PR in 2010: Coping with the Cacophony

As we approach the start of a new year, and indeed a new decade, the blogosphere will no doubt be overwhelmed by predictions and forecasts of various kinds concerning the future of traditional media, social media, PR, marketing etc.

So I thought I’d take a different tack.

I’m going to assume that we are indeed heading into another year of evolution and change. So if that’s a given, why not consider you. What will you do in the next year?

It’s December, it’s a great time to take stock, to review how you’re doing, and to preview where you’re going.

The world of work is changing; and I think that PR and marketing professionals face even greater challenges as we struggle to juggle our traditional work loads and responsibilities with new emerging channels, tools and relationships. So how will we cope with these challenges?

Now before I go any further, I would hate you to think that I’m living in some sort of personal Zen. I can assure you that I am not. However I have reached the conclusion that we must take responsibility for how we manage our personal and working lives. We need to actively think about how we not only cope with a broader set of responsibilities but how we succeed with them.

In short, I think 2010 is the year that you need to invest in you.

I’m not a personal development guru, but here I present 12 areas that I’ve been thinking about recently – for what it’s worth. (And there’s not one mention of unfollowing people on Twitter – that’s a promise.)

I would love to hear your views. What have I missed? What do you disagree with? Jump in with a comment or write your own post and let me know, I’ll add links here.


1. If you don’t know where you’re going.. I am sure there are many people in this world who are naturally ‘planful’. No doubt their work and personal lives revolve around a clear vision of short, medium and long-term objectives. I’m not one of them. However, I have been investing some time in thinking about my own priorities and my own objectives. What roles do I play in my personal and work lives? What objectives do I have? What changes do I want to make? Where do I want to go and how do I get there? Start small, map your roles and responsibilities and your aspirations, then review and review again.

2. Make time for your personal life… Do I need to write any more? If I do, then please refer to the beginning of this paragraph.

3. Love what you do.. It amazes me how many people hate their jobs. They dread the sound of their alarm clock. Well, they are clearly stronger than I, because I couldn’t do that. It’s a personal thing. I need to have a passion for what I do. There’s a nice quote I read recently from a Steve Jobs address to students at Stanford: “You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Spot on.

4. Get smart about your workload… You face an avalanche of work, commitments, e-mail, tweets, meetings, tasks and calls every day. Do yourself a favor, start thinking about how you can work smarter. There are some great approaches to more efficient personal workflow. Research them, try them, and give yourself some time back.

5. It’s OK to be a nerd… Related to getting a personal workflow is getting smart about how you use the tools you have. Investing some time in learning to use your PC and applications – as well as the tools and services available online – more effectively, is a good investment that will give you a huge return. Get searching.

6. Get Social.. I know this sounds really obvious, but social media is here to stay. Ignorance really isn’t an option. Many, if not most of our traditional tools and channels will remain important and relevant for the foreseeable future, but social media opens new opportunities to increase the effectiveness of your efforts. The fact you are reading this on a blog means you’re probably already there, however, keep current and get involved. See point #12.

7. Consume greedily.. Keep your brain active and challenged. Find time to read, find time to listen to podcasts, find time to talk to people. Expand your mind outside your area of expertise. Build it into your objectives. Creative ideas and approaches come from many sources and many of them are surprising. Bring your Zune :-) or your Kindle to the gym or on the train. Make time.

8. Live a little… So as the quote goes, "If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got." We live in exciting times, take calculated risks, experiment, review it and measure the results. At worst it provides fantastic learning opportunities and at best will have a major impact on the effectiveness of your work.

9. Write proper…Isn’t it time we addressed the black and white elephant in the room? The advent of social media demands that we revisit how we communicate. Corporate speak is over-used and it no longer resonates with our audiences. We must change how we think about it, we must bring words to life and go back to telling stories. This is a long journey but one that is worth taking.

10. Where’s your vision… There’s a land grab underway in social media. Who owns it? Who drives it? Don’t be left behind, take control of your destiny. Be clear on your goals (and how they tie back to the business), your strategies and your tactics. Social media isn’t about starting a Twitter account it must be integrated across your business.

