Posted by Amanda Chapel
PR BUBBLE BURSTS
So... did you hear it? It happened about a week ago. A business bubble burst. As it was in PR, I would think you at least heard the subsequent rush of hot air. Here we look at what it all means, what were the telltale signs, what happened exactly, and what happens next.
First off, with all that's going on in the world right now, don't feel bad if you missed it. Actually, even if this were a tranquil peacetime, the event of a bubble breaking is rarely ever heard. It's more like the moment a doctor quietly, serenely, documents a patient's time-of-death. The sound that then resonates is a slow single exhale followed by a wail of the family coming to terms. After that it's just the raucous yelling over over what's left of the estate. Last week, with very little notice or elaboration, the bubble around all the corporate blogging hype broke quietly. Time of Death: Monday, July 17, 9:13 AM. God rest its soul.
DEFINITION OF A BUBBLE
Now before we get into the dirty detail, let's define what exactly a "bubble" is. From the InvestorDictionary:
Hold that thought. This should be fresh in your memory. On December 5, 1996, Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board while speaking before the American Enterprise Institute coined the phrase "irrational exuberance" to describe the rise in equity prices in the United States.
To find a group "full of unrestrained enthusiasm" in PR today, one need to put one's ear within a mile or two of the blogosphere. To people like Richard Edelman, Jeff Jarvis, Steve Rubel, BL Ochman, Shel Holtz, Debbie Weil, and friends... blogging and specifically corporate blogging, is tantamount to the Second Coming. It's certainly, they profess, the cure for whatever ails ya. Just a week ago, almost in unison, they spoke out that surely Dell's lower second-quarter earnings all could have been avoided if only Michael Dell had been blogging.
It doesn't stop there. You got cataracts... blogging can cure that. Toe jam and sweaty palms, try blogging. Erectile dysfunction or a dry vagina, blogging will wake up Mr. Peabody and lube Sweet Sally up good. From money problems to personal relationships, blogging is a universal cure. As the blogosphere has doubled about every six months, the world has obviously become a much happier place.
Okay... here's where the bubble analogy comes in: These rabid evangelists are particularly fond of whistling their pro-corporate-blog tune on their way to the bank and back. And as I've written about in the past, even though the adoption of this has been slow in corporate America, they're betting the farm. If you're in PR, they're betting your farm, too. They are "all in" and then some.
That said, last week Porter Novelli and Cymfony released the finding of a survey of corporate blog owners. Ironically, the Messiah of corporate blogging, Steve Rubel, tried to spin it:
In straight honest English, what that says is: "With corporate blogging, you get a spike in traffic that could affect the company in a negative way but I kinda feel I have to do it, not that it's related to any actual business objective." To which any responsible CMO would respond, "You're fired! Now get out of my office. Ms. Jenkins, call security."
I think what bothers me most about these knuckleheads, is their lack of conscience. What happened to critical thinking? Isn't that supposed to be inextricably related to what they sell? If they cannot do it for themselves, how can they be expected to do it for their clients?
Well, the answer to that is that a bubble is totally blinding. The rapid increase of belief only serves to fuel more speculation. And those left holding the bag, so to speak, are hell bent on avoiding having to admit it. It's one thing to admit you've been duped; quite another to admit you've duped yourself. Like a pyramid, the last patsy always believes in the investment.
Anyway, by way of background, we just went through this!! We are still feeling the residual effects of the Tech Bubble for Christ's sake.
I remember when that broke, too. On August 7, 2000, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal that asked 10 noted Wall Street analysts as to their opinion as to whether we were in the midst of a bubble. Six said yes and four said no. The conclusion of the article was that indeed the tide had turned and the party was over.
That was August. Nearly a year later I attended a First Tuesday (a VC confab) in New York where Newt Gingrich was giving the keynote to a crowd of about 700 various and exceedingly bubbly entrepreneurs.
Newt, a historian by training, told them:
Gingrich concluded his speech by telling the now dumbstruck audience, "You have to get up off the mat, rather than borrowing money for the next ten years from your banker." It was like being at some Trekie convention and William Shatner had just told the crowd to grow up and get a life. There were a lot of long faces walking out of the auditorium that night.
Newt concluded simply saying, "The worst thing you can do is mask it."
And that sadly is exactly what they all did. That's human nature unfortunately. The party continued (at least tried to) for at least two more years. Last call or not, some stragglers just refuse to go home let alone grow up.
