30 January 2007

Three word descriptor….

Mallet’s Mallet, the word association game on Wacaday, is a good introduction to the three line descriptor.

Timmy Mallet used to get two small children, usually a boy and a girl, and make them look at each other and go bleugh. Then Timmy would say a word and child one would respond with the first word that came into their head. Child two then had to say the first word that came into their head and so on. It would have been dull TV were it not for the fact that pauses or repeats resulted in a bang on the head for the errant child.

Companies like the same thing...for the brand to instantly create a word association. Bentley = luxury, EasyJet = cheap and cheerful, M&S = filthy voiceover.

The press, too, likes to explain a company in a few words to help people place it.

The trouble comes, of course, when the newspaper’s three word descriptor differs from the company’s three word descriptor. Back in the day, Xerox was always described along the lines of ‘the photocopier company’ and it hated it because Xerox’s strapline and intention was to be ‘the document company.’ It’s a small difference and, while it’s petty, you can understand (it does printers too)…

So in all its press releases Xerox always described itself as the ‘the document company.' Overtime, the media did indeed change the way it described Xerox. After a series of poor financial results, the descriptor became ‘the troubled photocopier company.’

Thankfully, many large companies have finally given up the practice of forcing a three word descriptor into the first line of every news release. Honestly. Check out news releases from SAP, IBM, even Xerox, and the three word descriptors have gone.

Smaller companies, however, still love the three word descriptor and often - with no genuine USP - these companies tend to create longer and longer descriptors. We all have a favourite example, but flying the flag for the tech PR industry is Clarity Public Relations. A rare bastion standing firm against the onslaught of common sense, it proudly uses the descriptor:

“The only CarbonNeutral PR consultancy that specialises in the technology sector and related industries.”

Kudos to Clarity for its environmental commitment but, honestly, that descriptor is a large enough blot on the landscape to block out all the coal-fired power stations in China.
Formulaic PR….

Possibly the UK’s finest journo blogger, Rupert Goodwins, has devised a very useful formula for people called Tamara who work at Hill & Knowlton.

Goodwins’ irrefutable law of PR success states:

The probability of a successful pitch can be calculated by the following handy formula applied to the details of your client's latest wheeze.

3NT x 4UP x 2BI x 5EAI
----------------------------- = P(copy)
3M^3 x 2ACE x 10L

Where NT = New Technology, UP = Unique Product, BI = Beer Involved, EAI = Engineers Available for Interview, M = Marketing Managers, EMEA or Mornings, ACE = Already Covered Elsewhere (ie, your American brethren have already spilled the beans) and L = the word Leading or Leader in the first paragraph of the press release.

Good work from Goodwins….

You probably won't have heard about this, but we've got the inside track on the latest developments on planet technology. Word on the street has it that today, American computer company Microsoft has launched what it is calling a new "computer operating system" and we can exclusively reveal its codename: Misty. Fisty. Pasta. Summat like that, anyhow.

We found out about it from top secret underground newsrag, "The Inquirer" which has also pulled wide open the kimono of the entire tech PR industry.

Help! We've been rumbled.
He ain't gettin' on no plane for H&K or anyone, fool...

You might've missed this as it appeared in PRWeak's US edition, but have a look at the worst ever attempt at a viral video, knocked together by H&K for its client Hitachi Data Systems.

Well, ex-client that is, because - as PRWeak reports - HDS has decided to end its relationship with H&K. As Joe Paluska, director of H&K's technology practice put it: "We reached an impasse over an element of the company's digital strategy."

Steven Zivanic, HDS director of corporate communications was a little more direct when he said: "We need a partner that knows there is a difference between a corporate video with a man in a suit, and a viral video with an action star."

Actually, to be fair to H&K, this particular viral wasn't the sole reason that HDS ended the relationship...there were loads! Zivanic again: "There were more issues than a video. That quote is an understatement. There were multiple issues on multiple areas."

Paluska's biog quotes him as saying: "Our clients choose Hill & Knowlton because we can help them reinvent the way they communicate their technology agenda and then drive that message as far and as wide as they want to go."

Ain't that the truth!

That's all shocking enough, but according to PRWeak, H&K only won the business late last year and started working with HDS on December 1st. So, by my reckoning, that makes it about an eight week relationship (with Christmas in the middle!).


26 January 2007

More four letter acronyms...

Of course, it wouldn't be fair of me to mention the CIPR without also having a look at the tremendous progress made in t'age of computers by our other esteemed representative body the PRCA.

The PRCA, it goes without saying, has its own blog. It's called PRCA Bites. It's a bit tricky to find, however, as the link to it on the drop-down "PRCA Links" menu on the PRCA's homepage is broken...so here's one we prepared earlier.

You can tell that the PRCA "got it" early, as it published a post way back in November 2005 called "Blogging can't be ignored"...right on, brother.

That's easy for the PRCA to say. And it would seem, to do. Since that post - 14 months ago - the PRCA blog has featured a grand total of, umm, hang on I've just got to count them all, oh yes, five more posts. That's like one every three months or so.

Interestingly, the "Blogging can't be ignored" post reported an Edelman/Technorati event which included a panel, one member of which was Stuart Smith, Edelman's UK CEO. He's a man who also seems adept at ignoring blogging, as since he set up his blog back in October, PRwordSmith ("Those that know me, know that I am not often short of words, opinions (or even the odd diagram," he said), he's posted a grand total of seven times...and six of those were in the first four days!

Come on chaps. A blog is for life, not just for the birds after the show.
One step forward, two steps back...to the future...

Always at the forefront of PR innovation - like adding another letter to an acronym - the CIPR looks to be once again driving the use of social media within the industry. Outgoing President Tony Bradley set the ball rolling, of course, by last year starting to "blog" (this, for those of you that don't know, being short for "weblog", a new-fangled techno-whatsit that the kids are into) which immediately placed him at the very bleeding-edge of "computer age" communications techniques. New man at the helm of the good ship CIPR, Lionel Zetter, looks set fair to carry on the inexorable march into this exciting new era.

Or does he?

His first post on the CIPR's blog PR Voice, setting out his priorities for the year ahead (neatly summarised as "members and money"...though I suspect it could have been even more neatly summarised as "money") ends with this little note:

(Due to technical difficulties, this post, written by CIPR President Lionel Zetter, is being published by the CIPR on his behalf.)

