PR's Bad Report Card

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A new report card that considers PR leadership has been issued by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. It’s the third time the card has been issued since 2015, and once again, the grades are not great.

Is PR in a rut? Robert asks that question and discusses the results of the latest Plank Center Leadership Report Card with one of its authors, Dr. Bruce Berger, at the University of Alabama.

Our Buzzer Beater player today manages communications for a well-known Washington, D.C. media outlet, but how well does he know AP Style? The answer is revealed on this new round of PR’s only podcast quiz show. Time travelling interns Sarah Shelson and Sharon Osano cook up a report about a fast food campaign that traded burgers for fries in their latest installment of our history feature, PR Rewind.

And O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes is along with the week’s biggest PR headlines, reporting from the Flack Pack studio inside the O’Dwyer’s newsroom in New York City.


The Pizza Box Hasn’t Evolved in Decades, but Now Pizza Hut Is Trying out a New Round Design

O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes

Subscribe to O’Dwyer’s free E-mail Newsletter

Guest: Alex Rosenwald

Plank Center 2019 Report Card on PR Leaders

Guest: Dr. Bruce Berger

Burger King Is Now Calling Itself 'Fries King'

Media Kit Madness

When we hear from journalists that all they want is a one or two sentence story pitch, we have to weigh whether the media kit is still worth the effort. Certainly, digital kits with logos, infographics, and photos have utility. But in the Internet age, what about kits you can hold in your hand? Where do those add value? Or do they? Recently, students in Bill Zimmerman’s PR Media and Methods class at Penn State considered the old-school media kit and ways to make them better. Robert caught up with Zimmerman to find out how the students did, creating media kits for the university’s new Roaring Lion food truck, and the lesson these budding PR pros have for the rest of us.

Also, Robert and Jessica play a very fashionable round of the Buzzer Beater, while Flack Pack interns Sarah and Sharon revisit a 1929 PR campaign inspired by a classic novel. Finally, Steve Barnes delivers the week’s biggest PR news headlines in his report from the O’Dwyer’s PR newsroom in New York City.


The Bomb Out

Kim Jong Un on Mount Paektu

Guest: Natalie Maniscalco

Retro Media NYC

Guest: Bill Zimmerman

University Park’s First Official Food Truck Rolls Onto Campus

The Great Depression

Listen to The American Family Robinson

The National Association of Manufacturers and Public Relations during the New Deal

Earned v. Paid Media

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What’s more credible? Earned media or paid media? The question is as old as the disciplines of advertising and public relations themselves. We think stories reported by journalists, that we placed, are more believable than a memorable television ad. But is that true? Are we right to think so? Robert examines a study on the topic with Dr. Julie O’Neil, Associate Dean at the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University.

Also, John O’Dwyer, publisher of the O’Dwyer’s PR Newsletter, gives us the scoop on Communications Week 2019, launching Monday in New York City, London, and Germany. Our time travelling interns, Sharon Osano and Sarah Shelson, rewind one year to an art show that went awry.

And Steve Barnes reports the latest PR news headlines from the O’Dwyer’s PR newsroom in the Big Apple.

The Buzzer Beater returns next week!


Texas Christian University Study: Is Earned Media More Credible Than Advertising?

Guest: Dr. Julie O'Neil

O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes

Subscribe to O’Dwyer’s free Email Newsletter

Communications Week 2019

Host: John O'Dwyer

Guest: Tiffany Guarnaccia

Banksy's Shredded Painting Stunt Was Viral Performance Art. But Who Was Really Trolling Who?

Rate and Review on Apple!

Pitching Trade Media

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When you look at your media list, where are the trade media outlets? Are they at the top or the bottom? If they’re not the first newsrooms you pitch, your strategy may be outdated. That’s because the audience continues to shift away from mainstream media to sources focused on specific issues or topics.

Mainstream outlets will always have a role, but there’s no doubting they’ve dropped beats, cut staff, and focused their resources on only the biggest national and local stories.

Robert’s guest, Scott Nover, is a freelance journalist writing about media and politics for pubs like the Washington Post and The Atlantic. He tells PR pros not to worry.

This week’s Buzzer Beater contestant fights hard to fulfill her AP Stylebook destiny. Also, we have the latest PR news headlines from O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes reporting from New York City. And Flack Pack interns Sharon and Sarah set the PR time machine for the moment in 1985 when an important cause was born.


O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes

Subscribe to O’Dwyer’s free E-mail Newsletter

Guest: Destiny Johnson

Guest: Scott Nover

How reporters for niche publications conquered Capitol Hill

The Atlantic: Stories by Scott Nover

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Susan G. Komen Foundation

Worldwide Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

White House Turns Pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness

NFL's Crucial Catch

PR's New Measurement Model

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Love it or hate it, we all have to measure our PR campaigns. How did we do? Did we accomplish the goal? What were the results?

