The Hobson & Holtz Report - Podcast #118: March 9, 2006

The Hobson & Holtz Report - Podcast #118: March 9, 2006

Content summary: Vote for FIR at Podcast Alley; Wal-Mart, Edelman PR, blogger outreach and transparency; new copyright wording challenge to Google Book Search; clueless pitches and the ‘PR die!’ meme; TPG Post sponsors stamp collectors’ blog; John Cass and Toby Bloomberg shoutout; Dan York reports; listeners’ comments discussion (downloads from New Communications Forum; podcasters’ wives; show #116 live; Apple hard drive costs; charity blogging; OTRO-FIR mashup; time-shifting expressions); the music.

Show notes for March 9, 2006

download For Immediate Release podcast

Welcome to For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report, an 89-minute podcast recorded live from Concord, California, USA, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Download the file here (MP3, 36MB), or sign up for the RSS feed to get it and future shows automatically. (For automatic synchronization with your iPod or other digital player, you’ll also need a podcatcher such as the free Juice, DopplerRadio, iTunes or Yahoo! Podcasts, or an RSS aggregator that supports podcasts such as FeedDemon).

Listen to this podcast now:

In This Edition:

Intro:

  • 00:28 Shel introduces the show; what the show’s about; how to give your feedback; show notes
  • 02:51 Vote for FIR on Podcast Alley!

News and Commentary:

Listeners’ Comments Discussion:

Outro:

  • 83:00 Neville wraps the show; let us know your views about today’s discussions; how and where to send your comments; where to find the show notes
  • 85:11 Outro podsafe music from the Podsafe Music Network - Hey, Hey Sister by Laura Clapp

FIR Show Notes links
Links for the blogs, individuals, companies and organizations we discussed or mentioned in the show are posted to the FIR Show Links pages at The New PR Wiki. You can contribute - see the home page for info.

If you have comments or questions about this show, or suggestions for our future shows, email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call the Comment Line at +1 206 222 2803. You can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments, if you wish (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

So, until Monday March 13…

Posted by neville on 03/09 at 11:58 AM
  1. Hi Shel and Neville,

    The term of yore is Mac Evangelist. My >5000 characters wasn’t “not enough time to be short” but “too angry not to go long”.

    Let me cut to the chase. Hard disks fail. Laptops get stolen. If you don’t back up your data you will some day be sorry.

    The perspective missing from Lee’s report is that apparently Heidi didn’t have a current backup. It seems obvious she didn’t read the terms of Apple’s standard service contract. It doesn’t get much clearer than this:

    “Apple will retain the replaced part that is exchanged under repair service as its property, and the replacement part will become your property.”

    Assuming Heidi signed the standard work authorization then she agreed to those terms [as quoted in my comments for show 117]. If she had either backed-up her disk or read the contract this whole story would be different. If she had even read the contract after she discovered Apple’s policy and realized “oh my! look what I agreed to!” I sincerely doubt she would have been making all those inquiries that Lee rattled off. Many are answered in the contract.

    Lee’s version of Heidi’s story is all I know. I don’t know if Heidi came across to Apple as belligerent as Lee sounded to me. Therefore, my next comments will deal with the hypothetical assuming the worst and adding my own imagination.

    Customer A makes regular backups and her hard disk dies. She goes to Apple and they put in a new disk. She connects her backup drive or pops in her back up DVDs and in a few hours is back in business.

    Customer B doesn’t make backups and her hard disk dies. She goes to Apple and voluntarily signs a contract saying she won’t get her original disk back, but she didn’t read the contract.  Apple puts in a new disk. She’s surprised when she doesn’t get the disk back. She reads her contract and realizes she made two big mistakes: not backing up and not reading the contract terms when she could have made other repair arrangements. Realizing she’s at fault, at least for agreeing to terms without understanding what they were, she then works with Apple to get the failed disk off to a data recovery service.

