Free consultation with  the Harris Communications Group on Thursday, April 21, 2011
Social media is a wonderful outreach tool—but for landing customers, it’s only as good at the Web site it sends visitors to. During the recession, many companies and organizations neglected their Web sites —but as the economy improves, we are seeing great interest in replacing outdated content and clunky, old fashioned Web technologies with new material and functionality that is easy and inexpensive to use.
As part of Harriscom’s Third Thursday speaker series,  we will evaluate five Web sites for free.
If you’ll send your url to, we’ll   meet with the first five companies to respond.
Meetings will be scheduled for Thursday, April 21, between three and five PM  at in the Cambridge (MA)  Innovation Center at 1 Broadway in a room yet to be determined.
  We’d  also be happy to look over forthcoming press releases and other marketing materials if you’ll send them ahead of time.
—Anita M. Harris
Anita  M. Harris is president of the award-winning  Harris Communications Group, a Cambridge, MA agency specializing in  strategic marketing communications, public relations and thought leadership for emerging companies in health, science, technology and energy fields.
  A former national journalist, Anita has reported for Newsday and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report of PBS, and served as a regular columnist for MSN.  She has taught communications at Harvard, Yale, Tufts and Babson and served as Public Affairs Director for the Harvard School of Public Health. 
In more than 12 years as a commumications consultant, she has developed Web content and navigation systems for  Inforonics, DIAMED, Radcliffe College, Center for the Study of Aging, and the St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, among other clients. She has provided media relations and thought leadership services to  a variety of companies in the US and abroad. 


A colleague asked me the other day if I think the field of media relations —in which public relations practitioners promote stories about their clients to the press—is  dead.  I don’t.  I believe it’s better now than it ever was.

It’s true that with the rise of Internet news, there are fewer traditional media outlets than in the past, and individual outlets are shrinking.There’s a smaller “news hole, “and, with social media responsibilities added to their reporting jobs, journalists are eeven busier now than  than they used to be.  

This means that  it’s increasingly difficult to get reporters’ attention–so that for media relations practitioners,  personal relationships and well-honed story ideas are key.

Still, just about every newspapers has an online presence, a 24-hour news cycle, bloggers, and links of its own—providing plenty of opportunity for companies and organizations to present news items that might, in pre-Internet days, have been overlooked.

Paid wire services—which I once avoided because reporters rarely picked up stories, there—now make press releases available online for  further dissemination by organizations, companies, trade media, bloggers, and twitterers—thus giving company news a presence all over the Web (and world).

Of course, media relations practice is  rapidly becoming “social media relations”: journalists are increasingly  reporting stories and finding ideas based on information from blogs, twitter, facebook and the like—and social media campaigns sometimes become traditional print stories in themselves.

 In March, USA Today covered a Chevrolet tactic in which people filmed and shared, via smartphones,  their experiences driving cross-country (in Chevrolets, of course)  to an auto show.  (     That tactic obviously worked big time: here I am, publicizing the article, Chevrolet, the trade show and USA Today, on my blog.

Whatever tactics you choose, it’s important to know your audience, provide accurate, well-written information –and maximize potential– through blogs, articles, white papers, links and SEO (search engine optimization). And don’t forget the possibilities using audio, visual, and other exciting new means.

I’m biased, but as far as I’m concerned, media relations is not just changing: it’s alive and well–and thriving.

These days, it’s no problem if that newspaper you slaved to get your client into gets used to wrap someone’s fish.

While the fast-changing Internet allows access to developments as they happen,  it also heightens our ability to store, search and share.  This means that (for better or worse) the information you put out stays out:  there’s no longer such a thing as yesterday’s news.

–Anita M. Harris
Anita M. Harris is the president of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning public relations firm specializing in media relations, Internet content and social media. HarrisCom is based in Cambridge, MA.

Much enjoyed hearing members of the Boston health care press  admit (boast?) that they have almost zero use for social media.

Speaking on a panel at last week’s meeting of the Publicity Club of the New England,   journalists from the  Boston Business Journal (BBJ), Dow Jones Newswires, the Boston Herald and WBZ-TV) said they don’t “get”  Twitter--don’t have time for it, and can’t  see why anyone would want to use  it.

Jon Kamp, who covers medical technology and energy for Dow Jones said, “I’m 35 going on 100. I don’t get it; I don’t know what to do with it. When I’m 100, I hope I’ll be saying the same thing.”

Brad Perriello, executive editor  the year-old,  an online business journal covering the device industry,  said he mainly posts  news feeds to attract readers to the publication’s Web site.

Ryan McBride,  a correspondent for Xconomy, a national online publication with bureaus in Boston, Seattle and San Diego,  said he follows certain industry leaders on Twitter but rarely contributes, himself.

Several said they have linked-in accounts that they barely use and and none use Facebook professionally.

” Facebook is to show people pictures of my kid,” Kamp said.

McBride described Linked-in as “an online Rolodex that’s full of people I don’t talk to much. Facebook is friends and family and all the people in high school whom I didn’t know were my friends.”