Remember the story about everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about this, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

11. How big was it?… Don’t look at your shoes and cough. Measure your successes AND your failures. Review them. Learn. Go again. Be accountable.

12. Know your audience… Invest in getting a better insight into your audience. It will pay huge dividends. Don’t pay lip service to it, do it.


Last but certainly not least, enjoy it… remember this isn’t a dress rehearsal…


Author’s note:

When I was drafting this post, I happened upon a post I wrote around this time of the year back in 2007. It’s still relevant.

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.

PR firms are bad, your personal brand, crisis communications, Apple the best at PR and how Dell is using social media….


Greetings, it’s been quiet for a week which of course means my life hasn’t been… Here’s some tidbits I found waiting in my RSS reader….


Jason Calacanis offers some advice to start-ups on how to get good PR: fire the PR agency. Mmmm. While the posts does offer some good advice, and some common sense, I don’t buy the message. As usual with blogs we’re dealing with sweeping generalizations. There’s a lot of good reasons why companies of all sizes engage Public Relations agencies. His post doesn’t change those in my mind.   Todd Defren and Morgan McLintic offer a defense. [Bonus link: Todd has a link to some videos on the changing delivery of news and information].



And you know you should always kick the dog when it’s down, so from Richard Bailey I read that Guy Kingston in the UK has launched a search for Britain’s worst Public Relations agent.  I’ve a feeling that’s one PR award ceremony that won’t have the table bookings flooding in. He’s also published his nine signs of a bad PR agent including: they demand to be paid by the hour rather than quote for a job; they do not set specific objectives; they start doing their own thing rather than what you asked them to do; they boast about big-name contacts and they blame the client when things go wrong.  You can read all nine at his site.



Whatever the merits of the changes we’re seeing online.  One of the things that has changed is the important of your online brand.  What do people find when they search for your name online – particularly if you have a particularly popular name (popular now, not common :-) ).  Brian Solis has a two part post on the the issue here and here.



The PR Week blog competition enters the final eight. Some expected finalists and some that frankly are a bit of a surprise.



Kami Huyse shares her presentation on savvy communication at the time of crisis and her 3 Rs of Crisis Management: Research, Response, and Recovery. Kami also has a great post on building quality relationships online.



Next Fifteen’s Tim Dyson ran a poll on his blog to find out who his readers think does the best tech PR. The answer? Nor surprisingly Apple comes out on top.



Neville Hobson has an interesting video interview with Andy Lark of Dell discussing how they are using social media.

Devices of mass disruption… what is PR?.. Blog rankings… Web 2.0 fatigue…

Device of mass disruption or eh is it a phone?

Guys seriously I have stayed silent on this subject long enough. 

It’s a phone.

It’s not a six inch device of mass disruption.

Apple has done a good design job but I am bored to my back teeth with the ridiculous posts and tweets.

I had a radio on my cell phone in the late 90’s.  If these devices were going to disrupt/kill/change radio it would be more likely to happen with radios on MP3 players.

Why, oh why, is every 1.0 release of every 1.0 piece of hardware or software "game changing"?

Me? I love my HTC, fantastic resolution, full touch screen, proper camera, great keyboard for grown up e-mail and word processing, not to mention loads of software – and the best part?

It’s not threatening to kill any industries, take people’s jobs and the battery lasts more than 35 minutes and HTC don’t advise you to turn off the 3G, you can have all the speed you like baby.


*I debated whether to categorize this under "He would say that", and I did in the end. But regardless this is true.

What’s PR then?

Bill Sledzik takes a run at a unified definition of public relations working through a variety of textbook definitions.

Tom’s Opinion: This is a breath of fresh air, it’s great to get some informed writing on this topic.  Too often when PR is discussed, what’s really being discussed is "media relations", which although a major element of the profession is not the whole story.  This is also the reason why we see so much rubbish about the "death of PR".  The reality is that great communication remains a strong and valuable asset and Web 2.0 doesn’t change that.  Yes it’s about relationships (duh), yes it’s about understanding the tools and channels, but at the core it’s about great communication and and audience insight.

