31 May 2007

From la-de-dah to ho-de-ho; we’re all working class now....

Skinny profit margins and tightly managed expense accounts mean that PRs have to be towards the top end of middle management before they find themselves travelling business class.

On European flights, the actual bit in the air is pretty much the same as economy, give or take an inch of leg room, so the value-add is the airline lounge.

“No more queuing in Pret with tattooed Northerners for you Mr Middle Management, come sit in our lounge and have a free-at-the-point-of-consumption fruit salad, a nice cup of coffee and a selection of newspapers.”

While it’s a privilege to be able to sit somewhere away from the madding crowd, the business lounge atmosphere is an odd one. Everyone there is obviously doing reasonably well in their career, and all are conscious they might bump into an important colleague or contact. As a result the majority of people are overtly polite. Even those that normally flounce around the office being all self-important tend to tone it down to merely a façade of ‘pensively busy.’ Whilst not actually friendly, they are certainly more courteous than normal.

A bit like in the workplace, no-one wants to admit they don’t know what they’re doing which leads to undignified bumbling at the coffee machines, and many nonchalant strolls before people actually find the toilet (frequented for Molton Brown hand wash, as much as nature’s requirements).

The over-bearing stench of business chic does rather give the game away that, for most of the people there, this is all actually a little bit fun. Heck, there’s even a spa in most of these places.

Enjoying the surroundings perhaps a tad too much, TWL had sufficient time to browse the opinion pieces in the Financial Times. A whimsy rarely afforded to one’s self in the office.

An indulgent folly from Jonathan Guthrie caught the eye, discussing the revival of Butlin’s. It’s a sound investment apparently, along with caravan parks and other domestic holiday haunts for the increasingly affluent working class. And here’s where it starts to go horribly wrong as Guthrie turns to, presumably, the only ‘working class’ person he knows for a view from the coal face.

“She stayed at the Minehead resort ‘with her Mark’ last year, she said. ‘There were dust bunnies under the beds,’ she clucked. And it narked them that premium rate guests sat in a better restaurant. This year they’re going to Egypt.”

The pomposity slapped TWL in the face. Why the Dick van Dyke ‘with her Mark’ colloquialism? Why does she ‘cluck’ rather than ‘say?’ Why use a word like ‘narked?’ Because she’s working class? Because she’s a bit of a thicko? Because Guthrie knows she won’t be reading the FT, as she’s a bit common?

An FT columnist is a prime business lounge candidate. Business lounge folk are, by and large, reasonably senior people working for an organisation they don’t own (bar a few shares perhaps).

Robert Madge, when he very much owned Madge Networks, for example, tended to opt for EasyJet in that very nice practical approach that entreprenuers often adopt (self-made millionaires don’t need the ego-rub of business lounges, thank you very much). The flash and/or super successful, meanwhile, will be first class or private jet. In short, the business lounge is for the career-orientated chattering classes as opposed to the Times Rich List.

But Guthrie and, at a guess, the average frequenter of a business lounge would never consider themselves working class. They are above van drivers, plumbers and nannies. They are travelling business class…..working for someone else, as part of a company they don’t own. Humm, see you in the business lounge Guthrie. And see you at Butlin’s….
Remember, Davey-boy, tits win votes...

So, Andy Coulson, ex-editor of the News of the Screws, is to be the Tory Party's new director of communications.

When you read through his career highlights and lowlights, it's certainly difficult to argue with his credentials...seems the obvious choice, doesn't he? After all, I imagine he's buried as many sex scandals as he's printed.

30 May 2007

Stupid is as stupid does...

A couple of pieces of piss-poor PR performance landed in our inbox this afternoon.

First up, some numpty at Grant Butler Coomber managed to send out a press release and include the wrong client name...only to several hours later try and gloss over it with this:

"I am extremely sorry, however there was a typo in the below e-mail. The company that should be mentioned as the survey sponsors is PacketExchange not Websense. Please do let me know if this presents any problems."

Problems? Not for us pal...maybe for you.

Then, an equally challenged individual from Bite decided to attach Toshiba's entire press list (that'll be just the 458 names then...) to an email to an undisclosed list of recipients...though it'd be a fair guess, we reckon, that it went to all the people in the attached spreadsheet.

Still, the hack community has hardly been covering itself in glory either. Check out this Response Source enquiry from yesterday:

JOURNALIST: Andrew Dickens (staff)
DEADLINE: 30-June-2007 17:00
QUERY: Myself and the Deputy News Editor are going to Le Mans from 15-18 June. We are looking for loans off the following if anyone out there is feeling very kind: a car and camping equipment (from tin pots to tents), OR a motor-home. I have to make it clear that there is no guarantee of coverage.

Surely that's abusing the system?

The Flackenhack Awards are going to have categories for this kind of rubbish you know...
Just one more big puff...

What has everybody got?

Feet, right?

What does everybody want their feet to become?


Well, check this. I is going to use the intranet, and I is going to do it on wwf.slippers.com.

Not my concept, granted. It's Ali G's.

But though said in jest, for those of us that have been in this buisness since late last century; for those for whom this logo sends us into cold sweats, it was something (or similar) we heard all too often from the barely fully-toothed mouths of the arrogant arses that thought they could attract millions of pounds of venture capital funding by slipping a simple ".com" after any consumer product and establish a company worth, well, even more millions. And the really stupid thing was, they could!

For a while at least. Until it all went to shite.

Odd thing is though, I haven't just dusted that First Tuesday logo down from a long-forgotten hard drive. Oh no, it arrived in my email inbox yesterday. Along with these words:

"Remember us? We certainly remember you. Please don't tell anyone we sent you this email...

"Are you in? . . . as a former highly valued patron we would like to invite you to our secret launching event in London after the summer but first we would like to ask you to please reply a blank email to this address to confirm that you are still interested in hearing from us. If you prefer us to send information to another email address, just write that in your reply."

Christ, it's back. Which means the bubble's close to bursting.

Though that "Please don't tell anyone we sent you this email..." seems a little too keen to me, don't you think? Like they'd really like you to tell someone that they sent you this email...like they want to create a little buzz.

Happy to help. The sooner we get this over with, the better.

29 May 2007

Drinking opportunity, tomorrow night...

