Web 2.0: Is it time for adult supervision?

I’m sorry I missed Euroblog 2008 it looked like a great event with a great line-up. I have made a personal commitment to try and get out a bit more.

There’s no question that this new online communications stuff is important. It’s not just important for PR people it’s has pretty major societal implications.

I get that.

I do.

I believe there’s a transformation underway that will (has?) certainly impact how people find and share information, how they connect.

But hold on.

Sometimes traversing the Interweb I stumble upon commentary which really sticks in my brain and nags me.

I get the feeling that some people are really losing the run of themselves.

There’s so much excitement online, sometimes it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective, a sense of the difference between right and wrong, of the difference between the relevant and the irrelevant.

While I realize I might attract the ire of some, I think people need to get a grip and step outside the Internet bubble a little more.

Last night I was doing some browsing on the aforementioned Euroblog 2008.

I was reading some posts, comments and even watching some videos.



1 minute 40 seconds from the end this video from Euroblog, it moves to a panel session.  Now the video is edited so I apologize to Philippe Borremans in advance if I’m misrepresenting his comments, but in the video he states that (my transcript):

"I think wikis and Wikiepdia has been mentioned very often during these two days and I think we need to get off the idea of these cases where some things (that) are in Wikipedia are are not 100% correct, and what have you, I mean if you look at it… this is a global thing it’s a global encyclopedia. I don’t know how many edits and new (pieces of) information are added every second, but if you compare that to the amount of mistakes in there I think the positives much more important than the negative."

When I listened to that last night it really stuck in my head.

In fact it’s stayed with me all day today.

I’m sorry.

I fundamentally disagree with that sentiment Philippe.

I absolutely disagree.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Wikipedia is considered the second most credible source of information for young people.

How can it be acceptable that we just shrug our shoulders and say "well it’s not accurate but it’s cool and loads of people add stuff to it"?

This isn’t an anti-Wikipedia rant per se.

Wikipedia is a phenomenon, an amazing achievement.

But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to its shortcomings because it’s a cool example of Web 2.0 collaboration.

I think people who share that view would change their opinion very quickly if they found some negative commentary on themselves or if something erroneous turned up on their client.

Let’s rememeber Wikpedia’s willingness or ability to address inaccurate information isn’t exactly stellar, this is well illustrated from this Sunday Times article:

But as the sum of what we all know and agree, the wisdom of crowds has no greater value than Trivial Pursuit. Wikipedia is full of mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings. What happens if you try to do something about it? William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and an expert on global warming, disagreed with a Wikipedia editor over a particular entry on the site. After trying to correct inaccuracies Connolley was accused of trying to remove “any point of view which does not match his own”. Eventually he was limited to making just one edit a day.


[Disclaimer: the article is based on an interview with Andrew Keen who believes that Web 2.0 is killing our culture – not something I necessarily agree with..]

If Wikipedia is being held up as an encyclopedia, then it should be expected to meet the same criteria as any other respected encyclopedia. End of story.

I had another moment listening to episode 324 of the ever excellent For Immediate Release.

Regular contributor – and someone I have a lot of time for – David Phillips was talking about (5:28) YouTube’s announcement that it was going to introduce live video streaming making it a "platform for interactive citizen television" offering "an unlimited number of TV channels on your laptop" or other device.

That is without question my idea of hell.

Who is going to sit through all the garbage?

Who is going to do the shopping, bring in the wage? What about the poor dog?

There’s a quote I am very fond of:

“The stone age was marked by man’s clever use of crude tools.  The information age to date, has been marked by man’s crude use of clever tools.”

– anonymous

The delivery of video, the accumulation of user generated content, twits, blogs etc are only the beginning. The real shift (especially for communicators) will be the next generation of tools that enable people to manage and mine this information in a meaningful way that respects the fact that they are already suffering from information overload.

Don’t get me wrong.

These shiny new things are very interesting, in fact they are very important.

But please let’s not lose sight of their weaknesses and failings.

We all still live (most of the time) in the real world.

Reality is a good thing, let’s not lose sight of it.

Measuring social media PR

I am often known to comment that no one word in the English language does a better job making a room full of PR people cough and examine their shoes, than "measurement".

Shel Israel has a fantastic report for Global Neighbourhoods TV on how SeaWorld San Antonio used social media to launch "Journey to Atlantis" their new roller coaster when the project was ready ahead of schedule.

It features none other than Kami Huyse and it’s a great example of how the creative use of social media can have a measurable impact.

Excellent and recommended viewing.

David Pogue on PR & Web 2.0

In a post that I’m sure will soon appear across the PR blogosphere.

David Pogue has written a post on the potential for Web 2.0 to provide customers with a more human insight into companies.


When a company embraces the possibilities of Web 2.0, though, it makes contact with its public in a more casual, less sanitized way that, as a result, is accepted with much less cynicism. Web 2.0 offers a direct, more trusted line of communications than anything that came before it.


Absolutely true.  However we still need the other (read: traditional) stuff!

Hat tip to Jeremy Pepper (a first blog post via a link in Twitter)

5 years ago this week…

Five years ago this week, discussion on the question of blogger ethics was all the rage across the Interweb, following Rebecca Blood’s widely read post on Weblog Ethics.

This was about a year after the "Blogger’s Manifesto"* was published, though to be honest I’ve always preferred this version.

Oh we were all so innocent then….

Speaking of innocent, here’s an idea I posted this week five years ago that (unsurprisingly) never caught on….


