31 July 2007

No cake? No comment...

If you're a tech PR and you didn't get one of these today you might as well pack up your devices and find another profession. It's a first birthday cake, courtesy of ITPro.

It's a generous gift too. Given the weight of the delicious jam sponge, our scales tell us that each would have cost £1.45 to send.

Picture Chris Green in the postroom last night. "One for a tech PR, one for me. One for a tech PR, one for me. One for a tech PR..."

Happy birthday ITPro..!
A day in whose life..?

A while a go we published a post about a typical day in the life of a tech PR exec. It obviously banged the bell of truth for many people...comments flooded in, other blogs pointed to it gleefully. Hell, there was even a call to add TWL to the reading list of PR degree courses...

Well, there's another Day in the Life in town. Compare and contrast...
Brace yourself Figgis…

...because this post is about Edelman.

And to ensure we don’t fall foul of the self-righteous transparency brigade, let me state the bleedin’ obvious – this post is part of Edelman’s ‘editorial sponsorship’ to drive awareness of its ‘PR brain of Britain’ competition.

Doubtless this is another ‘unpleasant surprise’ for some readers. If you don’t like it, look away now. Or imagine you’re watching telly and the adverts come on. Pop out to the kitchen and make a cuppa. Or pretend it’s Sunday evening and Heartbeat has just started. Go upstairs, log on, and start delegating Monday’s To-Do list.

And if you’re worried that Edelman may take your most insightful 600 words and ‘resell’ them in some VAR type way to the highest paying client, either don’t participate or just be thankful that, finally, someone listened - albeit while mugging you in broad daylight.

With the caveats out of the way, here’s the update. Remember the overly-complex sliding scale of reward associated with the competition? Well it turns out that the top end prizes are seats at Edelman’s 2.0 Weekend Summit in Berlin.

Some of Edelman’s biggest hitters will be there, and a host of special guests that in a Glastonbury type way are yet to be announced (persuaded/bribed/blackmailed). Although it could be a jolly clever drip-feed PR strategy. But probably not.

There’s a case study on Wal-Mart, which should be fun for 2.0 fans, a ‘hands-on' session that involves 'execution' and some crisis simulation which presumably involves overturned chairs and broken tables. Or maybe that’s the Wal-Mart case study. Oh, who knows? Suffice to say, it should be a pretty useful weekend for anyone wanting to bamboozle their colleagues and clients with a whole load of new buzzwords.

The weekend will doubtless be eased along with copious amounts of alcohol during which surely everyone will wonder whether they should joke with Corneila Kunze about her unfortunate surname.

If you need a refresher on the perfectly opaque entry criteria, click here. For those that enter but don’t get selected to attend, delegates are staying at the Intercontinental in Berlin. In true World Cup fashion, feel free to turn up outside the hotel in the middle of the night with the loudest oompah band money can buy…

29 July 2007

Great 2.0 bores of our time….

“It’s such a brilliant time to be in PR…..I mean, the whole social networking thing is completely revolutionising the way people interact….it’s rewriting the rules of engagement……and PR is at the forefront of it…..just look at the success of MySpace, although of course it’s Facebook that’s really hot at the moment….he’s only 23 you know….a friend of mine knows him….the social media dynamic is seeing small groups of people that have a similar interest coming together…..it’s really quite earnest…..and for companies to engage effectively they must be really transparent…..there’s a two-way dialogue that advertisers really don’t understand…..they are stuck in broadcast mode, not engagement….PR really is overtaking advertising…….have you seen my Facebook profile….need to apply the Long Tail principle…..how lots of people still buy David Bowie’s back catalogue…..there is a lot of money to be made by selling just two or three copies of something every month….you must really keep your own blog before advising others on running one….but of course it’s more than just blogs…..RSS……Flickr, Facebook and….um….mobile applications….yes it’s more than just kids using IM….it’s about citizen journalism….when you watch the news now, have you noticed how even the BBC will use video content shot by witnesses…just normal members of the public…everyone is a potential journalist….and comment, of course, that’s what the blogosphere excels in…it’s the democratisation of opinion…..it’s such a great moment to be in PR….”

26 July 2007

At least they're not colour blind...

Did you see Chris Green's little rant yesterday?

He thinks that some people should be banned from using technology. These include people that shout at their mobile phones on the train, colleagues who print their emails to read, his sister who breaks everything she touches and, of course, Text 100:

"In this job, I never cease to be amazed at how badly some people, who have no excuse, use technology.

"For example, I’ve just received a press release from an agency called Text 100, that addressed me as “Dear Green” – thus ensuring that said press release will be deleted without ever being read, let alone turned into a news story.

"Clearly that PR agency could do with sending some of its staff on a basic course on how to do a mail merge properly."

25 July 2007

Big agency big hitter in big action...

It's not often that we get the opportunity to show you one of the UK's top tech PR pros in action...but today we can. Here's Mark Jackson - most recent of our Q&A subjects - doing what the top men and women in agency do best...spouting off in front of PowerPoint.

Jackson's presenting the findings of Hill & Knowlton's research into what influences IT decision-makers. Watch it and learn. Or perhaps don't.

