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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Nicholas Ludlum

by Nicholas Ludlum
Category: Media

Like a lot of people yesterday I sat slack-jawed as the impact of Bloomberg’s acquisition of BusinessWeek filtered through Twitter.  I’m still having trouble understanding how BusinessWeek is in better shape without many of the incredible talents who are now left to chart new courses.

As the departures settled in – compounded by the week’s AP layoffs – I realized that my own response is really based on the vague sense that this period of destruction will be creative and beneficial.

I have no objective reason for believing that journalism will be better off for these changes, and deep down I know that the arguments of pessimists have as much going for them as those of optimists.

Nevertheless I can’t shake the belief that we’re headed in a good direction, even if it the road is painful. I’m not one to proselytize, but here are my articles of faith:

  • I believe that media layoffs, impending bankruptcy’s, declining ad rates and subscription revenue, and the implosion of the publishing business model are good things;
  • That this destruction is creative and is already paying off for both journalists (albeit the more entrepreneurial-minded) and readers;
  • I believe that every laid off journalist is a new media brand and a dangerous competitor to their previous employer;
  • That fidelity to long-standing media brands is a waste of time;
  • I believe that every day the internet evolves to find new ways to make me better educated, more knowledgeable of current events;
  • I believe that this is fueled as much by ‘citizen media’ as it is by professional journalists, media companies and others using new approaches to practice journalism;
  • I believe that some people will pay for the content they care about, and that some won’t;
  • That enough will pay to fund a few global traditional media brands, even while most go out of business or become shadows of their former selves;
  • That the elimination of much traditional media will create a vacuum that will be filled by journalists innovating the practice journalism in ways we are only just beginning to imagine, and that will enrich us all.

Is this blind faith? Perhaps. But I see new reasons to believe in it every day.


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The media and communications worlds may be in great turmoil and evolution respectively, but a few things remain the same. Media and PR pros both love lists. Lists bring order to things, allow analysts to analyze, and give a platform for brands to say, “see why you should love me”.

This year’s World’s Best Companies list from BusinessWeek ventures to teach our technology PR discipline a little bit more.

Here are a few lessons, some old some new, that jumped out at me.

  1. Packaging matters, and the name “Best” is a poor choice in this environment. While BusinessWeek and A.T. Kearney have partnered on this project for multiple years, and I respect their desire to build name equity, the community comments are telling. Just nine comments on the BW site to-date, most of which are self-serving or confused. Compare that to three pages of comments on Huffingtonpost debating the definition of “best” and propose instead that “best” be reserved for those companies focused on treatment of workforce, sustainability and societal attributes. Is there anything wrong with a shareholder value-driven ranking in my mind? No. But consider the communications environment before saying globalization + shareholder return = best companies. Or call it Best Investments.
  2. Rethink your client’s corporate presentation. At least in this list’s view, there are clear traits for the World’s Best Companies. A commitment to innovation, diversified portfolio, aggressive expansion, strong leadership, and a clear vision for the future. Corporate presentation outline for 2010? Check.
  3. Question how global your globalness really is. If you describe your company (or your client) as being global, what percentage of your sales come outside your home region? A.T. Kearney examined the 2,500 largest publicly listed companies in the world, honing in on those with a minimum of $10 billion in 2008 sales with at least 25% coming from outside the company’s home region.
  4. B-to-B Technology may be all guts, but B-to-C Technology gets the glory. Technology and Telecom get the nod from BusinessWeek for their strong showing. But a closer look shows b-to-c technology performing much stronger than b-to-b with rankings from Nintendo (7974.T), Google (GOOG) Apple (AAPL) and Amazon.com (AMZN). And while it’s a bit of a shocker to see the telecom sector getting a shout-out, it all depends where you’re selling services. Telecom companies MTN (No. 7) (South Africa) and América Móvil (AMX) (No. 18) (Mexico) are growing quite well, thank you very much.

A.T. Kearney says looking forward they see two important factors that are most likely to drive global economic performance – “leveraging technology and innovation to enhance productivity, and demographic shifts such as graying populations. ”

The former bodes well for technology PR pros. Until then, long live the list!


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Yeah, as in Wonka. Remember the scene? Charlie at the gates? Thousands upon thousands of fans standing in eager amazement as the gates were about to open. Would we see oompa-loompas for the first time? Gorge on chocolates to our hearts content? Just what would we do with the gates open?

And that’s a bit of the sensation I had as a tech PR professional upon reading that some mainstream media (MSM) are responding to the surge in growth and buzz (there’s a difference) in and about social media. They want some too (yes, get me some of that social media, but as a means to growth and buzz) so they’re opening the gates. Call it readership community! Collaboration! Co-creation! Whatever you call it, BusinessWeek and others want to let readers guide story topic selection; heck sometimes they’ll let them write the next sentence! They want to engage with readers, and in doing so cede the ‘we are the experts, we’ll decide what to analyze and then do the analysis’ mantel.

So like I said, at first the PR pro in me gets giddy. What an opportunity! More ways to suggest topics! More ways to influence! More ways to get the experts I want to see espousing with more air-time than your experts! Alas my clients will be heard!

But wait. Then the New Englander in me speaks up. The New Englander automatically furrows the brow and looks for ‘the angle’ in anything that looks good at first. There must be a downside dammit. And then it hits me. The thousands of fans at the gate. Some of them are maybe not evil, but certainly not upstanding. Let’s just say, they won’t be operating with transparency. They might just dupe those MSM. They might steer, influence and suggest too far. Why, with the news staffs shrinking, who will ensure that some bot doesn’t just keep changing names and suggesting similar topics that mislead a tag cloud of story ideas! Those poor unsuspecting MSM!

Then I decide, maybe the change actually lands somewhere in the middle. Of course BusinessWeek needs to socialize itself. They must innovate or shrink. They’ll succeed in places, fail in others. And after all, this is about conversations and relationships, and that’s why I got into this field 20 years ago. It’s a good thing, right? As long as those of us acting transparently traffic the rest of the crowd. After all, someone has to protect the Ever-lasting Gobbstoppers.

It’s a good thing. Right?

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