Oh dear. I wonder what these "technical difficulties" might have been? Perhaps the final handover post from exiting President Tony Bradley might offer up a clue? Ah yes, here we are:

"...as I hand over the Presidency to my successor and good friend Lionel Zetter it's also time to give him the log-in details and password for PR Voice."

He's forgotten it already. Doesn't bode well. Still, best not take the mickey too much...Lionel's got a black belt in karate.

24 January 2007

Brighton Belle….

It was lovely having the prolific Sally Whittle joining in the ‘comments’ banter recently. It inspired a quick visit to her blog and, boy, it was a trip worth making.

Sally has a bit of a thing about Response Source. And not in the lazy-account-execs-have-it-all-laid-on-a-plate-for-them-these-days type way that it annoys us.

Our favourite musing was her post asking who the hell would want a Response Source branded T-shirt or cap. It’s a fair question. Today’s well dressed AEs are not sporting MediaDisk trainers, PR Newswire jumpers or Romeike trousers. In fact it is only in the techiest realms of IT that anyone thinks that company branded clothes are anything other that dreadfully embarrassing.

There’s only one tech shop in town that does cool clothes, and that’s The Register’s Cash ‘n’ Carrion. It has a cheeky little range, including this and this.

In a different post, Sally highlights a great piece related to MySpace, a place for freaks, which is obviously awash with saddos and marketers (Ed – isn’t that a tad tautological?).

Some poor stammering fool who hasn’t left his or her bedroom in all 15 years of their existence came up with a MySpace phishing scam to capture passwords. Texturbation does some nice analysis on popular passwords (340 occurrences of the word “password”), but even better lists some of the passwords left by those that knew it was a phishing scam.

Some of them involve some rather vulgar language, so don’t visit if you’re easily offended by teenage homophobia and swearing….

22 January 2007

Thank Christ, another IT mag….

Hoorah for metrics everywhere, IDG is really starting to take Ol’ Blighty seriously with a UK version of the chart-topping US IT magazine Computerworld.

The new publication (well, website, paper is bloody expensive you know) is being edited by Mike Simons, formally news editor at Chinook Weekly.

In the UK IDG already has the unsexy, but actually quite good, Techworld (about the world of technology) and the remodelled CIO Magazine (which is a magazine aimed at CIOs). Computerworld sits somewhere between the two, but won’t be sitting at www.computerworld.co.uk.

Yes, as though “CIO Magazine” didn’t already spoil the genes of the Techworld and Computerworld family, the logical URL is already taken up by a company based just off the Almondsbury Interchange (J16, M5) that has been providing business services in the UK for over 20 years.

Probably a nice place to work as it’s headquartered from a country manor and obviously enjoys the occasional stroke of good luck as “ComputerWorld is a customer service organisation that happens to be in the computer industry.” Extremely fortunate, because otherwise it would have a vastly inappropriate name.

Now this could be a huge billion dollar turnover company (doubtless “the industry’s best kept secret,” should it ever issue a PR brief). After all it already has the power to make Bristol considerably closer to London but the chances are it isn’t.

Which makes you wonder why IDG has opted for www.computerworlduk.co.uk instead of simply steamrollering a sweet innocent nice firm like any global organisation should do. There again, perhaps it should have simply bought Computing off of VNU before 3i got it and saved everyone a lot of trouble.

Ah well, clunky UK web address aside, at last there’s a UK tech publication the Yanks can instantly get their heads around instead of UK PRs having to put cover-your-arse-it’s-The-Register American phrases like “irreverent humor” into their briefing documents.

Mike’s already canvassing content, which you can submit through the oddly familiar looking cwuknews@idg.co.uk ....

Lovely post from Peter Judge...sounds like one of ours.

Hang on...could he be...? No, surely not...but maybe...same blog template...and I've never seen us in the same place at the same time...
Glass half-full..? Half-empty..?

I read that today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. I’m generally an optimistic type though. Always look on the bright side…thing’s will turn out alright…everything happens for a reason…positive thinking…blah, blah, blah.

Having said that, when I think about the PR industry in 2007, I get a bit gloomy.

You see, last year we all got excited about this new world of social media and how it could be the chance for PR to step right to the forefront of communications; how it played to our strengths; how we were soon to topple those pesky flash Harry advertising types from their self-built pedestal. But it didn’t really happen, did it?

So here we are looking forward to another dull year of slogging away trying to generate same old same old press coverage in an ever-decreasing pool of traditional media and not really having a clue about how to interact with the new stuff.

This new world of blogging hasn’t really worked out as we’d have liked, has it? I mean, how many of you are being paid decent money by clients for advising them on their own blogging? Or helping to create content? OK, so you’ll be keeping an eye on the blogs that matter (if you can find them) to make sure you client’s not being slated, but that’s just a monitoring service.

Blogs should be our bag. We’d all love to be involved in clear, open, honest, transparent communication about the truly decent things that clients get up to. But therein lies the problem. Clients. They still want to have control over the message; total transparency isn’t really their thing, is it? And as we bang on about how anything but transparency doesn’t work in the blogosphere, the more they think, “well I’m not touching that with a bargepole, that wouldn’t work for us at all…” And even when they do decide to do it, they still want to retain control and you end up with an Edelman/Wal-Mart fiasco.

Here’s another problem that blogging has presented us with. Time was that you could make a bit of cash – even a few grand a month – pushing out rubbish press releases full of guff and spin just because the client wanted you too. The very worst that would happen is that they wouldn’t generate any coverage and you’d just have to roll out an excuse to the client…”got bumped by a bigger story”…”it was written by got edited out by a sub”…”needed a customer angle”…”feature got pulled”…or some other bull. Nowadays, if you try and shove something weak or inaccurate out there, it’s likely to get jumped all over by the blogosphere and torn apart…your reputation with it. The Porter Novelli/SpinVox thing being a little example of what can happen. There’s no hiding place.

In many ways, this should help. Agencies need to push back on their clients if the story just isn’t any good. It should raise the game. Thing is, a company that didn’t have any decent news before can’t just come up with some because you’ve given them a kick up the backside; they’re more likely to decide not to do it at all and stick their money into something they can control, like direct mail, or advertising.

