Category Archives: writing

Life Minus Internet

I’m sitting on a patio under a clear blue sky in Coronado CA. Behind me is a 10-foot high morning glory bush so old it has an eight-inch trunk. We’re out here on family business.
When we arrived Sunday the first thing I did was haul out the Mac and try to get on the Internet.
I thought we could tap into a neighbor’s signal but all networks were secured. After a couple hours I gave up, knowing I was out of luck. I called Time Warner the next morning to get the cable hooked back up and get internet service. The first opening they had was Thursday.
I was sick. Four long days, broken into chunks of 24 hours, which in turn melted into slots of 60 minutes each.
I didn’t want to do the math. This would be the longest time I’d been without the net in years.
How was life going to work? I needed to get to my email accounts, Facebook, eBay. How was I going to get my BlogHighEd fix?
Four long days. . . .
I read a lot. I had brought a couple John D. MacDonald books, along with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now which I’ve been meaning to read for two years. I spent time with my mother-in-law, a sweet 85-year-old woman who has been living with us the past two years and was now back in her own home in Coronado.
Fix breakfast, a couple suppers, run to Escondido to meet with her lawyer.
I found, by Tuesday, that the withdrawal symptoms had subsided. I took long walks along the quiet streets lined with palm trees swaying in the light breeze as I passed meticulously manicured lawns of million dollar homes.
There is life without the internet.
The cable guy showed up late Thursday, hooked us up and left. I jumped on my G-mail and was confronted with a classic case of anti climax. I had two new emails since Sunday. I opened my office email and found junk mail and some messages that didn’t need immediate answers. I did answer one to our media consultant and my news director, both of whom replied, asking why I was even thinking about work.
I moved over to BHE. Life was going on very smoothly without me.
Having learned a valuable lesson, I closed Firefox, picked up The Power of Now and returned with a drink to the sunny patio on a quiet island off the coast of San Diego.


For something a bit more substantive, check out Al Reis’ thoughts on The Pitfalls of Megabranding

Newspapers as Agenda Setters. Who Follows in Their Wake?

For this guest blog I asked Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications for his thoughts on newspapers as the agenda setters and who sets the agenda as they continue to lose circulation. Here’s Dick’s response:

While most people no longer get their news directly from newspapers, the papers retain an important role as the agenda setters of the news.  That’s why it’s still essential for college and university publicists to get their stories into the newspapers.

At the local level, your TV assignment editors are taking many of their cues for the day’s news coverage from the stories in the morning newspaper—at least the stories that they think have some “visual” potential.  The stories that do not have video appeal turn up in text on the station’s website.  Zoning ordinance changes make bad television.

Too few local radio stations retain independent news operations anymore.   Where local radio news still exists they are reading wire stories (many of which were re-written from newspapers) and cribbing shamelessly from the local newspaper for others.  Sometimes this is done with attribution.  Not always.

Bloggers commenting on the foibles of the school board may have attended last night’s board meeting.  More likely, however, they read about it in the morning newspaper.  Or if they are commenting on a national issue, such as the relief efforts in the China earthquake, they got their info from a Google search which turned up a host of stories from newspapers and wire services.

It’s not much different at the national level.  The producers of the network television and cable news programs are scanning their agenda-setting newspapers for story ideas.  These include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY.

More often than I can count in my career, a big broadcast score has resulted after the story was covered by a national agenda-setting newspaper or a major wire service.   One of the more recent examples is a professor who wrote an op/ed for The Chicago Tribune about Presidents Day in February.  After it appeared he was interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

So newspapers still matter even though fewer and fewer people read them.  That’s one reason why the collapsing economics of the newspaper business is  a concern.  If the newspapers go belly up who will be the agenda setters?

Something will fill the vacuum, of course.  Something will serve as the agenda setter for the news.  Something always has; always will.

As media relations professionals we will have to find whatever it is and successfully pitch them.

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts 18

This year at commencement I practiced what I’ve been preaching. I went armed with Zoom H2 audio recorder, my Flip camcorder and my still camera. My photographer attended and my news director had his camera so I felt free just to roam and play.

The results? It was so windy that my audio was not usable. I shot some video of the band which turned out surprisingly well. I found a spot behind the stage where I could get still shots of our president congratulating and hugging the graduates with the sea of seated graduates and proud relatives in the background.

