28 November 2006

More Red faces...

So, you've soaked yourself to the skin getting to the Post Office to pay for a piece of crappy post that some idiot has forgotten to put a stamp on and, just when you think it couldn't get any worse, you arrive late at work only to find that some divvies from the very same PR company representing the very same client have camped outside your office to create a bloody awful racket.

Read all about it here.
Is this funny, or is it just me..?

I don't know about you, but I've been seeing headlines like these all day, and every time they've made me laugh:

Pope embarks on controversial Turkey visit
Massive security for Pope's Turkey visit
Thousands Protest Pope's Turkey Visit
Catholic World News - Confirmed: Pope to visit Turkey in November

What's he doing? Apologising for Christmas?
Red faces...

This morning, a journo found a slip on his doormat from the Royal Mail telling him that there was an item waiting for him with unpaid postage on it. What can you do? I mean, it might be something important...secret plans for poisoning people leaked from the FSB...Michael Grade's new contract...a Christmas hamper from Fortnums. So you trudge off down to the sorting office in the pissing rain to pay the postage and pick it up.

And what happens..? You pay £1.23 for a cruddy little invitation to the Nokia party next Wednesday because some numpty at Red forgot to put a stamp on the bloody envelope.

A one off? Not according to the Post Office clerk...he said there'd been loads of them this morning. Uh-oh.

That'll teach them for clashing with our very own Christmas Party...

27 November 2006

Is that American Englich..?

So, Text 100 ("leading global PR agency") and some bunch called Squiz (I'm sorry, I've been through the website and I still haven't a clue...) have produced a "co-authored whitepaper" called "Communications 2.0: Beta is Better", all about Web 2.0 and "how it can help you improve your communications strategy."

There are people far better placed than I to comment on the content of the whitepaper. What I do know, however, is that when the sub-heading of the press release tells me that the whitepaper "provides best practise advise on how to exploit new web technologies!" the whole venture is devalued to the point of my not bothering to read it.

Though I can't be bothered with the whitepaper itself, the rest of the press release is an entertaining read, if only for the sublime use of meaningless cliché by a Squiz Director (which sounds vaguely disgusting to me...I can direct my own Squiz, thank you very much). He says, in one memorable sentence, "The good news is that it's not rocket science and it shouldn't cost and arm and a leg."

We're over the moon about that.
Me..? With my reputation..? Tally ho…

“Reputation” is a funny old word, isn’t it? Look it up in the dictionary, and it’ll say something along the lines of: “the estimation in which a person or thing is held by the community or the public generally”…which makes you think that, yes, as public relations professionals, we should be right there in the middle of the reputation game.

So why then, when I visit Harvard PR’s website and read this on its homepage…

“Reputations. Designed, built, managed.”

…does it really get my goat?

I’ll tell you. I don’t think that anyone should be able to claim that they can “design” a reputation. You might be able to design what you’d like your reputation to be, but whether it becomes that or not depends on how you act and, crucially, what people think about your behaviour (and products, and services).

In many ways, your reputation is out of your hands…particularly in today’s world of social media. So, for instance, Sony’s reputation as a creator of high-quality consumer electronics is taking a bit of a battering at the moment…however much “design and build” it might have done around its reputation isn’t worth a great deal now, is it? And you might even take issue with its ability to “manage” that reputation, however quickly it replaces laptop batteries or digital cameras.

No, reputation goes much deeper than public relations. Reputation is about product design, manufacturing, service, ethics…reputation is impacted by every aspect of your business and, right now, PR people don’t influence every aspect of business (and may the Lord help us if ever they do…).

What Harvard is talking about is image. Image is what you want to say about yourself, what you want people to think and believe…whether it’s true or not. In fact, when you get into the “People” section of the Harvard site, it uses the phrase “’perception altering’ outcomes”…which I think is getting closer to the mark. And before anyone says, “ahh, yes, but perception is reality…” that’s bullshit, I’m afraid. Experience is reality.

The problem is, “Images. Designed, built, managed” doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? It doesn’t sound real enough…it even sounds a little bit underhand…in fact it sounds like what many people believe public relations to be.

Interesting…many think that the public relations industry has a poor reputation. Shall we design a new one? I mean, if we can't, who in the world can?
Sell Sony, buy FedEx...

I'm in something of a quandary, and I thought you might be able to help me out.

Looking around my house this weekend, I noticed how much Sony kit I've got. TV, VCR, DVD player...there's an old stereo, a very old discman and I've even got a Sony MP3 player.

