Can you stop taking credit for everything?

So to get you all up to speed on the subject of this post (especially those living outside the UK), two “comedians” on the BBC have gotten into hot water for a prank call (in poor taste) on a radio show.

CaptureInitially there were a small number of listener complaints but some UK newspapers (potentially with an axe to grind) wouldn’t let the issue drop and their continuous coverage of the issue brought matters to a head. 

Subsequently Russell Brand has resigned and Jonathan Ross has been suspended.

Listening to the analysis of the snafu as it developed – and the role the national press played – the thought occurred to me how long would it be before the usual suspects started claiming that in a Trent Lott-like development somehow social media has caused the issue to come to a head.

It didn’t take long.

People are now claiming that social media was central to the whole affair. 

Eh not it wasn’t.

This need to justify social media’s central role in everything that happens, is at best unappealing.

The world is a crazy, mixed up place. It’s far more complex that many people seem willing to accept, which is why the simplistic and naïve view of social media being the death knell of traditional media (and everything else that pre-dates 2002) is misguided.

For the immediate future we’ll see social media and traditional media living alongside side each other, sometimes operating independently, sometimes together.

But let’s be grown up and stop trying to give credit where it’s not due.

There’s enough hype out there already…


If someone advanced the argument that the traditional media got this issue into the mainstream and that social media fanned the flames by providing access to the footage in the studio and fostered online debate, I’d absolutely buy that. But then that’s all about the integration of traditional and new media.  That’s what we’re talking about :-)

The life of the indignant comment spammer

A rather amusing incident occurred today. I was beavering away on one of my work related blogs when within minutes of a post going live, a new comment appeared.

The comment was relevant to the post, but then I noticed that the “commenter’s” URL was clearly comment spam – I obviously won’t reproduce it here.


Now I had heard that spammers were circumventing technologies like Captchas (a technology which stops spammers doing automated sign ups) by employing lowly paid humans to physically register for hundreds of web sites – they’re called Captcha Solvers.

But I hadn’t come across blog spam solvers, but they’re out there.

Anyhow, I deleted/declined the comment and within seconds received an incredibly indignant reply querying why I had declined a relevant comment and suggesting I should change my mind.

Needless to say a quick challenge on the URL omitted no further response.

Clearly there are now armies of blog spam solvers monitoring RSS feeds and diving in with “relevant” comments with spam URLs.

Innovation is alive and well… even if it’s unpleasant.

Where’s Web 2.0’s stamina?

You know it never ceases to amaze me the attention deficit that infects the world of Web 2.0.

In 2003-2004 blogging was going to kill journalism and destroy traditional media because here was a way to publish information fast – and more importantly anyone with access to an Internet connection could publish their thoughts and opinions for everyone to read (they were simpler times).

Four years later the whispers about the decline of blogging have started. Seemingly Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are the way forward. Blogging is too slow and too much like hard work.


This lack of stamina is a serious challenge for Web 2.0.  It takes time for anything to get established into the mainstream.  It takes even more time for behaviours to change so that habits form.

If you keep leaping from one widget to the next, then you’re probably going to struggle bringing the majority of the population with you.  This may not effect many of the digital pioneers, but for those who want everyone to participate (which will never happen in my mind) this is a serious barrier.

Blogging may have lost the shiny quality of the new new thing, but it’s established and provides some great benefits.  Many bloggers I talk to have admitted that since using Twitter they’ve found less time to blog. For me, Twitter is an interesting side show, but I still enjoy reading blogs, enjoy hearing people’s opinions and learning.

From a PR perspective the starting point in great communications is identifying and understanding your audience. Looking past the hype (unless your client is a web 2.0 widget producer) and having insight into where your audience is, how they’re finding information, and how they’re sharing information, is far more important than the new new thing.

Guess what, even in this difficult economic environment, traditional media is alive, and so is blogging.

What a surprise.

Thanks to Richard Bailey for dangling the bait in front of me…

It’s the week for them obviously…

You know we should all try and be more reasonable here, there are too many people taking themselves too seriously online. I hope I’m not turning into one of them.

Post my last rant, this e-mail appeared today:

“As a blogger on public relations or marketing, you may be interested in commenting on the…”


Can you imagine pitching a story to a reporter in a similar fashion:

“Hi, as a journalist writing about fashion or automobiles or household products, you may be interested in writing about…”

And that pitch was about media montoring…

Rant: How you can showcase how you don’t understand the basics of online PR or web 2.0


Now you may know that I can be something of a contrarian when it comes to all the unbridled excitement you often find associated with “Web 2.0” but let’s park that for the moment. 

If you’re thinking about starting a blog then it’s probably a good idea to do a quick search and discover some useful tips on how to start it, sustain it, promote it.

The basics are pretty easy.  You should probably write about something that you’re interested in, you should be aware that it requires an investment of time, and if you want to get connected then jump in, read other blogs, link to them, comment on things that you find interesting etc. etc..

It does take time, but it’s really not terribly hard.

Of course there is an alternative. 

Start a blog and then pretend that you are far too important to bother wasting your time with the other little bloggers, so rather than getting in touch with them yourself, you get one of your minions to promote your blog for you.