This just in from Will Sturgeon, editor at large (where, exactly?) of silicon.com:

"As many people are no doubt aware, Jo Best worked her last day for silicon.com on Friday. However, she’s currently living large on some well-earned holiday pay before she joins ZDNet in Australia and she remains a CNET employee. As such we don’t feel at all bad about making her come back in one more time for some leaving drinks this Wednesday.

"I know the award-winning Ms Best has enjoyed working alongside many excellent PR-types over the past four years and I’d hope many would love to come along and help say goodbye to somebody who has been a fantastic addition to both our editorial team and the UK tech industry.

"So if you think Jo would be delighted to see you (...trust your instincts on this one) feel free to join us at about 6-ish at The Rose & Crown on Colombo Street; tucked among the backstreets of SE1. It’s a traditional little boozer, much like Jo herself, but it has a great big garden out back which we can all admire through the driving rain. It would be great to see some familiar faces there.

"For those who never had the great pleasure of working with Jo, I’m sure there will be loads of opportunities to catch up with the rest of the silicon.com team in the coming weeks but in the meantime tomorrow night’s event will be all about giving Jo a great send-off among friends and colleagues."

TWL will be there. Probably. Don't let that put you off.
Yankee doodle hand shandy...

I've been away. But you knew that. I'm back now though.

I was in America. There's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is that we're still much, much better than they are. Particularly at this PR lark. Honestly. It sounds like a really flippant thing to say (flippant? Me?) but I swear it's true. For various reasons (that we've alluded to before) we have to work much, much harder to generate genuinely effective results. We're more creative anyway (as Amanda at Strumpette has also been pointing out) but a tougher environment pushes us even further.

It's a societal thing. When things are designed so that the minimum effort achieves an acceptable result, people get lazy. When they get lazy they get fat; when they get fat they find it harder to move so they get even lazier...they're trapped in a vicious circle.

When you're a PR who controls access to the senior execs in an NYSE or Nasdaq-listed corporation, it's very easy to get lazy. When you have to scrap tooth and nail for interest in a foreign company amongst an indifferent press (at best) it's essential that you get creative. And creativity fuels great PR.

I'll tell you what else I found out. The US is really struggling with social media. Which is tricky, because they're also obsessed by it. Digital this, digital that...blogs, mash-ups, provider pass along...they're full of buzzwords, that's for sure, but they're not doing it very well.

This is societal too. People often talk about the great service that you get in the States; the "have a nice day" philosophy. It's true. In every shop, bar, restaurant, taxi...crikey, even public convenience...that I walked into I was greeted enthusiastically by someone wanting to know how I was feeling or how they could help (by stepping the fuck away from me was the answer in the gents, in case you're wondering...).

The thing is, it's false. None of them were genuinely that interested in how I was feeling...they were interested in how much I might spend in their shop. You can see the lack of conviction in their eyes...these are just words used to start a dialogue that might lead to a transaction.

And this is the central problem that our American cousins are having with social media; they don't do genuine conversation. They just can't bring themselves to let go of the central message enough ("I'm here to sell you stuff") to come across as authentic. I tried it in a few places and you don't have to scratch much from the surface of a personal conversation with a member of staff to realise that there's absoutely no substance to it.

I've heard a few times recently about UK social media specialists working for US PR groups who are spending all their time flying back and forth across the Atlantic to help their Amercian colleagues "get" authentic social media. I'm not sure that they will (but I'm here and ready to help).

One of the presenters at the event, when espousing the need to get digital in everything we do, said that "community is an art." I'd agree (funnily enough, she was a Brit). But then, as we know, all the greatest artists are European.

Interesting stuff though.

What's that? The bad news?

Oh yes. The bad news is...they've still got all the money.
50:50...a reference to their ages, presumably...
...the full name being 50:50:62:78
What the hell am I talking about? Well, those of you who saw this story in PRWeak's diary page last week might know. 50:50 is the name of the "rock" band formed by Hugh Birley, boss of Lexis PR, and "three chums" and which played a gig to a muted reception at a boozer in Herne Hill the other week. This is the band's flyer.
Mid-Life Crisis Management services, anyone..?
What Weak didn't spot, of course, was that one of Birley's "chums" was Matthew Ravden, long-time director and shareholder in the Next Fifteen Group of PR companies. He's the one on keyboards...like Chris Martin two decades from today. When he's started to forget stuff.
What Weak also didn't tell you was that you can see them perform here on YouTube...

22 May 2007

It’s PR innit….

There’s a nice article in the current Economist about Gordon Brown’s first steps at ‘campaigning’ to be a popular prime minister.

It starts by highlighting a couple of campaigning blunders...being filmed as a member of the public slammed a door in his face, his face being partially blocked by an autocue while making a speech, a struggle to release some balloons from a net...that sort of thing.

The article then discusses the perception of Brown in relation to Tony Blair and David Cameron and draws to a conclusion that Brown’s differentiator is that he’s seen as someone who gets things done without too much razzmatazz. It’s a position that leaves Blair and Cameron as showman that don’t deliver. The article closes by pondering whether those early campaigning blunders were not as careless as they looked.

It’s a similar line of thought that surrounded Masterfoods’ announcement – and subsequent backtrack – that it would introduce animal rennet into a number of its products (such as Mars, Snickers and Twix), making them unsuitable for vegetarians. Well, not all vegetarians...as Masterfoods' corporate affairs manager Paul Goalby told the BBC: "If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate". In the same way that a "less strict vegetarian" would probably enjoy a sausage sandwich. And I, as a "less strict" tee-totaler, like getting a bit drunk.

Paul Own-Goalby, more like...

But perhaps we're doing him a disservice? Maybe it was all a clever PR move to generate loads of publicity, a bit of controversy and then a positive feeling around the company’s reaction to ‘listen to its customers'?

Initially, TWL wrote this all off as silly nonsense, something that possible might occasionally happen in the consumer world but certainly not in sensible technology PR.

But then we started to think harder and began to wonder. Apple was deemed too stupid for words, only to come back a resurgent force and able to charge a fortunate for mediocre products because it was the cool underdog...and then Microsoft launched a rather rubbish product in Zune to make itself the underdog, so that when the much better (can't be much worse) Zune II launches, it'll look blinding by comparison. And speaking of Microsoft, it has clearly (probably) manoeuvred Google by deliberately stifling MSN search so that Google looks all monopolistic and nasty. Next year, who knows, Acorn might rise again and give Windows a damn good kicking as it benefits from retro O/S trend.