I'm presuming that it will all have to go back at some point, so my question is this:

Do I get one big box now to send everything back together, or lots of smaller boxes and do it bit by bit?


23 November 2006

Over to our sister agency, Miserable…

Interesting story filed by John Oates over at El Reg this afternoon about goings on at business networking site Ecademy…the one whose “cause is to build the world’s premier Trusted Network.”

Oates tells the story of how “seventeen members of Ecademy…have had their accounts suspended following a row on the company's messageboard. One member was banned for using the word "shit" while others were banned for posting messages in a thread which questioned the original decision. One member was even banned for making rude remarks on a different website.”

There’s some back and forth between Ecademy management and Ecademy members... accusations, denials…the usual.

Now, Ecademy boasts that profiles appear high in Google rankings and members are encouraged to use profiles to advertise their businesses. Consequently several of the banned members - including a number of successful business people - responded with threats of legal action for defamation of character and libel when their accounts were blocked without warning and they were accused of using false identities.

Ecademy issued a series of retractions - claiming that members' accounts were merely 'suspended' and that members had not been 'banned'…although the message "This member has been banned" appeared prominently on the website in place of their profiles for some time.

Ecademy management were recently reported in the Telegraph to be looking to sell their company for up to £20m. Ex-members suspect that in the light of this article, Ecademy management were seeking to remove anybody likely to criticise either their policies or their claims regarding membership numbers. The management unsurprisingly denies this.

According to The Register, management have appointed a "psychosexual therapist" as a mediator, but he's busy until December 1st. Oddly - or not - those banned were less than chuffed that they would have to wait more than three weeks for a resolution. In the meantime, they continue to pay Ecademy for membership.

Interestingly, Ecademy does have a PR representative in Jenny Rose…who is no doubt dusting off her bluffer’s guide to crisis management. Still, she seems an optimistic sort...her company’s called Happy PR.

Time for a rebrand?
A rose amongst thorns…

Now, normally, we don’t have a great deal of time for recruitment consultants. They just seem to pass people from job to job, agency to agency…taking a nice fee each time until they’ve run out of options. But we’ve recently come across one company that seems to be the exception.

Ever heard of Indigo Red? Of course you have. It’s such a brilliantly distinctive name. They’ve got a top bunch of people down there helping great candidates find the most rewarding roles and helping inspirational companies fill wonderfully fulfilling positions. We really think you should check them out.

There are also a number of blogs linked to Indigo Red. There’s one from the boss Steve Mallison-Jones, one from his lovely wife (and Indigo Red co-founder) Lydia and one from consultant Sarah Hayman. All well worth a read.

It is probably at this point that I should disclose that it is Steve - and the wonderful, best recruitment team in the PR industry at Indigo Red - who has agreed to be the headline sponsor for the forthcoming TWL Christmas Party! Yep, he’s dipped his hand into the corporate coffers and come up with a few hundred quid to go behind the bar at the soon-to-be-confirmed-for-those-that-have-emailed-us-(theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk) venue. Though this fact clearly had no influence over our hearty endorsement of Indigo Red above.

It’s all coming together party people…if you’re a little concerned about appropriate behaviour, the lovely Amanda Chapel has some top tips.

22 November 2006

Tripe for brekkie...

This morning, Lewis held its Industry Forum 2006, where big hitters came together over breakfast to thrash out the issues of the day. Jon Silk of Lewis is blogging away, offering up gems like this:

"This is no longer a 24/7 world - the world we're living in is 25/8. In other words, constant."

For more, ummm, "insight", visit the Lewis 360 blog...
Hand wash only (don't spin)...

It's funny, if you stick "Firefly public relations t-shirt" into Google (well, I don't know, you might) you get this:

Of course, this has nothing to do with the Firefly public relations we know and...well, we know.

Firefly's t-shirts look like this:

20 November 2006

Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason…

…like, you weren’t right for PR in any case.

Andrew B. Smith over at Object Towers alights like a butterfly to a rose on a subject we too have touched on before; whether we will see PR grunt work outsourced to India or, indeed, any other country where labour costs are a fraction of the UK.

I think we will…but which bits? The immediate reaction is, “oh, no, no, no…you need to be able to develop relationships to do my job…with the client, with the media…you can’t outsource that.” But there are parts of the job that don’t require the relationship, just a bit of knowledge and ability.