Or, like me, simply wonder whether there's actually anyone in the room with him. I mean, there's no applause at the end or anything...

24 July 2007

There is no try...

I see that Bruce has started a new PR agency. Just look at his little face at the champagne launch!

I can't imagine where the inspiration for the name and logo came from...

Good luck Bruce...and may the Force be with you.

23 July 2007

New blog, new blog..!

Even more bloody reading to do.

I've just spotted a new blog. It's called Under Strict Embargo and is written by Daljit who's just left Hotwire to "take some time out, re-familiarise himself with Jeremy Kyle and start his own blog..."

Seems quite drastic.

Take a look, post a comment.
Anyone fancy a beer...?

For those that missed the original post or aren't friends of ours on Facebook (and why not?) and therefore didn't receive an event invitation or, frankly, have just forgotten, we're off out for a beer this Thursday evening...and the first one (which for me at least will be the size of the one in this picture) is on Matthew Ravden, PR man, author, blah, blah, blah...

We'll be upstairs in the Crown and Two Chairman pub on Dean Street, Soho, from about 7.00pm. In the event that the upstairs is closed, or there's a private party on (I haven't checked, obviously) we'll be downstairs.

Look out for this man....

(It's Ravden, not some dodgy bloke who frequents the Crown and Two...)

20 July 2007

You wait all day for a bus…

…and then two come along at once.

It’s a cliché, and an old one at that (but then I suppose they all are). It’s not one of my favourites. It’s usually delivered by some old curmudgeon and almost always headlined with the pessimist’s favourite one-word sentence: “Typical” (fragment, consider revising…please).

I hate “typical” more than I hate the cliché, truth be told. “Typical” is the word used by those old (or old before their time) who believe that the world is full of shit and that most of it falls on them. “Typical” means that something else has come along to reinforce their view that nothing good will ever come of it (“it” being everything). I wish some old crooner would release a cover version of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” but replace every “ironic” with a “typical”.

“A free ride when you’ve already paid?”


The thing about clichés, however, is that every now and then they turn out to be accurate. Though (and I realise now that I’m digressing from my original digression, which is new ground even for me) the PR team for Transport for London might actually tell you that they’ve done some research to disprove the cliché and that, in reality, you wait 16.8 minutes for a bus and then an average of 1.34 turn up at once.

Anyway, you’d no doubt been waiting months for one of the outstanding TWL Q&As with a power-broker from the UK PR industry and, guess what? Two have come along at once. Well, within a week or so of each other.

Yes, that’s right. After our “chat” with the boys from GolinHarris, we’ve had another one with big-wig Mark Jackson, head of Hill and Knowlton’s tech practice in the UK. We say big-wig but, of course, if you read Jackson’s new blog that we pointed out the other week, you’ll know that he’s a man in no need of any sort of toupée. In fact, it sounds like he's got more hair than he wants...

Jackson’s been part of the UK tech PR scene for years, having had stints of varying lengths at a selection of tech outfits before landing at monster Hill & Knowlton. As usual, we emailed him a bunch of questions and he answered them. Here’s the chat. It's quite long but, hell, it's a Friday...

TWL: Just how big a penis do you need to run the UK corporate technologies practice at H&K?
MJ: Apparently it’s not just about size; it seems experience is quite important too. Which is where I think I can add some value given I’ve been doing technology PR for coming up 16 years. That makes me a reasonably old hand and also means that there’s not much I haven’t seen, from the boom years of the dotcom bubble to the trauma that followed.

TWL: And just how much does the UK corporate technologies practice have to practice? Surely you’ve mastered it by now?
MJ: The global technology practice is the largest single practice in H&K. It represents a huge part of our business so, to some extent, we must have done something right. However, as readers of your esteemed pages will acknowledge, we have to continue to learn or risk being stuck in the time warp that disciplines such as direct mail (or even, arguably, advertising) face. One such area is social media. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been a cynic of using blogs in a business to business context because until recently I hadn’t seen any evidence to suggest they had the slightest impact on clients’ businesses. However, we recently carried out a study of what really influences technology purchasers and it shows that 38% of those we surveyed in the US, 40% in Canada, 48% in China and 22% in the UK think that blogs are a credible source of information about which products or services to buy. While the UK is the lowest by a long way, I was still surprised at the extent to which business people are relying on blogs.

TWL: Who are you team’s major clients?
MJ: The list currently includes HP, Sony, Verizon, Samsung, HCL, NASSCOM, GN, GSMA, Yahoo!, Business Objects, Fox Mobile, TomTom Work, Mamut, Factiva and a couple we’re not allowed to mention.

TWL: Which client causes the most needless stress?
MJ: It would be indelicate to name names but there is little doubt that clients whose expectations are vastly in excess of what is achievable or in excess of the available resources (it’s not just about budgets) cause untold stress. They are the clients who never say thank you; never acknowledge progress; do not stop to consider the impact their actions and words have on the team; and who move their accounts continually as they burn out one team after another in the UK IT PR industry.

