For Immediate ReleaseNeville Hobson and Shel Holtz have been kind enough to run my audio comments in several editions of For Immediate Release, their outstanding podcast (subscription link) on the intersection of public relations and digital communications.

Here’s a transcript of my latest, where I tackle last month’s flurry of online embarrassments in the federal election campaign, and the implications of Typepad’s repeated outages for customers concerned about how it makes them look. You can listen to the whole show here (multi-megabyte MP3 download).

Happy new year from the frozen north, where we’re in the throes of a national election campaign. And the online world is playing a larger role than anyone expected, mainly because of some high-profile digital gaffes.

Political blogging’s first Canadian casualty is a fellow named Mike Klander, until recently executive vice-president of the Ontario wing of the governing Canadian Liberal Party. He resigned last week after offensive posts on his personal blog came to light.

Just a few days later came a blog post from another Liberal, this one the president of the British Columbia section of the party, quoting a federal cabinet minister making an offhand insulting remark about the leader of the New Democratic Party. The minister wound up publicly defending a private insult — probably not how he wanted to spend his day.

And then, the manager of a local Conservative campaign resigned after he was unmasked as “Mr. Psycho.” That was his pseudonym on the far-right “Free Dominion” online discussion board, where he posted his support for the province of Alberta separating from Canada.

And you thought all we talked about was hockey and maple syrup, didn’tcha?

Now, I’m a partisan, and I’ve done a lot of work for the New Democratic Party. So I won’t comment on the politics of all of this.

But the lesson to learn is this. Unless your blog’s behind a password…

and only you and your cat have the password…

and you really trust the cat…

don’t put anything on your blog that you don’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. Or the Canadian equivalent, the Tweed Daily News.

And that applies to message boards, and chain e-mails, and the Usenet.

Let’s put the election aside for a moment. Instead, I wanted to share a quick thought on your superb coverage of the Typepad outage earlier in the month.

This speaks to a basic issue facing anyone whose reputation rides on their blogs. Who are you going to trust to host it?

According to the old saying, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

That doesn’t necessarily mean building your own server from scratch. If you’ve been relying on a service like Typepad, chances are you aren’t backed by an IT department that could pull this off by itself.

But it may be time to look for a web host, and run your own blogging software.

Typepad’s problems aside, Moveable Type itself is a well-regarded, stable piece of software. So is WordPress and Textpattern.

They have large communities behind them, which means you have a place to ask questions and get help.

And if your site suddenly stops working, you can actually get under the hood and start tinkering. Learn a little about technologies like PHP and databases, and you can make your blog roll over and bark.

There’s a price to pay, of course. Ultimately, you are your own tech support hotline — unless you want to hire some outside help. You have to decide for yourself how to fight things like comment spam — although there are a lot of resources out there. And you still have to find a web host you can rely on.

But if you’re comfortable with those conditions, it may be time to make the leap. Especially if you’ll sleep easier knowing that your online reputation is now in the hands of the one person you really trust.

And I’m not talking about your cat.

In Vancouver, I’m Rob Cottingham.

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