Here’s an example from another profession (nicked, if I remember it rightly, from Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat”). It is now common practice for doctors in the US to email to doctors in India scans of their patients’ x-rays for overnight analysis and diagnosis. Now there’s a profession if ever there was one that demands a relationship between client and professional, but obviously some aspects of it don’t. The client is none the wiser, and the service is better (i.e. faster results).

There are aspects of the PR job that could be outsourced. Reporting, for one (do I hear anyone complaining about that?). I could also see some aspects of financial PR being outsourced…the process-driven, regulatory announcement-type activity. Indeed, couldn’t the whole top-and-tailing of US press releases for international distribution be very easily undertaken at a central location, rather than in each country?

It’s definitely on its way. And you know what? I’m kinda looking forward to it.

17 November 2006

Chrimbo party...the date is set...

Meetings have been held, diaries consulted, negotiations commenced, research undertaken. We've brainstormed strategised and planned.

We have an objective:

"Have a Christmas Party"

We have a strategy:

"Generate interest and secure funding through the awesome power of social media"

We have tactics:

"Get on with it"

We also have a date:

Wednesday, 6th December 2006

So stick that it your diaries and remember it.

If you've been keeping up with the comments on the original post, you'll notice that Stephen "Wad" Waddington has pledged some cash for drinkies and, between you and I, we've also received a formal offer of sponsorship from a proper company! So it's all systems go.

If you want to come, make sure that you drop us an email (theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk) because it's the only way you'll find out where it's all taking place (that's the next thing on the TWL To Do list, by the way).

Thanks to those who have been in touch already. We're excited.

Boys and their analogies....

If you’ve tired of counting the amount of breast glances a marketing manager steals during a meeting and you never found bullshit bingo very interesting in the first place, why not try analogy analysis?

It’s a simple game based around the only analogy that’s ever used in the wonderful world of tech. Cars. And also, at a push, roads.

The greatest Hackneyed Carriage of them all, of course, is the information super highway. Like Ford Fiestas, examples are cheap and plenty. Speaking slowly and loudly to its old and disabled customers, BT splutters a laboured analogy with the reckless abandon of a pensioner on a Sunday afternoon drive..."You can think of broadband as a massive motorway which brings all kinds of information very quickly straight to your home. The motorway is never closed. "

But can you get a dodgy coffee and a Ginsters every 40 miles?

Cheap Broadband Providers, meantime, gives a souped-up chavesque opening line for its description. New Zealand’s TVNZ recently trotted out this horrific pile-up of a quote from Ernie Newman of The Telecommunications Users Association:

"If you expand the access ramps onto a motorway, you can get a lot more traffic onto the motorway. But that doesn't mean that when you get on there you're not going to slow to a crawl."

Operating Systems is another favourite area where the dear old car is used in place of any truly rational explanaion, especially in comments and forums where it’s used in wonderful pub-logic arguments:

On Microsoft and Novell patent cross licensing deal

On upgrades

And on services packs

When tired of using home security analogies, IT security people find their next inspiration in the garage with trite rhetorical questions such as:

“I have always enjoyed the analogy of the guy who owns an expensive car like a Porsche, yet keeps it secure in a garage with a door lock that's barely worth $100. If the threat of the lock being broken so the car gets towed away in the middle of the night is high enough, how much should he spend on a lock? A thousand dollars? Ten thousand?”

"Enjoyed the analogy"? I've always taken pleasure in the odd analogy, but to be honest it's metaphors that really give me a hard-on.

However, in pole position with car analogies must be AMD which is about to launch its 4x4 chip architecture and, separately inspired just about the most tortured car analogy ever.

So let's ditch the car anlogies once and for all; send them to the scrapheap. If you hear one in a meeting, put the brakes on...flash red lights everywhere.

We know you can do it. We are, after all, the industry that brought you SMART objectives.

16 November 2006

What do you want for Christmas...

...apart, that is, from an invitation the The World's Leading Christmas Party?

Maybe a Microsoft Xbox? Maybe...but if you're MS&L, Edelman/JCPR or Weber Shandwick, you're more interested in the Xbox PR account...and they're all pitching for it in the next week or two. To be honest, though, one of the three is probably feeling a tad more confident that the other two.

MS&L is the incumbent agency, having run the Xbox account for the past six years - a decent stretch in anyone's book. You'll remember, however, that only a few weeks ago PRWeek reported that Dave Bennett, MS&L's "Xbox supremo" had left the agency for Edelman, leading to speculation that Microsoft might take the opportunity to review the account.