One of the traditionally tricky things when selling PR to a client is the lack of guaranteed results, and the lack of control over those results. Hacks will interpret the story and put their own angle on it. But that’s PR’s power too…the third-party endorsement. You just need to convince the client that the risk/reward equation is worth it. With blogging, the balance gets skewed again. For many clients, it’s just too risky. But as blogs become more influential within key audiences, “traditional media” becomes less so, and clients start questioning the money they’re paying to get covered by it. Which is your PR budget.

This time last year many people felt that social media might be the thing to not only save PR, but to send it into the stratosphere. But maybe in 2007 we’ll be scrabbling around trying to hang on to the little we’ve already got?

As some bean-counter once said when asked if he was a glass half-empty or glass half-full type of man: “I’d get used to a smaller glass.”

Just make sure it's got enough Scotch in it.

19 January 2007

If you're going to piss one person off, why not a whole industry..?

No, no. Not us. Porter Novelli.

Seems that Porter Novelli thought it's be a smart post a press release about its client SpinVox on the online forum at industry networking group Mobile Mondays. But as you, I and everyone else knows, online forums are for rich, constructive discussions, not places for PR companies to start pitching weak releases about their clients.

And believe me, this press release was weak. Imagine the conversation within the team at Porter Novelli:

"We haven't done much for SpinVox recently, and the monthly meeting's coming up. Anyone got any smart ideas about getting a quick hit?"

"Well, that iPhone seems to be getting a lot of coverage..."

"Brilliant! We'll do a press release about the iPhone and then somehow try and spin some dodgy angle for SpinVox. Spinning for SpinVox, I love it!"

Hence the creation of a press release which starts:


London, UK - 18th January 2007: SpinVox, the Voice-to-Screen messaging expert, has applauded Apple's decision to include a `Visual Voicemail' feature on its iPhone, calling it a step towards what consumers really want - simple, relevant services.

I'm sure Apple is pleased with the endorsement - as it has clearly been struggling to generate any decent coverage for the iPhone - but the members of Mobile Mondays seem less impressed. We can't see the entrie comments, but the beginning of a few give you a flavour:

This is clearly spam and I suggest that the sender should be removed from the momo group list

In fact, this email is worse than spam, as it has been deliberately placed onto the groups list by a Ms Nathalie Agnew, whom Google shows to work at the PR...

Theres a time and a place for press releases, but Im not convinced this email group is it. so, sorry, but 3rded...

It's ineffective anyway - the PR makes SpinVox sound quite rattled by the iPhone, and posting it here has not exactly improved their standing amongst their...

So all in all, quite a drubbing for Spinvox. Spinvox, would you like to comment and turn your press release into more of a discussion point, as is demanded by...

I'm glad there's so much agreement on this - the use of new media and technology also demands restraint and ethics, something which seems forgotten by many...

Surely unless it is made clear to the "stupid" amongst the group that sending press releases out to a group such as this is a) not tolerated b) will draw...

Here, here. Seconded. Press releases don't count as discussion

+1, if this is to be put to a vote. I didn't even think it was a *good* press release

I am amazed of how people can "try" to gain traction by involving popular terms like iPhone in their press releases for no reason whatsoever

I also wrote up some of the tricks PR agencies are using in social media in the post from a session I was at last night- sobering reading

Thirded. Boring, ineffective and inappropriate press puff hung tenuously onto the launch of a competitor product by Apple

Oh. Dear. That didn't really work then, did it?

A decent PR company always has plenty of high-jinks, humour and drunken revelry. Hell, even the crap ones do. But, of course, the nature of PR and the pressure of keeping several clients happy simultaneously means that not every one can join in the fun all the time.

We hear that Tom Jennings, part of Edelman’s tech team, just found himself in the ‘unlucky ones’ camp, cruelly ostracised from the fun. Due to catch a 06:30 Eurostar train to Paris this morning, Jennings eschewed a night of drunken ‘Tomfoolery’ at Edelman’s Third Thursday bash (where the tech team apparently sticks a corporate credit card behind an upstairs bar of a smoky Soho pub and gets leathered with tech journos. Umm, excuse me, but why isn't TWL invited?)

Having just popped in for a couple of swift halves, Jennings went home early and got his head down.

His colleagues happily drank the night away, enjoying the Sangria and tapas (Third Thursday’s nod to the looming 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona). Ever thoughtful, and fuelled by alcohol logic, a select bunch of Edelman’s tech team decided to give Tom a midnight alarm call.

We understand that Tom immediately saw the funny side and laughed heartily.

When his real alarm call went off just a few hours later, despite his bleary eyes and lack of sleep, the boy Jennings raced to Waterloo to find that all the trains to Paris had been reserved to clear the backlog of passengers from last night (Waterloo this morning, apparently, was “reminiscent of black and white film footage from the blitz”).

Tired, emotional, a little peeved, Tom fired an email to the team:

From: Jennings, Tom
Sent: Friday, January 19, 2007 06:55 AM
To: @LON Tech
Subject: Yes, I really am in the office at this time...

“Ah, there's nothing quite like getting up at 04:30 to get to Waterloo, only to find there's no chance of getting on a Eurostar train before lunchtime...

FYI - I will be leaving the office at 14:00 today as a result.

Cheers, Tom

PS: And a particular thank-you to the truly hilarious Manners, Robertson and Sondhi for their midnight phone call. Very, very amusing. Believe me - much like last night's tapas, revenge is a dish best served cold.

You'll laugh about this one day Tom. Just not one day soon.

18 January 2007

Twitter…rhyming slang or any use..?

“Twitter” we thought. “What the fuck?”

So rather than languish in our own ignorance of the latest social media craze, we thought we’d ask someone who knows about this sort of stuff. This is what he said:

Twitter is already the new black. But, for those of you not wearing black, I will try to explain what Twitter is all about…

Twitter is a new social media web 2.0 phenomenon, for people that want to share (with people that care) what they’re doing now. In essence it’s a blogging, SMS, IM mash-up for those with the attention span of less than 5 seconds (which, as we all know, is now pretty much everyone). Twitter seems to largely be about people saying very little, of very little substance, fairly often – in fact it’s blogging SMS style (posts are limited to a max of about 135 characters). The idea is that you can update your Twitter page in a various ways: directly online, by IM and by Text and your ‘followers’ (yes ‘followers’…very biblical – as you’ll see Brucey baby even has a following) can choose to receive your updates via the same medium…crazy, I know.