TWL: Your intro page on the website says “A fresh and optimistic tech sector is finding its feet after the turmoil of the dot.com and telecoms crashes.” Yet we’re expecting another significant tech slowdown in the next 12 months. Are we wrong or does your website need an update?
MJ: There is little doubt that we’re in the middle of another boom period for our industry but the part of me that witnessed the carnage of the dotcom implosion is a half empty glass, rather than half full. For example, news from the US last week on its sub-prime housing market shows that the economy is slowing rapidly. If that spills over into high-street spending, then it will not take long before retailers (which are some of the largest firms in the US) start to limit strategic spending on items such as technology. That has a direct impact on our clients and then we start to face the challenges we experienced in 2001.

But yes, you’re right. The website does need updating and you should see something by the turn of the year. Assuming the market hasn’t crashed!

TWL: You do Satyam and Nasscom – cosy. Which came first, and did the second come because of it?
MJ: NASSCOM has been a client for many years. As a consequence of our work with the organisation – including a good deal of success – some of its members wanted to draw on our experience, knowledge and skills.

TWL: Given that the PR Weak league tables are of only marginal more use than a fireguard crafted from Swiss chocolate, where do you feel H&K corporate technologies comes (in revenue terms) in the true rankings of UK tech PR outfits?
MJ: To be honest, we pay as much attention to them as TWL. That’s partly because we can’t enter because of SOX restrictions but also because I’ve witnessed a lot of massaging in the past to ensure numbers appeared higher than they might otherwise have been.

All in all, I don’t think they’re a good indicator of the health of a business but do seem to pander to the egos of CEOs who frame the tables and place them garishly around their receptions.

TWL: And is that higher or lower than when you joined?
MJ: Of course I’d say higher but in reality I’m not sure where we would have come two years ago so it’s difficult to say that with any accuracy. I can say we’ve got more clients from a broader range of sectors so something seems to have gone reasonably well over the last two years. And frankly, that seems a more accurate measure of how a business is doing than a league table.

TWL: I always get you and Mark Hampton mixed up. Which one are you?
MJ: I’m not surprised. We’re both called Mark, work in IT PR and been known to like a pie or two. The main difference is that I have a London accent while Mark’s is more akin to Lloyd Grossman, he having spent some time in San Francisco.

TWL: Blogs are wank. Discuss.
MJ: When it comes to business blogs, I would have been the first to agree. After all, who on earth is going to believe what the CEO of ‘HardAsNails, the world’s leading server security provider for the knitting industry’ writes in a blog?

Personal blogs are a slightly different issue. If you want to tell the world about your personal foibles then feel free. After all, who in their right mind would want to write about body hair, for example?

TWL: What’s your advice to a new graduate moving into tech PR in the UK?
MJ: I got into PR almost by chance in 1991. However, it’s been the best thing that happened to me because, almost without fail, I look forward to going to work everyday and I can’t really imagine doing anything else. Sad? Probably. But it does mean that when people ask, I always say that it’s a good career. The one piece of advice I’d give, though, is that people should feel happy learning about technology. You really do need at least a working knowledge or else you’ll struggle to convince clients you know what you’re talking about or journalists that they should write about your clients’ products or services.

You don’t have to have a technical background but a propensity and desire to understand how things work is really important.

TWL: Who are your work-related heroes and villains?
MJ: Villains: Journalists that slag off PR and then use the stories anyway; journalists that spend their entire careers slagging off PR people and then take jobs in agencies; ‘publicists’ who claim to be PR people but only bring shame and disrepute on our industry; PR people who only got into PR because they didn’t make it as a journalist

Heroes: PR people prepared to stand up and be proud of what they do; people who have successful careers in PR and manage to have happy families

TWL: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career?
MJ: Forgetting about timezones and sending out an earnings release at 8.00am GMT instead of 8.00am EST. It’s the kind of thing you only do once and it wasn’t pretty…

TWL: And what’s been your biggest success?
MJ: Managing to stay sane in an industry which chews people up and spits then out with alarming regularity. I guess that’s partly because I really do love my job but it’s also helped by having a bit of a balance in life (learned because of the previous question). I try never to work at the weekends now and have built up an unhealthy obsession for rugby which takes up a lot of time these days.

19 July 2007

Jonny, give Steve a couple of extra points...

...'cause he always buys the doughnuts when he comes into the office.

Surely someone's got to take the piss, at least a little bit?

Oh, that'll be us then...

Yesterday afternoon I noticed a Facebook status update from David Brain at Edleman which said, "David Brain is writing a blog post that will get him flamed..."

Interesting, I thought (well, a bit).

Then I saw the blog post itself...and there was a story in PRWeak about it today too. It was about Edelman's Social Media Index, essentially a league table of the Top 30 most influential bloggers, but factoring in their broader use of social media than simply their blog (so things like Facebook and Twatter).

Guess what? Steve Rubel...who happens to work for Edelman...came out at number 1! How extraordinary.

OK, OK...so in his blog post, Brain did say that Rubel topping the table was "vaguely embarrassing" and he did try to counter the fact by stating that "I think he needs to do some client work some time" (ho, ho) but really..?