You'll also remember that about a month ago, PRWeek also reported that JCPR had split with Sony Computer Entertainment, just a few months before the launch of PlayStation 3. So that left a neat games console-sized hole at Edelman/JCPR, and presumably a highly-skilled team twiddling its thumbs (waiting for Bennett to appear, no doubt). Oh, and since August, Edelman has also handled Xbox PR across Europe.

Let's just say that if Edelman doesn't pick up the business, there'll be a load of head-scratching going on down Haymarket way...

And what about poor old Weber? It really looks like it's making up the numbers, doesn't it? But it'll still be ploughing loads of time, resources, expense and creative energy into the pitch, I'm sure (as will MS&L, which can't be overly confident of its chances either).

Let's see what happens. But I'm not expecting a surprise in my Christmas stocking.

Big up to Stephen Davies...it would seem that Borkowski has been stupid, again...

15 November 2006

Shiny balls and a huge sack...

It cannot have escaped your notice that Christmas is fast approaching. It certainly hasn't escaped the attention of one loyal TWL viewer, as a simply genius idea dropped down the chimney of our inbox this afternoon:

"Dear TWL. Why don't you have a Christmas party?"

Of course we should! So we're going to.

In true cloak-and-dagger, secret-squirrel, Daniel Craig-inspired covertness, joining us in the festivities will be no simple matter. If you'd like to come (and to give us some idea of whether we'll need a small booth at the Crown and Two or start negotiations with the London Arena) you need to drop us an email: theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk. As and when we firm up any of the details, we'll let you know. We've already created a new folder called "Christmas Party People."

Oh, and due to the fact that we're not Stephen Waddington, we'd welcome any proposals for, um, "refreshment sponsorship" or you'll be buying your own drinks. Suitable subsequent endorsement will ensue.

Party on!
Where’s Aedhmar..?

Anyone seen Text 100 CEO Aedhmar Hynes? At least, has anyone seen her near a computer keyboard?

As far as I can tell, one of the golden rules of effective blogging is to do it regularly. I think that helps people come back time after time to see what you’ve got to say. Or something.

When Aedhmar Hynes set up her blog back in February, I thought she did quite a smart thing. She called it Monday Morning (not that smart in itself, I admit) but in her first post she explained that its name stemmed from the fact that she was going to blog just once a week, on Monday morning. This is what she said:

“As an avid reader of both 'traditional' and 'new' media, my blog will be a weekly reflection on how these diaglogues affect the public relations industry and the companies we support. The weekend is a great time to catch up on my reading, so Monday Morning will be a reflection of the writing that intrigued me the most.”

And before anyone corrects me, she really did write “diaglogues.”

Maybe she’s stopped reading? Or perhaps her Monday morning musings weren't as interesting as she thought, "Mowed the lawn, cleaned the car...husband fell asleep in front of the TV after roast beef and yorkies, kids ran riot. Didn't want to come to work."

Whatever, she’s been very quiet for a good while now. Her most recent post was on September 8th. In fact, by my reckoning, there have been 39 Monday mornings since Aedhmar’s first foray into the blogosphere, but only 20 posts on her blog. As some of her American colleagues would surely say (before being slapped by a Brit), “you do the math.”

She set the expectations and has failed to deliver. Presumably not a reflection of Text 100’s work as a whole?
Pull your socks up, hack…

One of the wonderful things about the new, all pervasive “I’ll never read a magazine again” world of social media that we haven’t really talked too much about is the ability to comment directly on the quality of a journalist’s writing…or lack of it. In the dark and gloomy bad old word of ink on paper, if a hack wrote a shoddy article we’d merely grumble into our pints and possibly consider a letter to the editor. But now – praise be – with more and more editorial appearing online in the form of blogs, we can comment with abandon.

A case in point has arrived in our inbox from our old buddy Mr BadHack. As some of you will know, BadHack was a blog set up to highlight less than exemplary behaviour of the journalistic community. Surprising to us all, however, a lack of content seems to have done for Mr BH and he’s been quiet for a long, long while. So it was nice to hear from him.

He points us to this extremely superficial review of Microsoft’s new Media Player on eWeek’s Microsoft Watch site. Previously, such a shoddy piece of journalism would’ve passed and been forgotten, but not in the new age. Now people can comment…and boy, have they?! Stuff like this:

“I could write a more extensive (and USEFUL) from the time my cheeks hit the porcelain to the time my hand hits the two-ply.”

“Get some info, not vapid spin.”

