to manage e-mail, appreciate that messages never die and know that hasty words are eaten under oath. Tame the e-mail beast and the rest is easy.

Lotus Notes used to have a handy feature that after you sent every email it would ask you if you wanted to save it, where you wanted to file it, or if you just wanted to delete your copy. Almost always you wanted to delete it. Lotus had the same feature every time you opened an email, did you want to file it, delete it, or just leave it in your inbox. It is much easier to do this as you go rather than go back and decide what to do with each note and it puzzles me that this feature is not standard on email software.

Most important principle of records management

If you don't need it, get rid of it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

From opposition research to your newspaper

How it's done.

Collaborative PR

I am in the middle of a collaborative project where different companies have to sign off on the same release. This is shaping up to be the most boring release I will have ever sent out. Fortunately long suffering business and trade reporters take a philosophical view of this sort of thing and will understand why these releases are written in such a bland manner. Nevertheless, it is a pity so many companies want to control all the news out of a release.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Online style guides

College and University Style Guides

Indiana University

IT’s dirty little secret

Tech Disasters Are Just Waiting To Strike Your Organization

8 Expensive IT Blunders

Our hall of shame of tech failures includes McDonald's $170 million ERP fiasco, an electric-company software bug that wiped out power to much of the northeastern U.S. and Canada, and more. Get the sordid details and find out how you can avoid a disaster of your own.

More Blunders: An IT Rogue's Gallery

This is great reporting and really gutsy coming from a trade magazine. Well done Information Week. What they need to do now is to show their readers working models of coopreration that avoid this sort of disaster.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Presto Vivace, live in concert!

National Writers Union, DC Chapter

Are you trying to advance your career? Do you want to get more writing assignments? Are you looking for effective marketing tools? Perhaps you should consider blogging.

Join us Thursday, October 26, at 1.00 p.m., to hear Alice Marshall talk on the ins and outs of blogging. Learn how blogging can help you promote your services. Learn how to make your blog effective (and what to avoid). And learn how blogging is transforming our culture.

I'm looking foward to meeting some of my local readers.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Something to keep in mind

Intellectual Property Issues HeatingUp in Social Media and Virtual Reality

The intellectual property question of ownership of material submitted to social media sites is heating up as corporate acquisition talks for YouTube and other startups catch fire. Interestingly, you don't own the rights to material you submit to video contests, or to YouTube, but you do own the rights to coding you do at Second Life.

BL is so good at catching stuff like this.

More shoes to drop?

HP Not Alone With 'Rogue' Investigations

"Corporate America is worried and should be worried," said Jamie Wareham, global chairman of the litigation department at law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP. "Do you think these guys in the business of pretexting only have one client and that's HP? I don't think so."

Does that sort of atmosphere of mutual suspicion sound conducive to innovation or customer service?

Your Call Is Not Particularly Important To Us

What happens when bad corporate planning collides with a too-effective call center? Could be a PR disaster.

Not a proud moment for the sisterhood

Dunn, Fiorina use '60 Minutes' to attack H-P

Saturday, October 07, 2006

You only get one chance to make a first impression

Cover Letters from Hell

Verizon privacy litigation shuffle

Verizon sues alleged HP fraudsters

The muck continues to thicken around HP's spy scandal. Verizon has filed a lawsuit against 20 unnamed data brokers, accusing them of helping out with the phone fraud used in HP's investigation.

'Don't spy on Verizon chair' - warned HP spooks

Documents released this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee show that - pretexting or not - HP's investigators knew they were in murky territory.

HP's investigators, for example, knew enough about the touchy practice of securing phone records to stay away from board member and Verizon vice-chairman Lawrence Babbio.

"Babbio was report (sic) as a strong supporter of the former CEO (Carly Fiorina), however, due to Babbio's position with Verizon no attempts to obtain calls made from his cell phone were attempted," wrote Security Outsourcing Solutions, in a June 14, 2005 report to HP's investigative team.

Verizon sued for alleged NSA cooperation

Verizon Communications is the latest big phone company to be sued for allegedly violating privacy laws by handing over phone records to the National Security Agency for a secretive government surveillance program.

Why journalism matters, Anna Politkovskaya

Chechen war reporter found dead

Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist known as a fierce critic of the Kremlin's actions in Chechnya, has been found dead in Moscow.

The 48-year-old mother of two was found shot dead in a lift at her apartment block in the capital.

Friday, October 06, 2006

HP miscellany

Steven Silvers has three lessons form the HP debacle including:
The response to a crisis often becomes the bigger crisis.

Paul Holmes quotes Kent Perkins on the right way to plug a leak (Perkins has a much tougher approach than Toby Zeigler and probably more realistic).

Hyde Park reminds us of David Packard, the HP way and how far the company has fallen.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When you lose your sense of perspective

Five to Face Charges in HP Scandal

California's attorney general is preparing to file criminal complaints today against ousted Hewlett-Packard Co. chairman Patricia C. Dunn and four others for their roles in the Hewlett-Packard Co. spying operation that surfaced last month, according to sources close to the case.

Consider the article that started it all. Pretty innocuous words about improving technology, managing channel sales and possible acquisitions, nothing earth shaking. There was no need to leak this, no urgent public interest that could not have been as well served as waiting for official announcements. On the other hand, other than tipping the company’s hand on acquisitions, there is nothing here damaging to HP.

Now in an attempt to discover the identity of the leaker HP has associated its previously good name with spyware, private investigators shadowing reporters, congressional hearings, and now indictments. For what? For a leak?

Their attorney should have counseled them to take the Toby Zieglar approach to leaks. Indeed, the PR officer and corporate counsel should have made common cause in restoring a sense of proportion to the Chair and CEO. Instead the corporate counsel seems to have encouraged it and the role of the PR officer remains unclear. There are many lessons here, one of which is that there are worse things than leaks.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nasty bloggers

Sometimes it’s worth suing.

But most of the time they should be ignored.

Call for Papers for the 16th USENIX Security Symposium

Security '07 Call for Papers

The USENIX Security Symposium brings together researchers, practitioners, system administrators, system programmers, and others interested in the latest advances in the security of computer systems and networks. The 16th USENIX Security Symposium will be held August 6–10, 2007, in Boston, Massachusetts.

All researchers are encouraged to submit papers covering novel and scientifically significant practical works in security or applied cryptography. Submissions are due on February 1, 2007, 11:59 p.m. PST.