A FEW TELL-TALE SIGNS
Now this didn't just happen. There were signs along the way. Back in May, Makovsky & Company did a study on the adoption of corporate blogging in the Fortune 1000. As the results were not all that favorable, they tried their best to spin it: "Fortune 1000 Senior Executives Slow to React to the Growing Credibility of Corporate Blogs." But facts don't lie. The study found that only a small minority of top executives think that blogging is growing in credibility either as a communications medium (five percent), brand-building technique (three percent), or a sales or lead generation tool (less than one percent). If anything, the finding indicated that blogging was appearing on the corporate radar as a threat.
Not good. The evangelists kinda paused for a brief moment (if that) and then continued on their merry way.
But then there was a stinky poodie that embarrassed even the most ardent of flatulent-filled flacks. About three weeks ago, Jupiter Research released the finding of a study that contends that "35 percent of large companies plan to institute corporate Weblogs this year. Combined with the existing deployed base of 34 percent, nearly 70 percent of all site operators will have implemented corporate blogs by the end of 2006."
Right. And the Imperial Garden is worth more than the State of Florida. Even evangelist Kami Huyse couldn't swallow it. In her words,
Personally speaking, Jesus had me right up to the walk on water trick and then I went home.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
So why did the bubble break?
The answer to that is apparent in the weak Porter Novelli release. It's not what is says; it's what it doesn't say. There's no compelling reason for corporate blogging. If anything it comes with a hint of threat. That said, for it to take hold like the evangelists predict, they've got to do what Jarvis promotes, i.e. storm the gates with "pitchforks and torches." It's "surrender your company or else."
"Cluetrain," damn that David Weinberger, that's what started all this noise. For those who've been living under Iraq, The Cluetrain Manifesto was a seminal book that predicted the rise of Web 2.0 and it's implications on society and business.
Regrettably, we are in the throws of proving some of its essential tenets wrong.
1. Populism is inherently a universal good. False! What's good for me is not necessarily good for society. Also, the elevation of populism completely ignores that the nature of a mob is more likely schadenfreude than good will. Mobs like bonfires and hangins.
2. The idea that "network markets know more then the company" is nonsense. Sure a million monkeys typing mathematically make sense but there is only one Shakespeare.
3. The total refutation of hierarchy is a destructive myth hailed by the proletariat and inspired by those that want to use them. Hierarchy is Nature's way.
4. Mob Rule is "guilty until proven innocent." That usually takes place after they've burnt down your house. It is essentially antithetical to the cornerstone of our union, the rule of law.
But THE Achilles Heel of the Cluetrain is property. No one consulted the corporate owners! And truth is, the evangelists actually have contempt for the owners. In the words of Shel Holtz, "Screw the owners. Customers (we) come first."
Well, Ochman can always get a job at IHOP, I suppose. Jarvis can go back to TV reviews. I see Holtz opening up a summer camp for the intellectually challenged. And Rubel, I am sure he'd do well as an assistant manager of a Sharper Image.
It's really Richard Edelman I am worried about. Seriously, the "all in" part comes with pride. I just don't imagine him saying, "Excuse me but I really fucked up with that Me2Stuff." Not ever.
Nope. I imagine him riding this all the way down. I imagine that PR's image will be diminished further. Keep in mind, the Tech Bubble, and we were the air that filled it, is just five years ago. This will be our second screw up in less than 10 years. Unfortunately, bubbles take at least 10 to for the marketplace to forgive and forget.
Anyway, I am guessing finally that the Industry will be pretty resentful, too. The resources they've squandered on this. Someone is going to hang someone for the malaise that will surely follow.
Sorry Strumpette, your Corporate Blogging's Dead riff is oh so clever but it's not accurate
Strumpette (aka Amanda Chapel / anonymous PR blogger / tall, athletic, Pantene shoulder-length black hair, perfect perky boobs - ed. note: you've got to be kidding) is all fired up today with her new meme: The Death of Corporate Blogging.
Weblog: BlogWrite for CEOs
Tracked: Jul 26, 15:34
Should your association CEO have a blog?
Unless your CEO is like Ben -- fully committed to the project, and willing and able to provide useful insight -- the answer is no. Association CEOs, like corporate CEOs shouldn't be blogging just to jump on the bandwagon.
Tracked: Jul 28, 15:21
Integral Marketing, Part I - Exordium
I just discovered John Hagel's Edge Perspectives and promptly subscribed to his feed. He's seems like an utterly brilliant frood. Reading the first post I am giddy because I have been unfortunately orotund with all who will listen (or at...