“Seriously, they call this journalism?”

“You call this a "review"! .... pure drivel....”

“I used to get F's for this type of thing in high school”

Nothing like a bit of feedback, eh? No response, as yet, from the journalist Jim Rapoza.

It’s great though, isn’t it, to think that hacks across the industry are sitting at their desks, fingers trembling over the keyboard, nervously considering whether to his the “publish post” button, wondering whether their piece really is good enough to stand up to critical scrutiny and the response that might be delivered instantly?

Aren’t they?

Iain’T staying….

A not particularly well kept secret is now officially out in the open. Iain Thomson, who recently left IT Pro, is headed back to Broadwick Street, this time as managing editor of VNUnet.

Boomerang Thomson, as he’ll be known forthwith, is not the first to yo-yo back to VNU and probably won’t be the last. “I liked working with Chris [Green] and the rest of the Dennis crew but decided I could do more of the stuff I really enjoy in this job,” said Boomerang.

Though not a direct replacement for Thomson, Rene Millman has joined IT Pro which has perked up the IT Pro offices no end.

When Rene walks through the door he’s met with a cheery ‘Allo from Chris, and an ‘Allo from Maggie ‘Yvette’ Holland. “Bonjour,” replies Rene, and pointing at Chris says: “It’s ze fallen Madonna with zee big boobies.”

The ensuing merriment is broken by a Dennis accountant: “It is you, a Clerk,” chuckles Chris Vert. “Leesen verrry carefully, I weel zay zis only once,” says Michelle from accounts. “Vee need more readeeers and more advertisiiing, ozerwise ve weel go ze vaay of all 1980s BBC zeetcoms.”

14 November 2006

A slippery slope for the guru...

We notice this morning that Stuart Bruce has changed the header on his blog. He's followed a growing number (including fellow "big name" UK social media in PR specialist...now there's a niche...James Warren) down the landscape route. But whereas Warren's shows the bright sun heralding a new day over lush and grassy parkland, Bruce's is a dark picture of some dangerous-looking and rather misty mountains.

What does this tell us? That Warren's an optimist and Bruce has darker thoughts about the future? Or that Bruce can help you navigate your way through this strange and murky environment? Not sure...get us an amateur psychologist, somebody.

Of more significance in Bruce's new look header, however, are the words. Not only have they shrunk, they've changed. That's right...gone is the PR Guru! Bruce now says he is merely a "PR guy" (though a little too late for November 5th). Guru to guy can only be regarded as some sort of serious demotion, can't it? What's next...genome?

Luckily, Bruce still tells us that he's been blogging since 2003 which is a bit like me saying that I've been walking since 11 months. At the time it seemed important, but now it's a bit irrelevant...everyone's at it (and some are even better than I am...).

10 November 2006

Bite bum biting…

We’ve only been floating around the blogosphere for a short while – like tourist astronauts taking their first spacewalk - but one thing we have noticed is that it seems de rigeur to disclose any commercial interests you might have in relation to something that you’re posting about (obviously, as an annoying anonymous blog, it doesn’t really apply to TWL…).

So, when you read this on the blog of Bite Communications

“David Pogue from the NYT reviews Microsoft's Zune set to be released next week and from the looks of it, it doesn't seem like Apple should be too worried about the newest iPod challenger.”

…you might expect the next line to be “But of course Bite does Apple’s PR so we’re not about to say anything too nice about its competitors, are we?”

But it doesn’t! There’s nothing…it’s just left hanging there. Bite might say that its poster (one Kristin Maverick…maverick by name, etc etc…) is simply highlighting an interesting piece of national press coverage, but it’s funny the ones that get chosen, isn’t it?

It’s only a little thing, of course, but I don’t want to have to keep running off and checking an agency’s client list each time I read a post about this company or that product.

Having said that, I am looking forward to next week’s feature on how Sun Microsystems’ servers have helped improve Bite CEO Clive Armitage’s sex life…should be a cracker.

09 November 2006

Lovely weather we’re having…

It’s November 9th today and I had my lunch sitting on a park bench in gloriously warm sunshine. Global warming, eh? And everyone’s going on about how they want us to stop it; about how we all should be aiming for carbon neutrality to save the planet.

This week’s PRWeek highlights the story…and some of the inherent contradictions. Danny Rogers, in his opinion piece, points out how the PR industry is jumping on the green bandwagon faster than it has jumped on any previously passing one – and it’s never been shy to adopt a fad. Agencies going carbon neutral, others establishing ‘green’ practice groups (I’m sure that forcing employees to wear sandals and grow beards isn’t allowed)…even if some think as an industry that we talk more than we walk.

