There is NOwhere to hide…

This is an old chestnut that comes up with enjoyable regularity.

We are talking about the PR imposter…

  • The sweaty, overweight, 30+ PR ‘professional’ posing as the “rad”, “cool” and “hip” student in an online forum.
  • The slim 21 year old PR ‘professional’ sending e-mails posing as a concerned 65 year old.
  • How long before we all realize that:

  • a) Transparent communication isn’t recommended, it’s essential
  • b) Your activity online can be tracked and identified using free, easy to use online tools.
  • Concentrate on communication rather than subterfuge and you’ll do much better.

    Danny Goodall sent me a recent example. He’s a fan of English soccer team Southampton. There growing pressure on the club’s chairman and he’s recently hired a “PR Firm”. Rather than engage in dialogue they ‘cleverly’ posed as a ‘fan’ and went posting supportive messages on Southampton’s message boards.

    Only problem was, the messages were tracked back to the PR firm’s web address. Doh!

    Good job. Where did they learn about communication? Good ROI on those billable hours though.

    Beware the PR moniker…

    News that a conference organizer in Ireland was hit with a ‘cease and desist’ by CMP Media over the usage of the term Web 2.0 in the title of an event they are running in Cork [Disclaimer: Microsoft are the event sponsor] is a good illustration of the danger of monikers. What have CMP done to deserve the legal right to the term “Web 2.0” as it applies to conferences? Nothing. But then the term Web 2.0 is loaded. Part of me thinks it’s a clever collective term for some really exciting online developments, while the cynical part of me sees “Web 2.0” as simply a marketing play to focus excitement around those same Internet technologies for a run at “Internet Boom 2.0”.

    Something that concerns me far more however is the term “PR 2.0”. Now this is a far more heinous development. PR 2.0 is a bad thing. Why?

    Well first an foremost let’s define PR 2.0. I assume that the term is meant to be used as a collective term for the impact that many of the Web 2.0 technologies and channels will/are having on communications.

    The danger of a term like PR 2.0 is manyfold.

    First it equates PR with the technology. This is, in my opinion, incorrect. This isn’t about technology, this is about how people are/will use the technology. It’s about how these technologies change how people communicate. But it is NOT about technology per se.

    Secondly the moniker 2.0 implies that something is coming that replaces what went before (and by extension implies that what went before was not effective). This again is incorrect. What we’re seeing is evolution not revolution. Tried and tested techniques such as face-to-face meetings, conference calls, e-mail, post and even the much maligned press release aren’t going away. Traditional media relations, internal communications, investor relations etc. these continue to grow today. What we’re seeing is the gradual addition of some new tools and techniques to our existing toolset… not a replacement. Show me the practitioner only using new tools and I’ll show you an unhappy client…

    This was brought home to me from a load of PR conferences that I’ve recently being attending and speaking at. There’s a lot of interest in these new technologies, there’s a lot of interest in how our audience is changing. However, there is also reality. The fact is that outside Silicon Valley and the technology business our traditional tools remain king. In my opinion now is the time for practitioners to learn about the new tools, to understand how they might effect their audience, to trial, measure and review the tools. But we are years away from these tools being given equal billing alongside the tried and tested PR tools. That’s the reality.

    PR 2.0 represents a worrying growth in the echo chamber effect of the PR blog community. There’s too much inward facing debate and not enough pragmatism.

    PR consists of a wide diversity of audiences, tools, grographies, cultures and languages. If we’re serious about providing guidance on how new tools fit with our existing services then we need to be realistic.

    So let’s stop looking to throw the baby out. Instead let’s focus our energy on how people are changing how they find, use and share information. Let’s focus on how we make the most of these new tools alongside the daily grind.

    PR 2.0? I wonder how long before I get the cease and desist… bring it on.

    Old time proprietary online services

    Paul Thurrott's post on the history and changes in MSN brought the memories flooding back.

    I worked for Microsoft's Irish PR firm from 1991-1995 and I remember in the run-up to Windows 95 spending a massive amount of personal time on the MSN pre-release, then known as Marvel.

    I thought it was fantastic (even over 14.4 dial-up) and offered a far superior user experience to the web – and given services like AOL weren't available in Ireland at the time (or now) it was an eye opener.

    Anyhow, these screenshots brought me back…

    Apple, Apple, the lawsuit, the journalist and the job seeker…

    CORRECTED: This has already been widely covered but it made me laugh so hard I have to re-post it.

    A graduate called Guy Goma was waiting for a job interview in the reception of BBC Television centre in London.

    A producer called out the name of Guy Kewney, a well known IT journalist that they were planning to interview on the subject of the Apple Corps versus Apple Computer lawsuit. Mr. Goma raised his hand to the producer thinking that they were looking for him and he found himself being ushered into a studio and fitted with a microphone.

    You have to watch the video of him being interviewed and fair play he gives it a go!

    Here’s Guy Keyney’s take on the episode.

    Internet at 30,000 Feet

    I've arrived in Seattle this evening flying with SAS via Copenhagen.  I had planned to post this from the plane with the Wireless broadband but unfortunately while I can confirm the Wi-Fi works the power in the seats beside me was broken so I lost my battery before I could get writing.

