PRNewser Interview: Phil Gomes, Edelman VP

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Hello faithful readers. We’re back with another edition of our PRNewser interview, this time with Edelman VP and PR blogger extraordinaire (our term, not his) Phil Gomes.

Phil talks to PRNewser about what he looks for in new hires, his interactions with PR critic Amanda Chapel of Strumpette and what music is in his heavy rotation list, among other topics.

What is a typical, or atypical day in the life of Phil Gomes like?

For me, there’s no such thing as a “typical” day. I’ve had as many atypical days as I’ve spent in this business.

So, for the sake of brevity, then… This question is probably best answered by saying that my work to-date has been focused on education and training, client counsel, business development, and a small bit of marketing. Internal training and client/executive education was an increasingly important part of my role going into 2007 and will only be more so in 2008.

Even within that, there’s no such thing as a “typical day”. I do spend at least one week out of every three working out of our Chicago learning lab, but that’s about as close as things get to being routine.

What is your favorite thing about Chicago?
Having lived in California for most of my life, it’s great to live in an area where people actually value good weather. Few things are nicer than Chicago in the summertime and the folks who enjoy it.

How many cups of coffee to you consume each day?
No more than two. Black. And strong enough to walk by itself.

How many emails you get each day?
I stopped counting around 1998. (The year, that is, not the number of emails.) As high as it gets, I almost never let my inbox back up, though.

If you didn’t work in PR, you’d be:
A teacher. Best thing about my job here at Edelman is that I get to do both.

Most visited vacation spot?
I go on a fishing trip with the men in my family every year to the foot of the Sierra mountains. Next July will be our 21st year of doing this. No cellphone coverage. The payphones were on a party line up until five or six years ago.

What music is in Phil Gomes’ heavy rotation these days?
– The Gathering, “Home”

– Paradise Lost, “Believe In Nothing”

– John Scofield, “Time On My Hands”

– Fields Of The Nephilim, “Elizium”

– Soulfly, “Prophecy”

– “Blue Break Beats”, The Best of Blue Note

– Paul Galbraith, “Bach Sonatas & Partitas”

– Type O Negative, “October Rust”

– Boiled In Lead, “Antler Dance”

– Parliament, “The Best Of Parliament”

– Machine Head, “Through The Ashes Of Empires”

What changes will 2008 bring for PR people?
If I had to pick four:

– A larger part of the industry will learn to stop treating social media as a bright, shiny object and be better at integrating it into programs instead of inelegantly bolting them on.

– “Viral”, as a desired objective, will continue to give way to “sustainable.

– Social media literacy will stop being a resume differentiator and migrate closer to a required skill. Every PR pro will be expected to have online community engagement skills, not a particular silo’ed group. I’m not just talking about recent college grads, either.

– In the marketing-mix sense, Web 2.0 will continue to migrate towards PR to the same degree that Web 1.0 went to advertising in the 1990s.

You came out against the Gizmodo CES stunt. What do you think about paying writers by page view? Was that a factor in this whole thing and could it lead to more of the same?
Any product (journalistic or otherwise) and its economic reason-for-being are inextricably linked. It’s reasonable to surmise that paying writers per page-view might encourage increasingly sensationalistic behavior and affect the type of story and/or its quality. Then again, I look at operations like ZDNet’s — they disclosed a pay-per-pageview structure last year — and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything remotely “sensationalistic” there. Clearly, preserving long-term journalistic reputation wins out over the quick-buck motivation. Otherwise, you’re sacrificing influence and insight for mere popularity — an unsustainable proposition.

As to whether any of this was a factor in Gizmodo’s decision to run the story, you’d have to ask them. That said, I do think that Gizmodo’s initially offered defense — “When did journalists become the protectors of corporations?” — was pretty weak. Begs the question “So, when did journalists seek to disrupt corporations’ respective tradeshow marketing investments through silly pranks?”

Seems to me that one can maintain professional comportment *and* still conspicuously have fun at what he or she does for a living *and* entertain an audience.

According to Peter Himler, “Even the firm leading the Me2Revolution remains, by and large, predominantly focused on generating MSM coverage for its blue chip clients. (Ask anyone who works there.) I don’t blame them though given that this staid old PR competency continues to thrive as a bread and butter business.” What’s your take on Peter’s comments?

It’s really not whether you, as a PR professional, are focused on generating MSM coverage *or* building online community engagement. It’s whether you can come to the table with reasoned ideas on how the two — among other critical elements of the PR mix — work in concert to make a case and achieve a business goal. This is a central tenet of what I teach. I’m sure Peter would agree.

Peter, by the way, is a great guy and his blog is a must-read.

Have you ever spoken with Edelman and PR critic Amanda Chapel of Strumpette?
The last time I had any contact from them was this past summer. Strumpette’s ringleader made several hung-up calls to my office and lab phones, harrassing our receptionist while repeatedly demanding to have me paged. “Amanda” (most likely said ringleader) then sent me a Facebook message, wanting to meet in a “neutral location”. Since I declined, that particular exchange ended with “Amanda’s” typical insults and foul language. Strumpette’s ringleader even tried to call my wife… on a Sunday, no less.

“Amanda” evidently has a specific problem with me personally, and I’m pretty sure why. As a colleague told me last week, “You never want to wrestle with a pig — the pig likes it and all that you get is dirty.”

What do you look for in new hires?
I look for intellectual curiosity, the ability to defend an opinion, and whether that person leads an examined life from a media-consumption perspective.

That last point is particularly important. If someone can’t articulate *why* he or she consumes a particular mainstream or social media source, I can’t expect that person to have any real sense of why someone *else* might. And, if someone can’t do the latter, then that person is really not in this business.

We recently interviewed Society for New Communications Research founder Jen McClure. Talk to us about your work with that group.
I am a founding fellow with the group and we’ve recently brought on another Edelman employee, Mark Hannah, from our New York office. This year, I’m looking forward to participating in the Society’s educator’s committee with Richard Nacht, helping shape the agenda for incorporating new media in school curricula. I’ll also be delivering a half-day educator’s workshop at SNCR’s New Communications Forum this April.

In your post, Dear Friend-Collectors — Not Interested, you talked about random people friending/following you on Facebook, Twitter etc. How many of these requests to you get a day? What is your method to the madness?
About 10 or 15 per week. Since my Twitter account is locked down to friends only, I like to make sure the people whom I let in really want to be part of that group for reasons beyond simply building their own audience or improving some kind of ranking. Unless the person has made some kind of effort to correspond via other channels, I’ll typically ignore or deny the request. Exceptions have been made from time to time.

While some folks had an extreme reaction to my “Friend-Collectors” post, it did inspire some rewarding correspondence, which led to bringing more folks into my Twitter circle.

What do you make of Scoble’s move to Fast Company? It seems a model these days is to build an audience online and then “pitch” that audience to media companies looking to develop a community. Do you agree?
I believe the match is compatible and that both parties have the opportunity to learn from one another. Putting Robert’s boundless enthusiasm within the structure of journalistic rigor will, among other things, likely result in shorter videos — something I know that many of his strongest critics will most certainly welcome. As of this writing, is still in “coming soon” mode. Looking forward to seeing what develops and how other media companies will react.