Before the industry settled on the hype of green, the forerunning fashion was, of course, Corporate Social Responsibility, whereby normally pathological organisations did nice things so that everyone liked them (or at the very least, ignored the nasty stuff they were doing somewhere else). “Yes, I realise that they’re driving indigenous populations from their traditional homelands in the Amazonian basin, but at least they’ve planted some new trees down the rec…”

But, as PRWeek also points out, while in principle we’d like organisations to be doing more CSR-type goody goodiness, we don’t really care one way or the other (only 10% of respondents to a Vodafone survey said they were “very interested” in hearing about a firms CSR efforts).

Think about the last expensive item you bought…iPod, TV, handbag, tube ticket. You saw it, you wanted it, you bought it. At which stage did you check out the producer’s environmental credentials? Were they carbon neutral? What were working conditions in the factory like? Did you check it? Did you bollocks.

I think it was Lord Browne of BP that once said something along the lines of: “I’m more than happy for us to undertake CSR activities, along as it makes people buy more petrol from us.” Well, it looks like it doesn’t, so how long before CSR and related green initiatives are sunk like a disused oil rig?

08 November 2006

If you’re not in dictators and drugs, you’re not in…

Get with the times, will you? If you’re new business efforts are focused on finding reputable commercial organisations from which to extract a humble retainer on a monthly basis for some positive coverage and a bunch of reports, then you’re living in the past, man. The place to be now, it seems, is helping wayward regimes, disobedient dictators and naughty nations.

Soon after the furore around H&K’s highly-paid assistance for President Gayoom of the Maldives, the Independent points the finger at another big name PR agency helping out a less-than-reputable cause.

The story focuses on remarks made by comedian Mark Thomas who has written a book on toture and the arms trade (which doesn’t sound very funny to us) and “fumes” that Weber Shandwick has agreed to help the Colombian government – which has been condemned for tacit collaboration in paramilitary massacres – improve its PR. Thomas is quoted as saying:

"Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. The government is found wanting. So for someone to come along and say, 'We'll show you how to do good PR' is disgraceful. Where will people draw the line? Would Weber Shandwick want to see the swastikas before deciding not to work with someone?"

Weber Shandwick replies that it has "been hired by the democratically elected Colombian government to advise on a range of issues" - "mainly... [seeking] to promote dialogue, ideas and experience of how best to combat cocaine production, trafficking and abuse.”

The guys at Getting Ink recently asked “Gosh, who can we trust these days?” If Weber Shandwick hadn’t already been mentioned in relation to some other allegedly dodgy dealings, we’d suggest perhaps adding it to the list.

07 November 2006

Our survey said…

The results of the sixth annual 2006 PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO Survey are in (funny…I can’t recall the previous five, but no matter) and you can probably hear the distant groaning of statistics being stretched to their limit. In fact, when the sub-heading of the press release is “New Survey Notes CEOs Frequently Revise Strategies In Light of Emerging Issues” you wonder why they don’t just call it the sixth annual “Go Figure” CEO Survey.

However, in light of our recent debate about the amount of time PR professionals spend meeting their clients’ ever more demanding reporting requirements, the headline finding is interesting; that the majority (62%) of CEOs “indicate that gut feelings are highly influential in guiding their business strategies, while only four in 10 cite internal metrics and financial information.”

So, the CEO is much more likely to read the paper, watch TV, browse the odd glossy, maybe do a bit of online and listen to customers to work out whether PR is delivering value for money. The impetus for reports and measurement doesn’t come from the top (but we knew that already, didn’t we?).

The survey also tells us that the top priorities for CEOs in terms of the outcomes of their actions (and presumably the actions of their employees and any companies they might employ to work on their behalf) are customer reactions, long-term financial performance and corporate reputation.

So it’s fairly safe to assume that CEOs would prefer their company’s money was spent doing things that had a positive impact on those priorities, rather than producing increasingly detailed reports to cover the arse and justify the job of some middle-ranking in-house PR manager.

We’re often told that the demand for more reporting comes from above; that “we need these reports to feed into management reports higher up the food chain.” Bollocks. Listen up: “THE CEO DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOUR CRAPPY LITTLE REPORTS!”

