Didn't we mention the company? Dunno how that happened

28 November 2005

Jeremy Pepper's spidey sense tells him that a PR was instrumental in BusinessWeek running a piece on blogging, largely built around the experiences of investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein with wikis as an alternative to emails with enormous cc lists. As a PR, Pepper noticed one thing most people not in that industry would not have bothered to think about: the name of the supplier of the wiki to DRKW was missing.

In the world of wikis, this maybe should not be a surprise. Most of them are open-source, freely downloadable chunks of software that DRKW could have installed without any outside help. However, a few quick checks indicated a vendor was involved in the wiki project. The pesky hack had simply left their name out. However, that did not seem to tick the supplier off too much, judging by the way they flag up the piece on their website, found after a quick Google.

Pepper sympathised with the PR flack's situation. What was going to be top of the cuttings pile for the client was no longer such a shiny piece of placement. It's not a rare complaint from PRs - and I can understand why. It's not unusual, after you've done all the research needed for a story or feature, that some information just falls off. And, in the case of stories about companies' use of technology, the name of a supplier is often the first victim. It's not malice or forgetfulness, it's just not pertinent to the story that actually runs.

If the PR asks what happened, the hack has one or two answers to fall back on. Blaming the subs (UK jargon - desk editors in the US) is a good first attempts for the cowardly. Just telling them that the supplier of the software just wasn't pertinent to the piece is the brutal truth but can get into a long, often circular discussion. But at least it's honest.

It's whatever gets the job done that counts. If you read the piece, there is no need to mention a wiki-software supplier. The piece is about wikis versus email, not wiki supplier versus wiki supplier. So, who needs to know which wiki was involved? There are many, both closed and open source. And, right now, there is not much in any of them that really makes them stand apart, at least not from the point of view of the general business reader. Maybe the people trying to stick one up on the Intranet care that TikiWiki's documentation is about three sub-releases behind the latest version of the software or what the security of PHPWiki is like. A commercial version may likely to have the edge there (although not necessarily). But the business reader does not care about those details. Just that wikis might remove them from email hell.

As I was halfway through reading the piece, I found myself disagreeing that the piece was inevitably PR-inspired. Maybe the CIO at DRKW had popped up at a conference about social software and the story developed from there. Then I remembered my good friend, and yours, Google. I wasn't expecting the supplier to come out right at the top, but there it was at Socialtext. And it was then a wry grin cracked across my face. The company has posted great big chunks of the piece, including a mention of one of Socialtext's other clients. Halfway down, it claims: "The article goes on to describe the Socialtext wiki solution and it's [sic] benefits."

This, you will recall, is despite the name Socialtext not actually appearing in the printed copy. Maybe it did make it to the top of the PR's cuttings pile after all.


Thanks for doing the digging I didn't - I updated my post today to give you a hat tip. :)


Not actually a bad spot. SocialText did pass on our details to Michelle Conline at BW but we had been talking to Rob Hoff and other BW correspondents on various initiatives for a while now. JP Rangaswami, our CIO, is very well known in the banking industry (last year's Waters CIO of the Year, for example) and gets a good following from journalists because he is a very open and refreshing spokesperson in a world that isn't usually so inclined. Originally I think we were going to be a bit of a footnote on this one to a story about SocialText but we had enough to say to so that the article became about us and SocialText dropped out of the equation. SocialText did make the first contact, but the story was very much created and positioned by Michelle and ourselves. SocialText had no hand in it except to put Michelle in touch with us (although they may have briefed her separately).

As far as I'm concerned the lack of a mention of a vendor makes the story stronger because it shows that it really was about customer experience and not a PR spin.


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