Update (July 13): You can read Adam Brown’s comments here.
Boy oh boy, this Ketchum thing starts to look like neverending story.
PRWeek.com has a Q&A with Adam Brown, director of eKetchum, on the Ketchum’s recent launch of its Personalized Media practice and the PR bloggers’ criticism about it. (I’ll recommend you to read the entire article; in this posting I’ll quote just a couple of paragraphs.)
The article starts:
“Ketchum recently announced its Ketchum Personalized Media (KPM) practice, which focuses on blogs and the online communications environment.
But the announcement was met with criticism from PR bloggers, who noted the irony that an agency selling this service did not have a blog of its own. Adam Brown, director of eKetchum and global product manager of blogs and search engine optimization (SEO) for KPM, soon took to those blogs to address the criticism.”
“Soon”? Nine (9) freakin’ days passed between the first blog criticism of Ketchum’s way of handling the launch and Mr. Brown’s attempt to respond to critics. Nine days is a long time for responding even by the standards of mainstream media; in the blogosphere it’s an awful long time.
Mr. Brown says that many PR bloggers have welcomed Ketchum to the blogosphere. Really? The only PR blogger posting a neutral/positive entry about Ketchum’s new service was Steve Rubel. But here’s a page listing 22 posting from 17 different weblogs – and none of them is positive. Am I missing something?
Mr. Brown also says that he commented about the PKM brouhaha on my blog,
“thenewPR.com“, and “on a couple of others“.
I revisited yesterday all the PR blogs that have posted comments about Ketchum’s launch of KPM, and I didn’t find any comment signed by Mr. Brown.
Also, my blog’s URL is blog.basturea.com; thenewpr.com is my wiki. (The URL confusion has been corrected in the article.)
Mr Brown says that “we [Ketchum] made a decision when we launched KPM to not have a blog, but to utilize the other online outlets [we have in place] to communicate.”
Let’s see how effective was Ketchum in using its other online outlets to communicate the launching of KPM:
- Ketchum.com has posted on the homepage a link to a press release containing no specific URL for information on the new service; a URL was added a couple of days after the launch.
- KetchumPerspectives.com has no article whatsoever about the new practice.
- eKetchum.com‘s news page features a press release from May 2002, announcing the new (back then) eKetchum’s website. No information about the new practice.
- KetchumIdeas.com is a website that has published, for the whole month of June, daily postings on topics like blogs, RSS, podcasting, mobile marketing and SEO — the domains handled by the new Personalized Media practice. Its launch wasn’t announced on Ketchum’s website (and I wasn’t able to find any press release about it). A couple of days after Neville Hobson “outed” the website and after criticism from some bloggers, Ketchum added a note to it, explaining that the website is a “service of Ketchum Midwest’s corporate practice” aiming to introduce “organizations to a month of insights about the growing roster of emerging media tools – from Web logs, or blogs, and podcasts to mobile marketing and Search Engine Optimization.” Later, Mr. Brown admonished bloggers for writing that the website was a poorly implemented weblog.
Let’s see: 4 websites, an incomplete press release, no information, no news since 2002, and a blog-like website not connected with the new practice, although it tries to exemplify it. It seems to me that Ketchum failed to utilize its online outlets to communicate the launch of the new service.
Mr. Brown thinks that the bloggers were critical because Ketchum didn’t have a blog. True. There are many ways that can be used by a firm to show its expertise in blogging. The fact that Ketchum doesn’t have any senior executive who’s blogging (like Edelman), doesn’t have a blogging community (like Hill & Knowlton) or success stories about launching blogs (like Hass MS&L, Voce Communications, or CooperKatz) made the absence of a corporate weblog even more conspicuous. In the absence of any proof of familiarity with blogging, you have to ask yourself on what, exactly, is based Ketchum’s claimed expertise in “personalized media”?
Mr. Brown shares the motives for not having a blog when Ketchum launched its new practice:
Q: Do you feel that overall PR firms need to have a blog to understand the environment?
A: I think that if they’re going to do a blog, they need to do it for the right reason. Right now, in the PR blogosphere, you’re seeing that a lot of bloggers – even prominent ones – are doing it for self-promotion. I don’t know if a blog is the appropriate place to do that. A blog is about a dialogue or conversation. Certainly, when you develop a blog, you can do whatever you want with it. But when you plan it, you don’t want to have to change horses mid-stream. We wanted to make sure we’re comfortable with our policy before we launched any kind of Ketchum blog initiative.
So, first, Ketchum doesn’t want to launch a blog because it doesn’t want to use it for engaging in self-promotion? Right – that’s really credible coming from a PR firm. And how others’ use of blogging for self-promotion is preventing Ketchum to use it for “the right thing”, anyway?
Second, Ketchum doesn’t want a weblog because blogs are about dialogue and conversation. Translation: “we don’t want to/ don’t know how to/ are afraid of/ are not ready to engage in a dialogue“. So how in the world are you hoping to persuade your clients to pay you for advising them about entering the blogosphere?
Third, they didn’t figure out for themselves the ins and outs of this corporate blogging thing. Glad we cleared that up. (And I love the “don’t change horses mid-stream” bit; remember the President’s re-election campaign ad from “Wag the dog“?)
(e-mail?) interview, one might get the idea that the only criticism toward Ketchum’s launching of KPM was that it didn’t have a blog. But there’s more than that.
Ketchum failed to understand how to step in the blogosphere, although it’s selling its expertize in advising other on how to do it. It failed to put together a coherent plan and to implement it, although it had all the right elements for a successful launch. Ketchum launched quietly a website for demonstrating its expertize in weblogs, RSS, and podcasting, but failed to use it properly by ignoring each and every of the features that are making these tools valuable. Ketchum failed to understand bloggers’ expectations and to address them. It failed to respond swiftly to criticism. It failed to communicate in real time. When it decided to respond, it underminded its own credibility by failing to acknowledge any mistake, and by coming with “dog ate my homework“-type of excuses for the long silence.
It’s great that Mr. Brown is blogging since 2002; it’s great that his colleagues are blogging. But so far their understanding of weblogs and blog relations can’t be detected anywhere in Ketchum’s practice.
Mr. Brown is right: there’s no point in launching a blog just for the sake of having one. But Ketchum needed one as a symbolic gesture, as a way of saying “yeah, we’re taking the plunge, damn it!“, as a way of leaving Fort Business and entering the blogosphere’s all man’s land.
If you want to participate in conversations, it’s not enough to issue press releases and to comment, now and then, on someone’s blog. You need a “front porch“:
You don’t have to turn every reader in to a dyed in the wool customer, but you turn them in to some one who is willing to consider your company when they go to spend their hard earned money. You build loyalty, and you show that you do care about the feedback you get. Blogging is like sitting on your front porch and waving to your neighbors as they walk by. You don’t have to have a great dialog with each of them, but they will remember who you are and think of you when they need something, or be there to help out when they can.
I’m looking forward to welcome you in the neighborhood, Mr. Brown.
Hat tip: Keith O’Brien from PRWeek.com, for sending me the link to the article.