On June 13, 2005, Ketchum has announced the launching of Ketchum Personalized Media, a service that will advise organizations on how, why and when to integrate blogs, podcasting, RSS, SEO, and mobile marketing into their communications strategy.
This page presents a timeline of how a number of bloggers have responded to Ketchum's announcement. The timeline does not include all the postings on this subject, and the selection of quotations is, of course, subjective. Please follow the links and read the complete original postings. Also, please note that many of the postings included in the timeline have comments, which are adding important details to the conversation.
Thanks to Dan York for suggesting the creation of this page in a comment he sent to Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz's podcast, For Immediate Release.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Please e-mail me at cbasturea at gmail.com.
-- Constantin Basturea
Ketchum, a leading marketing and corporate communications firm, today launched Ketchum Personalized Media, a global service that advises organizations to know how, why and when to integrate the growing roster of online and wireless media - from blogs and podcasts to mobile marketing - into their overall communications strategy.
I can't help but wonder how much credibility, if not faith, you'd want to place in a PR agency which enters this area where:
they don't have a blog,
none of the people named in the press release has a blog (none that I could find with a bit of Googling),
there's no RSS feed on their website,
the new offering announced yesterday isn't mentioned anywhere on the website apart from in the press release, and
the offering appears to be a separate service, not integrated with PR. [...] Anyone can say they can do something, and produce an impressive-looking list of people. But in this field of new-media communication, you'd better be able to walk your talk. Otherwise, the only word that comes to mind is 'bandwagon.' Ketchum, if I were you, I'd at least start a blog immediately.
Ketchum announces a Global Personalized Media service with a 300+ words news release that goes on and on and on and on... You can almost take this one apart, sentence by sentence, for committing all of the sins of traditional corporate-speak PR.
Better advice for the blog-lorn is much more likely to come from people who really understand the social dynamics in the blogosphere, not those attempting to triangulate on what is happening using the old terms and metaphors of broadcast and mainstream PR.
"Click here to listen to a live Ketchum Midwest podcast interview featuring Paul Rand, head of Ketchum's Global Technology Practice, to learn more about the power of new media for internal communications." (Text on ketchumideas.com of the announcement as of June 23)
They apparently do have a blog. Apparently they've been blogging since the beginning of June. [...] Leaving aside the content, the whole thing reads like "hey, I'm a blog from a PR agency" or about as natural as artificial sweetener. Compared to Richard Edelman's Speak Up blog, which reads like it was actually written with some thought by a human being who cares about what he's writing about, the Ketchum blog reads like it was written by a committee.
One of the bigger complaints was that Ketchum did not have a corporate blog. Now, they do, if you can call it a blog: no comments, no links, no trackbacks. Well, at least it has RSS. In essence, it is just a soapbox for them to talk to clients. The worst part is that the contact and apparent lead is the vice president of business development of Ketchum - not the eKetchum team that does independently blog - but someone fishing for new business. The site notes that it's "One Good Idea a Day. One Valuable Month." We can only hope that it does end June 30, and that this isn't for the blogging practice because it is embarassing. But, hey go check out the blog and win a chance at an iPod mini!
Poor Ketchum. When it launched the Personalized Media service, Ketchum had some good ingredients for preparing a smooth entry in blogland: a (sort of) blog (and RSS feeds, by default), a podcast (well, almost), and a collaboration with a PR blogger. But it just didn't managed to put all these elements together, which kinda sucks when you're such a big PR firm, and didn't managed to listen to those who talked about the launch and change what didn't work, which definitely sucks in the blogosphere (no conversation = bad, bad, bad in my Cluetrain book).
He cites chapter and verse as to how the got it wrong -- almost everywhere -- and how to fix it. I bet we don't hear from them, as Constantin suggests is necessary, Monday AM. Anything this screwed up requires a committee of important people, and it will take a committee of important people at least a week to respond.
It seems like Ketchum is blogging since the begining of June. I wrote "It seems like" because when you see what they pretend to be a blog, then you wonder how they dare humiliating PR bloggers like this...
Always when I read about a big agency starting to offer blog-related services to their clients, my first reaction is to look for their blog. For me, that is a good litmus test for how serious they really are about blogging. How can they help clients to understand what is going on in the blogosphere if they are not part of it; if they just talk the talk, but don't walk the walk ?
Ketchum has an opportunity to create its own case study on how to work with the blogosphere to improve its own image. In the meantime, they are getting savaged and are not responding and are creating a case study (for use by others) on how not to engage the blogosphere. PR in the blogosphere is, in large measure, about engaging people in a dialogue and responding rapidly to qualified (as opposed to crackpot) criticism. The critics are qualified and raise good points and Ketchum needs to address them rapidly. At this point, they are killing their new practice (at least with clients who are capable of doing their own Google search) before it ever gets a chance to flourish.