This is the opening of an e-mail I received today:

This blog (the blog his boss writes) is an amazing resource for anyone who works in public relations, who is interested in learning more about developments in this field, or who wants to benefit from the entrepreneurial and aggressive spirit of –name deleted- and –agency name deleted-.  For someone like yourself who maintains a blog about the public relations industry and communications and media trends, –name deleted-‘s blog would offer your readers an insider’s perspective that they undoubtedly would appreciate.

It continues:

The rapid growth of –agency name deleted- was made possible by –name deleted-’s aggressive, results focused orientation and his close relationships with members of the media, key influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities.  Under –name deleted-‘s leadership, –agency name deleted- has used its aggressive and committed talent to represent clients including –poor distressed client list deleted-.  These client experiences, combined with –agency name deleted-’s status as a full-service public relation firm maintaining practice areas in consumer, technology, health and wellness, entertainment, lifestyle, fashion and corporate communications, make –name deleted-’s blog an excellent resource.

–name deleted- is so busy with “his aggressive, results focused orientation”, that he couldn’t be bothered actually taking a few minutes to understand how this internet thingy works. He clearly doesn’t understand the very basics of engaging with people online and I wouldn’t link to his site at risk of death.

Interestingly I did visit his blog to have a look and you’ll be relieved to know that I didn’t see any “insider’s perspective that you undoubtedly would appreciate”.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the poor intern tasked with hyping the blog doesn’t understand the whole blog relations thing either.

(Aside: I wonder is this task the 21st century equivalent of being forced by your boss to ring and ask a journalist had they received the press release, like we were in the old days?)

Thanks for the spam.

Tell your boss thanks for his time.

And I won’t be linking to him.



Social networks for PR and media, online video, future of news, blog product reviews and web 2.0.. what’s that all about?

Rex Riepe was in touch about the launch of a new social network for PR people and journalists called IvyLee. From the site:

IvyLees seeks to revolutionize the way PR professionals and journalists interact. The site provides a tool-based social network at no cost, an exciting alternative to traditional media tools. Members can distribute and receive news from any industry at their own convenience by sending news releases, pitching story ideas, building media lists, creating association pages, and inviting other users to continue expanding their personal network. University of Central Florida alumni Rex Riepe and Greg Allard established the site in 2008.

It’ll be interesting to see if the poor downtrodden journalists wish to network with their PR colleagues :-)

Douglas Simon of D S Simon Productions Inc was in also touch about a survey they’ve published on “Web Influencers”. You can view a video from Douglas on the survey here (registration required).

Is this the future of news? It’s an interesting post from Mr. Rubel.  It’s certainly interesting and I’m sure is something that the avid online media consumer will like, but the question is: Does this stuff all require too much work by the casual user/consumer? I don’t know, but I’d like to know.

Speaking of the future, is this the product review model of the future? FuelMyBlog is a a little confusing, it’s a kind of social media network for bloggers that also offers the opportunity for registered bloggers to review products. [Via Eoin Kennedy.]

Finally, a very interesting post about Web 2.0 written by Dennis Howlett posted on Chris Brogan’s blog via Peter Himler – if you can follow that. It’s a balanced piece calling for people to start demonstrating real, tangible and most importantly understandable benefits.

I believe the biggest barrier though has come in the use of terms and language that simply don’t resonate with business. In my social psychologist trained mind, the term ’social media,’ a cornerstone of web 2.0, is one of the most egregious abuses of a term I’ve seen since the early days of ERP. After three years of listening to definitions of the term I can guarantee that 99% of the press releases I see are exactly the same as those I would have received 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. They’re still dopey, riddled with double speak and wrung dry of useful content. So where’s the value in all this socmed stuff? Show me how customer service has radically improved as a result of applying web 2.0/social media services? Where are those most forward of technology adopters – banks – in all this? What about the main consulting groups that drive adoption inside big business? Heck, I’ve got them calling me up – so you know it’s got to be bad.

Anxiety, why you should sleep on it and how bad news travels…

I was in a great all-day meeting today…. it’s not often that I’d put those words in that order. But it was a great meeting (are you allowed by positive about anything anymore?).  During the day I heard a fantastic definition of anxiety, which I thought was apt given the current economic gloom:


“Anxiety is excitement, but without the breathing.”


Speaking of anxiety…

Todd Defren has a post from earlier in the week, that if I was being very kind, I’d excuse as being a knee jerk response to a bad business event.  In what I’d describe as a “race to the bottom” he’s rushed a post entitled: “Cut the PR agency, are you sure about that?”.

Sometimes it’s better to sleep on those posts.

Frank Shaw has an interesting response to Noam Cohen’s piece in the New York Times – on how misinformation travels quickly around the Interweb – with some good common sense guidance.


Well at least it’s the weekend :-)

Late: Three inspirational communicators

Back in August, Simon Wakeman tagged me for a meme on my top three inspirational communicators. Due to the vagaries of the new WordPress dashboard (which is sadly appalling at tracking incoming links) I missed it.

So, months late, I’m cheating and here are my thr-our.

