ToughSledding hits a bare spot!

dogsled.jpgIt’s summertime, and I’ve hit some tough sledding. Don’t tell the dogs.

I’d blame writer’s block for my absence of posts these last 10 days. But that isn’t the problem. Fact is, I just can’t find a topic that lights my lamp, at least not anything you’d want to read about.

But here are a few things that might get you thinking about PR and life:

Summer doldrums led me to myragan.com, the new social networking for communication professionals. On arriving, I set up my profile page, then I ventured into some discussion forums where I extended my war of words with Strumpette.

Who can resist an online tussle with the original PR vixen? Not I. Amanda is a pretty good sport, considering that she’s not a real person. I’m kinda glad we have her, as she knows how to spice up the PR blogosphere, provided you don’t take yourself or Amanda too seriously.

If you enjoy discussing PR issues that go beyond Web 2.0 topics, check out the Ragan site. Better yet, try it for a while. More than 6,000 have joined so far and discussion, both on forums and blogs, ranges from deep professional concerns to silly pet peeves. If you join, I’d love to be your friend. I’m easy.

honda.jpgSmoke ’em if you got ’em, Honda says. Back here in Buckeye land, employees at Honda’s giant assembly plant in Marysville, Ohio, will soon have outside smoking areas right on campus. When Ohio passed a statewide smoking ban last fall, Honda prohibited smoking on the entire property, forcing the truly addicted to drive off site for a nicotine fix. That led to lost productivity and even some traffic congestion on the roads nearby. So Honda is adjusting to accommodate the smokers in its employ.

Contrast Honda’s retreat on smoking to another Marysville, Ohio, company that created national buzz last year by banning smoking among employees — on OR off the job. At Scotts MiracleGro, you quit smoking or you find a new job.

One after another, states are enacting bans to protect the rest of us from second-hand smoke — and I’m for that. But how much regulation is too much? And what will be the consequences in terms of employee relationships if we try to manage employee lifestyle choices? Initially, I took the side of Scotts on this one. Now I’m not so sure. My inner-libertarian is rearing its head.

Back on campus at Kent State, we just blessed our first thesis in the new PR master’s degree program. Congrats to Scott Juba, who will become our first official PR master’s grad come August. Scott’s research looks at what PR professionals perceive as the challenges and validity of measuring social media. More on his findings when I get time to summarize them.

On the personal side…

islands.jpgNeed a summer adventure? Me, too. So come August, Sharon and I will spend 5 days circumnavigating Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands — in kayaks. That’s 5 days in the boats and 4 nights in a tent — all with no beer. Hmm. I can handle 4 days without a brew, really I can. But the last time I slept on the ground for 4 days I was 27 years old and way, way more flexible.

You know you’re getting old when the wife says, “Hey, we better do this while we still can, honey.” Somehow I just know those Lake Superior waves will massage my pains away. Watch my photo gallery in August, or go there now to see shots from last year’s Lake Superior adventures.

Vicarious adventures are good, too. That’s why you have kids. Our younger son, Chris, and 5 other hardy souls set off 4 days ago from Great Slave Lake in Canada’s NWT. They plan to arrive at the Arctic Ocean somewhere around August 15 with no resupply points en route.

You can check out the details and see our kid’s handsome mug at the trip website (under the “personnel” button.) Seems like yesterday that we put both our boys, then 4 and 7, in a canoe for the first time. I share this item just because it’s so cool to see a kid live a dream at age 21. Wish I were there.

canadamap.jpg

5 Responses to ToughSledding hits a bare spot!

  1. Strumpette is so last year. Speaking of her fav foe, what’s your take on this?

    The Future of PR is Participation, Not Pitching

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Yep. Steve made the same point at the New Media Academic Summit, and I included an item about it in my last post. I don’t want to accuse our brothers and sisters of having their heads in the sands, because it’s worse than that. Many have their heads up their…well, you get my drift.

    The research we did at KSU earlier this year points to the problem — only about 20% of the practitioners surveyed are monitoring the blogosphere and fewer are actually using it for any type of communication on behalf of clients and employers. I suspect that number has risen since January, since trade media and PD seminars have been banging the SM drum so loudly. Point is, if you aren’t paying attention, it’s tough to change your behavior in response to the changes in media.

    We still work with students to prepare them for traditional “pitching” to the MSM. These are skills most entry-level professionals are expected to have, after all. Be we also focus on social media, and we draw the same distinctions Steve does. I say this knowing the time it takes to engage in social media. I mean, what am I doing this beautiful Saturday morning???

    I’ll add an interesting note. We’ve just graduated our first class of seniors who were educated about social media and how to use it. Already, two have contacted me to say they are considered the SM “experts” in the PR firms that hired them. Is it coincidence that they were the two most prolific bloggers in the class?

  3. Too funny. Reminds me of when you sent me packing to Detroit to work for WSW (then Shandwick) 10 years ago. I was the “web guy” merely because of my old ‘zine site, purely a hobby at the time. They threw me at GM, their largest client, and said, “here, do their intranets.” Like I had any business designing and developing anything worthy of an executive audience, but at the time everybody thought it was a terrific idea. And hey, it worked (plus they had literally nobody else to do it save a few reformed graphic and IT guys).

    Fast forward to today, and even I find myself struggling to keep up with the changes in the web landscape and how it all fits into PR. Life was simple last decade. You built sites and your audience showed up (sort of). The playing field is decidedly more populous now; the technologies, varied. Users, matured.

    I’d say a third of my clients are open to the change, while another third are oblivious and the other third utterly resistant. And a lot of my clients are other PR firms, oddly enough. Blogging, etc. is “just one more thing you do” to them, and they fall back on old habits fast. Meanwhile, media relations and PR as we know it has already transformed into something far more savvy and hip than just a short time ago.

    Journalists struggle the most, I think. We have the time and tools to alter the landscape. They don’t. They still want the story. SM should be like crack to them, but for now I think they are happy to treat it like a gateway drug.

  4. april says:

    If your out of ideas, I’ve got one for you. My regular retail employer’s corporate posts comments on customer/employee rant sites posing as customers to try to improve thier repuation. It’s an interesting tactic, dishonest, but interesting… Just wondering if you had any thoughts. It doesn’t seem that uncommon.

  5. Bill Sledzik says:

    April,

    One of the strongest arguments against the value of Web 2.0 conversations is that we don’t know with whom we’re speaking. As you point out, the tactic is dishonest, and not uncommon. The reader of these “rant” site never knows exactly who’s posting, and that’s one of the reasons some blogs don’t allow comments from anonymous sources. But even when commenters do identify themselves, we can’t really know who or what is motivating them, or who may be paying them. The fact that a company like Pay-Per-Post (http://payperpost.com/) even exists points to a real weakness in the credibility of social media and the ethics of those who participate in it.

    What we can hope is the retailer you work for and others like them will be exposed for their practices. So, you gonna tell us who it is?

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