If this is the kind of advice [having a dark site for addressing a crisis] Ketchum plans to offer clients of its new service, prospective clients should beware. It’s just further indication that the company is jumping into the blogosphere for no other reason than that they don’t want to leave billables on the table. It certainly doesn’t seem to have much to do with an understanding of the environment in which they plan to help clients communicate.
Update on June 22: The site has been updated, and it notes that KetchumIdeas is a service from the Chicago office, and is a month-long project on explaining the blogosphere and other offshoots to clients and the public that might not be involved in it yet.
The text of the update on Ketchum Ideas website reads (as of June 23):
"KetchumIdeas.com - a service of Ketchum Midwest&'s corporate practice - introduces organizations to a month of insights about the growing roster of emerging media tools - from Web logs, or blogs, and podcasts to mobile marketing and Search Engine Optimization. The month of articles reflects the diligence that Ketchum places in keeping its clients apprised of today's ever-changing technologies and how they affect organizations' communications programs and strategies."
cocky ketchum - Dr. Kaye Trammell, so this is mass communication?
As the saying goes, "All publicity is good publicity." I wonder if Ketchum has that sunny outlook as they see how the online world is responding to their new blog & set of blog-related services for their clients. [...] This may sound like an absurd question - but shouldn't Ketchum be blogging "ideas" that they have already mastered rather than sweep in to try to call dibs on something many others are doing much better?
Yes it is great the Ketchum has entered the space, in some ways legitimizing it to large corporations who still feel that blogs are the next PointCast?. Reputation and experience do mean something but they'll be judged on what they do moving forward. I would hate to be their first blog client, because that blog is going to be picked over with a fine-toothed comb. Ketchum just went to the Blogosphere concert and they bought the t-shirt. We'll see what the future holds.
Suffice to say [Ketchum] has spotted an emerging trend, sniffed new business and profit, so jumped in to offer its expertise (despite appearing to lack any!). Sadly I don't think this will be a barrier to Ketchum winning new business. In my experience, both in-house and as a consultant, too many big companies prefer the security of working with big companies rather than taking a risk on a smaller firm that might offer real expertise.
I'm inclined to agree with the sense I took from Steve Rubel's original post that in many ways it is a good thing to see a large agency like Ketchum launching a practice into blogs, RSS, podcasting, etc. That launch lends a certain degree of credibility and validation to the new media forms. It's just too bad that they didn't have any existing "real" examples to show for it when they launched (or had anyone on their staff who was already publicly blogging).
Don't forget, Ketchum did try blogging back in 2003, quite bumpily, and then gave up. They caught some heat because they tried to use the blog as a promotional celebration of their Kudos winners--and now that they've had two years to snoop around, you might think they would have learned a thing or two. I am going to say again that the few employees who were blogging with me unobserved back in 2001 and 2002 are the people who should be running the program. Screw the hierarchy and let those with a blogging foothold and something to say MAKE THE RULES. But it won't happen that way.
Adam Brown, director of eKetchum (commenting on my previous post on the launch of Ketchum's Personalized Media service): I've been reading the responses to Constantin’s post on the 18th and wanted to take this opportunity to respond. I apologize for my delay in responding, but I have been in the process of moving from Atlanta to Pittsburgh over the past weeks (something you can read about on my personal blog at www.GumpRants.com). First, let me introduce myself. I'm Adam Brown and I am Director of eKetchum, Ketchum's digital media development group. While I have been managing eKetchum for five years, I'm also taking the lead in managing several of Ketchum’s new Ketchum Personalized Media service offerings, including our blog services. The blogosphere is something that I have been passionate about since I started personally blogging in 2002, and it&'s refreshing to see so many PR professionals embracing the medium.
While I don't want to continue any Ketchum-bashing, I will say that Adam's response hardly addresses any of the criticisms levelled at Ketchum by any of the PR bloggers who have posted commentary. But at least there's a response on a blog, so you can make up your own mind on what to make of that response. [...] It's a start for Ketchum to build (not re-build) some credibility about their new offering. I think it will take quite a while.
Some of the criticism has been warranted but some of the recent blog-related bashing has been a little over the top for my liking. After all, how many top tier PR firms have blogs? Not very many in my estimation. So fair play to Adam Brown, director at eKetchum who has responded to some of the more recent criticism over at Constantin Basturea's blog. After all, if we're all agreed that this is about conversation and dialogue then Adam deserves our attention regardless of your views.
