The Secret Life of Runners

IStock_000004116816XSmallAs is his wont, SiliconValleyWatcher’s Tom Foremski stirred the pot recently in discussing PR firms who offer “social media consulting” yet who don’t blog or otherwise actively participate.

This led to posts by Voce’s Josh Hallett (here and here).  Josh sets an even higher bar; the gist of which was to call out firms who are overproud of even the most minimal online efforts:

“Sure it’s nice that some agencies and ‘consultants’ are ‘walking the walk’ but if your only example of social media experience is your own agency/personal blog, well then…er, sorry.  Let’s try running instead of walking, as in what programs have you ‘run’ for clients?”

Josh is, as usual, spot-on.  However, I am in a sanguine mood.  I’d like to give folks the benefit of the doubt.  Here is an excerpt of my reply to Josh’s second post:

“The fact that so many agencies are starting to blog, tweet, etc. is something we should only applaud, yes? There will always be frauds & phonies and they’ll be known as such in the end.

“There will also be plenty of firms who try/fail/try/fail and yet ultimately do great things, and I don’t fault them for the trying (or even the failing – unless they habitually fail to learn the important lessons).

“Meanwhile, most agencies are not allowed to talk publicly about the great work they have done for clients. So the ‘public’ stuff we see can’t always be viewed as the be-all/end-all of that agency’s capabilities.”

I’ll use my own agency as an example.  I’ve been blogging for four years, and have been graced by this site’s relative success (thank you, loyal readers!!).  Many other SHIFT employees run their own well-respected blogs, such as SocialTNT (which includes a channel), Social Honeycomb, and  And scores of SHIFTers (not just me and @DougH) are on Twitter.  We’ve also hosted an official employee blog, UnSpun, for about 2 years, and just soft-launched a fun, unofficial one (Slice) as well. 

These are our agency’s public faces.  We’re experimenting with tools, technologies and ideas.  And you’re damn right we bring those personal experiences to bear for our public relations campaigns. 

IStock_000005186458XSmallYet, how many case studies do I get to point to?  Way too few.  That’s not because we’re not running successful programs; it’s because getting clients to agree to approve our case studies is like pulling teeth.  We rarely even bother to ask anymore.  Ya’ll only get to hear about the occassional pratfalls!

As I noted to Josh, “We can all do a better job of ‘running the run’ yet also need to remember that we’re engaged in a marathon, not a sprint, eh?”

What are YOU up to?  Can you tell us all about it?

Posted on: June 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm By Todd Defren
5 Responses to “The Secret Life of Runners”


  • Dan Thornton says:

    It’s an interesting problem, and one I can see from both sides.

    Individually, I’ve been blogging and using social networks for a number of years to explore ideas, and eventually it resulted in a promotion to become Community Marketing Manager. I’m addicted to Twitter, and wish I had more time for reading and commenting on blogs…

    In a professional capacity, I work across numerous brands, and have examples of people who really ‘get it’, some who are enthusiastic but misguided, or lack understanding, and some who are more reluctant…and in any organisation, there’s always going to be that mix. I’m happy to blog and Tweet as an individual, and in fact enjoy the fact that it’s all down to me – others are more familiar with marketing or writing with the support of a brand name, and find it harder to do anything outside of that brand…

    I think it’s a 3 stage process. Get them doing something. Get them to improve. And then if they don’t improve, it’s the time to worry. Social Media is still such a new thing to so many people that it’s worth going back and reading your first ever blog post or Tweet and grimacing at it to remember what it’s like to start out…

  • Joe Blow says:

    While I would agree that all agencies involved in social media consulting should get their feet wet before encouraging their clients to swim (or dive).

    But, isn’t it true that we recommend mainstream media programmes without publishing our own newspapers? Or run our own broadcast programmes?

    Just a thought.

    It’s not really which platform you recommend your clients to participate it. It’s really about relationships. And that’s what we do – help them build relationships. The platform, whether social or mainstream media, is secondary.

  • Lori Russo says:

    Josh’s point of view is completely understandable, however I disagree with him and have to echo your comments, Todd. We often are not at liberty to discuss the work we do for our clients, but more importantly, we prefer to spend our time thinking about how to meet their needs than thinking about how to promote ourselves. That said, we understand that we must embrace social networking and new technologies, so we are thoughtfully building a program that will represent our company well. We have wonderful examples to reference, including this blog. Thanks for continuing to share your insight with the rest of us.

  • Jason Falls says:

    Obviously, there are agencies that get it, then people at agencies that get it. My agency falls into the latter, though we’re making great strides.

    In addition to fully supporting me and my efforts on Social Media Explorer, Doe-Anderson has started its own blog ( targeted to our clients, former clients, employees, former employees and community friends. It is run by our chief creative officer, David Bonner, who admittedly knew nothing about blogging when he started it. He’s asked me for guidance from time to time, but I have little to do with it.

    In addition, most of the folks in my agency are exploring LinkedIn and Facebook from professional stand points. Several of us are even on Twitter, including my CEO, Todd Spencer, though he forgets he has an account and hasn’t used it much, if at all.

    But from a social media strategy standpoint, Doe-Anderson has two devoted strategists and an interactive/digital marketing department that clearly gets it and is actively involving clients in the practice.

  • Josh Hallett says:

    Good follow-up….I’ll leave the same comment here I posted after your comment on my blog:

    Yes it is a marathon, but training for a marathon and completing the race distance are two different things.

Show some social media love would ya?

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