God, they’re clever these PR people...pretending they’re shite by delivering things late, being unprofitable and employing thickos.

Evil geniuses, the lot of them.
Dear TWL….

Apologies for the delay in sending this review of our activity over the last 12 months.

The evaluation company was late in delivering it’s analysis and we had issues with our Server which meant we couldn’t send emails. Were disappointed it is late because their is so many grate successes too share.

In the last 12 months, Fawn PR has secured TWL 335 pieces of coverage by posting them onto the blogosphere. Many of the 2.0 digitari have referred to TWL, often including a link to the site, including Peter Kirwin, Anthony Mayfield, Andrew Smith, Drew Bee and Chris Green. Charles Arthur, who writes for a newspaper, also mentioned TWL in his online blog. An exact number of people writing about TWL in the blogosphere is not available as it’s all so new.

Fawn PR also secured coverage in Old World media including PR Weak and The Guardian. We did this by printing out individual blogs and sending them as a Letter through the post to carefully selected Old World journalists. Unfortunately we have not been able to collect all Old World coverage generated as TWL refused to subscribe to a press cuttings service.

Below is graphic that shows their has bean a consistent rise in the number of people reading the posts we have put on the blog we made. The two spikes in the amount of people reading the sight were a result of Fawn PR’s social networking campaigns when we proactively spread the word by visiting physical world locations that are popular with PR people. We talked loudly in these places saying how much we enjoyed TWL. Fawn PR proposes four more of these innovative campaigns during the next 12 months, which will be projects.

The one significant drop in people reading the posts was because it was Christmas and TWL failed to give Fawn PR any stories.

During the last 12 months, Fawn PR has limited TWL to only receiving two threats of legal action, one terse email from PR Weak and numerous attempts at being outed. Our crisis response team has provided full consultancy on each of these matters, except the one in March when he was on holiday.

Over the next year, Fawn PR recommends increasing the level of monthly activity 25 per cent with the aim of securing a quarter more coverage. We also think TWL should get a cuttings service as then we will be able to know how much coverage were getting. The 4 proactive social networking campaigns are key and will cost £5,000 each.

We look forward to the next 12 months and believe we can enjoy even more success.

21 May 2007

I'm living in letters...

Mornin' all.

I know, I know, it's afternoon for most of you lot, but it's morning for me, because I'm "away" at the moment, in a top secret overseas location. Had a long flight yesterday, made even longer by a ridiculous delay...a delay that I chose to drink through and then thought, well, sod it, I might as well continue on the plane and then, you know, I arrived at the hotel and it was only, like, six o'clock in the evening so I found my way to the bar here too.

So, this morning, I reckon I've got a DVT compunded by the DTs...the DVTDTs if you like.

Anyway, I'll be quick...just got a couple of things to mention.

Firstly, you know the awards we talked about? The one's we're doing with Peter Kirwan of Fullrun? Well, they've got a name and their very own blog. They're called The Flackenhack Awards 2007 ("The Flackenhacks" for short) and the blog can be found here.

Pay it a visit, though there's not very much on it at the moment. As and when news and information about the awards gets confirmed, that's where it'll appear. Rest assured though, things have been racing along behind the scenes...we've got sponsors, nearly booked a venue and confirmed a number of judges...all very exciting (I say "we" but Peter's been doing most of the arranging so far, bless his cottons...).

The only other thing I've got to say is, "Oi, where's our card, you bastards?"

Your favourite blog in the whole wide world was a year old yesterday (I mean TWL, you twit).

18 May 2007

Everyone's saying Goodbye, Moto...

Too easy that one, eh..?

I'm hearing whispers on the grapevine that Mark Durrant, Motorola's Director of Communications & Public Affairs, EMEA, has jumped ship...allegedly for a big fat juicy job at Nokia.

This after Chris Bignell left last month after only a year at Moto, and following the recent departures of other big-hitters in Motorola's marketing and comms department, Rachel Laird and Simon Thompson.

Anyone know any more details..?
I'm a transexual satanist...

...with a penchant for beastiality. See what you can do.

I've got no qualms with wanting to understand your key journalists a bit better...it can only help build valuable relationships. But it should happen naturally, over time, over lunch, over beers...relationships should evolve...they're a voyage of discovery. If I tell you all about me today, what little golden nuggets of insight can I share tomorrow...what magic dust of data do I have to sprinkle over the relationship in the future?

Seems that some, however, want to shortcut the process. Like the guys at Skywrite, for example.


Well, that's kind of the point...not many people have heard of Skywrite, including many of the hacks they'd like to speak to, apparently, which is why the Skywrite team decided to email them to clear up any confusion.

Skywrite is, the email explains, "a spangly new sister agency to Hotwire. Originally code-named Fly PR, the agency is now called Skywrite Communications and very excitingly will provide emerging technology companies with not just PR but full-service marcoms support."

Very excitingly. After a bit of spiel about its current clients, the email gets down to the nitty-gritty:

"But enough about us! As one of our favourite journalists we would love to be able to look after our relationship with you better. This is totally optional so please don’t feel pressured to reply but we were wondering if you could send us the date of your birthday (so that we can send you a little gift) and a few of your interests (eg do you like football – if so what team do you support etc?) so that we can offer you some hospitality treats!"

Hospitality treats!

"As I said please don’t feel pressured to reply but if you would be happy with us having the details we promise not to pass them onto third parties and only to use them for hospitality treats!"

Hospitality treats!

Oh, I don't know...should I be taking the piss? It's just that...as is so often the case...the motivation's right, but the execution just feels very, very wrong.

Why not just invite them all out for a few beers in a central London boozer and get to know them face-to-face? Do that a few times, make sure you're delivering some decent, usable stories and you'll soon establish all the relationships you'll need...without having to drag yourself along to a wet Wednesday evening game at The Valley...or worse.
He's an oil painting....

Just in case you missed it, 'anonymous' made an excellent comment on the Phil Muncaster post.

This is so accurate it's not a doppelganger of Silicon's Steve Ranger, but a portrait....

17 May 2007

Informer, you no say Daddy me Snow me I'll go blame…

…a licky Boom Boom Down.

So sang Canadian reggae artist Snow on his 1993 hit “Informer”.

But that isn't the “informer” that’s front of mind for all those in the world of tech media today. Oh no, that one’s spelt differently, but sounds the same…hence my ridiculous link.

