Stop, listen and think..

It’s accepted that we are all incredibly busy these days.  We’re rushing around, juggling plans, meetings, calls, issues, projects and to-do lists – not to mention e-mail and Twitter.  It’s very easy to keep your head down and plough on.

It is however – in my humble opinion -incredibly important to stop on a regular basis. Stop and think. Stop and review.  Stop and listen.

I know that the Sharpen the Saw analogy has become a cliché, but then it has become a cliché because it’s true!

One thing I love doing is sitting and listening to my son.  Five year olds are so honest, their minds are full of opportunities and they don’t allow norms or experience to restrict their thoughts or dull their expectations.  This is something we should all contemplate.

That’s why I loved this post by Richie Escovedo: “9 PR rules my daughter learned in kindergarten”.

9. Listen to others – There is an interesting duality to this rule. A.) You don’t know all there is to know about public relations. You need to continue to learn and hone your skills through discussion, research, and professional development. PR is an ever-evolving field and being able to adapt and change is what will make you stand out. B.) You don’t know all there is to know about your organization or clients. Active listening within your work environment, on behalf of your organization and through monitoring will mean the difference between taking shots in the dark and making educated and informed communication decisions.

Interesting food for thought…

PR & Social Media Miscellany – September 29th 2009

Here are a selection of links to some interesting content I found during my most recent attempt to review all my RSS feeds…


Public Relations & Media Content

PR Agency pitches..

I missed this, but fascinating discussion nonetheless.  In the UK, following an agency pitch process, decided to pay some of the unsuccessful (no one is a loser on this blog :-)) PR agencies for some of their ideas. Mark Pinsent has stirred a fantastic discussion with a post about how the pitch process is dead. There’s some great content in the comments including a great response from Kelly Davies at (quoted below). Mark has a follow up post here and Clive Armitage weighs in on the issue here. My two cents? Hiring the right PR firm is incredibly challenging. It’s not just about credentials…

Not all agencies are suited to all clients and a pitch is much more than just presenting a load of ideas. It’s about feeling the passion, the hunger and although I hate the phrase, the ‘chemistry’. I’m not going to choose an agency based on a creds pitch. For me that’s akin to buying a pair of shoes without trying them on. I have done this on many occasions and I always end up taking them back.

Lines of journalism….

Over at Ragan a guest post by Vanessa Horwell claims that “Times’ David Pogue blurs journalism lines

Tech bloggers—a notoriously vociferous and at times a moody bunch (any PR pro who’s dealt with tech and/or mobile bloggers can comment on this)—seem to be leading the mob, with virtual pitchforks in hand. But the real question is will this affect Pogue and the Times, and what does this controversy say about the ever-blurring line between journalism and unvarnished opinion?

The beauty of social media is that David responds to this post in the comments:

Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. However, your whole column is based on one truly awful error…


The implications of new media…

Recommended reading: The Atlantic has a very interesting feature: “The story behind the story” 

There’s more here than just an old journalist’s lament over his dying profession, or over the social cost of losing great newspapers and great TV-news operations. And there’s more than an argument for the ethical superiority of honest, disinterested reporting over advocacy. Even an eager and ambitious political blogger like Richmond, because he is drawn to the work primarily out of political conviction, not curiosity, is less likely to experience the pleasure of finding something new, or of arriving at a completely original, unexpected insight, one that surprises even himself. He is missing out on the great fun of speaking wholly for himself, without fear or favor. This is what gives reporters the power to stir up trouble wherever they go. They can shake preconceptions and poke holes in presumption.

You have to promise not to print…

Frank Shaw discusses the death of the embargo.


Social Media Content

Blind ignorance isn’t an excuse…

Shel Holtz on why he believes that social media is not a car.

There’s an age-old analogy that keeps coming up in social media talks I hear. “You don’t need to know how it works,” the analogy goes, “just like you don’t need to know how internal combustion works to drive a car.”

It’s a fine analogy for a consumer using social media. It doesn’t wash for communicators.


Social media: fact or fiction…

“Is social media overrated? No, but be flexible” – Shel Israel.

My point is to go into social media with a sense of who you want to reach and why. But be prepared for surprises and pack flexibility into your approach. Surprises happen and social media allows you to adapt and adjust with greater ease, less time and lower cost than other available options.