    The wireless is a little spotty, it kicks in an out from time to time, but it's perfect for catching up on e-mail and some web browsing.  The real problem is the access. I was travelling in Economy Plus and with my mini-mainframe Toshiba luggable it's fairly uncomfortable – I can only imagine that in steerage (where I'll be for the return) it's nigh impossible unless you have an Origami type device.

    So the broadband works and if you're at the front of the bus then you could get some serious work done.

    Very tired… it's very muggy here.

    Blogged in Translation

    At the “Delivering the New PR” conference on Friday I met with Simon Merrick from Zest. He raised a really interesting question: are there currently any services that provide “real-time” blog translation.

    For example, if you have a client with a blog (I’m assuming it meets all the usual criteria!) and you have key audiences in foreign language markets it would make a lot of sense to be able to publish those those observations in other languages.

    A quick check around the event confirmed no one was aware of this service being currently offered.

    The requirements as I see them:

    1) Fast translation services – no point having a major time lag
    2) Ability to translate personal (as opposed to business or technical) writing style
    3) Ability to publish the foreign language blog
    4) Capability to monitor the blog and translate any comments back into English
    5) Swiftly re-translate responses to the comments.

    Obviously there are many localization firms around the world, but is anyone providing high quality blog translation services?

    If you’ve any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations I’d love to hear them.

    Sounds like a great idea.

    Delivering the New PR – London

    It was absolutely great to catch up with the crew at the London leg of the University of Sunderland’s “Delivering the New PR” series. The conference had over 150 delegates in the Marriot Regent’s Park Hotel and the feedback was very positive!

    As well as catching up with Neville, Elizabeth, Philip, Chris and Nicky and her crew, it was also great to finally meet David Phillips. Unfortunately Stuart Bruce was unable to attend due to a personal emergency on Friday morning. We missed his presence at the event, and as a result, myself, Neville and Philip manfully tried to do justice to his presentation on Business blogging. I think it went OK, but clearly didn’t have the impact of Stuart doing it himself.

    There were loads of great questions at the event (see post above) which suggests many in our profession are doing some serious thinking about how these new tools can enhance the services we provide to our clients – even if there’s limited activity actually underway today.

    It seems there’s been some interest in expanding the conference series so we’ll wait and see and as always Nicky and her team did a great job!

    Unfortunately things went downhill once I reached Heathrow…

    Update:As usual Neville and Philip have comprehensive and insightful posts on the event.

    Sleepless in Heathrow


    It all appeared to be going so well.  The “Delivering the New PR” conference was a success (based on the feedback from the attendees I talked to). 

    I took a cab to Heathrow with Neville and Elizabeth in plenty of time for my flight. We dropped them off at Terminal 4, and as we were making our way to Terminal 1 a thunder storm hit the Heathrow area.  I assumed this would delay flights in and out – but I didn’t realize by how much. 

    I was due to fly out on a BMI flight to Dublin at 19.10 however it quickly became apparent that it was delayed.  We were still sitting there at 22.30…. 

    In that entire time there was only one BMI announcement and that was to inform us the flight had been delayed until 19.50.  The rest of the delay updates only came when passengers actually walked up to the BMI desk at the gate and asked for the latest information -  which BMI kindly shared – and luckily those passengers were kind enough to pass on the message. 

    At 22.30 they announced that our flight was cancelled due to “operational” issues.  Chaos ensued with passengers flooding the desk, we all had to register there and then, go back out to the departure atrium, queue at the BMI ticket desk for over an hour.  There was then another half an hour waiting for a bus to take us to the hotel and then about three quarters of an hour checking into the hotel.  I finally go to my bed at around 01.50. 

    A long day…. 

    PS: The BMI staff I dealt with were pleasant and efficient, however my complaint centres on why there wasn’t clear and regular public communication regarding the status of the flight? In fairness to Aer Lingus – who had similar delays – they made a point of providing regular updates on the progress of all their delayed flights.  It’s better to say too much than too little particularly when people are stuck in an area that resembles something like a blitz shelter.

    Some Feedback and Reader Social Responsibility

    Before flying out to London for the New PR conference tomorrow morning, I attended the first All-Ireland corporate social responsibility event, which was jointly organized by BITC Ireland and BITC Northern Ireland.

    It was an interesting event with a strong turn out and provided a great opportunity to catch up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while.

    One former colleague informed me she has discovered this blog. So ever the egotist I asked what she thought. Her response:

    “You seem to rant an awful lot.”

    I thought that summed it up nicely.

    The first roundtable session of the day was hosted by RTE’s Mark Little who did a fairly good job. Of course one of the issues he came back to again and again was how do you address the widespread cynicism of corporate social responsibility.

    I think it’s an important question to ask, however it got even more interesting when the session was opened to the floor.

    The first question was directed to Little himself asking how did he see his corporate social responsibilities (or maybe “viewer social responsibilities”) given the increasing pressure on journalists to get the juicy story… in some cases ignoring the facts.

    He dodged the question and bounced it to the panel. It’s an interesting perspective – and it’s a pity he wasn’t pushed on it.

    One of the other really interesting discussions (not in the sessions unfortunately) was around the cost, budgeting and measurement of CSR (and community involvement).

    It was interesting that there was divided opinion. Some believe you must tightly measure the success of your CSR efforts, while others believe that the more you focus on ROI, the more it moves from CSR to marketing….