OK, so you might say that in helping secure the job of the in-house PR manager an agency is also helping secure its own role, but given the choice I reckon that most agency heads would rather take their chances in spending their time generating great results and being smart about making sure their work gets noticed in the boardroom (or on the golf course, at the rugby, in their club).

I remember a few years back PR Week ran an on-going campaign called Proof (I think) which aimed to ensure that every campaign had 10% of its budget devoted to measurement and evaluation of results. Surely we can lump reporting into campaign measurement and evaluation these days and, if so, wouldn’t it be a dream if you could ensure that only 10% of the fee was spent on those activities? It’d be far less than most spend on it at the moment. I suspect, however, that the PR Week campaign was focused on diverting 10% of your fee into third-party coverage evaluation services like Metrica…which only makes the time spent reporting even more of a squeeze on your margins.

Reporting demands are sucking the lifeblood from creative PR execs…I see it all the time. All those shiny new grads from last week’s PR Week walking into top agencies, dreaming of days filled with brainstorms, creative juices spilling over the desks, clients simply gagging for the next great idea…how long before the daily grind of admin drives them into other careers? Crikey, you might as well be making more money being as bored somewhere else, right?

06 November 2006

Penny for the Guy..?

Guy Kewney's posted a comment over on Tim Dyson's blog. He's actually telling Dyson off for a schoolboy spelling mistake. Quite right too...Dyson's used "there" instead of "their" - and in actual fact shouldn't have been trying to use "their" in any case, he should've been using "its" (companies always being singular).

Anyway, Kewney then launches into a completely unrelated moan about The "blasted" Red Consultancy's new (I think) Flash website, ending his comment by imploring Dyson to "teach them something about PR."

Brilliant stuff. I'm really interested to see Dyson's reply.
Great names of our time...

I guess that any questions raised in the post below will be answered this coming Thursday, as Hotwire PR is holding a seminar called "Harnessing the Power of Blogs". It will feature someone from Hotwire (obviously), someone from Ipsos MORI (who did a survey, of course) and the ubiquitous Charles Arthur (I'm sure that there's more than one of him).

I say that the seminar will no doubt answer all the questions...Hotwire says that it'll answer these ones:

What is the impact of user generated content on blogs on my business now and in the future?
How can blogs be influenced positively?
How can I manage my brand image and reputation in this new world with limited controls?
How can I measure the results and impact of blogs in a PR campaign?

Which is all you really need to know, isn't it?

The main point of this post, however, is not the event itself but the rather lovely name of one of the Hotwire people involved. The seminar, you see, will also be held in Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Paris, Milan and Madrid. If you'd like information on any of those, you'll need to contact one Celine Puff.

The perfect PR name, surely? Unless she's a magic dragon. Or grows her own.
Come the revolution…

Strumpette’s guest columnist is worth a read for all you PR execs wondering where your job fits into the world of Web 2.0 and social media…if indeed it does. It’s from Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations, and concerns the ‘the adoption of corporate blogging and intersection of the enterprise and individual personalities’.

Essentially, the argument goes that corporate blogs are attaching individual personalities to large - and previously faceless – organisations. Consumers engage more readily with individuals, particularly when they share interests and passions, and a good corporate blog can foster brand empathy and loyalty. As Rohit so rightly points out, “The power of the individual voice within enterprises is finding its place.”

Of course, when all the excitement about the potential of blogging first kicked off, many in the PR industry saw it as a huge opportunity: if all these big businesses were going to be blogging, then surely they’d need legions of PR execs to help them create the content, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

As everyone is now coming to realise, what matters in blogging is total transparency, absolute honesty and complete authenticity. Not exactly three concepts that sit right at the centre of PR practice (come on, be completely honest with yourselves. For once). And, as we’ve seen over recent weeks, even those PR agencies that seemed to all of us to “get it” more than most can’t seem to do it right, so what hope the rest of us?

I heard a story recently in which a social media guru advised a large corporate to fire all its marketing and PR people and invest the money in its products. “Get your products right,” he said, “and the internet will do the rest for you.” That might sound like pie in the sky to you, but how far away do you really think it is? Organisations don’t own their own brands anymore…they’re deconstructed on the internet and re-presented to the world as they truly are.

So what role does PR play in this new world if we’re not the ones controlling the blogs (event the corporate ones, let alone the rest)? Rohit again:

“…the filter that a PR team may have applied to enterprise communications is starting to dissolve. As individuals (most outside the PR department) start to develop relationships with customers - it is their voice that has a dialogue. Doing a press release is often not as effective as having a company's most prolific blogger "announce" something on his/her blog - and then point people to it. People trust others more than they trust institutions.”

