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October 29, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I came across Marques Brownlee, a.k.a. MKBHD, earlier this year when he was mentioned in the comments of some article I was reading. Curious, I clicked through to his YouTube channel and ended up subscribing.

It turns out MKBHD is a YouTube star with nearly 13 million subscribers — and I can understand why. Brownlee has an earnestness and humility about him that is endearing and builds trust, which is crucial for anybody doing product reviews. I’ve watched several of his videos since that day, and found his coverage to be fair, easy to understand, and thorough. It’s a nice contrast to the legions of YouTubers who rely on yelling at the camera, stunts, fancy graphics or by manufacturing controversy.

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October 25, 2020 -

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed by the new documentary White Noise, which was recently released by The Atlantic. I first learned of the doc from an article in the same publication titled “Why the Alt-Right’s Most Famous Woman Disappeared” by Daniel Lombroso, which profiled a young woman named Lauren Southern. Despite following news and politics pretty closely, it was the first time I had come across her name. What surprised me, though, is she hails from Surrey, British Columbia, which is part of Greater Vancouver. She grew up in the same environment I did.

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September 30, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The rise of newsletters, which has been underway for several years now, is finally on the media’s radar. They’ve become a legit path for journalists to pursue their own beats at their own pace while building their own audiences. The latest is Casey Newton, longtime technology reporter for The Verge and writer of The Interface. Newton recently announced he would launch a newsletter on Substack called Platformer on October 5.

He writes:

Something special happens when a publication shrinks down all the way to a single reporter’s point of view. The publication feels more trustworthy: you know who the writer is, and where they’re coming from. It promotes expertise: the reporter is free to explore their given subject at great depth, sharing what they learn in an iterative way. And because their publications are about something specific, they can create real communities. Intimate, fascinating, generative communities.

No doubt Newton has the chops to pull this off. He has the name recognition, deep knowledge of his subject area, a great network of contacts, and the dedication and discipline to make it a success. Then there’s the matter of timeliness: Newton says the newsletter will focus on the intersection of social networks and democracy, something not well understood yet critical to elections and the long-term sustainability of democracy.

I heartily support journalists who take this step, and have long admired and subscribed to two of the best who helped blaze this new path to profitable newsletters: Ben Thompson from Stratechery and Bill Bishop of Sinocism. That said, it feels like there is a clear limit to how many newsletters people can — or would want — to subscribe to. There will be a point at which it will be exceedingly difficult to break through if you don’t have name recognition already. I don’t know where that point is, but it’s possible we’re already at it.

Regardless, I’m rooting for Newton. I’ve signed up for the annual plan and already look forward to his first installment next month.

September 23, 2020 -

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Chinese President Xi Jinping blasting the United States and calling for solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 at the United Nations on September 22 (emphasis added by me):

All countries are closely connected and we share a common future. No country can gain from others’ difficulties or maintain stability by taking advantage of others’ troubles. To pursue a beggar-thy-neighbor policy or just watch from a safe distance when others are in danger will eventually land one in the same trouble faced by others. This is why we should embrace the vision of a community with a shared future in which everyone is bound together. We should reject attempts to build blocs to keep others out and oppose a zero-sum approach. We should see each other as members of the same big family, pursue win-win cooperation, and rise above ideological disputes and do not fall into the trap of “clash of civilizations”. More importantly, we should respect a country’s independent choice of development path and model.

So who in China made an ‘independent choice’ about any of those things?

September 2, 2020 -

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You can now listen to blog posts on CamMacMurchy.com by using the player below, or subscribing to the “CamMacMurchy.com… with Sound” podcast in your favorite podcast app.

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, flight simulators were a cool way to show off the potential of personal computers. I remember fiddling with the Microsoft Flight Simulator sometime in the 1990s and thinking it was great. My dad, who spent his entire career working for an airline (not as a pilot, though) was so impressed he wanted to give it a shot, too.

How quaint we were.

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August 17, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ewan and I had a great discussion last night on the PR & Law Podcast about the case of Steve Easterbrook, who was ousted as the CEO of McDonald’s in November of 2019 for having a consensual relationship with a McDonald’s employee. Consensual or not, he found himself in trouble because McDonald’s internal policies prohibited relationships with a large power dynamic at play. Easterbrook admitted that he made a mistake, apologized to staff, accepted a roughly $40 million dollar golden parachute, and went away. Case closed.

Easterbrook isn’t the first powerful male CEO to end up in scandal — it’s happened enough times that there’s already a PR playbook for it: oust the CEO, pay him to go away, and make announcements about moving on and doing better. That trusty playbook has long encouraged companies to get the embarrassing CEO out of the headlines as soon as possible, and thus limit any reputational damage to the company.

McDonald’s, though, is going a different direction. Earlier this month McDonald’s management was tipped off that Easterbrook didn’t just have one consensual relationship with a staffer — he possibly had as many as four within the span of a year. McDonald’s, which has been trying to clean up the office culture following several allegations of sexual harassment in recent years, has taken the unusual step of re-opening the case and demanding its money back.

I could write a lengthy post here about why this case is fascinating, what kind of signal this sends to future leaders and employees, and why it’s so risky for McDonald’s, but it’s much easier to listen to the discussion below.

If you’re into this kind of corporate drama, with its implication on both employment law and public relations, this is an episode you won’t want to miss.

Listen to the show below, or subscribe for free in your favorite podcast app.

