Is it just me, or have PR blogs lost their wind?

February 4, 2008

enlarge_cph3c10697.jpgDo you feel it?

Me neither.

It’s sometimes as tough to sense inertia as it is to overcome it. But it’s happening here in the PR blogosphere. I just know it.

I didn’t think much about the lull in our conversations until Judy Gombita pointed it out last week. She’s right. There’s not much of substance in the online discussions of public relations, especially those focused on social media. And what IS going on seems, well, a bit stale and contrived. It has me longing for the days of the Edelman-Walmart scandal or the once-edgy essays of Strumpette.

Are we dead in the water? Have we lost our wind?

Here’s some evidence from my world: The most popular post on this blog over the past three days is the “About Me” page. My previous post — the one that shares advice on media relations from Web 2.0 influencer Tom Foremski — drew not a single comment and only 73 page visits, about 30% of normal for new posts.

By contrast, I built a page on my homeowners’ association blog this past Saturday to help neighbors sell their home. It drew 150+ visits.

Hey, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. I scanned the feeder this past weekend to see if the inertia problem is more widespread.

Todd Defren, a guy I consider the most perceptive of the Web 2.0 practitioner-bloggers, wrote a post encouraging us to vote in the primaries. It’s a heartfelt message, but hardly a conversation starter.

Brian Solis yesterday tells readers that his “Social Media Manifesto” post is up for a SEMMY award as one of the year’s best blog posts. Hardly earth-shattering news, though it should drive up Brian’s page views as readers go back to check it out. I read it the first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging isn’t hereditary, and I can prove it!

November 15, 2007

I’m headed to the woods of Western New York for a weekend of communing with Mother Nature and her creatures. With any luck, I’ll have one or two of them in my freezer by Monday. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried my venison pepper steak.

Until then, some Friday musings…

Blogging is not in the genes. Earlier this week, my Technorati page turned up a link from “Steele Works.” (That link has yet to show on my WordPress stats, but that’s another story.)

fish.jpgTurns out I had quite a hand in the first, and possibly the last blog post by my son, Chris. While he’s been reading ToughSledding on and off since I launched it, Chris was none too happy when his professor of Information Architecture required everyone in the graduate-level class to get blogging as part of their total immersion into digital information. (He also required they use Blogger. Go figure.)

So Chris, who’s just 22, did what any angry blogger might, he posted a rant — a rant about blogging. Here’s my favorite passage:

My old man even admits that the blogo-sphere is an “echo-chamber” and the majority of people paying attention are other bloggers. Some of his recent posts mimic a school-yard argument and are a perfect example of how no one’s paying attention to us … except us. (And I don’t even like the idea of being included in “us”).

So there you have it — proof that there is no genetic connection to Web 2.0. But the kid sure has attitude, eh? Wonder where he got that?


A surprise on Facebook this week. Amanda’s back! Yep, Amanda Chapel, late of the infamous Strumpette blog, re-emerged on the social network this week with her amanda.jpgentire network of 230 friends intact. She disappeared more than a month ago, supposedly because Facebook doesn’t allow pseudonyms. Right!

It’s interesting to note just how many of Amanda’s vociferous detractors are also her friends on Facebook. This puzzles me. I mean, when I hate someone, I don’t friend them. But I guess it’s all part of that echo chamber I’ve yet to figure out, right Chris?

Maybe the whole damn blogosphere is just make believe, like Second Life — or like Amanda. How cool woud that be?

My regular readers know that I stirred up a veritable s*%# storm last month with this post. So let’s NOT do that again, OK? I’m going off grid for the weekend, but I’m gonna be armed.


Some really, really interesting stuff on measurement. Spent Tuesday with the folks at Fleishman-Hillard’s HQ in St. Louis, and some of the discussion there got me thinking again about social-media measurement. Turns out that one of F-H’s fleishman-hillard-158x82.gifdivisions is developing a serious metric for measuring reputation and its impact on the selling price of stock, which may be the ultimate gauge of credibility and trust — at least in the C suites.

