PR Fish Bowl

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TGIF: PR Praise for Hyper-Local Media

This past week AOL CEO Tim Armstrong issued a memo to the staff of the struggling content company, saying that he was sorry about the impulsive and public way he fired Abel Lenz, the creative director of Patch, AOL’s network of local newsgathering units, which is due to shrink considerably as early as this weekend.

Two minutes into a conference call to Patch’s 1,000 employees last week, Armstrong seemed jarringly to lose his temper. Lenz was videotaping the meeting, and Armstrong suddenly said, “Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!”

Now you may think this is going to be a blog about “best practices” when firing an employee but it’s actually a post singing the PR praises of the humble hyper-local dailies found online in many communities, known as “Patches”.

There was a time when handling PR for a client in Westchester meant a half dozen decent outlets at your disposal – including the New York Times “Westchester” section which would run your calendar item or perhaps do a profile on said client. But we all know that, through consolidation, online options and media belt tightening, many local sources for coverage have dried up. This has provided not only a hardship for hard-working PR people, but a disservice to communities seeking regular local news.

Enter the Patch, like a breath of fresh air and a little industry savior, adding UVM and tonnage to your local client clip report. The Patches post everything, and better still, they allow PR people to post their client store and restaurant openings, events and other news themselves! They have pretty decent freelancers who do interviews, they will run your ribbon-cutting and press conference photos and there are so many of them that, the same story, with a little geographic tweaking, can run in multiple Patches. Oh how we sing their praises.

Therefore while I am sorry that Abel Lenz lost his job, I am much more troubled by the reason behind the event that prompted it! A conference call to the Patch’s 1000 employees to discuss the network’s revenue woes. Oh Tim, find a way to patch up your problems and keep the Patches publishing!

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