Randy Pausch – The late Randy Pausch‘s last lecture was one of the most inspiring pieces of video that I have ever watched.  His delivery, his passion, and his sheer bravery, not to mention an amazing message that applies to everyone, combined to create an inspirational, motivational and thought provoking hour that could and should change your perspective on the daily grind of living. For that alone he makes the list.

Michael Parkinson – While it might strike some as odd to choose a television interviewer as an inspirational communicator, I disagree.  Over a forty year period, Michael Parkinson provided an incredible insight into the personalities of “celebrities” (good and bad) with a manner and approach that made every interview fascinating viewing whether you were interested in the subject or not.  That is an incredible skill and the sign of a great communicator.

Steve & Steve – Small cheat here.

Steve Jobs – There’s no question that in his favourite environment with the black slides, the dark room and the Apple faithful, Steve Jobs is an outstanding and often inspirational communicator who matches well rehearsed timing with great delivery and a sense of theatre. He doesn’t make the list on his own, because sometimes for me it’s a little too controlled. So….

Steve Ballmer – On the other hand, Steve Ballmer doesn’t necessarily evoke the essence of cool, but he brings energy and passion to the stage. Passion is one of those intangible assets that I believe you can’t replicate but from a communications perspective, particularly to an audience, it’s gold dust. Of course Steve’s persona will be forever tied to “that developer video”, but he’s equally compelling talking to smaller groups and for his passion and his energy in communications he makes the list.

Ying and yang perhaps?

I’ll tag Stuart Bruce, Shel Holtz and Kevin Dugan.

PR blog posts crash and Is my work here complete?…

I’m delighted to report that wading through my RSS reader this evening was a lot less stressful than usual. 

It appears that the combination of the US presidential election and the continuing global economic uncertainty have combined to reduce the volume of PR blog posts this week…

Or… maybe neither events have anything to do with it. Who knows? In fact who cares? Probably no one.

While the post volume is down overall, I have noticed that the self-promotion quota of the PR blogosphere is climbing steadily.

Now we all know that self praise is no praise. I’ll say no more on the subject. (I’m great by the way..)

Time to archive the blog?

Now gentle reader, after over six and a half years blogging inane drivel for my “micro-audience” – to use “marketing 2.0” segmentation terminology- I think my work on the blogosphere may be complete.

I have an incredible amount of respect for Steve Rubel.  He has done a fantastic job evangelizing how new media can, is and will impact Public Relations.  His hard work and dedication has had a real tangible effect on PR people’s knowledge of “Web 2.0.”.

But, Steve’s weakness – and I’m sure he would acknowledge it himself – is that sometimes he gets a little too close to the hyperbole machine. It’s not criminal but I sometimes think it dilutes the value of his message.

Well, Steve is interviewed on and I don’t know how to say this… but… I agree with his views in the article.

He’s preaching:

  • Evolution of PR and marketing not revolution
  • He’s talking about starting with understanding your audience
  • He’s even stated the press release isn’t dead (yet).

"I see press releases having an important role in a few areas," he says. "First of all, they communicate a message very quickly to the press, which is something that a blog or a feed really can’t do. And they reach a large number of people, particularly investors. Also, they can have a high impact on search engines, and I think that’s important to look at."

Ladies and gentlemen my work here is done.

I’m not sure there’s much point in continuing, it’ll all be an anticlimax from here :-)

You will be relieved to know that there is one tiny little thing that I do feel compelled to comment on though.

What exactly does a “Director of Insights” do for a living?

Treat technology as you would a friend…

I have to admit I enjoy it when the online discussion moves from the ethereal norm to something that reflects reality.

The issue of information overload and the use of technology, is something that impacts everyone today.

When we talk about “social media” and how “Web 2.0” will change PR, one of the key issues is how these things are impacting your audience (if at all).  People have limited time, and real lives. We can talk about the online revolution but if people don’t have the time or the energy then it’s a mute discussion.

I think it is very interesting – not to mention incredibly important – to understand how people are dealing with the volume and variety of information they’re dealing with every day.  (That’s why back in August I shared how I use Microsoft OneNote to manage my day – and would love to hear from others on how they are managing theirs… :-) )

Back at the beginning of September, Jeremy Pepper called on people to think long and hard about how they are using technology and to think about how more traditional tools may be even more productive for certain tasks. In fact, he called for people to discard “technology” and use the phone! You can see from the number of comments on the post that this is a subject that is exercising a lot of peoples’ imaginations.

While technology has its place in public relations, we have been over-relying on the tools for so long that the basics of public relations – the relationships and the connectivity with face-to-face meetings and the ability to do good phone – have been lost. It’s the few that can do it, and do it well.

Shel Holtz has responded to Jeremy’s post with a call for balance. In essence, use the right tool for the right job.  Sometimes the phone may be more effective, sometimes e-mail is best. Your job, and your challenge, is to choose the right tool for the right job.

But if each tool is used based on its strengths, then it becomes a matter of thoughtful integration of all the tools, not an artificial abandonment of a tool that has become a vital part of a PR practitioner’s communication mix.

I’m a passionate believer in balance. 

Having an insight into your audience – big or small – and therefore an understanding into what’s the most effective way of reaching and communicating with them  – is your challenge.