So why should TWL care? Well, perhaps you shouldn’t, but it does seem that many people are now “Twitting” and, as ever, the technology marketing and journalist digerati (i.e. readers of your popular gossip blog) are at the forefront of such things. As well as communicating with these early adopters you can now even sign up to follow Twitters from the likes of the BBC and CNN (although there is some debate at present as to whether this is actually Auntie being all ‘down-with-the-kids’ or just overly keen Twitters fiddling with news feeds). You can even sign up to follow spoof Twitters, should you so desire, from the likes of Condoleezza Rice.

As by way of understanding (or at least attempting to) here are some of the great Twitter posts from our Twitting friends:

Scoble: Back from BillG. 45 minute interview, it's always fun to chat with Bill, but now onto other fun PodTech things. Call me if you want into BlogHaus 01:26 PM January 07, 2007 from web

Justin Hayward: discovered fantastic adapter to broadcast my MP3 tunes to the car stereo, saving about £150! Nice... 04:33 PM January 13, 2007 from web

Justin Westcott: thinking that i might have signed up for a few too many BBC twitter feeds 10:54 AM January 15, 2007 from im

Bruce: Ah the joy of working at home - no tube, no buses, no jams. 07:51 PM January 15, 2007 from mobile

Drew B: Anyone else been invited to the opening of Mood Supperclub in Hollywood ? Don't think I'll be able to make it :-) 07:15 AM January 17, 2007 from im

Any clearer? Probably not.

So is Twitter the new Blogger? Maybe. Can we expect a wave of articles in National media talking about Twitter addiction? Very likely. Will PR folk be busy devising new ways of engaging with this fast growing Twitter community, developing and selling to clients Twitter communication products and at the very least pretending to know what the hell it is all about? More than likely. If that’s the case I hope this helped. Happy Twitting.

So, as far as we can tell, it’s a way for people that for some reason think you might give a shit telling you what they’re doing for pretty much every minute of the day. Crikey, and we thought blogging was ego-driven.

Of course, our man pulled out some of the more “interesting” nuggets that people have…you know…oh Christ how I don’t want to say this…umm…”Twitted”…but of course most of them are really, really dull things like this:

Think I’ll have a cup of tea

Better get on with some work

Need a pooh

On the bus

Going to bed

And it’s really dangerous, because you get things like this:

Gosh this Twitter’s addictive, I can't concentrate on anything I need to do for my client Cisco. Oh well, I'll still bill the time to them

And that character limit is frustrating, ‘cause you get stuff like this:

I am supposed to be writing a briefing document for Larry Ellison’s trip over but I can’t be arsed, so I’ve been surfing the internet – now I think I’ll nip off for a wa

So again…Twitter. What the fuck?

Twatter more like.

17 January 2007

Numero Uno meme….

In the run-up to Christmas (that’s “Holiday Season” for our surprisingly high contingent of American readers) there was a popular meme that went round the blogosphere (that’s “chain letter that got passed around on the internet” for those that can’t be arsed with all this lexicon 2.0 nonsense).

The whole thing was encouraging people to expose five things about themselves that almost no-one else would know.

This is obviously very dangerous. Not so much that you reveal an embarrassing story about yourself, after all, that’s the point. No, this is dangerous because if you’re ever abducted by aliens and replaced by a very clever robotic replica of you, your nearest and dearest would be able to tell there had been a switch by asking you an intimate question to which only you knew the answer. A flawless plan, provided the real you hadn’t posted five things that people didn’t know about them on the web for any old robot-toting alien to take note of and lodge into the fake you’s silicon head. Anyway, we digress.

A highly scientific poll at TWL towers judged that Jono ‘the beard’ Bacon – a leading open source light, Ubuntu Community Manager for Canonical, prolific blogger and occasional journalist – had the most interesting ‘thing you didn’t know about me’ fact:

Someone took a shit on my Fiat Uno Van

Well Jono, if you insist on living in the West Midlands…
Get back on the meat, fella...

People say that TWL is by far and away the most entertaining PR-related blog (yes they do...) but as far as we're concerned, Simon Collister wipes the floor with us. This is a post of his from last Friday:

"Turned on BBC Radio 4's In Business programme last night while cooking some tasty vegan sausages. I wasn't expecting much but was rewarded with a not-too-ground-breaking but interesting programme on open-source business.

"As well as the US centric background it featured the UK's first open-source firm - whose name now escapes me."

Comic genius!

Whaddya mean he's serious?
You gotta practice what you preach...

...and here's someone doing exactly that. Following our call for industry news, the sparky Fiona Blamey of Prompt Communications has been in touch. As you'll see from this press release, Prompt has launch a blogger relations service and, if the way Fiona "related" to TWL is anything to go by, while it's a crazy plan, it might just work.

To be frank, Fiona flattered us beyond all reason..."Very much enjoying your site," she said, "there aren’t too many people in the industry who can write nicely like what you can" she continued. Stop it, Fiona, stop it. Oh, go on then.

In return for her shameless sweet talk, we're happy to give the new service a mention...details of Prompt's new blogging service can be found here.

And just so we don't upset TWL viewers who might be aghast at the lack of piss-taking in this post, we're delighted to see that Prompt is one of those generous agencies that puts pictures and short biographies of their consultants on its website.

The first consultant is called Hazel Butters which initially, to be honest, I thought was part of her job description. Well, some agencies have tea boys, why wouldn't others have someone to butter the toast?

Fiona's there, obviously, and before you scoff at Prompt's new blogging service, how many other people do you know who have written a thesis on the cultural significance of blogging and social media as part of an MA in Popular Culture? Oh, yes, I see what you mean...scoff away.

There's a serious man called Lance (well, you would be, wouldn't you?) and a chirpy ginger one called Dave. There's Kate who's "full of ideas" and Annie, who's "capable, creative and client-focused" (but then so is foxy Elissa. How do they work that out? Is one capable on the other's client-focused days? You wouldn't want them both creative at the same time...or maybe you would? Help!). Heather, meanwhile, is "capabile, curious and service oriented"...I'm particularly interested in that curious bit...I wonder if Elissa might have a bit of "curious" in her too?

