True life is always stranger than fiction…

I previously wrote about my love of language in general and the writing of the vintage UK TV series “Yes Minister” in particular. Yes Minister for the uninitiated was a sitcom based around the relationship of a UK government minister and his daily struggle with his civil servants.

Well a story in the UK Daily Telegraph over the weekend caught my eye. It details leaked civil service memos that were prepared to brief civil servants ahead of the arrival of the newly elected government:

The documents, instructing senior officials at the Department of Communities and Local Government how to woo their new bosses, give a checklist of what are called “hot button”, Tory-friendly words, to be dropped into conversation whenever possible. These include “families,” “radical,” “neighbourhoods” and “progressive.”

and the advice continues:

civil servants are told to “talk of efficiencies / value for money without prompting” and advised to deploy blatant flattery, with suggested phrases including: “Congratulations! I had so much confidence in you, I might get complacent!”

The documents order mandarins to “smile!… Lean forward!… Be interesting!” They are told to engage in “supportive listening,” and “take cues from the Secretary of State.” Officials are advised that “eye contact [is] the real currency.”

Yes, life is stranger than fiction.

PR Miscellany – January 31st 2010

So you won’t be surprised to find out I’ve been a little behind on my RSS feed reading. It’s been busy recently.

Slipping through the (PR) feeds, it’s interesting to note that probably 90+% of “PR” posts are actually about social media.  Now social media is clearly very important, but to me, the intersection of PR and social media or even business or marketing to social media is far more important.

So what interesting stuff is there this week – at the risk of drawing Valeria’s ire :-) ?

First a surprise, for me at any rate. In the blogs I scanned there is very little commentary on the PR implications of Toyota’s U.S. recall, which I have to say is strange (though I admit I may just have missed some other blogs that did cover it). So kudos to Jon Harmon who has a number of posts covering the developing issue and the company’s response.


It’s amazing just how widely Edelman’s Trust Barometer is quoted in talks, blog posts and meetings.  So we should mark the arrival of this year’s report by linking to Mr. Edelman himself I suppose.

Trust in business has stabilized and is trending upward, with a substantial jump of 18 points in the US (from an all-time low of 36% in 2009 to 54% in 2010). Trust in business falls into three categories (High-Brazil, China, India, Indonesia-at 60-70%; Middle-Canada, Japan, US-at 50-59%; Low-France, Germany, Russia, UK, Korea, -at 35-49%).


Interesting piece from TechCrunch, via Andy Lark, on a recent AOL PR snafu around the departure of the company’s chief technology office.. eh there but for the grace of god…

PR is not supposed to be fiction and spin. At least not all the time. Occasionally the communications professionals at companies, particularly publicly traded companies, are supposed to actually tell the truth. And perhaps help journalists and bloggers with a story instead of sending them off on a fake trail.


I am a firm believer that laughter is indeed the best medicine, so via Stuart Bruce, do watch Charlie Brooker illustrating how to report the news.


Valeria Maltoni has a very worthwhile post on developing a content strategy process for your blog. She also has a very interesting interview with Doc Searls revisiting the Cluetrain Manifesto a decade later.

It’s important to remember that Cluetrain in the first place was an expression of rebellion against marketing, and a declaration of liberation from it. Note the voice in "We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it." We were not speaking there as marketers, or as "the audience," or as "consumers," but as ordinary people.


Finally, Morgan McLintic shares my view that we need to focus on making a difference. Speaking of which I have just added Seth Godin’s Linchpin to my reading list. I’m a fan of Mr. Godin’s constant challenge to people to think differently, but I think he’s come off the boil in his last couple of books so it’ll be interesting to see if this one hits the mark. (I have a hardback copy of the book, but if I was reading it electronically, that would be a Kindle before you ask, and I love my Kindle :-) ).

Watch your language…

Oscar Wilde once wrote:

We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.


I have to say that my language transition to the US (in my opinion – my colleagues may feel differently!) has been free from any major problems…so far. However, today I encountered a rather amusing – though potentially dangerous – issue.choc-wellies

I was sending an e-mail with a reference to “Wellington Boots” (don’t ask) which International English speakers often refer to as “wellies”.

Unfortunately it turns out that US English AutoCorrect automatically changes that widely used noun to “willies” which of course has a very different meaning. (ahem).

Luckily the recipient saw the bright side :-) .

A nice story (for a change)

With all the hot air, and the growing number of mind-numbing self-styled gurus you find on the InterWeb, it’s sometimes nice to celebrate a nice story.

I’m sure many of you (19,000,000 and counting) have seen Matt Harding’s video, Where the Hell is Matt? where he dances all over the world.

He contributed a nice essay to NPR’s This I Believe segment over the weekend, have a listen.

You see, sometimes you can just be nice.

Hat tip to Mark Ragan who pointed to the essay on Twitter yesterday.

BIG hat tip to Stride for their most tasteful (sigh) sponsorship of Matt’s efforts which have the simple aim of putting a smile on your face, and succeed admirably.


Speaking of hot air… big boo to Robert Scoble for more hot air and, in the style of Monty Python, more rash generalizations than you’d find in a rash generalization sale, at the biggest rash generalization store in the town of rash generalization.

Postscript 1:

I have found z on the keyboard over the past four weeks, but I seem to have lost u…

Some light relief…

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, here it’s grey and wet. 

So here’s some light entertainment you might have seen before.

British comedian Eddie Izzard’s take on Darth Vader going to the Death Star cafeteria. Mild swearing… it put a smile on my face  (and 6,000,000 other people to date).… oh all set to motion capture lego.

The importance of media training…

I came across this old video on the South African PR blog Practical Relations, it’s an interview with an Australian politician in the wake of shipping disaster. I suspect it’s not real but probably from a comedy show, but either way it’s pretty amusing and a great piece of video for your next media training course!

Can anyone in Australia validate if this is real or comedy?


As suspected it’s a comedy sketch… more details and background in the comments! You can ignore Mr. Young