This week, we explore a new method of measuring PR campaigns, in reverse. Robert gets the scoop on a fresh way to evaluate your next communications project with Air Force Capt. Katie Cousins, the PR pro who invented the Sight Model.

We also debut the O’Dwyer’s PR Newsletter round-up, from our studio in New York City. O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes reports the week’s top PR news headlines.

Today’s Buzzer Beater guest is a friend of the family, but does he recognize the voice on the other end of the call? We’ll find out.

On PR Rewind, our time traveling interns, Sarah Shelson and Sharon Osano, celebrate the 179th birthday of a cartoonist who gave us a famous logo still in circulation today. They’ll tell us more about the man who used his cartoons to take out a crooked power broker.


Greta Thunberg to climate-focused UN: ‘You have stolen my childhood… with empty words.’

PRSA International Conference in San Diego

Subscribe to O’Dwyer’s Free Email Newsletter

O’Dwyer’s Associate Editor Steve Barnes

Guest: Ted Shelson

Guest: Air Force Capt. Katie Cousins

Sight Model: An Analysis and Evaluation of Your Campaign Performance

Thomas Nast: American Political Caricaturist

O'Dwyer's Joins FP Nation!

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This week on the Flack Pack, we celebrate the work of pioneer journalist Jack O’Dwyer who launched a newsletter in 1968 that today continues to set the standard for PR industry coverage.

Jack was a friend and watchdog to the public relations business until his passing last December at age 85.

Thankfully, O’Dwyer’s PR newsletter continues, guided now by his son, John O’Dwyer, with the help of a dedicated news staff in New York City.

John shares with Robert his father’s legacy and discusses the Flack Pack’s new partnership with the iconic publication.

Also, Sarah Shelson and Sharon Osano debut their fall series, PR Rewind, a weekly peek into the annals of PR history. Each Friday, they’ll take us for a ride in their PR time machine, visiting the people, places, and events that shaped the industry.


51-Star American Flags Line Pennsylvania Avenue as Washington, D.C. Seeks Statehood

Guest: John O'Dwyer

Jack O’Dwyer, Newsletter Publisher and ‘Soul and Conscience’ of PR Industry, Dies at 85

Readers Send a Heartfelt Message to Jack O'Dwyer, Chronicler of PR

Flack Pack News Release: Our Flack Pack family is growing! We’re teaming up with O'Dwyer's Public Relations News

O'Dwyer's Teams with Flack Pack on Podcast

Subscribe to O'Dwyer's Free E-Mail Newsletter

Buzzer Beater Guest: Sydney Wishnow

PRESS RELEASE: O’Dwyer’s, Washington Media Group Join Forces on Flack Pack PR Podcast

The public relations industry’s leading PR news outlet, O’Dwyer’s, is teaming up with the Washington Media Group, producer of the award-winning weekly PR podcast, The Flack Pack, to bring listeners even more useful public relations news and information on the podcast each Friday.

Details of the collaboration were announced today by O’Dwyer’s Publisher John O’Dwyer and Washington Media Group President and Flack Pack podcast host, Robert Johnson.

Starting tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 20th, Flack Pack producers will work with the O’Dwyer’s staff to develop additional guest opportunities and produce a regular news headlines feature anchored by the O’Dwyer’s staff. Also, the show will be promoted each week to O’Dwyer’s and Flack Pack subscribers and social media followers.

“The Flack Pack PR podcast has emerged as a creative, informative, and entertaining place for pros to hear more about their profession each Friday. We’re reporting the latest PR news every day. Together, we will combine and leverage the power of our platforms to bring this content to a wider audience, in a way that both informs and entertains,” O’Dwyer said.

“We work hard to give our listeners content that helps them do their jobs. The team at O’Dwyer’s has been doing the same thing for 51 years. As this partnership between our journalists and our platforms matures, the audience will be the big winner,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he will work with the O’Dwyer’s team to pull from its reporting the stories that could benefit from a deeper podcast conversation, and that John O’Dwyer, or members of his team, will join him for interviews on select topics.

News segments will be reported from the O’Dwyer’s newsroom in Manhattan, where the Flack Pack will establish a remote podcast studio, Johnson and O’Dwyer said.

“The Flack Pack will continue to mix serious PR conversation with personality,” Johnson said. “We’re not changing the formula that has led to continued strong audience growth,” he added. “What we’re doing here is partnering with the most respected PR news source in the industry to provide our audience even more useful content on a weekly basis.”