Mysteriously, there's no picture of Lisa Facinelli...with a name like that though, I wonder if she's on a witness protection programme of some kind?

And get the linguist...Louise Hill speaks Spanish, Italian, Franch and Portuguese fluently, elementary Greek and is currently studying for GSCEs in Arabic and Russian. The best bit is, she apparently swears like a trooper...in eight different languages! Actually, I made that bit up. But she has got an Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits. Is that like I've got a Doctorate in Pies and Pasties?

The number of pointless boxed-out statistics in today's Times.

16 January 2007

A problem shared….

Government, employers, PRs…a devious lot, one and all.

There is much hand-wringing about the UK’s low recycling rate. Jolly serious politicians use the media to urge ‘householders’ to recycle their rubbish. If ‘we’ all use three different bins, the world will be a cleaner place. Or take last summer when there was a hosepipe ban, and ‘we’ were made to feel ashamed for putting a splash of water on our toothbrush before cleaning our teeth.

Whether it’s that ‘we’ drive our kids to school, fly more often or buy cheap food, ‘we’ – householders, consumers, average Joes – seem to be intent on ruining the world for everyone.

Except, of course, that the problems – and their solutions - don’t actually lie with ‘us’ at all. Poor recycling rates have more to do with government policy and businesses than inconsiderate consumers. And ‘we’ were short of water because it was deemed OK to build millions of houses in one corner of the country without updating the water supply infrastructure and, of course, to allow Thames Water to piss most of it away.

Yet the focus always comes back on how ‘we’ must change our ways. In many cases, of course, ‘we’ quite legitimately must play our part…although the burden of separating your rubbish into three different bins when you live in a small flat in London with no storage space - and the borough has just switched to only collecting rubbish every fortnight - is too much for most of us. Especially when you know that the contents of all three bins end up in the same hole anyway because the council hasn’t got the private sector firms in place to keep their side of the bargain.

The jolly serious politicians know this of course. They don’t actually think, or probably even care, what ‘we’ do. But by reminding us that ‘we’ could be doing more, they share – or at least shift - the problem. It’s harder to not vote for a government because it’s weak on the environment if it’s just pointed out that you’re a bit crap too.

Which is also a favourite tactic for employers, of course. The AD just buggered up the account? The AM wasn’t managing upwards effectively. Having to stay in work until 8pm every night to get through your excessive workload? Poor time management skills. Client doesn’t appreciate all your work? You’re not selling the results back to them well enough. A grain of truth in all of those, but the greater responsibility lies elsewhere. Yet shifting the issue quells the complaint.

When ‘my’ business is going down the toilet (because ‘I’m’ spending all the money on fast cars, a flash house, sharp suits, lap dancers and a coke habit), ‘we’ must all work harder.

Despicable PR tactic? Not me guv, it’s an industry issue…

15 January 2007

Trademark troubles…

I’m not sure if you remember, but back in September 2006, PRWeak said this:

“The most powerful and influential figures in the UK PR industry are to be profiled in a new book, published by PRWeek. Scheduled for publication at the end of this year, The PowerBook will be a Who's Who-style directory of over 400 leading industry figures.”

I’m fairly sure that the end of the year has passed now, and I’m waiting with baited breath to flick through, as PRWeak itself called it, “the UK PR industry’s first A-list.”

Has anyone seen it? It all seemed very urgent at the time, as again, back in September, PRWeak’s story stated that:

“Each individual selected under PRWeek's criteria will be approached by the magazine over the next two weeks. They will be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire, which will subsequently lead to a personal profile in The PowerBook - and ultimately a place in the industry's hall of fame. Please look out for this letter and respond quickly…”

Perhaps Apple – though currently involved with Cisco in a similar dispute of its own – didn’t like the use of the PowerBook name? I mean, they've even used the same IT industry standard embedded capitalisation.

We’re particularly anxious to see it though as, would you believe it, good old TWL was invited to be included!

Yes, that’s right, back on the 5th October, we received an email from Kate Magee at PRWeak which said:

“You are looking at something rare. It's an invitation to appear in the UK PR industry's first 'who's who' guide - The PowerBook - which is being published by PRWeek. Only a select group of powerful, influential or inspiring individuals are invited to appear in the PowerBook, which is scheduled to appear at the end of this year. It will be a recognised guide to the leading figures currently working in the UK PR business.”

We followed all the instructions very carefully and made sure we got in before the deadline. OK, so we couldn’t really provide “a recent, colour, head and shoulders photograph” but we did provide an alternative image.

So where is it? Anyone?
There's a bottle of pop in it for you...

We've been getting a little stick here at TWL recently for a perceived lack of "transparency" or some other bull that we don't care very much about. Well, check this out.

It's an article from the Chicago Tribune about how many more people are drinking "soda pops" (that's fizzy drinks to the rest of us) first thing in the morning, rather than the more traditional coffee. In itself, it seems a fairly thinly-veiled plug for the soft drinks industry, but this is the best bit:

Brent Curry, a vice president with Hill & Knowlton Inc., said..."I have never a been a coffee drinker. I have already had two Diet Mountain Dews this morning. It is one of the first things I do in the morning when I get into my office," adding that he refrains from drinking the soda with his breakfast.

But that could be subject to change.

Unlike the days when it took him just 10 minutes to get to work, he now commutes on the train, and it's a longer trip. As a result, he carries a can of Mountain Dew in his briefcase in case the train is delayed.

"If I get desperate, it is there," Curry said.

Of course, what the article doesn't mention is that Mountain Dew is a PepsiCo brand. And PepsiCo is a client of, umm, Hill & Knowlton...
Time to take the day off..?

If you search on Google on “work sickie excuses” about four or five results down you find a site that generates excuses for you. Like “I’ve developed an allergy to my desk” and “I’ve soiled myself” and “We’re trying for a baby and my partner is ovulating”…splendid stuff.

I wonder if some of the guys in Google’s UK PR team might want to use it? After all, reading the Daily Telegraph over the shoulder of some City boy on the tube and seeing this headline might make one feel a little queasy:

“Terrorists 'use Google maps to hit UK troops'”

I picked it up from this even more worrying headline on the Inquirer: “Google Earth is terrorists' tool of choice”…blimey.
It’s Rainiering coverage (sorry)…

...it’s Monday morning and that’s the best pun that I can come up with, OK?

