When it launched the Personalized Media service, Ketchum had some good ingredients for preparing a smooth entry in blogland: a (sort of) blog (and RSS feeds, by default), a podcast (well, almost), and a collaboration with a PR blogger. But it just didn’t managed to put all these elements together, which kinda sucks when you’re such a big PR firm, and didn’t managed to listen to those who talked about the launch and change what didn’t work, which definitely sucks in the blogosphere (no conversation = bad, bad, bad in my Cluetrain book).
I don’t think that blogs are something really new for the Ketchum guys. After all, they were planning to launch a corporate blog about three years ago, as recorded in the press release announcing the eKetchum website and dated May 31, 2002:
Over the coming weeks and months, additional features will be incorporated into the new eKetchum.com Web site. Soon, the site will include a group “Blog” where eKetchum team experts will share insight and commentary on a variety of subjects with the digital world. “We’ve been fortunate to assemble a team here at eKetchum of extremely bright, talented and insightful people. Blogs are the latest Web phenomenon, enabling anyone with a computer to become their own editorial page or niche publication. The eKetchum Blog will create awareness in our group and help position our team members as thought leaders on a variety of subjects,” says Adam Brown.
Well, the eKetchum blog didn’t happen. (Ditto for the thought leadership.) Probably it wasn’t meant to be.
But I would think that people involved in the Personalized Media service are, actually, reading weblogs, and that they learned something from it. So they were aware that the rule to live by when such a big elephant (read: Ketchum) enters the china shop (read: the blogosphere) is, simply, “walk the talk“.
That means, dear Ketchum, that if you want to advise clients about blogging, RSS, and podcasting, you should show that you know what you’re talking about. You can do that by having senior executives blogging for some time before trumpeting your blogging consultancy; that’s what Edelman’s Richard Edelman and Christopher Hannegan are doing. The same goes for Hill & Knowlton’s Joël Céré and Niall Cook. Or you could launch a blogging community first. You can let the results of your expertise speak for you before formally launching a blogging practice and a corporate blog; that’s what Hass MS&L did. But you can’t just issue a press release about it, and hope for a cheerful “Welcome to the blogosphere!!!“.
And if you publish a press release about your brand new service, why not include the URL, i.e. www.ketchum.com/personalizedmedia, for the page where those nasty bloggers can find more about it? No, it’s not enough that the service you just announced can be found in a drop-down menu on your website, or that the URL was (later? – I’m not sure) included in the press release posted on your website.
You knew that people will post furiously asking, “where’s the @$!#* blog?“, “where’s the @$!#* RSS feed“? Actually, bloggers were calm and polite, but the questions popped up, nonetheless. Why not showing them that, in fact, you do have a blog, or at least something that can become a blog? Why letting someone else to bring this news?
And if you have a weblog, what about adding a link to its RSS feed? Why not enable comments, so you can start to practice the “blogosphere relations” that you preach in your offer? Comments by e-mail? That’s what you think this is about?
It’s great that you have a downloadable show, but purists will tell you that it’s not a podcast yet, because the MP3 file is not delivered automatically via RSS. WordPress has support for podcasts; please use it, if you want to be on the same page with the cool guys.
The same goes for archives. The rollovers are really cute, but please add a good ol’ archive. It’s much more useful.
Also, I found in a press release (written in German) that your new practice -or at least its German side- will benefit for the collaboration with our esteemed colleague and PR blogger Klaus Eck, who’s blogging at www.pr-blogger.de. Wasn’t that worth mentioning also in the English press release? Wasn’t that newsworthy for our small, but active PR blogosphere? Where you afraid that you’ll get some credit for actually working with a blogger? Well, too bad.
Now, let’s see how your blog monitoring service is working. I’m a little bit concerned about it, because nobody from Ketchum bothered yet to leave a comment on the blogs that posted about your service. But look, you still have time until Monday to get aboard the Cluetrain and learn that building relationships with bloggers is done by having conversations with them, not by ignoring them.
Please let me finish with a quotation:
Understanding and embracing today’s online media can serve both as an early-warning system for buzz about an organization and a way for that organization to lead the conversation in a leadership role.
Well, almost. You’ve been early-warned lately. Now let’s see what’s up with that leadership role. (Hint: you can’t lead the conversation if you don’t participate.)