Eagle-eyed amongst you will have seen that publishing and conference company Informa has snapped up Datamonitor for a shade over half a billion quid.

Half a billion?! Bit spenny? Perhaps, because as the Daily Telegraph points out: “Datamonitor's shares are trading at multi-year highs and media analysts believe that Informa shareholders could raise questions about the price it is willing to pay to capture its target.”

Still, you get some good stuff for your money…CBR, Ovum, ComputerWire…so it might be decent value. And there isn't much crossover between Informa's rather meagre selection of tech titles (which, as far as I can see, numbers one telco mag...) so it shouldn't have too many ramifications.
Apologies in advance...

...but it's low hanging fruit at its very lowest. From PRWeak:

"Edelman bags Viagra brief"

The new CEO seems to have started well doesn't he...but can he keep it up?

From the PRWeak story itself...Edelman UK healthcare director Steven Spurr says:

"It wants to get its position back up to where it was a few years ago"...don't we all, Steve, don't we all...

"A sizeable portion of our work will now be aimed at women"...I'm not making this up, honest...

"Spurr also revealed that the brief could be extended"...extended briefs..?

What a beauty...

16 May 2007


This time, surely...?

Muncaster, Reporter, IT Week ------ Muncher, Carpet - K.D. Lang
The joy of off-sites…

Back in the good old days, an off-site was simply a day off work and the chance to slag off your boss to his or her over-paid face. Sitting through three hours of dull presentations was the price you paid for loads of free booze and half a chance of a fumble with a new grad.

Doubtless a lot of this still goes on but, inspired by some misguided 2.0 thinking, they have also become recruitment adverts.

For example, Golin Harris (new website, I think) thought it would be just crazy to upload the highlights of its recent off-site (to Rome, no less!) to YouTube.

While doubtless it’s fun and entertaining internally, is it really a good idea to post this type of stuff publicly?

Yes, of course it is! Because then we get to see it.

On the other hand, does it not undermine much hard won gravitas? I mean, fancy a client of yours seeing you in your swimming cossie..? As one YouTube commenter puts it, "That's it Golin. Dignity's for the weak! Live the dream!"

Still, let’s not get too serious. The duet from joint MDs Jon Hughes and Matt Neale is beautifully toe-curling (0:53-1:00), as is the ‘you are the one’ section (1:58-2:04).

Actually, maybe it’s not a recruitment advert, but a tactic for driving new business. Lots of cavorting girls in skimpy clothes, boys with their man boobs on display…monthly meetings would be very entertaining. And Lord knows, the ‘for my love’ girl (2:12) would be welcome to my budget any day of the week…
Credit where it's due...

...and discredit where it's not, too.

A few people have recently wondered why TWL hasn't done anything with the recent PRWeak (sorry, fellas, there's me misspelling the brand name again...) Top 150 League Tables.

Isn't it obvious? You just can't trust the bloody numbers. For us to comment on the league table would be akin to Michael Fish commenting on the weather forecasting skills of a wino sticking a wet finger in the air.

Before PRWeak itself did its "restating" (and more on that in a minute) you only needed to scan down the top 20 to start seeing some anomalies.

Look at The Red Consultancy for instance. Sitting at number 16 with a whopping 43% year on year growth in fee income. That's impressive...or is it? When you look at the actual numbers, 2006 fee income is stated as £9,177,279 while 2005 is listed at £8,890,10 (yes, there appears to be a number missing...looking back at last year's tables, there should be a "4" at the end). So this represents growth of about 3% for Red not 43%. But then percentages can be a bit tricky (I always struggled with simultaneous equations myself).

So, back to that "restating" of the numbers for some agencies. These were made, so PRWeak says, "following feedback from the industry". If what we've heard is close to the truth, the feedback was extremely direct and not at all positive. I'm understating that.

It's no surprise though when you see that, for instance, Burson Marstellar's apparent 13% fall in year on year revenue was converted to growth of 18% in the restated figures...equating to a piffling £4.9m of fee income. In fact, when you total up the difference between the original guesses PRWeak made regarding the fee incomes of the restated agencies (BM, Fleishman Hillard, Cohn & Wolfe, MS&L and Ogilvy...just the little guys then) the magazine managed to miss a shade under £18m of fee income.

OK, so agencies hiding behind Sarbanes Oxley hasn't made it any easier to pull the table together, but 18 million quid?! If only those agencies could hide it from the tax man so well...

I remember when the Top 150 was a really significant publication...chunky, with loads of ads from agencies proud to be featured. It's all rather thin these days...it's wasting away. Surely the kindest thing would be to put it out of its misery..?

I did mention credit where it's due though, didn't I?

Well, after our post last year regarding the dramatic slide of Portfolio Communications down the table, we're delighted to see that our old mate Mark Westaby has got the ship back under control, having posted a 7% growth in fee income in this year's tables! I'm assuming that Mark put these numbers together himself (or his bean counters did) and we can therefore trust their accuracy. The numbers have Portfolio holding steady in 44th position, but it's good to see that it's back on the up...(though the website still highlights the numbers from two years ago, so really needs updating...)...well done Mark!

Anyone who lists a corkscrew as their favourite gadget in the PRWeak Power Book can't be all bad...

15 May 2007

New feature...

...sort of.

What? It works for Hugh MacLeod. He's A-list, you know...
Headlines I wish I'd written, no.36...

"Gloves come off in George Bush buttplug rumpus"

...from The Reg, who else..?
Oh no, een France, you cannot do zis….

European PR, eh? It’s not like real PR. In fact, it’s generally done by those rubbish PRs that can’t handle the real world. The “I don’t talk to journalists brigade,” who always make sure their first call of the morning is “to the client.”

Splendid puppetmasters, too frightened of failure to do anything themselves. So they forward various emails, suggesting that other people do things. If it goes right, it’s great consultancy on their part. If it goes wrong, it’s a country-level problem that they will sort out by jumping of their white horse...and asking someone behind the scenes to sort out.

If they're so good at all things European, how come they hardly ever speak a second language?


European charlatans aside, the UK is surely the toughest PR market in the world. Granted, American PR involves fewer holidays, earlier starts and less alcohol. But it also has much larger budgets, which easily support the excessive monitoring, analysis and reporting demands. Contrast that to the UK. Ridiculous expectations, clients so far away from HQ that they don’t actually know what’s going on, and a crazy belief that the reporting, analysis and general fannying around will be achieved within an absurdly small retainer.