Judging by the coverage, every single person in the world will have heard about Rainier PR’s YouGov survey into the best and worst bits of PR in 2006. You haven’t? Where have you been? What have you been reading? What have you been watching? It’s all over the shop…it’s even been picked up by the Hindustan Times. Bossman Waddington posts about it here.

As someone points out in a comment on Waddington’s blog, “You are a PR whore Mr Waddington. Textbook tactic executed with pure class” and it’s hard to disagree (well, can’t comment on the “whore” bit, but with the execution). In terms of getting the Rainier name out there, it’s second to none.

But to what end? I have to admit, when I first read the story I was a little confused. After all, Rainier’s a tech agency, isn’t it, so why all this guff about Mills-McCartney and Think Pink?

The answer lies hidden away in the press release: “Rainier PR conducted the survey of PR highlights and lowlights during 2006 to see how more technology orientated campaigns squared up to celebrities and big name brands.”

Yes, yes, of course it did. It wasn’t simply to generate a whole bunch of broad-reach coverage and get the Rainier name out there, was it? Unsurprisingly, however, amongst the general public, stuff related to celebrities like Madonna and Paul McCartney is a touch more memorable than, say, debates about DVD formats.

Still, you’ve got to be impressed…I thought survey-driven coverage was dead (even in the fallow news days at the start of the New Year). Nice job.

PS – This is NOT a Rainier advertorial, we are not “in the pay” of Waddington, not do we work for Rainier or any associated companies, for any muppets out there wondering.

12 January 2007

Next Fifteen Group CEO: moaning Brits are a pain in the arse…

That's a slight misquote. But onto that in a minute.

Here’s a funny thing. If you visit the Next Fifteen Group's website’s homepage (skip the intro), there’s a bunch of little pictures at the bottom. Hold on a few seconds and they start changing. It’s all big teeth and ears….quite spooky. Rather like looking into the Tupperware boxes in a serial killer’s freezer.

Anyway, Tim Dyson is CEO of the Next Fifteen Group. Companies within the Next Fifteen Group – particularly Bite, Inferno and Text 100 – feature regularly in posts here at TWL sitting, as they do, right in the middle of the UK tech PR industry.

Ages ago, we sent Dyson a bunch of questions to answer as the first in a (most probably very sporadic) series of interviews with the big knobs of technology PR. He took weeks and weeks to come back to us – in fact we were about to give him a slating for ignoring us when he did. We’ve now taken as long to do anything with his answers. So here, for you reading pleasure, is an out of date chat with Dyson.

We’re good, aren’t we?

Around the world, in all the companies it owns, Next Fifteen employs about 900 people in 36 offices in 19 countries. In its last financial year (to the end of July 2006) the Group turned over £56m and made a headline pre-tax profit of £4.4m – both representing 30%-plus growth on the previous year. The Group is listed on the AIM stock market in London with a stock price of (at time of posting) about 80p, giving the Group a market capitalisation of £43m. If you ignore the massive spike in the Group’s stock price around the boom and bust of dotcom madness, it seems to be on a slow and steady climb upwards.

Dyson sits at the top, therefore, of what looks like a decent business. He’s a 45 year old Brit but has lived on the west coast of America for more than a decade. He’s got a wife and kids and that…probably a really big house and a nice motor (‘cos he gets paid a quarter of a million a year and owns 5.5 million shares in the Group). Let’s cut to the chase:

TWL: You're a Brit living in America , right? What's the most annoying thing about that? If it's easier, just rank your top 20.

1. Driving – it’s too easy to drive in this country so you don’t need to be any good at it.
2. They don’t have pubs which is presumably why they invented Starbucks.
3. Talking to Brits who are here that like to complain about the place but seem to have a great life.
4. TV – thankfully I don’t get much time to watch TV though.

TWL: Virtually all of the (Next Fifteen Group) revenue growth (in its last financial year) came from North America (OK, OK a bit in APAC too). Revenues in EMEA (an we're including UK in EMEA too) are virtually flat, with PBT falling quite significantly. Is there limited potential for growth across EMEA now? As an organisation, how much more resource are you focusing on the US and APAC markets against EMEA? Do European PR professionals who really want to do well need to emigrate?

Dyson: APAC is actually the place where the real new growth is coming but the market is still pretty small. There are clearly some great careers waiting to be had for people in markets such as China and India. This doesn’t mean that EMEA is anything like a dead market. Mainland Europe is still slow in some places but overall there are plenty of growth opportunities. When you look at a region, it’s important to look at what client mix agencies have when analyzing their growth. Agencies that service mainly large companies will be generating only modest growth in revenues and their margins won’t be doing much. Agencies with a mix of large, medium and small will produce more solid growth at all levels. I guess this means that if you are looking for a career with growth opportunities in a more established market like the UK then look at the agency and how smart you think the people are but also try and evaluate what the business growth of the clients is likely to be like in the next few years.

TWL: You recently blogged about the potential resurgence of 'big tech' and highlighted the stock performance of a number of the big names (quite a few being clients of your Group's). There was a time when your stock seemed to almost track the performance of tech stocks, but seemingly no longer. Why is that?

Dyson: Good question (Thanks! Ed) In truth our stock has now pretty well caught up with their growth in the last six months having risen from the 50s to the high 70s. It seems we now lag the market in that respect though.

TWL: What's the biggest challenge for the Next Fifteen Group over the next 3-5 years?

Dyson: People. It sounds corny but if we can continue to hire and keep great people we will continue to win good clients and grow.

TWL: What's the biggest challenge for the PR industry over the next 3-5 years?

Dyson: Delivering value versus other disciplines. The PR industry is in a great place right now while the ad business is struggling. The most dangerous competitor is the one with their back against the wall.

TWL: What keeps you up at night (you can't say "kids")?

Dyson: I’m lucky in that one in that my kids sleep better than I do. I actually don’t tend to worry about specific issues in the business, instead I worry more about longer term issues that I’m trying to figure out that will affect the business. For example we have invested a lot of time and energy in the Clean Tech space as I truly believe this is a great area and a good area for us to be in. However, I know we have to become ‘greener’ so I’m looking at how we can do that. This is a long term challenge for us if we are to do it right.