The worrying part being that most in PR represent institutions, not individuals.

Here’s an idea for you. Pick up a press release you’ve written recently…or maybe an opinion article. Read it. Does that sound authentic to you? If you read that one a blog, verbatim, would you believe it? Maybe you’re the exception…but read through a few of the releases on Sourcewire today and you’ll see what I mean. Is the PR industry good enough to write believable content? Really?

Another idea. The next time you’re asked to write a press release for your client, write it as if you were blogging it, as if you were an employee blogger. Be as honest as you need to be for it to work online; for it not to be pilloried as spam or propaganda. Give it some personality. Believe me, you’ll find it refreshing. It’ll take some guts to ping it over to the client, but explain to them why you’ve written it like that. Explain why press releases don’t work anymore.

Should we be worried? You bet we should. When we see stories about the threat of social media to traditional media we need to recognise the implicit and related threat to PR.

Many of the best blogs are written by professional journalists, so they’ve still got a role to play. Have we?

05 November 2006

Bono of contention...

While on the subject of U2, Martin Veitch got a tetchy email from a U2 employee asking him to refrain from criticising the band in his Inquirer pieces (examples of the light-hearted frippery are here, here and here).

U2 may well have a wide fan-base within IT departments, but just how petty can people be?

04 November 2006

We're here all week...

We've heard that U2's PR agency never gets paid.

Its work is always pro Bono.

Sorry 'bout that.

02 November 2006

4.6% of time spent analysing time breakdowns….

We’ve been alerted to a surprisingly interesting feature in PR Week (not that you can see it without a subscription) by The New View From Object Towers from the very lovely Andrew B Smith of Object Marketing.

Robert Gray’s colourful article (see what we did there?) looks at how a ‘typical’ 50 person PR agency spends its time. The great and the good happily gave their view of the findings.

As usual some comments were a tad self-serving (Kate Pooley of Lewis blathering about a pilot scheme that uses podcasts to report results in order to save time) and some were a little more honest, such as Mark ‘Firefly’ Mellor and his classic “existing clients come first in theory, but this can be tested to the limits if a couple of interviews clash with a new business pitch worth £100,000.”

The big news, of course, was the shocking revelation that a projected 45% of time went on account management with a further 18% on reporting. Almost two-thirds of time on managing expectations and egos. Media relations rolled in at 12% followed by a bunch of other stuff leaving only 1% of time dedicated to features tracking (that’ll be the AE then).

Is it all really that shocking? To the hand-wringers that get all academic about it, probably. Yet it is the hand-wringers that caused all this in the first place. Back in the day, it was “come up with a good story, sell the idea into your journo mates and we’ll all get to the pub on time.”

Then the shiny suit brigade decides that PR should be a chartered profession, and we must plan, measure, evaluate, plan, measure, evaluate our way into a sterile accountancy environment.

Account management – the endless status calls, the booking of taxis for a senior executive that can’t hail his or her own cab, the whimsical ‘strategic’ chat that wonders off into the PR manager bemoaning the attitude of their employer – and reporting go hand-in-hand.

The weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual and annual reports and reviews add up. The strategic bigwigs that dreamt this crap up don’t, of course, actually do the reporting so the AMs and AEs have to do it leaving precious little time to do ‘traditional’ PR.

Clients start to go crazy when reports are late, or if a cutting isn’t straight. Due at a fixed point, these things are above the parapet waiting to be shot at. An unscheduled piece of coverage that, as it turns out, never did appear, doesn’t get missed. So what do you focus on?

Reporting is a drug. They like the report. But they want a bigger hit. Can you do a coverage board…Can you create a montage of coverage in PowerPoint….Just the best quotes, and make sure it looks pretty….With each piece coming in on a separate click…. Yes do scan the coverage in because we still don’t get our cuttings electronically….

The professionalisation of PR means the product is now the presentation of results rather than the results themselves. How often has a client lamented that “we didn’t sell that coverage back into the organisation (his/her boss) sufficiently.”

And besides, how long does it take to ring a couple of journalists and create some sort of a story with them? That’s the easy bit. Trouble is, it's too easy. Competing on that basis means ever-declining margin. That’s why agencies these days win and lose according to how they manage clients and package the ever-declining results they get.

On a positive note, cracking piece of coverage for TimeAct Solutions. Bet its agency spends less than 45% of its time on account management….