Julie Donnelly of the BBJ can’t see the point of posting on Facebook.  “I’m not that interesting,” she said.

Debbie Kim of  WBZ-TV  said she doesn’t have time  and Christine McConville of the Herald, said that, as an investigative reporter, she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to make public the details of her life.  Plus,  “I can barely return my emails, get enough exercise, see my friends.   I certainly don’t have time for [Facebook].

She does, however, enjoy contributing to videos that appear online every three weeks or so.

The conversation was moderated by Michal Regunberg, vice president of Solomon McCown & Co,  a Boston public relations firm.  Regunberg’s questions focused on the ways in which cutbacks and other changes in the media are  affecting coverage.

All of the journalists agreed that the national debate over health reform has been the focus of their coverage in recent months (and that they’re tired of it).

All said they are working with less time, fewer resources and greater demands to produce more.  As a result, they have less time for research or feature writing.

McConville said she must write two stories  a day for the Herald. McBride covers two different beats for Xconomy. Donnelly writes for both the Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech and is responsible for breaking stories on line as well as in print.   Debbie Kim, medical producer for WBZ-TV, must sometimes produce as many as four pieces in a single a day.

Kamp  mentioned that in the past, Dow Jones’ headquarters was relegated to offices in New Jersey but now shares the New York City newsroom of the Wall Street Journal–and that, in many newsrooms, there is tension over which stories should be posted online immediately and which should be  held for the print version of the paper.

All of the above means that anyone trying to get coverage faces huge competition for reporters attention and must provide information that is extremely clear and to the point, the journalists agreed.

The discussion  made me glad to be out of the pressure cooker journalism has increasingly become–but happy to see  a high level of competence, dedication and concern for truth in the Boston press corps.

——-Anita M. Harris

HarrisComBlog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries Blog.


July 16, 2009

Butterfly1b-webHi–and welcome to, a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA

 We’ll be covering and commenting  on issues relating to the traditional and new media, public relations, social media,  health care life sciences, and our clients.   We welcome links, pingbacks, comments and suggestions. Our materials are copyrighted, so if you’d like to use them, please email us for permission.

Thanks for stopping by!

 Anita M. Harris, President

 On Wednesday, July 15, 2009, media consultant Doug Bailey wrote in an  op ed column entitled  “Got a comment? Keep it to yourself” that space for comments at the end of online newspaper articles should be eliminated because they downgrade the quality of news. 

Bailey,  who does not disclose that he’s a  former Globe editor, suggests that rather than enhance communication, newspapers online forums are “insidiously contributing to the devaluation of journalism, blurring the truth, confusing the issues, and diminishing serious discourse beyond even talk radio’s worst examples.”

He  points out (without naming names) that  the comment sections allow  “anonymous”, “unverified,”  “agenda-driven”  “boneheads” to post inaccurate information that  can be picked up by bloggers and then by legitimate traditional reporters who publish “missives” –unaware that the bloggers’ information came from their newspapers’ own Web sites.

Yes, this is a problem–and  it is, as Bailey puts it, a bit  “insane”. But rather than ban readers’ comments, wouldn’t it make more sense for reporters to verify all sources?  Certainly, real reporting takes time–and traditional journalists are increasingly harried in these days of cost-cutting and layoffs.

But it is verfication and objectivity that separate  independent journalism from  disinformation. And, it is truth, and allowing readers a stake in it–that, in the end, will give us a reason to  pay for news.

Bailey ends his column saying, “By the way, don’t bother posting any comments directly to me when this article appears on the Web. I won’t see them. Instead, go start your own website or blog or buy a legitimate newspaper or write a letter to the editor, or an op -ed (and sign your own name to it). If  you really have something interesting to say, I’ll find you.”

(I was  amused–and glad–to see 168 comments after the online posting.

  • “Kachunk” says he’s posting for “the irony”
  • “Oldpink “says it’s ” nice for ordinary citizens to be given an opportunity to add something that should have been in the original column, while allowing others to rebut.Messy? Often a bit mean? Commonly inaccurate? Absolutely. Isn’t democracy grand?”
  •  “Sensibleman,”  writes that he’s using  the first amendment to tell Bailey “to stop submitting articles so if intelligent life ever scans our internet to determine how critical it is to stop at Earth they don’t pass over us due to stupidity.”)

I read Bailey’s column in the print edition–which is delivered  to my door (late, but that’s another story)  every day.   But the Globe allows almost no print space for letters to the editor which, in days past, might have helped keep reporters and columnists on their toes.  Hence, this posting–and comment #169 after Bailey’s piece, online.

But if  I did write in, I’d  include my name and  prior affiliations– and make  clear that like Bailey’s,  my not-so hidden agenda is to attract customers to  my consulting business.  

 Hint, hint:  Anita Harris, a former national journalist,  is president of the Harris Communications Group, of Cambridge, MA.

PS  Comments welcome!

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