Will we miss the guru…(yeah right)

Gary Goldhammer advises: “Let’s say goodbye to the social media guru” – A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y

All media today is social, so in my opinion there is no “social media.” And there are no gurus either, only those who know a little more than some others – and trust me, the others aren’t too far behind.

Get on with it…

Louis Gray has penned a guest post over on Brian Solis’ blog: “Stop talking about social media and go do it already”

Companies that do leverage social media need to recognize that by participating in these social networks, they are asking customers to do the equivalent of inviting them into their homes. By saying you are a “fan” of a product on Facebook, or that you are “following” a company on Twitter, you are translating the abstract corporate behemoth to something that is personal. And with that personal element comes an unwritten promise, that you will act in a way that is respectable, like a “friend”. And as you know, friends don’t kiss and tell.

Great minds think alike…

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on blogging.

The guilt of social media..

My (relatively) recent resolution to maintain my social media consumption and production, has waned in the past couple of weeks.  The usual excuses; lots to do; busy at work; busy at home…

I spent the weekend with family and friends only wasting fleeting moments checking work e-mail to make sure all was well with the world. 

And it was.

Until Sunday evening.

Checking my personal e-mail, I was alarmed to find loads and loads and loads of new poor unfortunates following me on Twitter.

That’s when the guilt kicked in.

I haven’t blogged in weeks and my consumption of blogs, RSS, Twitter and Facebook has been tardy lately.

Now I feel pressure to get back on top of it.

Of course, unlike a diet, which is happy to fade into the background, social media is more aggressive in reminding you of your inertia.

So like all good addicts, I will once again clamber onto the social media bicycle and start peddling.

I guess this is Guilt 2.0.

Editor’s note:

Sorry I meant to add that the source of all these new followers (hello!) is a post by Valeria Maltoni on 100 PR People Worth Following on Twitter. As someone who made the very first iteration of the Power 150 and is now struggling to make the “Less Powerful 500” I am of course delighted with my inclusion, though mindful of the fact that I won’t make the next update…

Thinking about mobile communications…

As a communications profession we all (I hope) invest a lot of time and energy thinking about effective communications and how best to reach and engage with audiences. 

While traditional media remains incredibly important, there’s clearly a lot of focus on how social media is also impacting communications. So what about mobile?

The “Did you know” video below is an update from XPLANE (an “information design consultancy”) in collaboration with the Economist for their  Media Convergance conference in October.

It’s similar to many of the other “size/impact of social media” videos you’ve seen, but it’s updated and focuses more on mobile. 

So how are you thinking of fitting mobile into your plans?

Changing media consumption habits (and we’re not talking about social media)

Following Jon Snow’s interesting talk about how the media is changing, another venerable TV journalist, this time on the other side of the Atlantic, has shared his views on how the consumption of media is changing.

Speaking at a Poynter Institute for Media Studies event earlier in the week, Ted Koppel bemoaned the trend towards people only watching news and opinions that match their own.

"I think we have gone totally nuts on the issue of entitlement," said Koppel, who spent four decades as the anchor and managing editor of ABC’s Nightline. "We want news that resonates our own pre-held opinions. … That is the worst possible recipe for a country that prides itself in democracy."

More from the St. Petersburg Times.

The joy of… language

During a meeting earlier this week I spotted a well thumbed copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves on an office book shelf.  This discovery sparked an enjoyable conversation on the power of language. Of course if you’re working in Public Relations then language is occupational currency.

Later in the week I was absent mindedly browsing Netflix and happened upon an old gem, the entire series of Yes Minister.

For the uninitiated “Yes (Prime) Minister” is a 30 year old BBC television comedy that follows the career of a Minister in her majesty’s government (and later as he assumes the role of Prime Minister) and his daily struggle with the powers of the civil service.

If you love language then this is something you should watch.

“No buts,” the Minister snapped. “All I get from the Civil Service is delaying tactics.”

“I wouldn’t call Civil Service delays “tactics”, Minister,” Sir Humphrey replied.  “That would be to mistake lethargy for strategy.”

In today’s climate of “transparency” and “plain English” the use of language in the series – purely for the sake of obfuscation and deceit – is truly a joy!