That’s it, from here on in, I’m traveling with my multimedia recording arsenal.


Kyle James Stumbled my douchbags report. Kyle, it worked. I actually had a couple referrals from it.

I was expecting a barrage of visits from douchbag aficionados but really didn’t have any. D.W. did you attract perverts?


Harvard and Yale’s struggle to attract low income students tells me two things:

-Their brand as elite Ivy League schools is so imbued that they’ll always have a struggle.

-Competition in the admissions area is getting tougher which means we in marketing have to work smarter.


A new program which some of you may know about and are using. This from the press release:

Magnify has introduced a new service that promises to make it easy for Movable Type and WordPress publishers to incorporate media from a variety of sites.

Magnify Publisher is a native blog application that lets you search for video, text, and images, using key words and tags, and embed the content directly into a post, without ever leaving the WordPress or Movable Type dashboard. Magnify Publisher also offers Seesmic-like tools that let you shoot and publish videoblog posts using a WebCam.

If anyone has tried it, let me know how it works.


A University of Leicester space scientist says text messaging is more expensive than downloading data from the Hubble Space telescope—about 4.4 times more expensive.


While I continue vacillating by “The Great Twivide,” I do want to share a couple interesting posts, one by Max Kalehoff, VP for marketing of Clickable on Why Twitter Matters and his five strategies for choosing who to follow.

In the comments, Ellen Leanse of Ellen Leanse consulting has a link to her blog in which she offers 10 really good Twitter tips.


I found them, by the way, on TargetX’s Email Minute.


While Stumbling last night I found a cool blog post on Cogent Metal on Firefox Smart Keywords.


And this post by fortysomething on CSS organization for better efficiency.


New Dick Jones guest blog coming this week. Dick is more knowledgeable about the print media than anyone I know. His thoughts and insights are invaluable and they continue to be read long after they’re posted. So, thanks Dick.

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts 17

Deborah Saline, chief operating officer at PR Works in Harrisburg, PA, taught a PR class at Bloomsburg University this semester and shares her observations of college students in Nexters Enter the Work Force Oh


Ad Age blogger George Parker is catching up with the new wave of un-conferences, concluding that marketing conferences are becoming irrelevant.


An interesting article in Advertising Age about adults spending more than half their media hours with TV. According to the survey, Internet advertising still is not faring very well. At the same time Wall Street marketers are ditching radio,TV and print for the Internet. What the survey doesn’t cover is the market that we’re interested in – the teens. And it does not address social networks. While it’s good information for what it’s trying to do, it does show that Advertising Age and traditional media are still catching up with what’s happening in communication today.


Well, almost out of touch. They skim the market with this article, Is Your Consumer Using Social Media? They’re talking about a different marketing than what we’re looking at, but it’s worth the read.


Interesting to see how Simmons Research breaks consumer categories into the “socially isolated,” “approval seekers,” etc. Don’t laugh. You’re probably in one of those categories yourself.


The survey also showed that TV advertising overwhelmingly remains the most influential with 81.4% of the 25-54 adult segment, compared with advertising on internet (6.5%), newspapers (5.8%), radio (3.9%) and magazines (2.3%).

Those surveyed also overwhelmingly reported TV has the most persuasive advertising (69.9%). Only 9.5% of respondents said newspaper has the most persuasive advertising, followed by 8.1% magazines and 7.5% radio. Wow. Don’t tell the Wizard of Ads that.

To be honest, I don’t think the survey is even relevant. I’ve read too many articles that say the TV audience is bailing. The remaining are fragmented. What does it matter who’s the most persuasive in markets that are shrinking.

It overlooks a large and growing culture of people seeking information on products they’re interested in, comparing products and making their own decisions. How does nearly everyone find what they’re looking for? They Google. Google search. Google ads. Google world.

Traditional media and the corporate world are having a hard time making the transition from incessant message shouting to seeking consumer input and sharing information. (Am I too harsh here?)


Two blog series I did – Drug Bust and Raging DJ – continue to be viewed, making me think that crisis PR is an in-demand subject. Over the years (oh, God, decades), I’ve dealt with a variety of crisis PR situations. I’ll do more posts on the subject in the future. In the meantime, if you don’t have your own blog and want to share your crisis PR stories, send them to me and I’ll publish you as a guest blogger.

