Hempel: Public relations in the blog age

Today when a company addresses the public, it doesn’t need to contact a press officer who contacts a publicist who faxes releases all over town. Chief officers can post updates directly to blogs read by clients, investors and consumers.

But PR has retained its place in the interaction by introducing services called “social media,” such as controlling a company’s blog presence and providing blogger support, said Lisa Hempel, new president of Eastwick Communications.

“The consumer is fewer steps away from the company’s communications,” Hempel said. “Executives are not behind a curtain as much as they were.”

Eastwick named Hempel president Nov. 1. The firm, based in San Francisco and Mountain View, with clients including Seagate, Fujitsu and Cake Financial, has represented technology companies in the area for 15 years.

Hempel previously ran a firm called Sparkpr, and came to Eastwick after a year spent consulting for offices including Eastwick’s. She said she formed a relationship with Barbara Bates, who together with Elaine Cummings founded Eastwick Communications in 1992.

“The founders have a real interesting style,” Hempel said. “They’re very networked in the Valley. So I did consulting with Eastwick and gained a relationship with Barb and found they were looking for a president.”

Hempel, 41, who in the mid-1990s was the youngest member of the management team at Qwest Communications, began her career in Washington, D.C., in the public relations office for the National Association of Manufacturers. She didn’t like working for the government, however, and moved into tech, working on Apple’s consumer marketing and later with Cunningham Communications.

“In those days it was very different,” Hempel said. “We barely had the Internet.”

By contrast, the tech-savvy CEOs found in Silicon Valley are easy to cultivate, facilitating Hempel’s efforts to bring executives into the blogosphere.

“If you’re doing a good job managing the communication program overall, the CEO is very likely to be on target with his postings,” Hempel said. “You wouldn’t want an executive blogging regularly if it wasn’t within their scope of strengths. But that’s rarely the case these days.”

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