What I found particularly amusing about Brain's post was that, in time-honoured O-level exam style, Edelman showed its working out...and rather brilliantly...in the first league table (the one without Edelman's fancy homebrew weighting) Rubel only came in at number five!

Quite right Brain. Throw that one back in Bentwood's face and send him back to his desk until he's got it right...

18 July 2007

Peter’s got a nice gaff….

As if Chris Green hadn’t already served a warning, Peter Judge alerted burglars all over London to his “lovely house,” where his lodger’s room is “really big.”

A 'lovely house' full of 'really big hi-tech kit' no doubt. To give the burglars a helping hand, London Lite (prize to anyone that can find the article online) even published a picture of Peter’s house on Brixton Hill.

Peter has had to take a lodger in “as there has been a bit of a downturn in technology journalism,” which is a bit odd given his regular gig with Techworld, owned by IDG, which just launched Computerworld, which is vying with recently launched IT Pro, which is battling with freshly purchased Computing and revamped IT Week, which are competing with a refreshed Computer Weekly, a redesigned CBR, a stalwart Info Age, and a suite of CNET publications that have just moved to plush new offices, and The Register at its new place in trendy ‘Noho’. Tough times indeed.

Sounding just a little bit like the beginning of a new Hollyoaks storyline Peter says he “registered with two websites and spent half an hour every day scanning pictures of women looking for rooms to rent.” Freaky.

Anyway, next time you see Peter, get him to buy you a drink – he’s up £400 a month these days. The only real downer is that there’s a bit of a queue for the bathroom in the morning. No surprise given his Germanic lodger’s penchant for “playing period instruments” might mean some of Peter’s extra tax-free cash being spent replacing the bathroom rug….

17 July 2007

The power of the press release headline...

When scanning your eye down the headlines of press releases on Sourcewire, which of these two are you more likely to click on?

New white paper on leachate pump selection and operation


World's first nude, figurative and erotic art boutique opens online

Something to think about when you're next sticking a release on Sourcewire, eh?

Having said that, I reckon the pictures attached to each could probably work for either...

"Help, my house is flooded..."

"Don't worry sweetheart, I'll have you dry in a jiffy..."
UK PR bloggers giving up the ghost..?

I've had a funny gut feeling recently. To be honest, I should probably stop with the cabbage, broccoli and mixed bean baps.

No, no...a proper gut feeling. And it's one that is shared by Collister and some bloke called Rob. It's the feeling that, in recent months, the number of blog posts being produced by UK PR bloggers has been falling steadily.

Happy as I usually am to rely on gut feelings, this time I thought I'd do a bit of analysis to see if my intuition holds true. And I'm happy to say that...confirming my confidence in my inherent top-class perceptive skills...it does!

I counted up the number of posts made by nine of the higher profile UK blogs over the last 12 months (took me bloody ages, to be honest...). These were the blogs from Benvie, Pullin, Bruce, Waddington, Collister, Davies, Smith, Dyson and Lewis 360. OK, so Dyson isn't a UK blogger, but I figure that quite a few UK-based PRs read his thoughts. Links for all these blogs can be found on our blogroll, apoart from Lewis 360.

Here's a graph (I know you love a graph) with all the blog posts added up, month by month:

See what I mean? Sure, it looks like a decent March weekend in Val d'Isere, but the trend is obvious.

Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Over the past year, any number of new UK PR blogs have popped up and with their posts and even with a declining number of posts from established bloggers, there's still plenty of rubbish to read. But do you think it might end in a heap at the bottom?

I've got another graph for you too. It's a bit messy...though I quite like it...and shows the number of posts from each of the blogs I looked at (and I've thrown TWL into this one as well, because we come out looking quite good...). You can see that some bloggers (e.g. Wadds, Lewis, us) have maintained a relatively steady level over the past year, others have been in decline (e.g. Bruce, Benvie, Smith) and a couple (Collister, Davies) appear to have lifted their game in recent months.

However, the big question, of course, is: "Have I got too much time on my hands..?"

And I think we all know the answer to that one.

16 July 2007

Interesting headline...

"LewisPR killed Second Life"

Let's hope so, eh..?

15 July 2007

Dreaming of Adland…

I don’t know about you, but often when I get hold of a client brief, the first creative ideas that pop into my head take the form of advertisements. It happened to me again last week, and I was musing on why that might be.

I think it’s because - in the world of advertising - you control the message entirely (as long as you’re not making any entirely outlandish claims); there’s no editorial filter. The only filters, in fact, are the agency’s account lead and the client. And judging by the number of atrocious ads around, it isn’t much of one. It’s also why people don’t believe advertisements.

But when you’re thinking in advertisement form, you can basically present the client’s message as blatantly as you like…which is what often happens when you start thinking about a client’s PR brief. Then, of course, you need to put what the client would like to say in the context of something that’s believable, so that it’s got half a chance of finding its way through the editorial filter.

It’s because of this that, while many people would point to the advertising industry as being the more creative, it’s actually PR where you need to apply your creative energies more to what the client wants to say.

I’ll admit it though. Before I landed my first job, I’d have probably taken a job in advertising over PR and I reckon many of my peers would have too (given that many of us simply fell into PR as a career). I think that’s changed significantly in the last decade or so, with more entrants into the industry making a conscious choice to pursue a PR career (though with many of these seeming to leave in a worryingly short space of time).