[Bill also tackles the issue of whether PR is part of marketing.]


PR Blog Ranking Mania:

Man it’s PR blog rank weekend an I’m sinking faster than a stone, however while I’m gurgling water, I’ll use one of my last breaths to pass congratulations to Stuart Bruce :-)

More here, here, here, oh and here.


Web 2.0 Fatigue

Lauren Vargas has an interesting post on Web 2.0 fatigue and how to avoid it, she has a really interesting video (though it’s a little out of date) at the foot of the post -  worth a watch!

A place to put your digital stuff

So, you’re now officially digital.

Fantastic. Well done.

You now have your photos in Flickr, well most of them, you have your music online and oh offline, you have your documents on that external hard drive and on eh… SkyDrive… is it?

The reality is that you have digital content all over the Interweb, and all over your house, your hard drive, your devices and your desktop.  If you’re like me it’s probably growing faster than a fixed interest rate.

So how do you manage it?  Probably with great difficulty or worse…not at all.

This is where Joe Drumgoole‘s new company PutPlace comes to the rescue.

It’s a smart digital content management service. 

It tracks your content: where it lives, what it is, what the most recent version is, and ensures that if the worst comes to the worst (and you know it will!) you’ll still have your memories, content and music.

Joe is a friend and former colleague, and they’ve been working on the service for quite a while, why not give it a try, you only have peace of mind at stake!

They’ve just opened up the beta programme, you can sign up here.


Joe: Feature request, any chance you could create something similar for Web 2.0 services and log-ins? And if anyone says FriendFeed you’re in deep trouble…

Twitter and Outlook

If you’re using Twitter, then you may have got bored reading the web page updates and downloaded a little desktop application or applet for keeping in touch. (I have).

One problem is that it’s yet another application.

So here’s an alternative for anyone using Outlook.

I stumbled across a little Twitter add-in that delivers twits directly into a folder in Outlook where you can read. reply etc. It even has statistics!

It’s called OutTwit, you can find out more and download it from here.

Screenshot from the web site.


PR Round-up…

Devolution of Media

For the uninitiated, Jim Horton is the grandfather (in a nice and not age related way!) of PR blogs, he was the first practitioner publishing content online in a meaningful way, even without RSS :-).  He continues to provide reasoned, in-depth coverage of the industry today, and he’s just published an essay: Devolution of Traditional Media and what it means to PR which takes a look at how changes in the media landscape and the rise of social media may impact PR. Worth a read.


Twitter PR

Shel Holtz has a great post, which could have been included in the round-up below, looking at Twitter and how their recent service problems are a great example of why communicators can add value to a business and an entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, most people who make such observations about PR base their views only on what they observe. What they observe is pitching. PR pitches are blatant and, frequently, annoying. (Heck, I work in PR and get frazzled at the staggering number of clueless pitches I receive every day. In a PRWeek article,’s senior editor, Dylan Tweney, articulates what a lot of victims of bad pitching feel: “I don’t have the luxury of blacklisting people, because if they have news, it doesn’t matter whether I like them or not, or whether they’ve been good at pitching in the past. I’ll still need to hear about it.")

What’s not visible to most people, however, is the work that occupies most PR practitioners most of the time, and it isn’t pitching or getting ink. The mere fact that pitches are what you see most of the time doesn’t mean that’s the lion’s share of what goes on in most shops. If Loic were to spend a single day with an account team at any well-known agency, he’d probably amend his post.



Ready for the Digital Savvy?

Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb reports on new research from Scarborough Research on the "digitally savvy" – the most high-tech consumers in the US.


According to Gary Meo, SVP, Print and Digital Media Services at Scarborough Research, this is an important group to monitor because their shopping patterns could "presage behaviors of consumers across the country."