The partnership launches tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 20th with Johnson’s interview of John O’Dwyer, exploring the history of the O’Dwyer’s Newsletter, and the legacy he now continues following the passing of his father, Jack O’Dwyer, last year. The Flack Pack publishes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and every other podcast provider. Episodes also can be played on the show’s website,


O’Dwyer’s has been covering public relations, marketing communications, and related fields for 51 years. The company provides the latest news and information about PR firms and professionals, the media, corporations, legal issues, jobs, technology, and much more through its website, weekly newsletter, magazine, directories, and guides. O’Dwyer’s is the most quoted source on the PR field by major media. Both the New York Times and Washington Post have referred to O’Dwyer’s as the “bible” of PR.


The Flack Pack PR Podcast is published every Friday by the Washington Media Group. It is produced and directed by a team of veteran public relations practitioners and former journalists from studios in Washington, D.C. The interview-focused podcast was launched in April 2018 to provide public relations professionals with information helping them improve their knowledge of the discipline. It offers interviews, tips, and entertaining features in a variety show format. The Flack Pack PR Podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts and Spotify; by searching “Flack Pack Podcast” in the Google search bar; on all podcast apps; or online at



Robert Johnson (202–868–1991)
John O’Dwyer (571–228–3040)

Back to School PR

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The idea of public education in America is older than the nation itself, with the first school, the Boston Latin School, opening in 1635. John Hancock and Samuel Adams went there. Benjamin Franklin dropped out.

Today, there are more than 98-thousand public schools in the U.S. with almost 51 million students attending. Private schools are busy too. There’s more than 34-thousand private schools open now, teaching nearly six million kids.

Robert celebrates the start of another school year with two communicators, Rich Bagin, the Executive Director of the National School Public Relations Association, and Cody Kennedy Communications and Media Manager for the Olathe School District, in Olathe, Kansas.

Also, we get a crash course in education style courtesy of the AP Stylebook, in two rounds of America’s favorite PR podcast quiz show, the Buzzer Beater.


First Public School in America

Total Number of Educational Institutions in America

Back to School Statistics

Guest: Rich Bagin

National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

Jack O'Dwyer, newsletter publisher and 'soul and conscience' of PR industry dies, at 85

How PR Pros Can Find New Audiences Through Podcasts

Guest: Karen Heath

Guest: Cody Kennedy

AP Stylebook: Back-to-School Topical Guide

Post 9/11 Crisis PR

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Today, we pause to remember an event that changed the world forever, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Next week, Americans, and our allies around the globe, will reflect on the attacks against four flights full of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, business executives, parents, students, and children.

Speeches will be delivered. Wreaths will be laid. Survivors will be profiled. And security protocols will be revisited. Media coverage will remind society of the horrors many remember and educate those too young to recall.

In this very special conversation, Robert visits with two veteran communicators, Brian Turmail and Nico Melendez, asking them to share their memories, not just from the day of the attacks, but also of the PR work that resulted once Congress created the Transportation Security Administration.

Brian and Nico were hired to handle TSA’s media relations and eventually became Robert’s trusted deputies as the three of them worked long days and nights to explain the changes to transportation security at a time of extreme concern that the September attacks might not be the last.

The trio reflects on what happened, how they handled the crush of media inquiries and criticism, and the crisis management lessons learned then that still apply today.


Guest: Nico Melendez

Guest: Brian Turmail

9/11: Three Hours Of Terror And Chaos That Brought A Nation To A Halt

PR Job Tips (Bonus Episode)

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Labor Day is here! It’s the perfect time to talk about finding your next, or first, PR job. On this bonus holiday episode of the Flack Pack, Robert wraps up the PR Summer School series with Stephanie Ranno, a recruitment expert working for TorchLight Hire, a firm that helps companies find marketing and communications talent. She offers tips for finding the next job, and confirms that this fall’s job market will be white hot!

Our games and features get the day off, but they’ll return in a couple of weeks.


Guest: Stephanie Ranno

TorchLight Hire

Five tips to prepare for a job in public relations

PRSA Jobcenter

Interviewing for a PR job? Prepare for these 5 common questions

PR Headhunter Tells All

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The Internet is full of data about the PR Industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says more PR people work in Washington, D.C. than any other city in the U.S., including New York City! If you happen to be one of those already employed, but are looking to change jobs, this fall will be a good time to do it. The same goes for those, including students, who still are looking for the perfect position. With a recession predicted by the end of next year, employers are rushing to build teams now.