    Customer C doesn’t make backups and her hard disk dies. She goes to Apple and voluntarily signs a contract saying she won’t get her original disk back, but she didn’t read the contract.  Apple puts in a new disk. She’s surprised when she doesn’t get the disk back. She’s upset about losing her data. She gets angry at Apple thinking it’s their fault she’s lost her data. She hasn’t yet realized she could have backed-up or read the contract like Customer A or B. She sends a list of questions to a PR person that are either answered in the service contract or that relate to in-house business data that is not generally available to the public. She gets angry that Apple doesn’t want to answer.

    Now, put yourself in Apple’s shoes. I would perceive Customer C as “high maintenance”. She doesn’t accept responsibility for her predicament. She doesn’t go through normal chains of customer service. She’s asking questions in an angry manner. I’m thinking “potential troublemaker”. Of course I’m going to be guarded against talking to this person. Especially when there are plenty of people who will say things like “Apple’s repair policy is why people don’t buy Macs.”

    Back to my perspective. “Whaaa! I didn’t back up my hard disk. Whaaa! I didn’t read the contract. Whaaa! It’s all Apple’s fault.” doesn’t make me sympathetic to the argument that it’s Apple’s fault.

    [to be continued in next post again because of 5000 character limit…]

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/09  at  05:11 PM
  2. [...continued from previous post…]

    Now, if you want to discuss the repair policy on its merits and faults that’s a different issue. I’m not saying Apple’s repair policy is a good one. It’s never affected me because I always have backups. If you want to discuss Apple’s customer relations that’s a different issue. Obviously, their best complaint-handling-person (who’s probably not a PR person) should be explaining to Heidi about the contract she signed instead of me doing it. While bashing Apple for a customer’s mistakes is yet another issue. That last issue is why Lee’s report turned me off.

    Again, I don’t know how Heidi sounded to Apple or what else they said to her than what Lee reported. Maybe she was treated poorly. Level 1 Tech support at any company can be hit or miss. I’ve had some trying times with Apple. In those cases, I moved my way through normal channels and they’ve always done right by me.

    My advice to Heidi is to get an external firewire hard disk 2 times bigger than her iBook’s. Make 2 partitions. Download SuperDuper, Carbon Copy Cloner, or similar from VersionTracker http://versiontracker.com (search for backup). Then go over to Apple’s Discussion boards http://discussions.apple.com/index.jspa Post .for help to set the application to automate backups for her version of OS X. Make a bootable backup weekly to one partition, and a bootable backup daily to the other. In the event of a disk failure or theft of the laptop the data can be restored quickly and painlessly.

    To twist the aphorism “A bad day with a Mac beats a good day with a PC”.

    (This one is long because of not enough time to be short. Hope it makes sense.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/09  at  05:12 PM
  3. Macfan (whoever you are):

    My wife’s PC hard disk failed, and she didn’t back up. I took the PC to the shop, and they (gasp) JUST GAVE ME THE FAILED DRIVE. Why? Because we had PAID FOR IT =AND= we paid for the replacement! We bought both drives, so they didn’t assume they now owned one of them. A shocking position to take, I realize, from Apple’s point of view.

    But the real story that you seem to have missed is not Apple’s absurd and unethical policy, or the fact that Heidi should have been backing up, but the WAY SHE WAS TREATED at every turn. Surely you’re not suggesting that her failure to back up her data means that she DESERVED vague answers and a classic corporate runaround.

    By the way, I’ve been using a Powerbook G4 as my exclusive laptop and podcasting tool for over a year now, and I can’t WAIT to dump this piece of junk and get a Windows machine. I’d like either a tablet (not an Apple option) or the new Sony series (nothing Apple offers can touch it).

    Posted by Shel Holtz  on  03/10  at  06:15 AM
  4. Shel,

    No, I’m not saying Heidi deserves to be treated poorly. What I’m saying is that it takes two to communicate. If you approach a problem with “I’m right. You’re wrong.” resolving it can be more difficult. I’m guessing most people who are dissatisfied with their repair would ask to speak to a supervisor not send off an email to the PR department.

    Going from the Genius Bar to the Corporate PR department to resolve her problem didn’t help. PR won’t know the ins and outs of the repair and billing systems. When she made an inquiry closer to the tech and customer service front line - the store’s manager - she got an answer that “made it almost palatable”.

