Round the Houses

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Charles Arthur, whose tale of TalkNowt featured earlier in the month is back with another PR story featuring my former agency Edelman. Some of my former colleagues are tasked with working on the 1 million GBP plus Microsoft affliction.

Amongst their tasks is to spread the following forms of disinformation:

  • LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) bad, Windows good

  • Microsoft innovates (no seriously it does, here’s a link to its research dept)

  • Drink more Microsoft

  • Bill Gates is Blair’s friend

Anyway, Charles in his blog details how Edelman have altered a meeting with some Microsoft Borg member, a pet industry analyst and the media from a roundtable to one-on-one briefings. Edelman made two pretty big mistakes from a PR point of view:

  • Never recommend a course of action to a client without having a contingency plan

  • Never invite a neutral-to-hostile journalist. Charles is a well known user of Apple computers and writes for a left leaning, free thinking newspaper so would not necessarily be sympathetic to a monopolistic global software titan that speaks with a forked tongue

One-on-one briefings

Yes one-on-ones may agitate journalists, but their opinion will have more weight when they start paying PR people for information about clients. Bottom line is the first thing an agency PR person needs to look after is the revenue to pay their rent/mortgage and the rest of expenses to actually have a life outside work; clients and journalists are very important but still a secondary consideration.

When to use them:

  • With clients that don’t have the big draw appeal of Apple, Microsoft, IBM, BT, Oracle. Why? With smaller clients if some of your journalists don’t turn up, the spaces around the table with look like the missing teeth in a hags mouth. You never remember the teeth she had, only the gaps that were missing. If one or two drop out of one-on-one interviews it isn’t perceived as being as bad by the client. Journalists may not come for a work-related reason, may have forgotten or they may not be ar5ed as a PR person its your job to cover yourself against this eventuality

  • Some journalists think bizarrely that their questions are so special that they are likely to get a scoop that no one else would have thought of. I can tell an amusing tale of a former VNU journalist who fits into this category.

  • When you don’t have a subject that would benefit from detailed analysis; put it out as a white paper, op eds, letters to editor. Don’t compromise your client, if their ego demands that they do media outreach, do one-on-ones as corporate profile stuff or get them in front of business journalists for the more businessy aspects of your story so in this case it may be angles such as – Microsoft embracing safe open source with new Wiki tool, the issue of having ‘your innovations’ stolen by the open source community is similar to the problems that the film industry suffers from Bit Torrent users and P2P networks

Thanks to Dave Ingle for pointing this one out.