Advertising still has something of a glamorous image though, doesn’t it? The size of the budgets helps (though much of the tens of million pounds in advertising contracts you hear about is, of course, spent on simply buying media). But there’s still the attractiveness of pretty much being able to do what you like, as long as you can sell it to the client.

One recent(ish) TV ad that I liked was the Sony Bravia one…you know, the one where the tower block spurted loads of colourful paint everywhere. Lovely…but quite what it told me about Sony I’m not so sure, other than it makes colour tellies and impressive ads. I guess it’s just a brand thing.

If you were doing PR for the Sony Bravia, however, you’d have to do something that would appeal to the media. You’d probably do some research. Eight out of 10 northern blokes think that the Sony Bravia’s colours are better than the real life ones they see every day in their dreary, rain-soaked home towns…70% of women in Wales are more likely to have sex on a first date with a bloke with a Sony Bravia in his front room…that sort of thing. You wouldn’t simply pour a load of Dulux off a condemned building and expect someone to write about it. In positive terms, at least.

It’s a fine line between a great ad and a rubbish one though, isn’t it? While the Sony ad is a creative concept that really appeals to me, I can’t stand that Vodafone ad on the telly at the moment with all the bits of watches raining down on people’s heads. For a start it looks painful…for a finish I hate the idea that having email on the go is positioned as being as much fun as kicking your way through autumn leaves or freshly fallen snow.

And I reckon that the Vodafone PR people are gutted, as they have probably recently spent thousands on the same “mobile email saves you bags of time” survey that Blackberry launched the other week.

But imagine if these advertisements happened in real life? Sharp little pieces of metal falling randomly from the sky…all because of Vodafone? It’d be a PR disaster. Just as well they work in Adland, rather than the real world.

But I'd still rather buy a Sony than switch to Vodafone...

10 July 2007

Jump for their love...it's GolinHarris...

Right, chums, here's the latest in our sporadic series of Q&As with the bigwigs of the tech PR world. There's been Dyson of Next Fifteen, Mellor and Walker from Firefly and Syltevik at Hotwire.

As ever our caveat is that the Q&A takes place over email...we send a bunch of questions, the subjects then take a lifetime to ruminate over their answers before sending them back. Then we print them verbatim. We don't have a chance to interrogate...but it's always interesting to see how 'PR' people get with their responses.

GolinHarris is part of Interpublic Group (as is Weber Shandwick and any number of other marketing services companies). For the last few years GH in the UK has been run by a double-act: Jonathan Hughes and Matt Neale. Before the boys took over, rumours were that the UK operation was on its last legs and wasn't far off being wound up. Seems to be in a much healthier position these days (if its company offsites are anything to go by).

Over to the lads...

TWL: I can’t remember how long ago it was that you two took on GH. I’ve heard various stories about why you were handed the reins…from it being a tactic to stop you both leaving to GH being perceived to be going down the pan and you two being given it as a shit or bust move. What’s the truth?

JH/MN: Actually when the job was advertised internally, we asked the CEO if we could take it on together, we’d worked together at Weber Shandwick and liked the idea of being partners but within a global networked company.

TWL: I wouldn’t say that you’re the highest profile agency in the UK . Is that by design or accident?

JH/MN: That’s why this is such an amazing job. GH was quite low profile a couple of years ago and we were given the freedom to do what we wanted. Internationally GH has virtually won every award there is in 2007 culminating in Agency of the Year. It’s our job to do this now in the UK.

TWL: You’ve obviously got big brother Weber Shandwick sitting close by – in the same building no less – what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of that?

JH/MN: For a start we get fancier digs. We also pool all our training which means that with the two agencies combined – we have the best training in the UK . We basically we have the best of both worlds – it feels like a hot shop but within the environment of a global leader. No crappy office in a Camden terrace.

TWL: I guess some people might perceive that you’re an agency that lives off Weber’s leftovers…or business it can’t take on. I guess you’d refute that..?

JH/MN: We pitch against each other all the time so we are friendly rivals – we send them leads if we’re competed out. GH’s competitive win rate is around 85% and in the last year we’ve won brands like Expedia, Kraft, Samsung , BMC Software and Dow. We’ve beaten the biggest global agencies and specialist shops so I don’t think anyone defines us by our larger brother. Apologies for banging the drum!

TWL: Ages ago (in fact when TWL was a mere three days old) we highlighted the rather odd situation whereby Oracle’s global PR is handled by Weber Shandwick, yet Weber does a fair bit of Microsoft work in the UK…and then one of the Oracle press contacts is listed as Mark Sparrow, but he’s one of your boys, isn’t he? It’s all very confusing…can you clarify? I mean, do you help Weber created a few Chinese walls by loaning then some of your resource now and again?

JH/MN: Oracle uses different agencies in different regions, there is no global agency. For its EMEA work it uses CMG. CMG is a group within Interpublic Group (IPG) that specialises in the areas of public relations, public affairs, sports and entertainment marketing etc. The Oracle team is drawn up from a range of people depending on the skillset needed at the time and this is continually changing.