    Now consider Heidi seems to have misunderstood the terms of her agreement and the store manager looks like he was trying to help Heidi by letting her take the disk temporarily at no charge.

    Every time Apple replaced one of my hard drives, they asked me if my data was backed up. I called my Apple store and asked what they do when a person says no it’s not backed up. If they know it up front they can arrange for it to be sent to a data recovery service. I told the Apple store manager about this situation and he felt bad for Heidi having misunderstood she wouldn’t get the disk back.

    Maybe the tech didn’t ask Heidi if her data was backed up. That’s an issue. Raising it right away when picking up the computer might have made things go smoother.

    >Apple’s absurd and unethical policy

    It may be a stupid policy. It may be a policy that ticks off the customers. It may be a greedy policy. It may need to be revised.  You can persuade me of those things. How is it unethical? The exchange of the old part for the new one is part of their pricing, and they’re up front. You don’t have to like the terms. You don’t have to have them service your computer.

    I re-listened to Lee’s report. He didn’t number all the questions, but as near as I can tell questions 1, 2, and 7 are covered in the contract. Questions 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 concern business relationships and contracting that reasonably can be expected to be proprietary. Questions 3 about the brakes may not be answerable because in my experience the auto-repair industry comes under significant regulation by state and local authorities.

    My reason for replying is to try to point out that the situation isn’t as black-and-white as Lee painted it. I’m also saying about the communications that “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Many people find themselves in Heidi’s situation with no backup. Getting angry doesn’t fix the problem. I offered her a solution so she wouldn’t have the same problem in the future.

    There are several communication issues here as it relates to Lee’s report. I’d think it would make for interesting discussion.
    1. If you are going public with a complaint, be sure you have all the information and that you consider the whole story.
    2. Stick to the issue. Don’t make sweeping generalizations or bring in unrelated issues.
    3. Consider how your delivery (tone of voice, emotion) and your argument will or will not persuade people.
    4. If you are in PR and encounter an angry person what do you do?
    5. How should a company respond when someone blames you for a problem?

    Anyway, go ahead and be angry at me. I’ll go back to lurking and listening.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/10  at  11:21 AM
  5. How is it unethical? I bought hard drive A when I bought the computer. I didn’t borrow it, lease it, or rent it. I bought hard drive B when I paid for the replacement. I own them both. How does Apple get away with a policy that gives them ownership of something I paid for? If the replacement were free, it would be another story. If the first hard drive were free, that, too, would be another story. But they’re essentially keeping something I already paid for. Sounds pretty unethical to me.

    I’m in complete agreement with you about Heidi’s side of the equation. Do you believe Apple could stand to improve its approach to customers like Heidi?

    And, Macfan, I’m not angry. Ask anyone who knows me; it takes a lot more than a disagreement about Apple to get me angry.

    Telling me the Grateful Dead is the worst band to have ever stained a stage…now THAT would cheese me off! So please don’t lurk—we’re grateful for your comments and for your willingness to engage in the conversation! (Although we do value people who identify themselves over those who post anonymously.)

    Posted by Shel Holtz  on  03/10  at  12:08 PM
  6. I was planning to start with Edelman, but all this Mac talk is drawing me in.

    If you look at Heidi’s blog you’ll see that just today she’s stressing the point that she loves her Mac and Macs generally and doesn’t want to diss Apple. (And she did back up, as you’d know if you listened to her podcast.)

    The problem is that no one so far has been willing to show her the contract wherein she agreed that Apple would get to keep her old drive unless she paid them for it. She’s quite open to the possibility that she signed something without noticing that clause.

    So you’d think it would be simple enough for the store manager or the PR department to pull out a blank repair form and say “It says here that we get to keep your drive,” or, likewise, a license agreement for the original purchase of an iBook with wording to that effect. They haven’t. That suggests a problem not with Apple’s products, but with its customer relations department.

    And I’m pretty sure that Lee’s suggestion about this kind of experience being the reason for Windows’ dominance of the market was made with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

    Anyway, to return to what I orignally meant to say, regarding Edelman, Wal-Mart, and transparency:

    If I had received that particular pitch, I probably would have assumed its author was a Wal-Mart employee. I’d never heard of Edelman before I started listening to FIR (and then other PR and marketing podcasts). I still don’t know what you mean when you say they’re “the largest independent agency.” (What’s a dependent agency?)