Really! Give it some thought. Do it.

Email me at with “crisis PR story” in the subject box.

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 16

In my last post, guest Dick Jones wrote about the demise of newspapers, happening in part because they refuse to let go of their double digit profits. Ad Age has begun a series entitled Newspaper Death Watch. The first installment mentions many of the same problems Dick did. I’ll be following this series and provide a link to each installment. Intriguing stuff.


Related to the death of newspapers and the huge transition we’re experiencing in news gathering- dissemination (and PR and marketing) is Chris Brogan’s post on Some Differences Between Pitching Mainstream Press and Bloggers. There are some marked differences and, of course, a lot of similarities.

Most revealing are the responses when Chris Twittered his friends for their opinions. Read this in full and think about it. There’s a lot about passion, opinions, homework, freebies . . .oh, yes, and pimping.


Martin Weller is a Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University in the UK. I’ve subscribed to his blog, The Ed Techie for quite awhile but, like everyone else, I don’t get to all my feeds as often as I’d like.

In the virtual world this April 7 post, Whither the Blogosphere, might be considered old, but it’s relevant, well-written and thoughtful. It’s about the possible trend of bloggers moving away from the blogosphere and into different forms of communication on the Web. Martin writes in part:

What I think is happening is another example of technology succession. The blog was the primary colonizer for the barren landscape of online identity. The presence of this colonizer changed the environment, which made it more amenable to secondary colonizers. . .


I found this interesting entry on The Ed Techie’s recent post, Making Connections 2.0

Blogger Tony Hirst was criticized harshly at a conference for having his laptop to do some live blogging. Both his account and the comments give some great insights into the schism between traditionalists and 2.0 practitioners.


John C. Dvorak, VP at the former Podshow, explains the name change to Mevio. His post is short and to the point. The 68 responses range from agreement, to anger to thoughts on the term “podcasting,” branding, search engines, etc. Again, interesting insights into our fast-changing times.


Finally, I need your insights and ideas.

Three weeks ago I did the three-part post on the drug bust. A week later I followed it up with a report on another one. As I posted them, each one attracted a larger-than-usual number of views. They continued to get a steady but lower number of views, which is the norm. Then, Friday night, views of these posts suddenly jumped way, way up. The views continued growing throughout Saturday, giving me one of my top five days ever. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Any ideas as to why this seemingly untimely explosion of interest?

Use Quotes When Responding to Media Requests

I asked Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications to step in with a guest post. He responded with this excellent piece of advice.

With drastic cutbacks in news rooms, and the journalists who are left required to do more and more work, media requests are assuming a greater role in college media relations.

Media requests, whether made directly by journalists to you or through a paid service such as Newswise or Profnet, are excellent opportunities for you to score with the news media.

How we respond to media requests can make all of the difference.  Media relations is an art, not a science.  Every “rule” has its exception that proved to be successful sometime, someplace.  Nonetheless, there is a rule about media requests which, if followed, generally yields more results than if not followed.

Use quotes. Quotes give the journalist an idea of the direction of your source’s thinking.  They separate your expert from the pack.  It is often not enough simply to give the name, title, contact info, and a line or two about the professor’s credentials or a link to the prof’s website.  Quotes often make the difference between your source being interviewed for the story or not.  While the primary role of quotes is to be the catalyst for that all-important interview, we are finding that they have another function in this era of downsized newsrooms.  Sometimes, news outlets use the quotes verbatim, occasionally without taking the time to interview the professor.  In such cases, the journalist usually will ask, “Can I use this quote?”

Generally, quotes are less necessary in local media relations than in national media relations.  If the local journalist knows and trusts you and your institution, it may not be necessary for you to gather quotes to bolster your case.  You can simply say, “Contact Bill Smith in the history department” and be confident that the journalist will do so.

The need to use quotes in responses to media requests is proportional to how well you know the journalist and how well he or she knows you or your institution.  But using quotes never hurts.

My thanks to Dick and if anyone has any thoughts  or experiences around this, let me know.

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 11

I was overwhelmed by the hits and thoughtful responses to my last post. It became obvious that the changing nature of our respective fields is on the minds of a lot of professionals. I would appreciate any other thoughts.


Virtual manipulation! Watch your avatar! Fascinating article about an experiment with avatars and human behavior.

