Thursday, April 28, 2005

Richard Edelman: Over the Wall

otw digital art: copyright 2005 steven streight Posted by Hello

Original article published on April 08, 2005. Published here with kind permission. Copyright 2005 by Edelman.

BIO: Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of the world's largest independent public relations firm with 1800 employees in 40 offices worldwide. Edelman, named 2003 Agency of the Year by The Holmes Group, has been a leader in public relations since it was founded in 1952.

Richard Edelman was named president and CEO in September 1996. Prior to that, he served as president of Edelman's U.S. operations, regional manager of Europe and manager of the firm's New York office.

Richard won the Silver Anvil, the highest award in the public relations industry, in 1981. He was named 'Best Manager of the Year' by Inside PR magazine in 1995. He serves on the board of directors of the New York Historical Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He is also a member of the World Economic Forum, the Arthur Page Society, PR Seminar, the International Council of the Field Museum, and the World Corporate Ethics' Council. He has worked on several political campaigns including "Jim Thompson for Governor" and "Ed Koch for Mayor."

Richard was graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1972. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

In the past week, I have attended five panels on blogs, new media and 21st century media relations.

The first was organized by Reuters, the second by the 21 Club and the other three by the Arthur W. Page Society.

The panelists included: David Weinberger, a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School; Leslie Stahl, host of CBS' 60 Minutes; Brooke Gladstone of National Public Radio; Michael Wolf of McKinsey; Gordon Krovitz of Dow Jones; Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times Company; Garrett Graff, contributing editor of Fishbowl who is first blogger accredited to cover White House press briefings; Jon Carson of Buzzmetrics; John Fund, author of "Political Diary" for; Halley Suitt, author of weblog Halley's Comment.

Here are some observations:

(1.) The "walled garden" is not a sustainable business model.

Nisenholtz was quite persuasive in explaining how the New York Times footprint has spread through its on-line ventures.

Specifically, the NY Times is insinuating itself into conversation. Blog meters always rank the Times #1, 2 or 3, with 16 million people coming to each month.

Even the Wall Street Journal is making available some of its on-line content to bloggers to provoke conversation (which is not commonly known)

(2.) There is great consternation on part of the traditional media about the tone and accuracy of the new media.

Leslie Stahl attributed the lack of civility in politics to a more caustic tenor in media. She said that cable news delivers shouting, partisan coverage.

Bloggers deliver an even more developed form of focused hysteria. She suggested that bloggers add content around ideas, and that most big stories are broken by mainstream media.

There is no center because cable viewers and new media readers are only getting one point of view, which is consistent with their own believes.

Leslie believes in the concept of unbiased journalism, with trust extended by viewers over time because of objectivity.

(3.) The traditional media believes that it offers a unique set of attributes that are vital in an age of information overload.

Specifically, Krovitz points to a greater reliability and quality of the traditional product, crucial to those in financial markets.

This is why the Journal has a very high penetration of "business news junkies," Krovitz said. He noted further that Dow Jones is pushing new forms of distribution, such as the Blackberry version of, now available.

Gladstone of NPR took issue with this idea of a "trust advantage" for traditional media. She contends that Jon Stewart of the Daily Show is the most trusted newscaster because he is transparent, mixes news with entertainment and because his bias is quite evident.

(4.) The advantages of the new media are conversation, personalization and on demand.

Marcus Molitas of DailyKos, a blogger, may write only 2000 words but 250,000 words appear on this blog daily through additional postings.

(5.) There is real ability to mobilize through blogs, whether employees or volunteers in a political campaign.

This week the NYTimes reported on the impact of a blog written by a resident in Minneapolis on allegation of corruption in Canadian politics.

Weinberger recounted the effectiveness of Matthew Gross, the official blogger of the Howard Dean for President campaign, in "engendering loyalty, creating a sense of community, and offering an authentic voice."

There is more credibility in blogs written by a mid-level person in an organization—Robert Scoble of Microsoft is cited as an example.

(6.) If everybody knows everything, how can a company have any control?

Wolf suggested every private space is now public--note the number of people mourning the death of Pope John Paul who took digital photos as they passed the bier. Carson of Buzzmetrics offered further insight into this issue.

Buzzmetrics' review of mentions of the 20 top global brands indicates that corporate generated content is responsible for only 12-14% of search results, while consumer generated content is 26%. The consensus is that a company's goal should not be CONTROL, it should be AWARENESS of what's being said and fast RESPONSE.

(7.) There is tremendous power in peer-to-peer recommendation.

David Martin of Interbrand said that only 15% of car buyers cited advertising as a reason they were purchasing a specific brand. He contrasted that to the power of Amazon, CraigsList or Tribe to aggregate comments by purchasers.

(8.) The traditional media will not compromise its "journalistic principles" either by hot links from editorial to advertising or by allowing its reporters to be overly opinionated.

Krovitz said, "Trust is the essence of our business."


Ok, going beyond recitation of other people's facts and views, here is some of my advice for PR people trying to adapt to a fast-changing environment.

We have to be operating in parallel universes, continuing to do a great job with traditional media, while engaging with new media. We should help our clients create original content, and advise them to engender conversations on-line but be honest about our inability to control outcomes.

We must be on top of the breaking news in companies, because news is being filled by the person who has the newest information. The coverage of tsunami initially came from survivors with cell phones or mini-cams, and delivered across the Web. Our tone in new media must reflect the different expectations of the audience, which is to demand authenticity, individuality and transparency.

We partnered with Intelliseek and David Weinberger to create a white paper on the impact of blogs in order to help our own staff, as well as clients, better understand how to engage new media. If you do download it (from the insights section) I'd welcome any feedback since it is the first in a series.

One last thought and this one comes from Lee Rainie, director, Pew Internet & American Life Project. He said, "Be Not Afraid."

Posted by Edelman at 05:36 PM

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