The Friendly Chat: Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy has been working in both agency and in-house PR roles across North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America since 1991 and is currently responsible for Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility for Microsoft in Ireland.

Prior to joining Microsoft in August 2005, Tom was director of corporate communications for Cape Clear Software and his most recent agency posting was as general manager of EMEA consulting for Text 100, where he helped clients plan and execute PR plans in multiple countries across the region.

Tom has worked with companies across practically every technology industry sector including BEA Systems, Corel, Gateway, Intel, Marrakech, Microsoft, StorageTek and Visio. He has been blogging about Public Relations since 2002 and when time permits he writes the Murphy’s Law blog. He can be contacted at tpemurphy -AT- hotmail.com.

Why did you start blogging?

I started in March 2002, running the PR Opinions blog which talked about, funnily enough, PR. From August 2006 I moved across to Murphy’s Law.

I didn’t really start with any objective. I just thought there wasn’t much good PR content out there, and decided to use a blog to collate my own thoughts and ideas, and store material and links. You could almost think of it as a pre-del.icio.us in that respect.

People then started commenting, and it took off. It became a ‘real’ blog. Recently however, I’m finding I lack the time to post as often as I would like.

How do you think your professional life has benefited from blogging?

When I started there were only a few other PR bloggers around, such as Phil Gomes, Jim Horton and Richard Bailey. The numbers started growing quickly but I found being in at a comparatively early stage did give me an advantage.

For example, I was working with a small software company at the time, and was not only aware of blogger outreach but able to do it, simply through being a blogger myself and knowing what it was about. This was a fairly unique offering at the time.

What has been your single greatest blogging success?

Actually, it was while working at that small software company. We were marketing a technical product and so identified some 20 key US bloggers that we felt would be able to give an informed (and hopefully favourable!) review. Of them, about ten reviewed it, and a spike of online interest occurred as a result.

Two weeks later there was a huge spike, and interest grew exponentially. This was because people were reading the reviews and commenting on them – that is, word was spreading. It appeared in trade journals, then made it to the New York Times and then the San Jose Mercury News which, for us, was the bullseye.

What are the top three things you’d ask people to consider when they start a blog?

1. Think about who you’re writing for and what you want to say. A blog isn’t really a blog if no one reads it!

2. Be realistic about your expectations, particularly regarding the amount of time you’re prepared to spend on it. Time is an ever-decreasing commodity.

3. Get out there and engage. When you blog, you’re part of a community, and this involves giving as well as taking.

If Twitter is microblogging, how would you say it fits alongside blogging?

I think Twitter is like being partially deaf – you only hear part of the conversation! I find Twitter interesting personally, I just don’t have the time to participate in it. I also find it’s populated by Web 2.0 advocates, not ‘real’ people whom I would want to reach on behalf of clients.

The bigger issue is that people are being swamped with information nowadays. This isn’t helped when all sites are being touted as useful to all people. They’re not, and never could be. People just don’t have the time to engage with all of this.

Things are always evolving and particularly now, particularly in social media, we’re in a real state of flux. In five years’ time new tools will have emerged that we couldn’t imagine life without. And, by the same token, some of today’s tools will have disappeared.

I think we will start finding a balance between them, and between our use of traditional ‘offline’ media and online. Online is not the death-knell of offline, and let us never forget that the most effective form of communication is face-to-face.

What are your predictions for social media in 2008?

I see two basic trends:

1. Large online organisations/sites will become the most important. Below that there will be massive fragmentation with lots of smaller social sites vying for attention. This will be a nightmare to monitor, let alone to figure out how best to use them. The focus, as always, should be on the audience. What will they use all these things for? It’s impossible to say.

2. Continued flux. Things are far from settling down. A couple of years ago Myspace and Bebo were very popular in Ireland, now Facebook is in the ascendance.

Of the corporate blogs that built buzz (‘Tis the time for lists), which is your favourite, and why?

I think Dell have done a really good job. They were having a harder time than other people but they put their hands up and opened themselves to the criticism being levelled at them. They continued to listen and learn some very tough home truths.

I also like what GM are doing. Theirs is a territory not often associated with social media so they’ve been particularly open-minded here. Their blogs feature a lot of executive opinion, open customer engagement, and content from advocates and critics alike.

You have advised people on how to get into ‘New PR’. What has been their reaction?

I actually detest the phrase New PR! It implies ‘replacement’, that is, something that is better than what went before. This is not the case. PR is PR, it’s about conversation, always has been, always will be. It’s just the channels and tools which change. So, while social media is ‘new stuff’, it’s still within the remit of PR.

This is how I frame it when I talk to PR people, both evangelists and more traditional types alike, and it resonates with them all. They react well to this advice.

What is your favourite social media tool/site/technology?

If I were on a desert island which would I want? FeedDemon. It’s a great application. It makes reading RSS so easy, it’s very user-friendly, it enables me to monitor and search feeds, set up alerts, everything I need. It’s simple and effective – and free now, although I was a paying subscriber initially.

Which blogger do you most admire?

Good grief, this is like asking me which of my kids is the least ugly! I love them all in equal measure.

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3 thoughts on “The Friendly Chat: Tom Murphy

  1. Pingback: links for 2008-02-26 « media mindshare: news media, technology & public relations

  2. Tom
    Thanks for the call out….we are working hard to be better at listening learning and growing every day based on the great access and be4nefits to be achieved using online media. We are not perfect, but thrilled to be recognized by you and others and are hard at it.

    Thanks and keep the feedback coming…we hear you

  3. Pingback: Quote of the Week: Tom Murphy « media mindshare: news media, technology & public relations

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