In this story from Business Week, published last summer when I was off in a canoe somewhere, included this comment from Paul Argenti of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth:

“If we can get this right, we have found the holy grail of communications.”

So I will leave you with this all-important question: What is your quest? No, no…What is your name? Wait…What is your favorite color?

And that’s tonight’s lesson from the old professor. So sorry to rush off like this, but I gotta get to WalMart before they close. I’m low on ammo.

One PR man’s sordid affair with Amanda Chapel

October 16, 2007

Update: In case you haven’t heard, the next iteration of Strumpette is in the works. It’s called Furthermore. The evolution will be interesting.


A few online friends have asked for the “real story” of my no-so-secret love affair with Amanda Chapel, aka, Strumpette. Most of those calling me out are devotees of Web 2.0 – a PR practice niche we’ve all celebrated in our blogs. Since Amanda rejects the use of unmediated communication in PR, many can’t accept my fascination with this anonymous, potty-mouthed vixen — the very one who last week signed off the blogosphere for good.

Here’s my confession – for the record.

amanda.jpgStrumpette delivered a critical and seldom-heard take on the PR business. We needed it. But many couldn’t accept the message thanks to Amanda’s, er, unorthodox style. Unlike most bloggers, Amanda didn’t “converse” with us about her views. She spewed them, sometimes in venomous fashion, and she couched them in satire that many found offensive. But if you read Strumpette as the “Theatre of Amanda,” as I did, you chuckled and you moved on. Amanda loved opponents who locked horns with her, and she ate most of them for lunch. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this really the end of Amanda Chapel?

October 9, 2007


Amanda Chapel, the voice of Strumpette, signed off yesterday — for good. Or so she says. I hope it’s not the end of the blog many of us have come to depend on for comic relief and hard-edged criticism of public relations. But time will tell.

I was privileged to be among the final guest writers on Strumpette. And if you look closely at those who wrote there for the last 3-4 months, you’ll find a good many “normal” mainstream PR types.

I’m sad to see Amanda leave the stage, as Strumpette was evolving into something important — something the business really needs: a courageous and critical voice. Say what you will about the anonymity of “Amanda.” She managed to bring together a good many of us willing to put our names on the record. The voice she created was collective, and very real.

As I told Strumpette’s creators last week, the site has earned a place in modern PR history, as it gave many of us the courage to question the hypocrisy that so often surrounds us in this business. I know it empowered me.

Mark Rose offers a far more intelligent and eloquent piece at PR Blog News. It’s one of those essays that had me saying, “I wish I’d written that.” Kudos, Mark. And thank you, Strumpette.

Check out my guest appearances this week…

October 3, 2007

How’s this for a change? ToughSledding hits the proverbial road this week with guest gigs at two — count ’em, two — prominent PR blogs.

images1.jpgAt Strumpette you’ll find me under “Leader’s Perspective” with commentary and analysis about Jack O’Dwyer’s reform manifesto for the Public Relations Society of America. If you’re a PRSA member, it’s a must read (he said with all humility). If you don’t give a flip about PRSA, drop in at Strumpette to enjoy great satire and much-needed criticism of mainstream PR practice. Oh, yeah. You’ll see a portrait of me on this post never before unveiled, so click already!

My othforward_logo6_90_blog.gifer appearance is at the Forward Blog, the PR student site at Auburn University. It’s a podcast hosted by Luke Armour, a principal contributor at Forward and PR coordinator for Blog Talk Radio. Confession: I haven’t had time to listen to it yet. But, hey, I was there. Luke is one of my local blogger pals in Northeast Ohio. Catch him at Observations of Public Relations. Yeah, we still love the guy, even though he went to Akron U!