In recognition of Labor Day, we’re talking about PR jobs with two recruiters. One today, and one on Monday. Robert’s guest today is Brian Phifer, CEO of Phifer and Company, based in New York. But a word of warning: If you can’t handle the truth, you may want to download a podcast about gardening, because Brian’s advice might sting a little.

Also we dub Shalon Roth the latest contributor to the Flack Pack by testing her knowledge of AP Style in a royal competition you won’t want to miss!


DC sets another tourism record: almost 22M in 2018

Buzzer Beater Guest: Shalon Roth


AP Stylebook

Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages for Public Relations Specialists

How the Recession of 2020 Could Happen

Guest: Brian Phifer

Phifer & Company

RFP Dance Moves (Tips)

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Responding to a PR request for proposals (RFP) can be stressful, time consuming, and sometimes futile. But it’s also necessary, as RFPs are a staple of agency business development efforts.

So how can PR pros engage the RFP process and live to tell about it? Robert spends some quality time this week with two experts on RFPs: Robert Udowitz and Steve Drake, principals of RFP Associates, based here in the Washington, D.C. metro area. They examine the pitfalls of the process and share some tips that will help us master our next RFP response.


Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars?” ABC staffers say “it’s a slap in the face”

DWTS Shocker: ABC skips spring cycle after controversial Season 27

Contributor: Shalon Roth

Flack Pack Intern: Sharon Osano

Flack Pack Intern: Sarah Shelson

Buzzer Beater Guest: Samantha Summers

Guest: Steve Drake

Guest: Robert Udowitz

RFP Associates

Research: The impact of the agency selection process on public relations programs & outcomes

Social Media Copy Tips

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Social media is the beast that never stops eating. No matter how much content we create, there’s always more we could do. Platforms have different rules, audiences, and needs. Producing social media content, even for a small business or client, is a full time job.

Given that, is there enough time in the day to write good copy and still get the rest of your work done? Or does the pressure to get posts online cause you to cut corners, rushing through the process? Jason Mollica, a communications professor at American University and a Flack Pack contributor, joins Robert in the Flack Pack studio to share his tips for writing better social media copy.


Prominent Economist Wrote Op-ed About Amazon’s New Headquarters

What Began as an Exercise in Learning to Podcast Evolves Into a PR Variety Show

PR Breakfast Club

Guest: Jason Mollica

Twitter: Flack Pack

Facebook: Flack Pack

LinkedIn: Washington Media Group

News Releases: Dead or Alive?

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As PR legend has it, early pitchman Ivy Lee pioneered the news release when he sent the story of a train wreck to the New York Times, and the newspaper printed it. Little did he know that millions more news releases would be issued by those that followed in his footsteps. It’s this crushing volume of digital paper that, today, more than a hundred years later, has many journalists crying “enough!”

Is the news release dead or alive? If more and more reporters don’t want them, does it make sense to write and send them anyway? Robert talks with PR pro Shalon Roth, an agency veteran who runs her own shop in London, called PR-it, to get her take on the past, present, and future of the humble, but loveable, news release.


The First Press Release

PR Daily’s 2019 Digital Marketing & Social Media Awards 

Guest: Shalon Roth

PR-it Learn-it Blog  

Are Press Releases Still Relevant?

How to Write Speeches

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Writing a speech might be the biggest test you’ll ever face as a PR pro. It’s a task not suited for the rhetorically challenged. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of speeches are given in the U.S. each year. But how many of them connect with their audience? Do they accomplish anything? Are you staring at a laptop right now, wringing your hands over a speechwriting assignment?

Robert sits down with Bob Lehrman and Eric Schnure to talk speechwriting, and about the new second edition of their book, “The Political Speechwriter’s Companion,” coming July 30th. They’ll share from the book some of their best tips for writing an effective speech, and stories about the speechwriting process that may leave you laughing out loud.

Lehrman was chief speechwriter to former Vice President Al Gore, while Schnure is founding partner of Washington, D.C.’s Humor Cabinet and has written speeches for the likes of Gore and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.


1988 Flash Back: Read my lips, no new taxes

Guest: Robert Lehrman

Guest: Eric Schnure

Amazon: The Political Speechwriter’s Companion 2nd Edition

The History of the Press Release

Marketing the Moon

Fifty years ago tomorrow night, America put a man on the Moon. It was an engineering and scientific feat, but it also was a PR success. Eagle’s historic landing didn’t just happen because of the work taking place in Apollo’s labs or on its workbenches.

It also happened because of efforts in media briefing rooms and during press tours. It was sold in news releases and press kits, product endorsements, and magazine articles. Corporate PR people joined with their NASA counterparts to push the idea of space exploration. Many believe the Apollo 11 program was the first to leverage today’s version of brand journalism driving media interest and support.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, Robert interviews author and marketing expert David Meerman Scott about the PR campaign that sold the Apollo lunar program, and his book, “Marketing the Moon.”