Tracked: Aug 03, 15:37
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Love your blog. But declaring the death of corporate blogs is as over-the-top as posts that tout corporate blogs as the Second Coming. The truth about corporate blogs and blogging can be found somewhere near the middle.
Blogs have their place among the many communications tools available to companies, marketers, and flacks. Much of the excitement and controversy surrounding blogs comes from the media intelligentsia simply trying to figure out exactly WHAT that place is.
Some people are drunk from drinking too much blogahol. Others have a slight buzz. Still others have a hangover. And then there are the teetotalers (read: most of us). The result is lots of people trying lots of different things lots of different ways, and getting lots of different results... and then evangelizing their conclusions to the masses standing by the sidelines, further confusing the bulk of corporate wonks struggling to find the signal among the noise.
The smart money is on executives, PR practitioners, and marketers who see blogs (and every other communications channel) for what they really are: another arrow in the quiver to be used wisely. That might mean starting one or more blogs, and fielding one or more bloggers. That might mean commenting on other blogs. That might mean pitching blogs. That might mean advertising or otherwise sponsoring blogs. That might mean some combination of the above. (And it certainly means reading blogs that cover your business.)
The most exciting thing about being in the media today, whether on the journalism or PR side, is the steady expansion of communications channels. We have more ways to reach more people than ever before. That is not a problem. It's an opportunity. Communications professionals must learn how to communicate effectively in ALL popular mediums, and be capable of determining the right media mix to achieve any given client's goals.
Pitch letters, press releases, media kits, and media tours aren't dead, but any firm that relies solely on these classic tactics IS dead. Unfortunately, as everyone who works in this field knows, most PR firms, regardless of size, are doing things today the same way they did them 10 years ago. What's the definition of insanity again?
Take the hype with a grain of salt. But don't ignore any communications channel that reaches customers, investors, employees, and other audiences you want to influence.
Simply put, a brilliant post that sums up what we've been trying to explain to clients for umpteen months now. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."
Yup. Blogs are dead. Might as well pack it up. The fact that some of the biggest (read: least able/willing to change) couldn't make a go of it so the medium is declared DOA.
Of course, this doesn't account for all of the small businesses, consultants, authors and entrepreneurs who DID make it work, and did manage to create a worldwide presence.
If you have any real evidence... please get it to Richard Edelman, Jeff Jarvis, Steve Rubel, BL Ochman, Shel Holtz, Debbie Weil, and friends immediately... before they kill themselves.
PS Oh, with regard to the biggest (read: the owners of the majority of accumulated wealth in the world), apparently they didn't want to participate.
Blogging, schmogging. I'm here for the porn.
So, Amanda, when will you be shutting down your apparently useless business blog?
There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it.
As my dear Aunt Eleanor used to say, "There's vocation; and then there's avocation." This would be avocation.
Yeah, right. Like hanging out at the country club where the elite engaged in so much of their business networking was just a casual recreational activity.
Your name-dropping in the main post exposes your real goal for writing it - at the same time it proves the opposite of your stated claims.
You want in on the conversation, Amanda. Fine, join in. You seem like you could contribute usefully and you really don't need to try so hard.
Networking is one of the prime values of a business blog - impossible to quantify and measure in numbers the way the bean counters would like, but no less real or valuable than old-fashioned, face-to-face, feet-on-the-ground networking, nonetheless.
Well aren't you the arrogant presumptive ass.
Listen Bub, you have no clue why I write. My "name-dropping" as you call it, it called technique. As to exposing my "real goals," I can't be any more explicit. And for the record, they are totally aligned with my "stated claims."
As to your assertion of "impossible to quantify" value... your fired.
Now lastly, with regard to "I want in on the conversations," excuse me but I am the conversation!!
And you go around calling others "arrogant" and "presumptive"?
On your other "point" I've been known to fire others, or even whole firms, but I'm not worried about getting fired. Apparently, one or more of the personalities in your group is also among of the bean counters, who either end up working for those with both sides of their brains working and connected (so they can see and value what they can't count), or are just looking for work.
Well, you're getting fired here. I don't really want to converse with you. You one of those loosey-goosey-blogging-is-good-because nutbags. You're proud of bringing no value and you're demonstrating that here.
Now go away.
Frankly, Ms. Chapel, I'm torn. I WANT to agree with you, but I could also really use a Tom Collins about now.... I was also devestated that after you fired Mr. Collins you didn't ask Ms. Jenkins to get security....