UPDATE (10/5): My post on Strumpette reports Jack O’Dwyer’s claim that PRSA has denied him press credentials for the Assembly. Response from PRSA is that Jack has simply not applied for those credentials. I don’t want in the middle of this one, but I have an obligation to air both sides. Thanks to Bill Murray, PRSA president, for his cooperation. It appears to be a misunderstanding; it does not appear to be an attempt by PRSA to censor Jack or to block his access. I apologize to Bill and PRSA for implying that in my post. But I’ll also say that a little faster response to my inquiry by the society would have helped me get both sides of the story in time to make my deadline.

Ethics and SEO: When does manipulation become deception?

August 30, 2007

Search engine optimization is big business these days, and for good reason, since it’s a key part of any PR strategy that involves online communication. And don’t they all?

google_seo.gifSEO helps our clients cut through the clutter of cyberspace and create the ever-important “Google Juice” that drives Web denizens to our sites. At Kent State, we include several lessons on SEO in the “Public Relations Online Tactics” class. And we’re happy to have our own SEO expert from the PR office demonstrate her magic.

For the uninitiated, SEO is “the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results, or the higher it “ranks”, (sic) the more searchers will visit that site.” (Wikipedia)

Though SEO is a critical part of most online strategies, it’s also inherently manipulative — even potentially evil. Using SEO, we design our sites and distribute related communication with the intent of boosting our position/ranking with the search engines. On one hand, we’re helping the public find our information, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, we’re manipulating the search process — messing with nature, if you will — and telling no one we’re doing it. Read the rest of this entry »

Is higher education selling out to marketers?

July 11, 2007

franklin0002.jpgIn the next few weeks, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, the School of Journalism at Kent State moves to a fabulous new $20-million facility over by the Starbucks. It more than a shiny building. Its a great recruiting tool and venue for teaching and research that may even make our rivals in Athens jealous, at least until their next big gift from Scripps Howard kicks in.

Of course, we were kinda hoping a fat-cat media mogul would see Franklin Hall as a marketing opportunity. But, alas, no one has dropped $10 million in the kitty for naming rights to our J-School — at least not yet.

foxman.jpgHalf joking, I asked a prominent Ohio PR professional what he’d say if Rupert Murdoch offered us $10 mil to call it the “Fox News School of Journalism.” His response: “I’d say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Murdoch.'”

He wasn’t joking. Read the rest of this entry »

ToughSledding hits a bare spot!

June 21, 2007

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, 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. Read the rest of this entry »

Social media can bite you — Just ask Steve Rubel

April 25, 2007

rubel1.jpgSteve Rubel, top PR blogger and Edelman SVP, proved last week he’s human. I prove the same thing 3-4 times a day, but I don’t have a Top-200 Technorati ranking to worry about.

When I screw up, no one cares. When Steve screws up, the whole PR blogosphere has a front-row seat. Steve, it may seem like I’m piling on here, but I’m just doing the professor thing and showing my readers (many of ’em students) how social media can bite you in the ass — even when you’re on top of your game.

Steve’s trouble grew from a message posted to Twitter, the social network that “takes instant messaging to an extreme.” In a hasty post, Steve said: “PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash,”

Jim Louderback, PC‘s editor in chief, took offense and fired back with this guest editorial on the Strumpette blog. Here’s an excerpt to give you the flavor: Read the rest of this entry »

Is Strumpette seeking a more civil tone?

February 20, 2007

The arrival of Shel Holtz as a guest blogger for Strumpette would seem to signal a new approach for the gang that created PR sex kitten Amanda Chapel. holtz.jpg

A mellowing, perhaps? I hope not.

Although I’m a big fan of Shel’s, and read his blog regularly, I worry that he’s — well — way too civil for Strumpette, or at least too civil for the Strumpette of old.

I sense a disturbance in the Force. Just last week Strumpette offered mea culpas to Jeff Jarvis, often the target of Amanda’s slings and arrows. What’s next, a bouquet of roses for Steve Rubel? Not sure I can handle this all in one week. Read the rest of this entry »