TWL: Can you ever foresee a time when you'd shell out £1m for an anonymous, irreverent, beautifully-written and highly amusing blog?

Dyson: Can’t say I can.

TWL: Bugger. What a waste of time.
Stoned Junction...

I've just come across a blog called "PRefect - Grassing on the world of PR" written by Richard Stone, who runs a "London based PR and strategic communications firm" called Stone Junction. He doesn't post very often, but did yesterday about how business needs more rock stars.

Stone? Grass? I don't know what he's smoking, but here's a clip:

"In the PR industry we have Mark Borkowski, Chris Lewis and Matthew Freud. Without picking up an instrument, these people have transferred some of the qualities of Bono, Jagger and Gallagher into a world more used to spreadsheets, PowerPoint and red tape."

Far out...

11 January 2007

New year, new job..?

Let’s face it, you’ve completely overspent at Christmas and the kindness of your employer in paying your December salary before the festive period now looks like the ultimate act of sadism as a long, skint January stretches out before you. You need some more money, and quick. You need a better job.

Obviously, for those looking for a new challenge, inspiring environment and, let’s face it, a whacking great pay rise, there’s only one place to go: Indigo Red. Yep, it seems that Santa stuffed a load of brilliant new PR jobs down the chimney of out lovely booze sponsor Steve Mallison-Jones. Here are just a few tempting morsels:

Associate Director – B2B Tech – Agency - London
Nice one for someone who’s been an AD for a while, I reckon…maybe your promotion (for which you’re clearly ready) has been “pushed back” a time or two, just until you’ve achieved one or two more of those SMART objectives…

It’s London-based, and you’ll be the lead on a global client, coordinating European offices (which means you’ll get to push lots of foreigners around…great!). You’ll be providing strategy for three parts of the client’s business: UK corporate and product, EMEA corporate and EMEA product. So, umm, that seems to be everything UK and EMEA then… As ever with these massive clients, you’ll also need to help the agency connect the different pieces of the account, making sure you’re all nicely integrated.

I imagine this one pays really, really well.

UK PR Manager – B2B Tech role – in-house - South
Ooooh look, an in-house role. Perhaps this is the easy street you’ve been looking for? Perhaps you’re at the top of the Account Management tree (or have just been promoted to Account Director and realised that it’s exactly the same job you’ve been doing for the past four years)?

Imagine being on the client side, eh? You get to push the agency around a bit…and they have to take you out to flash restaurants all the time. Even better, this company is partly involved in the gaming arena – which means funky consumer stuff and even flashier nightclubs! There is a bit of techie stuff, so you need to be able to talk both tech and games…maybe one for a tech PR who’s a games enthusiast?

Business PR Manager, Emerging Markets – B2B Tech – In-house - South
Another in-house role! It’s tech, but you need to be able to put technology into business context…so forget your bits and bytes and think profit and loss.

You’ll define the UK business PR strategy (something like, “get in the FT” should do it) and, I’m afraid, you’ll need to talk to people at the US HQ. But no doubt you’ll also get to go over there on a regular basis which, at current exchange rates, means a whole load of shopping. And you’ll probably be able to get an iPhone before anyone else.

There are also the usual in-house benefits associated with being the client to a load of local PR agencies and other vendors. You’ll also need to be able to speak to the in-house marketing people and “integrate”…which essentially means making them understand what PR is, and why it’s more useful than anything they’ve done lately.

Any of these sound great? Yes? No? Well, whatever, Steve’s got loads and loads more so give him a call on 01923 466555. And let him know TWL sent you...he's promised us a recrutiment fee in the form of a whole load more drink for the next TWL party...

In true Nick Ross fashion, “he’s waiting, for your call.”

10 January 2007

The man from Piat d’Or…

Loyal readers, we’ve often said that if you’ve got something to launch or an announcement to make, you should think about using the extremely well-read and influential pages of our little TWL blog. Oddly, few people choose to take us up on this kind offer. Can’t think why.

Oh yes. It’s because they think we’ll rip the right royal piss out of it.

But that’s not always the case. Just usually. It’s worth a try though, isn’t it? Now we’re getting almost literally millions of visits every day from around the world, imagine the exposure you could get yourself. And any publicity is good publicity, surely?

One man who’s willing to give it a go is freelance consultant Mark Pinsent. He came to our Christmas party, don’t you know? Lanky fella…shiny hair. Anyway, a couple of days ago we received an email from Pinsent letting us know that he’d started a new blog. This didn’t exactly fill us with enormous amounts of New Year joy, as we assumed it’d be yet another tech PR blogging about blogging which, to be honest, we’re a bit bored with (more on that later).

But no, it’s not the case! Pinsent lives in France, apparently, and in common with TWL has for many years been an enthusiastic consumer of wine without having the first clue about what he was shoving down his neck. But he’s decided to change all that and start learning stuff…and he’s going to stick it all on his new blog, Red Vin Man (there’s nothing like a good pun, and that’s nothing like…etc etc).

Go and have a look. Go on. It’s great. A really, really good read.

Oh, yes, and Pinsent’s promised us that if his stats show a whole bunch of people flooding to his blog from TWL, he’ll send us something fruity with great legs and a fantastic nose. Though he can’t vouch for the rest of her.

I thank you.

PS – Another thought! Maybe he can advise us on the booze for our next TWL drink up? It’s coming soon…more on that later too.
iCan be so good for you....

Apple shocks the world by having Dennis Waterman launch the iPhone.

09 January 2007

A cure for cancer….

It might as well have been for the avalanche of sycophantic coverage. But, no, it’s actually a phone. Oh sorry, a reinvented phone.

Yes, finally, for all those fools that rushed out to buy an overpriced proprietary MP3 player called an iPod, there is something else for them to waste their money on.

Steve Jobs has pulled off the old Jedi mind trick again and launched an iPhone, which is also a phone and a ‘breakthrough internet device.’ Of course most people didn’t know you could break through the internet, thinking it was just a fantastical ‘looking glass’ scenario but, lo, Apple is wonderful. And you use your finger to dial. Visionary.

So, hoorah, look forward to plenty of politicians eagerly talking to youth magazines to fill “who’s in my iPhone” columns, and charts dedicated to knowing whose number has been downloaded most this week.

These will be the same magazines, of course, that are hungrily consumed by those unquestioning enough to pay £5 for a magazine whose sole editorial purpose is to make their readers feel materially inadequate.