I was reading with mild interest until I hit this sentence: “That kind of manipulation can also be used by marketers and advertisers. And author Mr. Bailenson foresees widespread use of virtual reality by commercial interests to push products or services.” Fascinating in a scary sort of way.


Andrew Careaga ribbed me for lifting his title and adding a “the” and “blog”. Here’s the story. Two years ago I thought I’d experiment with a blog just to see what it was all about. I had my Jedi Web Geek, Jared Barden, help me set it up on Word Press. We sat in my office after dining at MacDonald’s, his favorite restaurant. When we finished he said, “What do you want to call it?” I had thought about it but hadn’t come up with anything. I knew enough about blogs to know the title should relate to the subject. After a half hour of doing searches and finding all my ideas taken, we tried “thehigheredmarketingblog” because “higheredmarketing” was already in use. (Such a small world.)

My JWG argued against it because it’s long and clunky. I agreed and still do but in this world of change, I’m going to remain steadfast after working to build a community of readers. I told Andrew in a comment that occasionally I’ll ask my readers to go up to my url, delete “the” and “blog” and hit enter. Off they go to higheredmarketing.


Congratulations to Andrew Shaindlin. The Chronicle picked up his posting on what alumni associations might look like in 10 years. You can find his original post  here or at BlogHighEd.

I’m a little behind because the last post took longer to write than I anticipated. Actually, a final draft that’s clear, concise and hopefully a little entertaining is, as Bush said about being President, “a lot of hard work.” (I think he said it 10 times in that one short speech, meaning being a Presidential speech writer is really hard work).

I know it’s against the quick-turnaround philosophy of blogging but I usually write something, set it aside, come back and revise 3-5 times. Why?

I’ll answer that in an upcoming post.

Web, PR, Admissions = Great Discussion

Okay, I’ve been wrestling with something for months and Matthew Herzberger’s recent post really pulled things together for me.  Well, actually it was the comments that brought things into focus. 

What I’d like is for you to go to his post, read it and the comments.  Then come back here.

(Time passes. . . .)

Okay, you’re back? 

Matt’s post was a well-done rant of a passionate, frustrated Web guy who needs to reach out and share his thoughts (and despondency) with others of us who have felt the same need to find a high cliff.

Several people agreed with him. 

Then Karyn entered. 

Whoah!  New spin on this discussion!

It was an extraordinary conversation, the kind we should be having more often. 

We have stats freaks.  We have Matt who likes stories and anecdotal evidence (same here, but I’m wading into the world of stats at the strong request of my boss). 

But most importantly, we have actual discussion among professionals from different fields of expertise.  

There are three groups today that should be merging and working as one team: The Web team, public relations, and admissions. 

As PR director, I work closely with admissions to motivate students to inquire about our university.  After they inquire, it’s up to admissions to lead them through the next steps.

We try to reach students through traditional advertising and, increasingly, marketing on the Web. 

So I need to understand how the admissions process works.  The admissions director has taken me through a full recruiting cycle.  I’ve gone out on the road with them to college fairs and high schools to experience the break-neck pace, the rushing crowds, smart students and students who should pursue careers as shepherds.

I need to understand Web folks, how they think, talk, and operate and the pressures they face daily.   They also need to understand my role in PR, marketing, and being responsible for the institution’s image.  We need not only to interact, but to actually work together. 

While each of us has several departmental goals, our common goal is to make a variety of publics aware of the university in a truthful, positive manner.

At Mansfield, the Web folks, admissions and PR have been talking more frequently with the development of a content management system.  I’m sure we’ll continue working together after it goes live. 

And I think discussions like the one on Matt’s post should continue. 

In his comment, Kyle  said : “We are the pioneers and the explorers.”  Okay, that means the rules are still being formed.  We’re still defining the terrain.  And, hopefully, we’re coming together as a team, learning each other’s language and experimenting our way toward a common community.

The beauty of the Matt post/discussion is that the various points  of view are presented in a civil, respectful way by thoughtful, passionate professionals.

It made me think.

And that’s what higher education is all about.

What are your thoughts?


Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 10

My brain is awash with info overload. (Picture, if you will, an awashed brain).

I just watched a Sun Microsystems –Project Dark Star press conference on MyRagan conducted on Second Life. I’ve been following Second Life since 2006 when Adam Curry ( was going crazy over it. Adam is the only business mogul I know who was cutting edge enough to discover SL and check it out as a business model, then have crazy cyber sex and talk about it with his wife on his podcast.