    But not knowing that Marshall Manson worked for Edelman rather than Wal-Mart would not have changed my response. I do occasionally receive pitches from companies which want me to recommend their products on my FileSlinger™ Backup Blog. Before I can do that, I have to either check the product/servie out for myself, talk to people who do use it, ask others in the industry what they think about it, read the reviews, or some combination of all the above. Alternatively, I may say that a company asked for a mention but I have no experience of the product at all and can’t say anything either for or against it.

    In my former life I was an academic, in a discipline where anything you wrote had to be a forest of footnotes, with sources in several different languages. The general rule for writing about any subject was to find something in the existing scholarship to either disagree with or expand on. No one ever got tenure by simply repeating what someone else said.

    Nevertheless, it would have been better if Manson had made his relationship with Edelman clearer. Most bloggers are neither journalists nor scholars, and aren’t accustomed to dealing with PR firms. But I don’t think the ambiguity in the pitch counts as gross misconduct, either.

    And now I’m probably over the 5000-character limit, so I’d better wrap up.

    Posted by Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")  on  03/10  at  01:28 PM
  7. I’m backed up on podcasts, Sallie, but I do remember that Heidi does backup, but was behind in doing so and lost a week or a month’s worth of data.

    I’m in complete agreement with you over the Edel-Mart situation.

    Posted by Shel Holtz  on  03/10  at  01:46 PM
  8. Macfan, take a look at Heidi’s own post about her awful experience with Apple -

    http://talkitup.typepad.com/weblog/2006/02/customer_servic.html

    Reading this, I’d have been as outraged as Lee was when he talked about it in show #117.

    Posted by Neville Hobson  on  03/12  at  06:32 AM
  9. Actually, I meant that Macfan should listen to Heidi’s podcast.

    I made a big transparency blooper myself the other day, though—in forwarding the business buzzword bingo game joke to Lee Hopkins, I didn’t make it clear enough that I hadn’t written it myself, and he gave me credit for it on his blog. Very embarrassing.

    Posted by Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")  on  03/12  at  02:00 PM
  10. Hi Shel and Neville,

    Your discussion of the Edelman/Wal-Mart imbroglio should be a must-listen for all PR practitioners.

    I believe it’s fair game to deliver information directly to bloggers. But ... and it’s a big but, true transparency requires that you should be prepared to publish for all to see anything you’re prepared to send to a selected blogger.

    Blogger relations. Yes, it’s every bit as legitimate as media relations. However, the rules and conventions are not the same.

    Blogs are about building a community. The point of this community is opinion and exchange. And the tactics and approaches of media relations are not strictly transferable to this community.

    Emailing information directly to opinion leaders is an effective way to get it in front of them. They might not see it on your own blog. But, that brings us back to the big but: true transparency requires that you should be prepared to publish for all to see anything you’re prepared to send to a selected blogger. And to be able to do this in the blogosphere requires that you have your own blog. A place where you can post your point of view, your information, for all to see.

    That’s where Wal-Mart came up short. They used their PR firm’s bloggers and the credibility those bloggers had built up to speak directly to other bloggers. But for the rest of us, people outside of their carefully targeted direct blogger pitch, we could not see what the company was up to. The fact that their activity was discovered resulted from the slipshod practices of a few bloggers who quoted verbatim from the material Edelman provided to them, without attribution.

    So, true transparency was not achieved. And the resultant uproar should prove a cautionary tale for all.

    The bottom line: Avoid shortcuts. If you conclude that the blogosphere is important to you, establish your own voice first. Go ahead, contact the bloggers who you think are the most influential. But let the rest of the world see that you are prepared to say in public what you private encourage an intermediary to talk about.

    Posted by Joseph Thornley  on  03/13  at  07:35 AM
  11. Well this blog it’s a bag of information. I can’t verify it all and i must take full credit for all of it. I don’t share Heidi’s either, i don’t think it is objective enough.

    Posted by Business car leasing  on  06/06  at  02:42 AM

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