These sheep-minded consumers – frittering away their hard-earned cash on Nero coffees, Nike trainers, Tommy Hilfiger, Hollywood blockbusters and plasma TVs – exercise no independent thought before buying whatever it is that everyone else is buying. The world and his wife have one. Now I do too. I’m an individual. I’m thick. It’s Apple. It’s great.

Choose Apple. Choose a gadget. Choose a statement. Choose proprietary. Choose to look like a cock who’s wearing white headphones. Choose something with shit batteries. Choose poor security protection. Choose not to choose, you utterly ignorant over-paid twat. Choose to work really hard to get a job in journalism at the BBC and then undermine yourself by writing a great big advert for a new product.

And all this before it’s even available. Not only that, but of course us laggards in the UK have to wait not only until the iPhone is actually launched, but until it’s available through someone other than Cingular. In fact, until it’s available through a UK operator.

Marketing, Jesus. Bill Hicks was right.

It’s even enough to make you remember that Microsoft isn’t so good at marketing after all and, indeed, isn't quite so evil.

Apple iPhone mania is here. Run for the hills.

08 January 2007

Murphy's Law...

For reasons best known to himself, Andrew B. Smith over at Object Towers has decided to give Ian "I keep my lunch in my beard" Murphy a platform for a typical moan (typical, that is, of IT hacks in general and Murphy specifically).

The post has me giggling though, as it seems to be the blog equivalent of a telephone call with Murphy. Smith gets in with 28 words at the start and then Murphy chips in with 904 of his own! Murphy even describes a couple of typical examples of phone calls between himself and flacks, one of which ending with, "And on it goes"...

Yes it does, Ian. Yes it does.

07 January 2007

Well maybe, but only if you play your cards right...

In a less than subtle post on his blog summarising his 2006, Bruce (no, not that one) puts the feelers out for a new job...sounds like he wants to "do a Mayfield" to me. Needs to be up north though.


05 January 2007


Drawing on lunchtime chores to fulfil a contractual obligation to write a blog, IT Week’s Lem Bingley tells us The Business Names Act 1985 states that there are some words you can’t use in a business name without permission from the Secretary of State “to avoid the public being misled into believing that a company has a size or status that is not justified.”

One of these words is ‘register’ which gives Lem the opportunity to question whether The Register (“you know, the red-top web site with a vulture fetish”) has the relevant approval.

Lem starts the piece by saying he’s “unlucky enough to have been voted the Company Secretary of a small, non-profit firm.” Anyone care to guess the firm in question?

04 January 2007

On the Rob….

CFO Europe’s cover story this month is the ‘power play’ that has taken place at VNU, the troubled Dutch media group. The magazine points to the messy scrap as 2006’s prime example of ‘activist’ shareholders rising against management.

It’s a cracking article, even though some of the financial world jargon is a little alien to tech PRs. All those crazy European names make it hard going too (Knight Vinke is a personal favourite – it sounds like the brand of something that retails from vending machines in gents’ toilets).

Most fun of all is Rob Ruijter, VNU’s CFO since early 2005, taking a typically direct Dutch approach when distancing himself from recently departed CEO Rob van den Bergh.

“Rob – and this is a personality issue – never had a great relationship with his investors. He had little sympathy for young people with these laptops doing their models, and that showed. For you not to like it is one thing; for you to show it is another.”

Don’t need double spacing to read between those lines.

What is interesting is that this ‘poster-child’ of European shareholder activism hasn’t been covered in the relevant VNU journals; Accountancy Age or Financial Director. Indeed “shareholder activism” produces very few returns on the online versions and neither mentions anything to do with VNU’s tortuous M&A trail. Whether this is more reflective of management diktat, journo self-censorship or VNU’s search engine is not clear.

As far as the world of tech PR is concerned, the only relevant thing in all this is that the bit of VNU we deal with (Business Media Europe) has been raffled off to 3i, a venture capital group. Although the ‘VNU cuts 10% of jobs’ headlines don’t apply to BME, it’s still a potentially worrying time for the journos we work with (especially Boomerang Thomson if ‘last in, first out’ is applied).

While on the 3i acquisition, the 3i news release quotes Erik Hoekstra, who is described as the ‘prospective CEO of BME.’ Bravely risking the carrot dangling in front of him he says:

“We are delighted to work with 3i. They exhibited compelling sector knowledge right from the start, coupled with a proven ability to operate alongside us in the various European markets where BME is active. We are convinced of the exciting growth potential of BME, and in partnership with 3i we are looking forward to making it happen.”

So there’s a retort for the next time a VNU journo complains about a generic “we’re delighted” quote in a client’s news release.

Right at the end of the news release it mentions that Rob van den Bergh acted as a Senior Adviser to 3i during the transaction. Wonder how Rob Ruijter felt about that?

03 January 2007

Back to work blues...

Hello. You back yet? Gagging to get back to work, I bet. Did you have a good Christmas? New Year? Hope so.

Did any of you bump into one of those very annoying City types who spent most of the Christmas break wondering what they might spend their obscene bonus on? Will it be property, a yacht, or an Aston Martin? Maybe all three. Sure, being in a creative industry and not having to get trussed up in a pinstripe has its upsides, but you can't deny that a few more readies wouldn't go amiss.

Still, I'm sure a few of you got a little something extra in your end of year pay packet. Well you might have unless, as we've heard, you work at either Firefly or Lewis. Apparently, neither of those agencies was in a position to give anyone their customary Christmas bonus this year.

Now Firefly we can understand. After all, losing the huge Motorola account to Edelman this year would knock the wind out of any agency's financial sails...it's more interested in survival than shelling out extras. We hear that the current staff levels are well below the 70 boasted on its website. Still, Firefly has come back once from the departure of a big spending client and we're sure it'll do it again.

Lewis not paying any bonuses is a bit more puzzling though. Perhaps there's a clue in the agency's refusal last year to submit numbers for the PR Week league tables? They might have shown a dip in revenues (though we're sure Lewis would deny this) but it's maybe more likely to be related to the excuse given for not coming up with the numbers: that Lewis was concentrating on its international expansion. Expensive old business, that, especially if the new international offices aren't pulling in the buisness they need to.

Anyway, happy New Year.