Off-topic: the phantom contractions

Saying that the birth of your first child is a stressful event is something of an understatement.  Nothing prepares you for the associated stress but then again nothing prepares you for the pure unadulterated joy either.

I was a mess.

I kept referring to the fantastic midwives as “housewives” and to contractions as “orgasms” (no more comment needed). It’s something my long suffering wife hasn’t let me forget.

Well we’re expecting our second child very soon, and earlier this week we went to the hospital for some pre-launch checks.  We were sitting in a small packed waiting room, filled with mothers-to-be some with partners, some with family, some on their own.

In the corner of the room was a very pregnant women in her forties, quietly reading a magazine. 

Her phone rang and she quickly answered it, walked out of the waiting room into the corridor, and started screaming into the phone (I assume to her absent husband/partner) about the pain of the contractions and how they were now coming in waves.

Everyone in the room was looking at each other with a mixture of surprise and bemusement.

After a few more screams, she quietly returned to the room.  Took her seat and resumed quietly reading her magazine.

A few minutes later her phone rang again.  It was (I presume) her errant partner, and once again, in between reminding him to “put the mince in the freezer” and “pack the trailer”, she screamed about the contractions, the agony, the speed and waves of pain.  This time she didn’t even bother leaving the room. 

She calmly ended the call, and resumed thumbing her magazine and quietly sat for another forty minutes before she was called in for her examination.

The atmosphere in the waiting room was unique.  Loads of couples trying not to look at each other for fear of erupting in laughter.

It takes all sorts.  But don’t worry I’ll be there for the contractions, and the mince is already in the freezer.

It’s a strange world and a strange time, but there’s always humour, no matter where you are.

Awards, job searches, twits (not Twitter-related) and disasters…

Heartiest congratulations to Stuart Bruce and the team at Wolfstar who won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Grand Prix Award for the UK’s Outstanding Small Consultancy!  Fantastic achievement in 18 months!


image Fair play award of the day goes to Thomas Brunkard, who as a communications professional in these challenging times, is documenting his journey to secure a PR job in Ireland through his blog. Good on him.  Take a look.. particularly if you’re looking to fill a position in Ireland.


image In other fantastic news, Jenn was in touch to tell me about the “independent New York fashion trade show and shopping event”…. I wonder has Jenn ever seen a photo of me? If she had she’d know all about my passion for couture. She certainly didn’t stop to look at this site before spamming my in-box.  Well done Jenn, great job. You’re the perfect example of the lazy, unprofessional people who give PR a bad name.


image Gerry “PR Disasters” McCusker is calling for nominations for the biggest PR disasters for 2008.  No shortage of candidates there methinks…

Other Links:

It’s a question of trust

Forrester’s Josh Bernoff has published some interesting findings from a survey they undertook in the second quarter (April-June) of 2008 to find out the most trustworthy information sources.

Interesting, good old e-mail comes in a #1, traditional media is holding up nicely and the poor blog (particularly the company flavour) limps in last.

image See the original image and post here.

Of course if you’re a PR practitioner you know all about statistics :-)

The interesting validation for me is that the results point to a crazy mix of online and offline tools.  It’s not just about social media, it’s about understanding your audience, getting an insight into where they are, and then using the appropriate tools to communicate with them.

This doesn’t mean corporate blogs are a bad idea in my humble opinion but that if you want to communicate with people you need to be thinking of a broad set of tools.  Blogs are part of that discussion in my humble opinion.

Hat tip to Neville via (ahem) Twitter.

Be careful what you wish for

The doom and gloom around the failing global economic climate continues to gather pace and with news that the Tribune Company (home of the L.A. Times and the Chicago Cubs among others) has filed for bankruptcy with a debt of (cough) $12 Billion it appears that the media industry has now moved front and centre with the car makers.

This will all be ‘grist to the mill’ for the social media ‘angels of death’ no doubt, but we should really be very careful what we wish for.

Andrew Sullivan had a thoughtful piece in the UK Sunday Times at the weekend looking at the rise of social media and the issues facing traditional media:

The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers. A world in which reporting becomes even more minimal and opinion gets even more vacuous and unending is not a healthy one for a democracy.

This is exactly the issue.  Trusting blogs, Twitter and Social networks to drive the news agenda is an appalling vista. (I don’t need any wisecracks on that one folks… no seriously :-) )

We need a strong media, because the media serves an incredibly important and useful purpose for society. While these are clearly challenging times, I don’t actually believe that the demise of traditional media is as rapid as the evangelists of doom would have you believe. 

We are seeing many media houses evolving and building new business models.  I’m not sure that consumers want to have to gather their own news.

Of course there are some fabulous writers online and I’d expect more to emerge, but there’s also a lot of myopic twaddle being peddled online by self-styled, self-important “experts”.

I don’t think anyone wants that to replace “traditional” media.

Well I don’t.

Don’t Panic Guide to Social Media #4

Chief Inspector Mark Payne from the West Midlands Police gave a really enjoyable talk on how they are using social media.

A year ago officers weren’t allowed to access social network sites unless they were in a specific crime division.

Like all police forces, they have a need to engage directly with the public.  With shrinking traditional media – social media offers a real alternative, with specific opportunities of engaging with younger people – and audience that’s incredibly difficult to reach for police forces.

West Midlands recently launched a group on Facebook (October 2008). They combined a small marketing campaign and word of mouth has seen the number of fans grow to 1,300.

The page includes videos, contact information, advice and resources you can download.

It is providing a great platform to engage with the public and to drive awareness of their initiatives.


They launched a YouTube Channel in the Summer. They upload new video every two weeks. The videos typically are focused on certain topics and campaigns.  It provides a means for the public to hear directly from the police.

Prior to launching, the top search result for “West Midlands Police” on YouTube brought back a BNP video…

There’s a new website launching in the New Year.  It will include “PCTV” delivering video directly from their site.

And of course my favourite: Plodcasts :-)

Last but not least they now have the ability (since November) to send messages to people directly via Bluetooth in a 50m radius. It’s mostly used at events, public meetings and football matches to send information and make requests.

The work that they are doing in mobilizing social media to engage with the public is incredible!