The most notable difference, of course, is that while there are a huge number of publications in the US, the journalists there listen and the general tone – at least for the B2B sector – is earnest. Product news releases get covered in the US trades. And they like tame Q&As with senior execs.

Not the stuff El Reg, Inquirer and the like are interested in. Not even the more sober (figuratively...or not) – and advertising conscious – Computings and Computer Weeklies of the world will go for that. Indeed, the reason we suffer such a turgid supply of crap from our US clients is because their media doesn’t generally demand end-user examples, business cases and proof points.

And as for mainland Europe…have you seen the crap they get away with? Full page profiles of the newly appointed marketing director. Quarter page articles on the opening of a new office. Ever tried getting an answer from an Italian PR person after 2pm? Ever had a French PR say, “yeah, no problem, we can pretty much translate that and knock it out the door.”

Ever even spoken to a Spanish PR?

Underpaid, over-worked and shit weather. It’s the best PR education you’ll ever get but...like private school...you’ll get fucked up the arse while you're learning.
The worst of times….

News reaches us that Silicon’s elfin tomboy, the very lovely Jo Best, is leaving our shores for Australia.

First the long hours, then the endless metrics and now this. It’s a dark day for all PRs.

On the bright side, there’s a senior reporter role at Silicon for anyone that knows a bit about mobile phones….

14 May 2007

I'm a preacher, not a practicer...

Given that I was recently trapped for hours between platforms at Green Park tube, caught in a sudden and terrifying avalanche of free newspapers, might this Response Source request be regarded as a little hypocrticial..?

PUBLICATION: Metro Newspaper
JOURNALIST: Vicki-Marie Cossar (staff)
DEADLINE: 14-May-2007 15:00
QUERY: Please consider the environment and stop sending Metro paper press releases through the post and just send e-mails to the addresses below with any information.

Any paper releases will not be looked at.

Thank you.

Of course, they might claim that Metro is printed in recycled paper...which it could be for all I know...in which case surely they'd be happy to accept the odd printed release on similar stock?
In the words of Max Bygraves...

“I wanna tell you a story…”

It’s a bit of a long one but stick with it, there’s something decent at the end. Maybe grab a coffee first though.

Last year, in late October, I sat in the bar at The Dorchester sipping whisky sours and munching my way through the rather spectacular free nibbles. Of course “free” is a relative term in this context, as the whisky sours were costing me £11.64 each. Odd price that. Why not make it a round £12? Or drop down to a less round but possibly more acceptable £11.50? Sounds like a price devised on an accountant’s spreadsheet to me. Cost of material, plus cost of bartender’s time, plus cost of free nibbles…multiplied by five point three.

I digress.

The price of the drink didn’t matter, because not only is the bar at The Dorchester officially a Nice Place To Be, Nigel Havers was there and we actually acknowledged each other as I took my place at the bar. Soon afterwards, he left. Soon after that, a delightful couple from North America arrived and we got chatting. It turned out that they visited London for a week each year for shopping and dining. Were they staying at The Dorchester? Hell no! They kept an apartment in Chelsea. They just thought that the bar at The Dorchester was the best place to drink in London. I found myself in violent agreement.

I asked them what they'd been up to, and they told me that every time they visited London, they went to the latest “must eat at” restaurant that’d launched in the previous year. However, in 2006, there hadn’t been a standout and they decided to visit a classic: Gordon Ramsay’s place on Hospital Road.

My new buddy (I apologise for forgetting his name, but I was on my third whisky sour by this time…) told me that, “it was - by quite way - the most expensive meal I’ve ever paid for, and I’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world.

“But you know what,” he continued, “I don’t regret a red cent of it…it was also – by a very long way – the best meal I’ve ever eaten.”

I was really pleased. It’s a place that I’ve always wanted to visit and it was nice to hear that it had lived up to its reputation.

Did he mind my asking, I ventured, how much it had cost?

He didn’t. Turns out that dinner for two plus a nice bottle of wine had come in at a shade under £500. Pricey, sure, but for the best meal you’ve ever eaten? Maybe decent value.

My new buddy’s lovely wife then asked me where I was off to, all dressed up as I was…

I should explain at this point that I was, indeed, all dressed up. Well, at a superficial level at least…I was wearing a decade-old dinner suit and no bow tie. Raffish, in a couldn’t be arsed sort of way.

I explained that I was killing an hour before wandering up Park Lane to perhaps London’s most passé venue, The Grosvenor, where I was about to gatecrash the PRWeak Awards ceremony.

Why was I gatecrashing?

Because, rather ironically I remember thinking, for the price of a ticket to the PRWeak Awards – and all the mass catering and dodgy disco that it entails - I could have enjoyed the best meal of my life (and wine) in Gordon Ramsay’s top restaurant. And I wasn’t prepared to pay it.

Ultimately, however, my ploy wasn’t as cost-effective as imagined. I arrived at The Grosvenor after dinner (as planned) and immediately spent more than £100 on two bottles of bubbly! Added to that, it wasn’t very much fun.

I don’t want to dismiss the PRWeak Awards out of hand, but Christ, they’re expensive to enter and attend. This year’s awards will cost you – at the very least – nearly £250 a head and, if you’re late in booking (who isn’t?) and want a decent table (who doesn’t?), it’ll be nearly £450 per person. To enter it’s £135 and, if you’re a week late entering (again, who isn’t?) it’ll cost you another £55. Per entry.

They’re one of the most profitable activities that PRWeak undertakes every year, which means that they’re more expensive than is absolutely necessary. But PRWeak can still fill the room, so it’s hardly going to cut prices, is it?

The worst part of the awards for me, however, is that they force agencies to make tough, unfair choices. We all know that a campaign shortlisted for a PRWeak Award will have taken the mental and physical energies of numerous people…so it’s almost impossible for anyone but the very largest and richest agencies to take all those involved along.

Which means that the Awards drive elitism within agencies, with agency heads and senior people feeling “obliged” to attend, even when their only interest in the client has been its impact on the P&L. How many hard-working AEs and AMs have sat disappointed as agency heads have wandered around the office in their glad rags prior to jumping in a taxi bound for the Great Room..? Or equally hard-working in-house teams watching the boss leave early to jump on the train up to town? I know I have.