TWL: Which other PR agencies do you admire, and why?

MN: I really respect what Mike Morgan’s done with Red, David Brain’s reign at Edelman and the way Colin Byrne has turned WS London into such a strong domestic brand.

JH: To those I'd add Inferno, they're extremely solid, the creativity of the Frank team has to be admired and the way Giles and Sarah have built up Brands2Life.

TWL: We all watched the YouTube video of your company offsite to Rome (and the previous year’s one to Palma). It generated quite an astonishing number of comments and received a mixed reaction. Now, we like a bit of that old-school PR excess, but then some people think we’re dinosaurs…people seemed to question a number of things, such as (a) is that sort of thing still needed/relevant and (b) why the hell would you stick the video on YouTube? Your thoughts..?

JH/MN: How many agencies fly the entire company abroad each year for training and to let their hair down? Beats renting a room in Soho House. When the company is doing so well it’s nice to have a bit of fun. One of our guys was a dancer in a former life and it was her idea to create the video, she put it on YouTube.

TWL: Where’s next year’s trip to? And can we come..?

JH/MN: Somewhere sunny again, south of France is in the running. You could blog from the beach…

Sounds fantastic...and we've got it in writing.

NB: If you would like to appear in a TWL Q&A, an offer of foreign travel or £500 in used notes usually does the trick.

09 July 2007

More faces than Mike Yarwood…

‘Singing from the same hymn sheet’ is a cliché that some PRs managed to forge an entire career from, yet it is even more relevant in this crazy multi-channel world.

Interactive TV, digital radio, website presence, blog, Facebook page…keeping a consistent message has never been more of a challenge (how we love the stories of PRs recoiling in horror as their jolly personal Facebook profile gets invited to a client’s rather more sensible page).

Consistent messaging across a range of media is a challenge because of the subtle differences in the way audiences engage with each medium. It’s the type of thing that really allows the PR industry to lead the way with insightful consulting, as getting it right relies on a degree of human judgement and experience. It’s certainly a lot more complicated than, say, a straight forward thing such as consistent pricing.

Back in the old days - when it was just shops, phones and websites – we used to laugh when companies made such stupid cock-ups.

Argos was perhaps the most lampooned when in 1999 it began selling TVs for just £3.00 from its website, after a couple of Saturday assistants got a bit confused with all that Hypertext Transfer Protocol stuff. “Ah, bless those morons,” we used to say. “They just don’t get it.”

Eight years on, it seems PR’s industry bible still doesn’t “get it.”

Trying to track down an article in PRWeak the other day, TWL discovered the dog had eaten the A4 piece of paper by the computer that has all the passwords written on it.

With much frustration TWL stared at PRWeak’s stout verbiage to ward off trespassers:

To access this article and other content from the PRWeek.com archive, you must be a paid subscriber to PRWeek magazine. As a subscriber you also gain free access to all PRWeek's international titles and online services.

Goodness, scary.

The search function on the PRWeak website works without logging in, so you can get the headline of any article you want. But as soon as you want to read the whole thing, you hit the subscribers only brick wall.

Wonder if I can get it for free through a Google News search, TWL mused? No, you just get redirected to the PRWeak website. Damn it, they're just too good for TWL.

Then TWL had a cunning idea. What about putting the headline into the search engine of the marketing/comms portal thing, mad.co.uk?

Shag it, that doesn’t work either. Oh, hold on, that’s Centaur. What’s the Haymarket one?

Um, er, um…..cup of tea, bowl of muesli, couple of calls into a few mates…. Brand Republic! Yes, what happens if I cut and paste the headline into Brand Republic. Will that work?

No, bugger, they are good. All bases covered it would seem.

Mind you, that would be stupid wouldn't it? Having a story only available to subscribers on one website but available to all and sundry on another. I mean, that would be like that ridiculous thing that Argos did with those TVs, selling things at different prices through different media. Only more stupid because it would be two different prices on the same medium.

Yes, what was I thinking, too stupid for words.

I wonder what happens if I put the headline in quote marks, like when using Google?


Subscription only PRWeak articles available for free on Brand Republic.

Gosh, that is stupid….

*NB: Mike Yarwood was a popular impressionist in the 1970s, when the alternative to watching TV was counting the amount of dead people in the streets that hadn’t been buried because everyone was on strike.

The headline was chosen as it suggests that by not presenting a consistent face to the public a company would have ‘more faces’ than an impressionist. It is ironic because, of course, Mike Yarwood only had one impression; a poor imitation of Prince Charles.
Another new UK PR blog...

I notice that Paul Wooding of Weber Shandwick has set up a blog. It's called "note to editors..." (a phrase that often, of course, comes just a few words before...the world's leading... We'll take that as a compliment). There's just the one introductory post at the mo' but it's nicely written.

I've met Paul and he's a funny bloke (as a "wannabe stand up comedian" should be, really).

One to keep an eye on...
Surveywatch..with me, Nick Ross...

