Don't dismiss Hughes' new ideas
In his letter published in the September 5 issue, Lee Levitt tells us that Karen Hughes is wrong in planning personal trips overseas to meet with ambassadors. Instead, he insists, she should hire PR firms with the requisite skills, experience, and competent management already in place.
Levitt is entitled to make his pitch for agency and PR-honcho participation in Washington's latest try at making audiences abroad listen up to what the US government is saying about itself and its problems. He is wrong to dismiss Hughes' attempts to bring new ideas into play in the field of public diplomacy.
Instead, he should be encouraging her in her adventurism; too many of her predecessors have dismissed out of hand the notion of travel that would bring them into close contact with opinion leaders around the world. Too many have summoned panels of PR pros to Washington for strategy sessions that have yielded little new in the way of truly new concepts and meaningful results. Our propaganda efforts over the years have changed due to outside and inside counsel, but there is no indication that current advisers have anything dramatic or miraculous to suggest.
If PRWeek wishes to play a useful role in advancing America abroad, it should consider a study of past failed efforts to learn how far we have really progressed over the past 50 years. My guess is that the results will show the main contributions to public diplomacy have been the introduction of new electronic and other advanced techniques that have made it possible to extend the range and shorten the delivery time of our messages.
In the meantime, let Karen Hughes be Karen Hughes. She's aggressive, smart, and determined to succeed. And here's a suggestion for her: Once you've made your pitch to an ambassador, get over to the local radio, press, and TV shops, and make your message known there. And back home, cozy up to the ambassadors of your targeted countries in Washington.
One last thing: Returning to Levitt's line about how Hughes "should hire PR firms with the requisite skills, experience, and competent management already in place." That remark slights the experience and ability of many of the veteran US propagandists Hughes has close to hand.
Wes Pedersen, director of communications and PR, The Public Affairs Council, Washington
Council of PR Firms is resource for students
Kudos on the Career Guide (August 29 supplement). It looks great. I'm disappointed, though, that the Council of Public Relations Firms is not mentioned as a resource to students, especially because we shared several of our initiatives with PRWeek.
We know that many, many students use the website, for example, to help identify internships and jobs, as well as for research papers. The council's career booklet is one of the most often downloaded collateral pieces on our site. The Agency Management course we offer in conjunction with universities helps inform students about the business aspects of a PR career, something that is important to clients and agency account managers who may hire the students.
Please consider a reference to the Council of Public Relations Firms in future career initiatives.
Kathy Cripps, president, Council of PR Firms, New York
More tips for success in relations with bloggers
As an online PR specialist, I was very gratified to see "Managing the new breed of influencers" (PRWeek, September 5). What an affirmation of a lot of the stuff I've told my boss for months.
There were a couple of key points that I wish could have made it into print, though. First, my favorite way of tracking and judging the influence of any blog: What's its lead time over newspapers and magazines on key industry stories? In our immediate input internet universe, blogs that matter will be must-reads for print journalists, who might end up using the blogger's perspective as a starting place for a story. The blog should at least be able to scoop traditional media semi-regularly.
Second, the red/yellow/green icons for bloggers, initiated by Russell Buckley and Carlo Longino. They indicate how receptive a blogger is to PR contacts/ pitches. Online PR and the pitching of bloggers might seem like new strategies for PR pros, but a quick check of discussions like the one at Jeremy Zawodny's blog show that some bloggers have already had enough.
Third, a very simple tip that I've found has served me well in my dealings with online media: Make sure they know that you are treating them as a member of the press, with exactly the same regard and respect you'd accord any journalist. Modify your language and your approach, sure, but make sure that the underlying respect is there, and things will go well. I promise.
Aileen Corr, online marketing and communications, Simply Audiobooks, Oakville, Ontario, Canada