So, this is an extremely round the houses way of telling you that this year, on October 23rd (uncoincidentally the day before the PRWeak Awards) there’ll be another awards ceremony in town…at least for the tech PR crowd (though everyone’s welcome, of course).

Yes, The World’s Leading…alongside top man Peter Kirwan of the excellent Fullrun…is chuffed to say that we’ll be holding our own little gathering this year; a chance for the unsung (or, indeed, sung) heroes of tech PR to celebrate some of the best (and possibly worst) work that’s taken place over the past year or so.

It’ll be a rather more down to earth event than the alternative; it won’t take place in a flash hotel, it won’t feature a sit-down meal and you won’t need to get yourself down to Moss Bros a couple of days before. But we can guarantee that there will be some grub, plenty of booze, entertainment and a bit of a laugh…and it won’t soak up a month’s disposable income. Think the Brats not the Brits…

Over the next few weeks we’ll be announcing the different awards categories and our esteemed panel of judges. We’ll also let you know where exactly it’ll be taking place (London somewhere) and how much a ticket will set you back (it’ll be about £50, with a chunk going to charity).

It’s likely to be a touch smaller than PRWeak’s effort…probably 300 rather than 1,500…so when we do announce the details, don’t hang about. In fact, if you want to guarantee yourself the chance to buy a ticket, send an email to theworldsleading@yahoo.co.uk

Christ, what else are you going to do on a rainy Tuesday night in October..?

11 May 2007

If the mountain won't come to Motorola...

You may have seen a couple of bloggers have covered Edelman tech PR man Justin Westcott's trip to Mount Everest as part of an attempt to break the world record for the highest mobile 'phone call. Westcott's not going up the hill himself, of course. He's just going to basecamp...which is akin to standing on tiptoe at the top of a ladder in your loft. He's leaving the hard bit to Rod Baber, a proper climber (the "hard bit" being, I suspect, trying to dial with frozen fingers...)

I've just seen the first bit of press coverage related to the attempt - this on the BBC's website. No mention of Motorola yet though...they must be delighted...(OK, OK, to be fair, there is a link to Motorola's website on the sidebar).

Without wishing to demean the difficulty of climbing Mount Everest, I'm a little underwhelmed by it all. It's been done a few times now and just because this fella's taking a little mobile with him doesn't, in my eyes, make it any more impressive. Now, if he was planning on performing Chas 'n' Dave's "Rabbit" on a pub piano that he'd dragged up there...

I can completely see how the idea came up in a brainstorm, though...and I imagine we can soon expect the world's fastest land-based mobile 'phone call involving Richard Noble and the world's deepest from some poor diamond miner in South Africa.

I'd just be happy to get a decent signal in my front room.
It's not like they haven't got the time...

I have 39 feeds relating to the public relations industry coming into my reader (actually, it's Netvibes, which I simply adore...). OK, so some of these - as the leprechaun often rightly points out - aren't actually about PR itself. They're about blogging widgets and the like...it just so happens they they're written by people who work in the PR industry. But that's an axe to grind for another day.

It struck me this morning, however, that not a single one of these is penned by a PR professional working in-house...none of 'em. Nada. Zip.

Why is that? I mean, it's not like these guys aren't often senior PR people. Many of then will have spent years in agency before moving in-house...something that surely gives them an interesting perspective? They could comment on how agencies run campaigns, manage relationships...piss the client off. It'd be useful and interesting stuff. And if we accept the traditionally held beliefs that the in-house address is No.1 Easy Street, PRville, they should have the time to do it.

This traditionally held belief is, of course, utter bollocks. In fact, if more people in agency understood the in-house role, then I reckon numerous client-agency relationships would be transformed overnight.

I had a very frank conversation with a client's PR manager once. He felt that my team in the agency had something of an attitude problem; that they avoided his calls and evaded requests and felt that he was overly demanding and, frankly, something of a pain in the arse. And he was.

Thing is, he wasn't complaining about that perception per se, he was complaining that my team didn't understand his role - and the pressures he had to face - well enough to know why he was driven to behave like that.

"I think your team perceives that their work stops at me; that I'm my own boss and answer to nobody," he told me. "Here's an example. When we receive a less-than-glowing piece of coverage in a leading trade mag or a national, I guess your team is waiting for a call from me...that the phone will ring and I'll be on it demanding to know, in double-quick time, what the hell happened. And I will.

"The reason I'm behaving like that," he continued, "is because our CEO's office - yes, the man who pays all our bills - is only 25 metres from my desk. He quite often makes that short walk, newspaper in hand, to ask me, "what the fuck am I paying you for, and what the fuck are those poncy PR types in London up to?" That's a fairly direct pressure I have to deal with, so sometimes I pass a bit of that on."

We seem to invest heavily in agency in making our people understand the demands of the media...how hacks work, how they build stories, how these get sub-edited, deadlines...all of which is vital to doing a decent job. We don't seem to invest quite so much in helping our people understand the demands placed upon the in-house team...why, for instance, the deadline for the monthly report is so important, as it then feeds into a management report which helps justify the PR function, its budget, our fee and, hence, all our jobs. Stuff like that. Perhaps we should.

Anyway, does anyone know, though, of a good blog from an in-house PR pro? Anyone fancy starting one..?

10 May 2007


We came in for some entirely deserved criticism that our most recent doppelganger was, frankly, very weak indeed. What can we say? It was a quiet news day.

I think you'll agree, however, that we're right back on form with this one:

.............Crap TV cook..............New fella in charge at Edelman UK...

Your out-of-the-box brainstorm idea for 10….

Life working on even the biggest IT brands can be a hell of a challenge. Take Intel - chips, semi-conductors, quad-core processors – all very good and important, but not something that naturally grabs people’s attention.

So, H&K to the rescue, with the fiendishly clever plan of a novelty quiz.

Take CNET’s brand spanking new video suite, a bunch of ZDNet journos, a motley crew of IT managers – mix in Arun Shenoy, Director of Digital Enterprise, Intel UK & Ireland in place of Bamber Gascoigne, Clever Posh Bloke, Eton College and Magdalene College – and hey presto you’ve got Intel University Challenge (intel-ligent, geddit?!).

