Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, a blog focusing on technology startups, continues to cause quite a stir in the journalism world. Arrington announced last week that he is starting his own fund (CrunchFund), with the help of AOL, that will invest in small startup companies and has been under a barrage of criticism, mostly from journalists, for this unique arrangement.
Their main complaint is that Arrington, and other TechCrunch writers, can use the site, a highly trafficked blog ranking number 2 on Technorati’s list of Top 100 blogs (as of today), to potentially post comments and promote the same companies his fund holds positions in.
As reported by Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times, the journalism world is claiming this type of arrangement violates the covenant of all journalism; reporters should avoid conflicts of interest by maintaining distance from the people, organizations and issues they cover. And, once again, fuels the debate over whether bloggers should be held to the same standards as journalists.
BURKE: Fantastic. Gini, you know, there’s a lot of talk about ethics with some of the current news events going on, and I would just like to get your perspective on how you educate and work with your clients and with your staff on how to be ethical in all of their activities.
DIETRICH: Yes. So, you know, I mean, one of our values is ethics, and being very ethical and being very honest. And of course, Spin Sucks is the fight against destructive spin, so it’s very integrated into our culture and into our values. We actually have one client who will say, `Why won’t you let us do that?’ And we always say, `Because it’s not ethical.’ And he’s always like, `But why?’ And so, you know, we have a really good rapport with him in helping him understand why certain things are ethical why certain things are not. And it’s really an ongoing education process because there’s so many bad examples in our industry. So we just keep educating and just keep talking about it.
BURKE: Gini, thank you so much. I think holding that line will continually elevate and educate those about public relations and all the value that can bring. Where can people connect with you online and in social media?
Twitter Chat Transcripts
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MySpace vs. Facebook: Which Site is the Current Cool Kid?
Sometimes it’s not so easy to tell “cool” from “un-cool” – especially when it comes to social networks and professionals who want to be with the “in crowd.” Although Facebook trumps MySpace with their overall number of users, organizations debating on which site to use should research the demographics and lifestyles of the key users they wish to target and focus their message and branding appropriately. Then they can be sure that both their company and clients are “cool” because they resonate with the preferred target audience.
JOHNA BURKE: Hello, everyone. This is Johna Burke at the–with BurrellesLuce at the Counselors Academy for PRSA, and we’re here with Ann.
Ann, will you please introduce yourself?
ANN SUBERVI: Sure. My name is Ann Subervi. I am the chair of the Counselors Academy and I also present workshops on ethics.
BURKE: And you just gave a presentation on ethics, and one of the most baffling things to me is why that was not a full house in there. And what is your experience with the PR group, why they aren’t more focused on ethics even knowing that the association has a special month dedicated to ethics? What are some of those challenges and what are some of the ways that you can maybe take some of the intimidation out of the subject matter for people so that they’ll be more engaged?
SUBERVI: Well, that’s a great question. I think public relations practitioners tend to focus on the tactical when it comes to training. They teach people how to write, they teach people how to pitch, they teach people how to present, but they don’t teach them about ethics. And when employees hear that they may have to go to an ethics presentation, they worry that this is going to be a lecture about doing good, and right and wrong. But in fact, ethics can be broken down into a process. It involves what are the rules and regulations that govern our industry? It involves knowing how to think through difficult situations and come out to the best possible conclusion.
It’s training on working with groups and group dynamics to figure out an ethical dilemma. And it’s practice, it’s role-play. It’s understanding, from the head of the agency or from the head of the organization that you work for, what is expected of you, and are you supported when you make an ethical decision? So when you take some of the blurry lines away from it and really look at it as a training program, as practical information, I think it becomes less intimidating and more interesting for people.
BURKE: I think one of the most powerful things that you said in the presentation was just remember that the way you think about things isn’t the same way that your client thinks about things, making that all the more important for PR people to have a good understanding about that so they can retain those relationships.
SUBERVI: Absolutely. And, you know, when you are ethical and you give clients great solutions that make them look great, you win, they win. And that’s really what it’s all about.
BURKE: Ann, thanks so much. Where can people find you on your website or social media?
Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Caffeine column is a weekly coffee break stop for me. This week’s column struck me, in particular, because it was written from the perspective of a purchaser.
Someone in purchasing, who reads his column, had contacted Jeffrey and he, in turn, had asked her for a list of the smart things that lead to a sale. She also gave him the dumb list, but I am just going to reinforce the positives below. We’ve probably heard them before, but this is a clear concise list that can never be repeated too often:
10 Smart “Things” that Lead to a Sale
Honesty. Truth at all times and at all costs. Do not lie and think you’ll get away with it, because you won’t. If I can’t tell you’re a liar immediately. I’ll find out in a short period of time. One lie banishes you.
Give me valuable ideas. If you can provide suggestions or ideas on how to make business better, you’ll be a hero to me and a valuable resource.
Understand and be interested in my business. If you make an attempt to show interest and understand, I’ll spend all the time in the world to educate you, because you’ll only be better equipped to help me. Plus, it will make your job easier as well. A win for me – and a bigger win for you.
Treat me with respect. Be courteous, on time and well mannered. If you’re not, it’s a guaranteed deal-killer.
Be a decent human being, with some sense of ethics and morals. It makes me feel positive about doing business with you and gives me some reassurance you won’t try to screw me over.
Know your own businesscold. Know it well enough so that you can make an understandable and knowledgeable presentation and answer my questions about your product or service. Provide good supporting materials – especially testimonials.
Be friendly and personable. It helps to establish a sense of comfort and trust.
Remember the details. They’re small, but they can completely make my day or ruin it.
Make good on your word. If you can’t, come to me and we’ll talk it out. If you don’t, then your credibility is damaged or even ruined (depending on how often it happens and when).
Take responsibility. You are my link to your company. Handle what I need seamlessly, and own up to a mistake if you make one.
And the single smartest thing that leads to a sale:
Don’t “sell” me. Let me “buy.” Make me see for myself that “buying” is the right thing to do.
What I like best about these tips is that all or mostly everything listed applies to any sales situation whether you are “selling” a story idea to a journalist, a service like BurrellesLuce, or almost any other “product.” And it’s also the backbone of a client service relationship as well. Here’s the customer laying out in front of us how to do business with them. Remember the adage, the customer’s always right?
And if you’re looking to tie this to your PR agency Jim Joseph, president Lippe Taylor Brand Communications, provides some tips on closing a sale in this video.
How will you apply these the next time you are working with a client or prospect or the media? If you already incorporate similar practices into current “selling” strategy, how have they benefited you?
Bio: I’ve been in the media business all of my adult life, first in newspapers before going full circle and joining BurrellesLuce, where I now direct the Media Measurement department. I’ve always enjoyed meeting and especially listening to the needs of our customers and others in the public relations and communications fields; I welcome sharing ideas through the Fresh Ideas blog. One of my professional passions is providing the type of service to a client that makes them respond, “atta girl” – inspiring our entire team to keep striving to be the best. Although I have been lucky enough to travel through much of Asia and most major U.S. cities for business or pleasure, my free time is now spent with my daughter, visiting family/friends, and of course the Jersey shore. Twitter: @domeasurement LinkedIn: Carol Holden Facebook: BurrellesLuce