When is a weblog an inlog?

Friday, March 28th, 2003

I am writing a short opinion piece on weblogs and PR.  An ‘inlog’ is a term I am using for weblogs inside your organization.  I’ll post the article in the next while..






*Funny you can only get the manifesto on the waybackmachine – I wonder why that is, at least I left my bloopers online  :-)

Internet Reality Distortion..

Imagine returning to your house to find much of your belongings gone and an army of strangers rummaging through your house and packing their cars and vans with your possessions.

When you try to stop them they wave a print-out of an advert from Craigslist that says everything in your home is available free gratis.

It happened in Oregon (via TechCrunch) From the AP Report:

The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.

But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.

On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

"I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back," Salisbury said. "They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did."

The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. On his way home he spotted other cars filled with his belongings.

Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.

The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true," Salisbury said. "It boggles the mind."


It’s not the first time either, a similar episode took place in Washington state last year.

I’d agree with TechCrunch that the Internet mirrors society and there’s always good and bad.

But the interesting thing, from a communications perspective, is that people consistently take the validity of content they find on the Internet at face value.

Now that’s scary.

Preparing for Media Interviews

Damien Mulley has published his tips for successful media interviews.


The most important thing about any interview is that you are prepared for it. If you put out a press release then you should already know your topic inside out. You should be expecting and be prepared for interviews well before the send button is pressed on that press release.


One thing I’d add to his list, is passion. You cannot replicate passion about the subject matter – it’s infectious.

Bad PR practice isn’t about new media training…

From a blog relations perspective there’s a very interesting discussion taking place around a bloggers event that was organized by Johnson & Johnson (and their PR firm).

For the sake of brevity you can read Susan Getgood’s post for more detail here.

In effect, the event was for "mommy bloggers"* and two attendees, Julie Marsh and Stefania Pomponi Butler, had their invitations revoked for pretty spurious reasons – one because she could only attend part of the event, and one because she had to bring her nine week old son.

Not very clever.

I should point out that according to Susan’s post, J&J are open to getting the feedback and will learn from the experience.

Jeremy Pepper also wrote a post using this issue as the catalyst on how agencies need to train their staff or face the consequences.

He makes a lot of sense.  PR people need to wake up and understand that if they wish to help their clients participate, and communicate online, then they need a better grasp of how it works.

I have to say in defence of our profession (and I use the term advisedly :-) ) I’ve seen a lot of interest and commitment from PR practitioners in learning more about how online communication is changing. 

There’s a lot of people who recognize the need for a new approach.

But let’s talk turkey.

Traditional PR practice isn’t exactly a beacon of professional excellence is it? If you take traditional media relations as the lowest common denominator, journalists still receive irrelevant pitches, with no strong news or story element.

Why would we expect the online world to be any different?

If you have a blog you’ll get the opportunity to see the other side of the fence. Yes there are people who take the time and target you with a story, but the vast majority is pure spam and not even entertaining spam at that. {Furthermore if they’re pitching me, they obviously haven’t researched which blogs are read by more than a couple a people a month!]

The beauty of the online world is that bloggers call people out on poor pitches. Rather than "throw the release in the trash" they blog about silly people making silly pitches. [You even have an online blog you can use to point the finger at bad practice].

The reality is that the bar to "doing" Public Relations is sufficiently low that "everyone" can attempt it.

Furthermore, you have junior staff now undertaking the modern equivalent of what many of us had to do in the days before the Internet:


"Hello, Ms. Journalist did you get the release?.. would you like a photo…."


PR firms serious about helping their clients online, need to get their act together.

There is a huge learning opportunity from the hundreds of PR blogs already online.

There are online events like this and this as well as thousands of "Web 2.0" events in every city, country and continent.

But this isn’t just about training.  This is about a clear commitment to understanding online communications, understanding the tools, the channels, and most importantly of all understanding how to participate as a full value member rather than a flack.

It’s pretty easy to spot the difference.


Regarding the J&J issue, at least they have gone through the exercise of understanding that the online audience is important. Some elements of the execution was less than stellar but they’re open to learning.  No one has all the answers.


Just an overall observation and not one specific to this post.  Bloggers are inclined to pull the trigger and examine the corpse afterwards.  Sometimes contemplation, perspective, and deep breathing are useful tools.

*I think this is the correct term :-)

The State of Blog Relations

This mightn’t be news to you, but it was news to me.

APCO Worldwide has been working on a project for the US Council of PR Firms to understand the perspectives of PR firms and bloggers.

The findings make interesting reading.

The finding below in particular amazed me.

25% of bloggers surveyed agreed with the statement: “Our firm (sic) does a good job identifying the specific interests of individual bloggers and sending them relevant information.”

Wow! That’s not my experience….

Have a read of the study.

I found the report via Susan Getgood’s post: "PR People: Do your homework before you reach out to bloggers".

Also a recommended read…


UPDATE: I tell you this Interweb is fantastic.  No sooner had I pushed the publish button, than Paull Young was in touch to point me to Robert French’s take on the survey…


Well, to me this story is a placement for a bit of publicity … and a sad one, at that. Come on, APCO and CPRF … what were you thinking? It is one thing to be transparent … another to be able to see right through you!

Is this really what you folks call survey research? You really want to hang your hat on this? If so, we’re all in deep trouble. The About page tells more, yet raises more questions than it provides answers.

The report is still interesting reading, just don’t build your business plan on it! :-)


Technorati Tags: ,,,