Unable to resist, every now and again Arun Shenoy slips in the occasional work related question such as: “True or False? Agent presence checking and alerting can be performed wirelessly through level 3 VPN with Intel active management technology v2.5.” On such occasions, safe in the knowledge that the answer isn’t going to be ‘false’ as that would suggest Intel wasn’t jolly clever indeed, Goodwins can’t help but to be a smart arse. “Level 3 VPN,” he muses, before concluding: “True.”

Those crazy 2.0 cats at H&K have posted it on You Tube for us all to enjoy. Goodwins is clearly ZDNet’s Stephen Fry (3:12 into the clip), conferring with his colleagues as a CEO might pretend to listen to his employees’ opinions. It’s beautiful stuff.

ZDNet walloped the IT managers, 315 to 225, a trouncing not seen since Scumbag College’s appearance on University Challenge….

09 May 2007

Stinky Lord Bell...

Is it just me, or did the Good Relations walk-out story in PRWeak have the whiff of Billingsgate about it..?

A significant chunk of the staff - all but one, indeed, of the property and planning division - walk out the door, and Lord Bell claims that: "We have agreed to a management buyout."

Odd then that those that walked out have already established a new agency called Quatro with its own sparkling website...with no mention of the claimed MBO. Even stranger, given that he claims to have sold the business to the management, that Bell would also say that: "The existing business is being taken over by people from our public affairs planning division, TTA's planning staff and Bell Pottinger North's planning department."

So what, exactly, did the management buy? None of the clients, apparently, as that section of the Quatro website remains "under construction"...as does the whole of the Good Relations website...

05 May 2007

Doppelganger 234.43....

IT journo with 76 years' experience

Romeo from the Magic Numbers

04 May 2007

The good news is, there's no fire...

...the bad news is...

Bit of a funny one this. There's a department store called Robbs in Hexham, a little market town in the north of England. Times have been hard - no surprise, retail's a tough sector and let's face it, all the money's down south - and it's gone out of business; parent company's in administration, the lot. The store's going to have to close, which means redundancies. It's a sorry tale, but not an unusual one.

So, you're the manager with the tough job of telling 140-odd staff they've lost their job. You could do with gathering them all together...but that means getting all of the customers out of the shop. A brainwave! Set off the fire alarm. Customers clear off - in a mild state of panic, but who's worried about them any more? - and you've got all the staff standing in the car park (probably in light, cold drizzle) where you can give them the news.

"Fire alarm..? Yes...somewhat ironic really, given what I need to tell you..."

Predictably, the local MP and press is up in arms at the "brutal" treatment of the staff. So, as a small shop in a tiny northern town, what would you do?

You'd call in massive global PR company Hill & Knowlton's crisis management team, that's what.

How strange.
Can we give you HEAD..?

Not that, you filthy, filthy girl.

It's an acronym which stands for Hitched, Engaged, Arrived and Departed. It's our version of marriages, engagements, births and deaths. Like they have in those big papers. So, if anyone at your place has popped the question, taken their vows, produced a sprog or popped their clogs, let us know about it and we'll give them a big shout. Easy on the deaths though...we don't want to depress everyone.

First up comes news that Edelman PR tech team member Tim Callington's wife Lucy has done all the hard work in producing a bouncing baby girl. Dropped on May 1st, Poppy Jean weighed in at a shade under eight and a half pounds and is doing very well.

She's going to start a blog and reckons Edelman will have hired her by the end of next week...

03 May 2007

How very dare he....

A cheeky young man, Adriano Konialidis, who claims to be an avid reader, asked us to listen to his band's 'choons' (he didn't spelt it like that, you'll be pleased to know).

We did. It's actually quite good.

So, sod it, it's against our principles but, here's the link....
New feature! This week's...the world's leadings...

Last week, Charles Arthur referred to us as "the Private Eye of PR blogs."

I'm taking that as a huge compliment, 'cause I love Private Eye. I especially love the fact that it only comes out once every couple of weeks, costs just £1.50 and is printed on suitably scruffy paper. The day it appears as a glossy weekly costing £3.40 (or a fiver for 'specials') is the day I stop buying it.

I love its tone and style...inspirational...its articles and cartoons. My favourite bits are the little boxouts like Colemanballs, Luvvies and Dumb Britain. A particularly favourite is "Solutions"...the boxout where Private Eye ridicules the over-complicated descriptors companies give themselves, all of which contain the meaningless word "solutions". Here are a couple of examples from the latest issue:

"Don's Garage Doors, specialists in garage door solutions" - garage doors

"Capita Learning & Development: a rapidly evolving learning business providing end to end learning solutions to the private and public sector" - training

In something of an homage to the Eye, therefore, I've decided to start a new feature called "This week's...the world's leadings..." which will highlight some of those numpties that, despite our best work, still try to create a niche so thin that they can lead it, globally.

Welcome to Issue No.1...here we go:

“Stardock is the world's leading developer of Windows enhancement utilities”…software

“Zagat Survey is the world's leading provider of consumer survey-based leisure content”…questionnaires

“Earthscan - the world's leading publisher on environmentally sustainable development”…green books

“Virkon S - the world's leading Avian Influenza (Fowl Plague) virus disinfectant”…soapy water

“Parlay Entertainment Inc. is the world's leading developer and dominant licensor of Internet bingo solutions”…two fat ladies

“DUO (“Love your legs”) - the world's leading fashion retailer of wide calf boots and narrow calf boots”…boots for both fatties and skinnies

“Storm Cat is considered the world's leading commercial sire”…big bollocked horse

“Transvestite Transformation, the world's leading transvestite, transgender and transsexual specialists, transforming men into beautiful women”…my new favourite website

You’ve really got to go and have a look at the Transvestite Transformation website…it’s simply brilliant. Check out the “Our staff” page…there’s Claudia, Bev and Julie (I can’t vouch for those being their original names…though if they’ve been through the programme I have certain trade description issues with the phrase “beautiful women”…). Bev’s biog says this:

“Bev's been with us for 3 years and will lend a helping hand and sympathetic ear to anyone.”

She’ll also sort you out with a lovely pair of knockers..!

I’m here all week…
Go on, treat yourself to a big knob...

I've been on holiday. Yes thanks...very nice. Like you care.

But it means that I'm having to catch up a bit...email, blogs, proper magazines. Two bits of my catching up segued nicely last night, relating, as they did, to Second Life.