I’ve stayed away from SL it because I’m trying to avoid anymore addictions. I know professors teach courses on it. A few major companies set up businesses there and most failed.

I can’t get into it. I just can’t.


I don’t want to spend time creating an avatar and learning how to navigate. I also have a problem interacting with a beautiful woman who might really be a 60-year-old male pervert or talking with a muscular, tattooed green guy with black horns who’s probably a 14-year-old kid with more knowledge about code than I will have in 15 incarnations.

Finally, I realized during this SL press conference that I’m really uncomfortable watching a person make a presentation with a closed mouth. One thing basic to all human beings is that when we talk our lips move.

I want your opinion of Second Life – both Web developers and PR folks. What’s your feeling? Have you checked it out? Does Second Life have a future in higher ed marketing? If I’m missing something, set me straight.


MyRagan, by the way, is a site (and a very good one) produced by The Ragan Report. It’s a grab bag of the latest in PR thinking and experimenting.

When you’re tired of serious stuff, they offer clips from The Onion (The White House Deputy Press Secretary putting a positive spin on his wife’s death (very dark humor) and Jon Stewart.

If you have a chance, check out the site (I know—NOT ONE MORE!) but there are some good ideas and conversations going on here.

IT folks should be interested in this myragan blog post: IT People. . . They’re Really Not THAT Bad

PR folks –well, everybody– will appreciate, Jon Stewart’s take on the “worst PR person ever.

As an experiment, I posted my blog, The Passion of Bloggers on MyRagan just to see if I could attract more readers and if it would send visitors to BlogHiEd.

Which brings up another question. On how many social sites should we post our blogs? My personal blog ( is on my Word Press site and Facebook. This blog is on Word Press and BlogHighEd, and could potentially show up on Facebook and MyRagan.

A bunch of questions in this post but I’d love to have some conversations about them.

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts Part 8

Hmm.  The celebrated 100th post slipped right by me.  Just noticed I’ve done 102 posts since I started in February 2007.  We’ll toot the horns at 200.


I’ve given in. I’m beaten.  I’ve taken the sex out of Lonely Girl.  I tried an experiment and entitled my July 3rd entry Lonely Girl 15: Sex, Mystery and Web 2.0 just to see what would happen.  It’s an accurate title and I did get hits, lots of them.  Still does.  But a lot of them are coming through searches for subjects I don’t even dare mention.  Anyway, I want my readers to be those who share my interest in higher ed marketing.  I don’t care how popular I am (well, that’s a lie; I care a lot).  So I  changed the  title to Lonely Girl 15: S**, Mystery and Web 2.0.  Is that going to solve the s*x deviant problem?  If not, I may have to boot her off my blog, lonely or not.  I shudder at  the thought of how many testosterone-driven teens are disappointed when they hit my post. And if they are getting off on it, we have some major problems with American teen males.


Found:  through Bob Johnson’s blog this site which just blew me away at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter   That’s right.  It’s no longer the Adcenter.


Radio sales reps, to survive, must live in a constant state of denial.  A rep was selling me on her station. I said I was thinking twice about radio in the face of iTunes, etc.  She said it had not affected the listenership of her station a bit.  I knew she had daughters, ages  12 and 15.  “Do they have iPods?”  I asked.

“Oh, yes.  They  listen to them all the time.”

“When do they listen to your station?”

She smiled.  “When I drive them to school, I make them leave their iPods home and we listen to my station.”


I couldn’t get out of my mind Karine Joly’s post about the study showing the TV-online activity among kids.  This has huge implications for marketers.


Found this dichotomy while surfing Podcasting News.  Podcast guru Adam Curry’s company Podshow  just laid off 1/3 of its workforce.  At the same time podcasting network Wizzard Media announced it’s  working on the “first international geo-targeted audio podcast advertising campaign.” Tumultuous times.

But the biggest news?  There is a podcast dedicated to The Big Lebowski .  Dude, that’s awesome . . . .


Scoble Rocks Out:  Came across this from a facebook friend.  Robert Scoble as rock star.  Hilarioius.  


What do you do when the most popular DJ in the region goes off on a half hour rant calling you the “worst PR person in the world?”

That’s the subject of my two-part blog next week.