August 4, 2020 -

Reading Time: 40 minutes

I mentioned earlier that I’ve launched a podcast with a good friend of mine, Ewan Christie, an employment lawyer in Toronto, Canada. We had worked on The Nanfang together many years ago, and have kept in touch regularly since we shuttered the site at the end of 2016. Earlier this year, we decided to launch a podcast that features a lot of the material we discussed during regular weekend conversations.

The podcast is a work-in-progress, but as we record more shows they’re slowly improving. We had a blast this week because PR veteran Edward Segal joined to talk about a number of PR issues facing companies today. Segal just released a new book called Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies, and dispensed some pretty practical advice for communications people as they wrestle with a global pandemic, a tech backlash, Black Lives Matter, and economic calamity. Ewan, who addresses legal issues each week, also talked about how COVID-19 is already changing how employment contracts are written up and what people should look for before signing on the dotted line.

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July 30, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

There have been rumblings from Beijing ever since Xi Jinping became President in 2012 that a long-desired reunification with Taiwan is gaining urgency.

Ever since Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Communist Party has sought to recover what it believes is lost territory and re-establish the country’s prominence following a century of humiliation at the hands of foreigners.

We’re also getting a clearer sense of how Xi’s administration operates. If the experience in Tibet, Xinjiang, and now Hong Kong is any indication, the leadership has not shown a penchant for restraint, nor is it concerned about its international reputation. Under Xi, China has become more aggressive in diplomacy, in territory, and in growth of the country’s military.

The last big territorial task, in Beijing’s eyes, is to reunite with Taiwan. That won’t be easy, because the island has developed over the past 70 years outside of China’s direct control, having built a vibrant democracy, freedom of speech and the press, and its own colorful civil society. Beijing cracking down in Hong Kong, which is indisputably part of China’s current territory, is one thing, but a military invasion is quite another. It used to be almost unthinkable, but not any more.

From Bloomberg:

Joseph Wu, the foreign minister of the island’s democratic government, warned on July 22 that China “may look for excuses to start a war or conflict” after it suddenly stepped up incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, raising the risk of a collision that could escalate. “What China is doing now is continuing to ramp up preparedness to solve the Taiwan issue,” Wu said. “We are very concerned that China will target Taiwan now that the Hong Kong security law’s been passed.”

China hasn’t exactly been coy about its plans, either:

In a speech in Beijing last year about the party’s policy toward Taiwan, Xi said, “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means.” He declared that “China must and will be united, which is an inevitable requirement for the historical rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era.”

How we got to this point is long and complicated, fraught with misplaced trust, poor judgment, and wishful thinking. It’s also too late to point fingers — we’re in a situation that is getting worse, quickly. We urgently need leadership that is up to the challenge, that can find common ground, and that can de-escalate tensions. The alternative is almost too dire to imagine.  

July 22, 2020 -

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ewan and I just published the 15th episode of the PR & Law Podcast. We’ve had a ton of fun putting it together, especially as we watch our audience grow week after week.

Make no mistake, though, we are a long way away from any kind of ‘success’, at least in terms of revenue. We do take the podcast seriously and intend on growing it over many years, so our goals are modest we find our voice and experiment with ideas and formats.

I’m pretty sure my love of listening to podcasts stems from my childhood. I would often stay up late to listen to hockey games, clutching my clock radio under the sheets to stifle any noise that could alert my parents. Those formative experiences led me to enroll in one of Canada’s top schools for broadcast journalism, which was followed by a (short) career in the industry. Even now, looking back, I’ve never had as much fun at work as I did in radio.

Podcasts have been revolutionary to radio folks because it enables them to record a premium quality show at a very low cost. The barrier to entry almost disappeared overnight, creating room for anybody to launch a show, regardless of their experience or funding. So while it’s easier than ever to start a show, it’s more difficult than ever to stand out from the 800,000 other podcasts on the market. Amid this competition, I’ve been educating myself on some creative ways to market the show and continue growing our audience.

I had my mind set on finding some secret or hack, or some app that magically draws crowds of people to the show. In looking for some sophisticated way to boost the audience I missed a fairly obvious step that could make a big difference: drop the word “subscribe” from marketing materials.  

From How to Combine Your Podcast Subscription Links into a Single Button:

Tom, who has a history of linguistic quibbles with the podcast space, pointed out that podcasters usually ask people to “subscribe” to their podcasts. But for most people, the word “subscribe” implies that payment is required. After all, we when subscribe to Netflix, Spotify, or The New York Times, we have to pay for it. So uninitiated listeners may steer clear of podcasting because they falsely believe that it costs money.

Tom’s solution? Ask listeners to “listen” to your podcast instead of “subscribing.”

Last Friday, as I was getting set to leave the office, a colleague asked me about the podcast. I told her a bit about the show, and left it at that. Then she asked, “So how can I listen to it?” I said, “Oh, just open your Podcast app, do a search for PR and Law, and tap ‘subscribe’.” Her eyes widened and she said, “Subscribe? You charge money?” (Not exactly a vote of confidence… 😂)

I put her at ease, and assured her she wouldn’t have to listen to me all day at work, then pay to listen to me in the evenings or on the weekends.

I didn’t think much about her reaction at the time, but seeing this article definitely drove the message home.

The lesson? In searching far and wide for answers to your problems, they may be right under your nose. You just need to look.

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