Ketchum recently announced its Ketchum Personalized Media (KPM) practice, which focuses on blogs and the online communications environment. But the announcement was met with criticism from PR bloggers, who noted the irony that an agency selling this service did not have a blog of its own. Adam Brown, director of eKetchum and global product manager of blogs and search engine optimization (SEO) for KPM, soon took to those blogs to address the criticism. He talked further about the incident with PRWeek?.com, and also discussed the opportunities that online PR presents, and the importance of synchronizing traditional and online PR strategies.
Reading the interview, one might get the idea that the only criticism toward Ketchum’s launching of KPM was that it didn’t have a blog. But there’s more than that. Ketchum failed to understand how to step in the blogosphere, although it’s selling its expertize in advising other on how to do it. It failed to put together a coherent plan and to implement it, although it had all the right elements for a successful launch. Ketchum launched quietly a website for demonstrating its expertize in weblogs, RSS, and podcasting, but failed to use it properly by ignoring each and every of the features that are making these tools valuable. Ketchum failed to understand bloggers’ expectations and to address them. It failed to respond swiftly to criticism. It failed to communicate in real time. When it decided to respond, it underminded its own credibility by failing to acknowledge any mistake, and by coming with “dog ate my homework“-type of excuses for the long silence.
Adam Brown, Ketchum's global product manager for blogs, told PR Week last week that most PR bloggers were involved for the wrong reason: "Right now, in the PR blogosphere, you're seeing that a lot of bloggers - even prominent ones - are doing it for self-promotion. I don't know if a blog is the appropriate place to do that." Are some PR bloggers publicity hounds? You bet. How do you think they get to be "A-listers?" But the great unwashed out here are blogging to advance our profession, to change things just a bit, and to engage others in our beliefs. Do we accomplish that every day? Nope. Do we sometimes mention our agencies or practices? Yep. Do we deserve these slams? Definitely not. Adam Brown is simply trying to defend Ketchum's much-maligned launch of its blogging practice.
The PR Week interview is a good read, if only to see some obfuscation of the reality behind PR bloggers' derision. An attempt at some traditional PR spin, in other words, which doesn't quite come off, and sinks their credibility even more - not only for the attempt at spin but also for not being successful at it. So it doesn't look like Ketchum is going to make it up the mountain yet. Not a very comforting thought for any Ketchum client.
One thing the blogosphere is really good for is providing a stage on which successes and failures are played out live for all to see and (hopefully) learn from. Such is the case with Ketchum's blog initiative. [...] As far as case studies go, this is one of the best we've seen for producing lists of what to and not to do when hopping on any sort of bandwagon--fad or otherwise.
I’m looking forward to all of you reading Jeremy’s upcoming interview that he did with me last week. I think that the questions that Jeremy asked relate to many of the comment threads here. Rather than "trump" Jeremy’s interview, I’m going to hold off talking about some of your points until that is published. Constantin, you’ve made some good points. So have John Wagner, Mark Rose and Neville Hobson. I don’t necessarily agree with some of them, and I don’t have to. That’s why we’re here in the blogosphere - having a DIALOGUE rather than reading the MONOLOGUE that has been the Internet up to this point.
Would it be so difficult, for example, for a company like Ketchum to admit that they've missed the blog boat but are correcting that by, say, encouraging their employees to blog, listening to what bloggers within the organization already know--striking up conversations (not defense arguments) with people outside the organization? To understand that the "PR Blogosphere" is not the some place out in the ether separate from the rest of the blogworld? To cop to the fact that it isn't just PR bloggers who think they've behaved stupidly? Back when I had Chris Locke, Gonzo-Marketing fresh, ready to talk with them about how they could leap forward in a largely undefined space by participating. That's when Anthony Parcero and I were blogging from the inside, and even after I left, and blogging became "bigger," Anthony remained a participating-if-semi-secret-ketchum voice encouraging Ketchum, and PR as a whole, into the blogosphere--for the most part, without any sign that Ketchum was listening to its own clued employee.
A note of caution to PR agencies looking to capitalize on online communication -- how Ketchum handles criticism within the PR blogger community could effect the success of its Personalized Media offering. Brown has been on the defensive and so far refuses to admit that Ketchum stumbled in its entry into the "personalized media" space. This story will continue ...
This I can predict with the utmost certainty: Folks are sitting down in a conference room or sitting on a conference call right now at Omnicom Group's Ketchum deciding the hows, ifs, whens, whys, and whos of their next communication with what they call the PR Blogosphere. If you were in the room, what would you advise?
From the perspective of a PR professional who has worked for large and small agencies, I empathize with Brown. He does an excellent job of defining Kethum's position in the new practice, and he clearly defines the challenges of blogs, RSS and SEO in the context of PR. He doesn't give many details but why should he? Ketchum has its clients and their own methodology to protect and Browns job is to serve the firm's clients, not eat up non-billable time answering pesky PR bloggers. Sometimes the best PR strategy is not to respond.