You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

Two seemingly unrelated references in the past several days and it feels to me like back to the future : Google and China; and, Twitter and the telegraph.

Google & China: Some are predicting that Google will leave China (Reuters article) in a few weeks rather than continue government-required although apparently limited filtering of certain news (see today’s WSJ).  The war of words has picked up by Chinese government officials, usually a precursor to government action.

I’m not sure what’s all involved here.  What I am sure of is that it all feels like backward movement.  Google is confronted with a non-option … limited censorship.  Imagine Google being expected (or required) to be an active participant in limiting the free-flow of information.

In short, Google is being asked by the Chinese government to turn back the clock … to do what can’t be done.  They are being asked to limit news-sharing after Chinese citizens have tasted a freer flow of news.  This is going to become very interesting if, indeed, Google leaves China and Chinese people react.

Twitter & the Telegraph:  A fascinating discussion over the weekend with Gary Kebbel, director of the Knight Foundation Journalism Program at a recent IPREX Meeting.  Interestingly, Kebbel, a former newspaper editor, shared that he will be leaving his Knight post to become the new dean of Journalism at the University of Nebraska.

Also in the discussion was Mike Griffin, the new VP of Communications (Public Affairs) for Walt Disney World, also the former managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel.

In a free-ranging dinner conversation about the challenges facing journalism today, mostly brought about by technology advancement and advent of online citizen journalism, these two hard-core journalists were lamenting the dimunition of good, crisp, journalistic writing and the lack of discipline apparent today in capturing the lead and reporting from there.

Kebbel interestingly added that tight, focused, journalistic writing was inspired by the advent of the telegraph and the need to get news from the “wild West” back to the eastcoast establishment.  Telegraph outlets were very limited and reporters stood in line to dictate to fast-fingered telegraph operators.  Out of fairness, reporters were limited to one paragraph of dictation – about 140 characters or so – and then they had to move to the back of the line.  They learned to write their lead and fill in more later.

Kebbel, Griffin and others in the discussion all agreed that Twitter was forcing many to tighten-up and write right, at least from a journalistic perspective.

Interesting, isn’t it?  China seeks to control the news flow and Twitter is making the world better at getting to the (news) point!

Post by Nick Vehr (3.14.10)

Will head to a two-and-a-half day professional development experience tomorrow with IPREX.

IPREX is an international partnership of 80+ independently owned PR (strategic communications) firms from N/S America, E/W Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia (mostly Pacific Rim countries).  Vehr Communications is the only member from our region (Cincinnati).

Anyway, we’ll hear from Gary Kebbel of the Knight Foundation regarding new models for community newspapers across the country.  I wonder of they have a tablet reader to share?

Our keynote on Saturday morning will be from Disney’s VP of Communications sharing information about “innovations in PR” as a hallmark of the Disney organization.

Of course, we’ll discuss other things of importance to PR firms.  Am really looking forward to time away (albeit very brief) with CEO colleagues. 

May have some insights to share.  I hope so.

Post by Nick Vehr (3.10.10)

“Public Relations” has to be one of the most overused and  misunderstood words in our language.  That really honks me off.

Now comes an article in the Sunday NYT’s magazine titled “Optics: A scientific-sounding buzzword for ‘public relations’,” (On Language, Ben Zimmer; p. 14) tracing the evolution of “optics” (or “optiques” for French and Canadians) in politics.

Basically, the article compares the political practice of form v. substance, the overwhelming importance placed on public perception v. public substance, to the practice of public relations.  As if everything public relations professionals do is spin, obfuscation and fluff.

Don’t get me wrong, the practice of strategic communications – also often referred to as public relations – is what we do for a living.  And, yes, when asked what I do, I say, “PR.”

And, whenever I do that, I don’t like it.  Because, we do much more.

As professional communicators, we work with our clients to understand, or sometimes determine, a clear business objective, identify the target audience (the customer) and the specific action they have to take (purchase, call, write, register, give, etc.) for the business objective to be achieved.

Then, we determine the key messages that will inspire (motivate, move, encourage, empower) the audience to action. We then determine precisely which channels are best to reach the audience.  Next, we craft creative and integrated tactics – offline and online – to reach the audience.

Of course, we then measure, as quantitatively as we can but often qualitatively, the value of the program developed and implemented toward achievement of the business objective.

Is there an application for this process of strategic communications in politics?  Of course there is.  I just don’t like that what we do for a living is so cavalierly summarized in a throw-away, misunderstood and overused phrase … public relations.

There, I feel better.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Post by Nick Vehr (3.7.10)

This is pretty self-indulgent, but I am very happy and proud to be celebrating Vehr Communications‘ 3rd anniversary today.  So, please bear with me and these few reflections or observations.

First: It’s all about our team.  Sounds cliche, but it’s true.  For the first year or so I plugged along by myself before beginning to add staff.  Since, it has been infinitely more fun, our work product on behalf of clients has improved, and I take pride in seeing colleagues grow and learn … the same folks who probably don’t realize how much I am actually learning from them.

We’re in the professional service business.  Our only product is the knowledge, experience and integrity of the people who work here.  Spend a minute on our Web site getting to know them.

Second: I am really proud of the clients we have been able to attract and retain.  I believe there is an open niche in this market and we are working hard to fill it.  It really feels to me like we are making progress.  From pure b2b clients to national b2c brands, from treasured community institutions to challenging community issues, our client list grows in size and diversity.  That’s what is so fun about the agency biz.

Third: Social media makes us better as professional communicators.  The options available to us to help clients manage their reputations, maintain and strengthen key relationships and deliver meaningful results are broader than ever.  That breadth, and the speed at which they change, keep all of us on our toes.  It is as scary as it is exciting, and we owe it to our current and future clients to be on top of this game. 

I am sure there is a fourth and fifth and sixth here.  But, I’ll stop … save them for another day.  I will add one thing, though, I really enjoying this blog but suffer high anxiety over my own frequency of blogging.  I try, but I am falling short of my goal (twice a week) because I am so focused on our growing business.  It’s harder than I first thought.  I am not apologizing.  I am not making excuses.  But, I will try to do better.

Post by Nick Vehr (March 4, 2010)