Our Buzzer Beater player maneuvers the galaxy of grammar and usage rules that is AP Style, while Jason visits the studio with a review of NASA’s current social media program. Kathleen ventures outside, braving the excessive heat, to find out what people know about America’s men who went to the Moon and back.


1969 Moon Landing

The 12 Men Who Walked on The Moon

National Press Club PR Summit

The 2019 AP Stylebook

Guest: Diana Ochoa

Guest: David Meerman Scott

Amazon: Marketing the Moon

David Meerman Scott Blogs on Apollo 11

Apollo 11 Press Kits

Contributor: Jason Mollica

Twitter: NASA

Kathleen in the City

Amazon: The Political Speechwriter’s Companion, 2nd Edition

Tips for Better Media Pitches

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It’s tougher than ever these days to get a journalist to pay attention to a story pitch. PR pros outnumber reporters, so the volume of ideas flooding their way is no doubt too much to manage. Given that, what should you do?

Robert interviews Greg Galant, the CEO and Founder of Muck Rack, a software platform that aims to make your work with journalists more effective. Their conversation is packed with tips to remember the next time you have to sell a reporter your story idea.

Also, Flack Pack contributor Gina Luttrell braves the Buzzer Beater. What grade does she get for her knowledge of AP Style? Listen to find out!


Guest: Greg Galant

Muck Rack

New Muck Rack survey: How journalists find their news, use social media and work with PR teams in 2019

Muck Rack: 5 seriously easy ways to build stronger relationships with journalists

Muck Rack: This month in bad PR pitches

Contributor: Gina Luttrell

Amazon: The PR Agency Handbook by Gina Luttrell and Luke Capizzo

Amazon: Public Relations Campaigns: An Integrated Approach by Gina Luttrell and Luke Capizzo

AP Stylebook

Marketing the Moon by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek

Road Wieners Yield Tasty PR

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The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is an American icon that also happens to be a PR bonanza for Kraft Foods, owner of the hot dog brand. This week, Robert talks with Ed Roland, manager of Oscar Mayer’s fleet of 27 foot long road wieners, and the college graduates who drive them.

The Flack Pack celebrates the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend with a food-themed edition of the Buzzer Beater, Jason’s review of Wienermobile tweets, and Kathleen’s Wiener Whistle give-away!


Fireworks Firms Plan Bigger Pyrotechnics for Trump’s Fourth Speech

Guest: Alexander Downing

AP Stylebook

Guest: Ed Roland

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile

Wienermobile App (Apple)

Wienermobile App (Google)

Hotdoggers Wanted

Contributor: Jason Mollica

Kathleen in the City

Swedish Chef Singing

Oscar Mayer Wiener 1965 Commercial

The Simpsons: Oscar Mayer Wiener Song

Oscar Mayer Wiener 1950’s Commercial

10 Ways to Combat Misinformation

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Most people agree that misinformation is a major problem in the United States. So what can we as PR pros do to battle false, incorrect, or erroneous information? This week, Robert explores “10 Ways to Combat Misinformation” with Dr. Terry Flynn, a communications professor who edits the Journal of Professional Communications and sits on the board for the Institute for Public Relations.


Blondie - The Tide is High

Guest: Dr. Terry Flynn

10 Ways to Combat Misinformation

2019 IPR Disinformation in Society Report

Toronto Raptors Win the NBA Title

PR Measurement 101

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In a world dominated with story pitches and carefully worded messages looms the need to show results beyond what we can see in news media coverage or on social media posts.

Media measurement has evolved from the days of comparing inches of published copy to advertising rates, thankfully! Today, with digital messaging dominating our PR plans, pros must know how to confirm their campaigns are connecting with audiences and driving results.

For decades, Katie Delahaye Paine has set the standard for measurement. Her expertise in this field is known worldwide. This week, in a can’t miss episode of the Flack Pack, she takes a break from planting her amazing tomato crop outside her home in New Hampshire to discuss social media measurement with Robert. Katie walks us through her eBook, Social Media Measurement 101, and helps Robert with his fear of all things math-related!

Also, Kathleen debuts her summer-time feature, Kathleen in the City. She’s a California girl, so it’s no surprise her question for D.C. commuters features a hint of Hollywood glitz and glamour.


History of the Cherry Trees

Trump and Macron Planted a Friendship Tree. Now it’s Dead.

Guest: Katie Delahaye Paine

eBook: Social Media Measurement 101

Kick Butt Index

The Measurement Mall

The Measurement Advisor

Contact the Measurement Queen