Now he's delivered his last "don't have nightmares" to millions of petrified pensioners up and down the country, I was thinking that Nick Ross might be interested in a new gig here at TWL. It's called Surveywatch...and it's an effort to stop crimes against intelligence.

We've been having a dig recently at various pieces of spurious research delivered by creatively-challenged PR types. There was the Weber Shandwick thing of course (and which still rumbles on in the comments), that Carphone Warehouse survey telling us that people like almost anything else you can think of more than they like their mobile phone, and there was that ultimate piggyback piece which explained how virtually everyone (or nobody) was likely (or not) to consider (or reject) the possible idea of one day buying (or stealing) an iPhone (or other mobile device).

Today I've alighted upon a press release on PR Newswire which describes the findings of a "new survey" (because, presumably, the findings of the old one weren't very interesting). It's not technology-related, but I'm sure you'll excuse me that, particularly when you find out that the aim of the survey was to establish who we'd all like to have as our neighbour. It'd certainly been playing on my mind.

The answer, you might be surprised to find, is the Queen. Or maybe it isn't a surprise, given that having the Queen as a neighbour would mean that you were living in a highly desirable part of London. Or Windsor. Or some godforsaken part of Scotland (perhaps the bit that Edelman has just vacated?) Damn, I've just mentioned them again, haven't I? Old Figgis will be along in a minute to have a moan...

The release includes almost every possible survey cliché. There's the battle of the sexes...94% of the people who wanted 'eye candy' Sean Connery next door were women (Connery can't still be eye candy, shurely? "Just let me hang up the coloshtomy bag, my schweet, and I'll be with you...") while men preferred a 'good converser' like David Attenborough.

I can see it now: "What do you think I should do with these bloody moles, David..?"

"Watch them closely, see how they interact with each other...study how the family unit bonds through barely audible grunts and..."

"Bugger that. I was thinking a gallon of unleaded and a match."

And of course there's the "great North/South divide," with "43% of patriotic Southerners opting for the Queen, whilst a quarter of chatty Northerners most wanted to live next door to TV legend Michael Parkinson."

A spokesman said: "The results show that people are more concerned about the quality of their neighbours, hence why the Queen beat Joanna Lumley."

Poor old Joanna. You don't have to be posh to be patronised.

The company behind the survey is developer Prestigious Retirement Villages. Which means, sadly, that whoever you'd like as your neighbour, you're probably going to get a moany old bastard who smells of piss.

08 July 2007

Brainy? In PR? We’ll be the judge of that…

We are delighted to announce a competition here at TWL for the brightest talent in the UK PR industry…The PR Brain of Britain…brought to you in association with Edelman Public Relations.

Did you get that? The competition is being sponsored by Edelman Public Relations. That’s right; Edelman is paying us money to have its name attached to the competition (and one or two other associated benefits, as will become obvious). Hopefully we've made that completely clear (transparent, even).

Competition entry requirements could not be simpler. We’re after essays of up to 600 words on the future of the UK PR industry and, specifically, the role that PR will play in the world of social networks, user-generated content and all things online.

Take as wide or as narrow a view as you’d like; sector-specific or general; conservative or entirely outlandish; serious or, umm, not so. There are two categories: one for those of you aged 27 or under and one for everyone else. The only other rule is that you must be working in PR (agency, in-house or freelance) or a student of PR. That’s it.

Well, almost. The deadline for your entries is August 31st 2007. The judging panel will consist of a number of Edelman’s own directors, TWL and other assorted PR gurus. Who knows, Richard himself might even take a look...

There will be prizes for the 10 best entries based on some sort of overly-complex sliding scale. We’re not at liberty just yet to give full prize details, but start thinking foreign travel, plush hotel, all the food and drink you can consume…right down to a piece of coal and a stick for 10th place (no, no, really…even the 10th best one will get something decent).

The small print: competition entrants must be happy that their name and email address will be passed on to Edelman (who might well, at some stage, drop you a note) and we will also reserve the right to publish any startling insights from the essays here on TWL.

Get scribbling and send your entries and any questions to theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk

Best of luck..!

06 July 2007

PR Commandment No.6...

Thou shalt absolutely covet your neighbour's account executives.

News reaches us from Surrey that a small billboard has appeared outside Surbiton railway station ("one of those pyramidal things you see outside pubs advertising the day's specials," our source tells us...)

Nothing unusual in that, you might think. Except that this billboard is advertising employment opportunities at tech PR shop Livewire Public Relations. Seems like a rather narrow piece of targeted advertising, don't you think?

Indeed, until you realise that tech PR executive footfall through Surbiton might well be increased by employees of Livewire's near neighbour, tech PR shop Wildfire Public Relations...

A poaching exercise? Our source isn't so sure:

"They're very different tribes. If you've got Wildfire and Livewire bunnies in the pub, at the same time, you know there's going to be trouble. So the police try to contain the violence, by marshalling them into different turfs."
Book signing, beer buying...it's a date...

Avid readers of the comments here at The World's Leading... (and let's face it, who isn't? That's where the action happens...) will know that following our recent plug of senior PR man and published novelist Matthew Ravden's book, BlokeMiles, he said this:

"Aw, TWL what can I say? I will do a book signing in a pub of your choice...and buy the first pint for all."