Web 2.0 needs to move towards quality…

I was catching up on my RSS and podcasts consumption when I found myself getting very stressed.

Listening to “For Immediate Release” (Episode #341) there was a listener comment from Mitch Joel, who raised the issue of how are we supposed to manage all this information, links, networks etc.

Mitch used Twitter as an illustration:

Currently, if you look at my Twitter profile page, there are 1577 followers, while I’m following only 545 people. It used to be the same number, but I’ve become a bit of a Twitter Snob. I found it increasingly difficult to follow many different topics of conversation from people I did not know, who were talking to (or about) other people I did not know on topics that were of no immediate interest to me.

It’s a real problem. 

For most people* all this stuff is in addition to the “day job”.

The growth in smeedia content from blogs, to RSS, Twitter, social networking etc. hasn’t, in most cases, been accompanied by a growth in the tools and technologies to manage that content.

Success is often portrayed as connecting to thousands of people or having thousands of people connect to you.  But the noise generated from these connections can also make them practically value-less.

Conversation is a term often bandied about concerning Web 2.0.  But conversation isn’t about trying to hold or understand the commentary of 25,000 people.

Often volume is the most lauded feature. Don’t get me wrong, volume has its place.  But I do find that the work generated by trying to manage Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. can be stressful and have a questionable ROI.

I think there is an ROI – which is why I continue to dip in and out, but volume isn’t everything (or the only thing).

For me, this proves we’re still at the early stages here and we’ve a long way to go.

There seems to be no end of individuals and organisations being able to ship volumes of content online, where it becomes compelling is where we get the tools to be able to mine, identify and use that data.

We’ll get there….


*This statement is not based on any fact or published research.  It is a rash generalisation – but it’s mine :-)


Survey reveals how teenagers are communicating…

I find it quite disturbing that the further away you move from your teenage years, the more you become like your parents, even though you were always adamant you’d remain hip and cool when you got older….

Anyway, enough of my personal struggles, on to more interesting, though related, matters…

Habbo, the virtual world for teenagers, has released a global study on the communications preferences for 11-18 year olds.

They surveyed over 58,000 teenagers around the world and the findings are very interesting…

  • 76% use instant messaging (#1) to stay in touch with friends online.
  • 72% hold e-mail accounts, though it’s used for more formal communication with parents and employers (or old farts like you and me).
  • 40% do not view social networks as an important part of their communications mix.

The major growth area since the last survey two years ago is mobile.

  • 71% listen to music on their mobile phone (up from 38%)
  • 70% use their phones to take photos and video (up from 11%)
  • 64% play games on their mobile (up from 14%)
  • 25% use their mobiles for web access, e-mail and instant messaging
  • Nokia is the number one mobile brand – but Sony Ericsson and Samsung are catching up.

It seems to me – and maybe I’m wrong – but there’s a lot of blog post inches dedicated to the brave new world of Web 2.0, but very little discussion on how the growth in more powerful mobile devices will impact how people of all ages find and share information. It’s a big area and a big part of the changes we’re seeing.

It probably deserves more respect – and look on the bright side there’s loads of opportunity for blog hype….



Why Gen Y Feels Overwhelmed – Business Week [via Amanda Mooney on Twitter]

Habbo’s second Global Youth Survey reveals the digital profiles of teens online – Press Release

Habbo’s Second Global Youth Survey reveals shake up in teens’ favourite mobile brands – Emmi Kuusikko, Director, User and Market Insight

Are you a Moofer? – Murphy’s Law

My idea of hell…

Forget the safety issues – of which there are many – is there any worse idea than the idea of allowing mobile phone calls on planes?

I can think of nothing worse than sitting for 1, 6 or 9 hours listening to people barking into their mobiles, hearing text messages arriving and worse.

Can you imagine the first couple of years after this “technology” is introduced?

One hundred calls on every single flight for three years which go as follows:


“Hey, it’s me?”

“You’ll never guess where I’m calling from…”

“… the plane!”

“No I am, seriously…”


Ladies and gentlemen, the future sanity of mankind is at risk