First, I noticed that Lewis PR man Morgan McLintic used his blog to push a vacant PR position at Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. I wouldn't have paid it much attention to be honest, as I'm not in the market for a job. But I was struck by this line in McLintic's plug:

"If you have a good grasp of PR, are flexible and willing to learn and are also 'into' Second Life, this is a killer opp."

Do they really need someone who's "'into' Second Life"? There's a lot of cynicism about it, so wouldn't it be more useful to find someone who's a sceptic? Someone who's more likely to be in touch with the more pervasive perception that Second Life is a place for saddos with no life - not even a first one, let alone a second - to hang out? Hiring an advocate will only lead, in my eyes, to PR campaigns that preach to the converted.

Interestingly, in the official Linden Lab job outline - which McLintic points to - there's no mention of wanting to find someone who's already a fan of Second Life...so presumably it's something that McLintic alone thinks is necessary..?

Later last night I was flicking through the Economist from a couple of weeks ago. Two arrived while I was away and another will be turning up tomorrow, so I haven't got the time to read the old ones in any great detail. However, a short article under the heading "Sex and the internet" caught my eye...can't imagine why. You'll need a subsciption to read it - so get one, you muppet.

It was a great little piece about how pornography has traditionally been the content to first take advantage of new media...whether photography, video, satellite TV, DVD or the internet...but that as any technology becomes etsablished, other content becomes dominant. The story cited statistics showing how, in the next few months, net communities and chat will overtake porn in enjoying the highest proportion of US site visits.

That's not to say that the appetitie for sexual content itself is subsiding, it's just moving on to other, newer technological platforms...like Second Life, for example.

Yes indeed, you might be as suprised to read as I was that a large amount of the economic activity in Second Life relates to sex (obviously you won't be surprised if you've ever been in Second Life, but I'm assuming - safely - that you haven't). It's hard to say how much, but The Economist tells me that "an employee of Linden Labs...once ventured that 30% of transactions related to sex or gambling. Edward Castronova of Indiana University estimates that sex is "a substantial portion, perhaps even the majority" of economic transactions in Second Life."

And get this...if you want your avatar to sport a knob or a fanny, you've got to buy one. Otherwise it'll look like a naked Action Man.

Linden Labs has the following mission: "To expand the human experience by building an online world allowing people to interact, communicate, and collaborate in a revolutionary way."

A simpler mission would seem to be: "To create, like, the seedy bits of Las Vegas, but online..."

Now that's a PR challenge to get your teeth into...

01 May 2007

OH.MY.GOD....briefing docs....

Following on from the ‘day in the life’ post last week, TWL received a briefing document.

A briefing document - or, for honesty’s sake, let’s call it a memo - can be the final key to a piece of smoothly implemented PR. A senior executive, say, is meeting a genuinely influential journalist who writes for a first class magazine.

The memo gives a concise overview of the topic to be debated, along with details of any recent and related contact. Perhaps it even highlights a couple of end-user examples that can be cited, or the detail of some research findings. It may end with a note about the suitable tone and manner for the interview. The senior executive reads the material, raises any specific queries and then conducts a solid interview that gets the company’s message across at the same time as hitting all the areas the journalist wants to cover. All very sensible.

Whether it was the layers of malignant in-house middle management that devalued and over-complicated the memo, or agency bosses that saw a tangible output as something that could carry a price tag, we’ll never be able to establish. Fact is, what should be a simple memo has morphed into a ‘briefing document.’

Yes, thanks to processes, templates and the self-serving interests of in-house PR people, briefing documents are now voluminous, comb-bound, acetate covered tomes, bulging with irrelevant detail. They include cab pick up times, recent news releases, messaging from all parts of the organisation, Q&As galore and Lord knows how many articles written by the journalist in question.

Given how tedious and involved creating a briefing document is, it’s almost never put together by the semi-experienced person that secured the interview in the first place. Instead it’s a junior PR or an intern of some description. That, of course, means the most useful part (what got discussed during the sell-in) is usually missed out.

Which makes it all the more bizarre when the occasional briefing document ends up in the hands of a journalist. Suddenly, the expensive and really rather useless briefing document, put together by a 23 year old on a Thursday afternoon, becomes a lot more interesting.

The predictable hue and cry over Waggener Edstrom’s “confidential dossier of 5,500 words” that was sent to a Microsoft executive to help him prepare for an interview with Wired made TWL smile (the 'secret dossier' got sent to the journo by mistake - by the client, happily).

In one corner were many uptight journalists and anti-MS zealots, claiming Microsoft was so wicked and nasty that a semi-senior spokesperson had prepared for an interview. In the other camp was a bunch of PR types pointing out that journalists normally moan if the person they interview doesn’t know the topic under discussion. It all went on far too long and got jolly boring (read the cases for and against, if you really want).

However, there was something remarkable about that incident that went almost without comment. The confidential dossier (briefing doc) was only 5,500 words. That is unusually concise for both Wagged and Microsoft.

Which brings us back to the briefing document we received. It is a Wagged briefing document for Microsoft that is over 130 pages – and more than 60,000 words - long.

It’s for a fairly senior US exec on a European tour. It contains an eight day weather forecast and currency conversion rates. The exec is accompanied by two spokespeople in each interview, one at a European level and one from the country being visited. There are percentages for the amount of time each should spend talking. Honestly.

Other useful nuggets include a note that many of the journalists on the European tour will not speak English as a first language. There's value-add. It is hoped that the tour proves ‘educational’ for local European media.

Every publication is covered in copious detail without actually departing any useful information. Take this whimsical meander down irrelevant lane:

“The Economist resembles an academic journal in many respects, and is labeled ‘a newspaper’ by insiders, due to its last-minute deadlines and dedication to factual, objective news coverage.” By insiders? The Economist is a bloody newspaper – that is how it describes itself. But anyway, what the hell has that got to do with anything?

It’s not Wagged’s fault. It’s probably not the spokesperson’s fault (although, let’s be honest, we’ve all had senior US execs that have made Whitney Houston’s travel demands look incredibly straight-forward). Blame lies somewhere in the layers of marketing middle management, who are so desperate to cover their arse that they give a travelling exec a hard copy of a 130+ page document to carry with them.

Briefing documents – bane of a PR's life.

A final wry observation? The electronic version of this briefing document for a Microsoft executive is a pdf. Oh, and guess what? Computer Weekly interviewed the US exec by phone….