Well, we've taken him up on his kind offer. On the evening of July 26th from about 7.00pm, you'll find Matthew upstairs in The Crown and Two Chairman, 31 Dean Street, Soho, pen in one hand, wallet in the other. We'll be there too.

Obviously, if you want a book signing you'll have to buy one and Matthew has asked us (virtually begged, to be honest) to say that if you do, could you please buy it in a proper bookshop rather than one of those new-fangled online ones?

If you don't want a book signing then that's OK...we'll be in a pub! You can just come along for a beer, and we can all have a good old gossip.

04 July 2007

Are they called omnibus surveys...

...because you only have to survey as many people as can get on a bus? Single-decker as well.

We've mentioned in the past that TWL is a blog more than happy to get pitched to. We can't promise to post about every one (so sorry to the fella from Mister Wong), but we've just received an email that is worth printing in full. It came from the email address webershandwick@hotmail.co.uk, which I can only assume is genuine...

Hello TWL

How are you?

I thought I'd drop you a quick note about the incredible piece of research from Weber Shandwick on advocacy. I am sure you'll agree that an online survey of 583 adults across 9 countries makes this a most robust piece of work into this important area for the industry. And we have certainly made this look like an important study with our lovely insert in last week's PR Week. I do tend to think the design might have cost a little bit more than the study though...and that's without the production or buying the insert space...

Anyway, with as many as 65 people interviewed in each country we are in a great position to roll out this piece of global research. We shall of course be advising our client base from now on that for a global piece of research across 9 countries, you only need 600-odd people to get something that is extremely robust for both media and prospects alike.

I'm sure you'll agree from this all our findings really stand up to being used in charts and graphs. In fact we are especially proud we managed to get odd number percentages with this amount of people.

Thanks for looking at this robust piece of work TWL.


Mr Webby Shandy

Think global, act local? You can read more about Weber Shandwick's survey here. Not much more we can add.

03 July 2007

She's picked her ring...

...I just hope she's washed her hands.

Latest in our very infrequent Hitched, Engaged, Arrived and Deceased series is one Abi Lovell...currently in-house PR at Symantec, previously of Weber Shandwick, Fleishman-Hillard and Noiseworks.

See girls? Abi moved jobs four times before she found a husband. A bit of persistence and application and you could get hitched too.

All we know is that she's getting married this weekend to "some guy called Billy" (we're not quoting Abi there, by the way...).

Yeah, that's right...Billy's got a mate now hasn't he?
"PR is truly the mongrel of the professions..."

Not my words: Mike Willard's. Ever heard of him? Neither had I until this morning. And guess what? He runs a PR company!

I found out about him through reading the online version of The Ukrainian Observer ("A knowledge based magazine"...umm, as opposed to..?)

I know, I know...bit of an odd choice of reading material. But I'd noticed a headline which touched a subject close to my heart: "Billing by the hour is dumb" which topped a story written by Willard.

Still doesn't really make sense though, does it? A story about how PR companies bill clients in a magazine about Ukraine?

Well, it turns out that in addition to running PR companies in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, Willard's company - The Willard Group - publishes The Ukrainian Observer. Which I guess gives him carte blanche to write about whatever he likes.

Willard's article discusses the old chestnut related to traditional hourly billing versus billing based on the value of results. He uses a couple of nice examples so if you're new to the argument it's worth a read.

Willard's "PR is truly the mongrel of the professions" actually features in a different article in the Observer (like I said, carte blanche...) under the headline of "Public Relations and common sense."

Willard's argument is thet PR is largely the "strategic application of common sense" - something I'd largely agree with - but that this simple definition has become clouded through spin and the control and shaping of image. "Image making," Willard contests, "is to say that a glistening new coat of paint is all that is needed for the termite-infested fence."

He also shares some of our views regarding formal PR qualifications:

"We also should not smother the profession in academia. A certain foundation, perhaps, can be established through a public relations education, but I believe those basics can be taught in a few months in a classroom or, alternatively, a fortnight in the real world....I have never suggested a higher degree in public relations, though a master's in common sense might not be out of the question. The crux of the matter is that PR is a way of thinking - and this is generally experience taught rather than classroom osmosis."

Again, it's worth a read.
Here's the news...there is no news...

I've got a sure fire way to generate some coverage...do nothing.

Such is the hysteria surrounding Apple's iPhone, that even not launching creates stories in the media. Yesterday, technology news site Tech.co.uk carried a story under the stunning headline...

"No UK iPhone launch today"

...with the sub-heading "Apple spokesman denies all knowledge."

A further 230 words were then used to discuss the non-launch..."Apple's UK PR company Bite Communications said it had no knowledge of an iPhone launch today - and seemed to regard the subject with some amusement."

The best thing is, of course, is that Apple isn't launching the iPhone again today, so roll the presses..!
New blog...hirsute...

Mark Jackson runs Hill & Knowlton's technology practice in the UK. He's started a blog...but it's not about PR (good for him). It's Jackson's thoughts as he counts down to turning 40. Mostly, so far, it seems to be about hair.

358 more days of that could be tough going...