From a PR perspective there’s an interesting potential parallel between the Minister’s relationship with the Civil Service; and a dysfunctional client-agency relationship.  (Obviously this doesn’t reflect any of my client relationships when I worked on the agency side, or god forbid my agency relationships since I crossed the table :-))

Witness a memo between two Civil Servants:


A Minister’s absence is desirable because it enables you to do the job properly:

  1. No silly questions
  2. No bright ideas
  3. No fussing about what the papers are saying

One week’s absence, plus briefing beforehand and debriefing and catching up on the backlog on his return, means that he can be kept out of the Department’s hair for virtually a fortnight.

Furthermore, a Minister’s absence is the best cover for not informing the Minister when it is not desirable to do so – and for the next six months, if he complains of not having been informed about something, tell him it came up while he was away.

Substitute “Minister” for Client and “Department” for Agency :-)

Watch the series or better yet, exercise your mind and buy the books which give you time to savor the plots, the thinking, but most of all the language.


The changing world of “media” relations…

If you viewed Jon Snow’s talk you’ll know that he gave a fascinating insight into the changes that have taken place in the media over the past couple of decades.

Of course it continues apace.

I haven’t seen a lot of noise in the PR blogosphere on this, but I thought Facebook’s set up of TechCrunch was certainly unique.

So we’ve had our fun with Facebook over the years (Why We’re Suing Facebook For $25 Million In Statutory Damages, Republican PR Director Calls Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg “totally full of sh*t”, Randi Threatens a Bar Bouncer). But in general these things are supposed to flow one way – we mess with them, they take it gracefully.

Today that changed. They punk’d us, and we fell for it. Hard.

Writer Jason Kincaid noticed a new link “Fax this photo” on his Facebook page.  So he contacted Facebook, got no reply and posted a story on the new “feature”. 

But here’s the catch… the “feature” only appeared to members of the TechCrunch network. 

It was a set up.

Jason then called Facebook PR. Jaime Schopflin took the call and, apparently, couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes. Between laughs while catching her breath she mentioned something about this being a joke, that nobody but us could see it, and that they were placing bets around the office on how long before we noticed it and posted. And something else about teaching us to contact them before posting.

It certainly is unique….


What’s the impact of new media?

If you live in the UK and Ireland, you know Jon Snow, the popular UK journalist and broadcaster, very well.

During a recent visit to Ireland, the Institute of International and European Affairs hosted Jon for a talk he gave on the impact of new media.

He discusses his start in the media business and just how much things have changed over the years, and it’s not just about social media!

Recommended viewing regardless of your location.

Link courtesy of Piaras Kelly.

Are you lifestreaming or is that your dad dancing?

At the risk of appearing (to the digerati at any rate) as something resembling a father dancing at his teenager’s party, can I ask a question?

The question concerns the current online nom-de-jour: “lifestreaming”.  Now stop me if I’m wrong here – and it wouldn’t be the first time – but a Lifestream is just a blog with more stuff on it. 

Is that correct? 

I mean, seriously, all we’re talking about is a blog (or in 1990s parlance a “web site”) with content aggregated from a host of different sources such as Twitter or Friendfeed or whatever you are having yourself.

So in essence a lifestream is just a blog with more stuff, right? A blog. A blog with more stuff.

Maybe I’m missing something.

Sometimes I really am amazed at our continuing need to re-name things to make them sound like they are far more important than they are… this affliction is often most acute when it comes to social media.

I mean, this piece from Business Week on Gordon Bell (from Microsoft Research) is more how I think of a Lifestream.

In the meantime, I think we’d all be better advised to focus on understanding how social media can positively impact our business.

Maybe I’m getting old, then again I’ve eight or nine years before I mortify my son at his party.

Don’t forget the local impact

When we think about how companies are using social media, we typically look at the big players, but I love to hear how small, local companies are using it.  I find it’s a great way to get my tired brain firing on how I think about the potential of social media.

I was in downtown Seattle for a number of meetings this morning and I found out how a small local coffee shop (it’s not a chain!) is on Twitter, and each time a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies emerges from the oven, they tweet about it. 

The interesting thing is that as soon as that tweet goes out, you can see a stream of people from the surrounding offices heading directly to the shop.  Now that’s a real world commercial and local use of social media!

There’s been a lot of discussion on how the internet has supported globalization.  It’s something that we all know has impacted how we think about communications.  However, keep an eye on the local impact of the internet, it could be something we start spending a lot more time thinking about from a PR perspective.