— blending the mix

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pr 2.0

This post is in response to a “call to arms” post from Geoff Livingston, in which he suggests that PR agencies are, largely, responsible for the bubble that is currently social media. That is to some extent, totally true, but at the same time also needs some level of guilt lain at the door of seo agencies and digital agencies who build tools because their fixed costs dictate they need to.

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So, me old mucker @Wadds and his partner in crime Philip Sheldrake helped launch another great initiative from the CIPR, with a great guest, Paul Mylrea, BBC’s Head of Press and Media Communications. Did I say “great” enough times there?! Great presenters, great guests.

Great.

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Three things got me annoyed yesterday:

1) Not being at Web2expo – i’ll get over that, i’m trying to get to Berlin 😉
2) Preparing for a practical workshop on blogging only to realise that 75% of the time is going to be spent explaining what tags are and rss is rather than discussing how they can be of benefit to a business.
3) Control freaks – people who think that a little bit of knowledge think they know it all (won’t go into that one!)

In particular, number two got me thinking that as a country, we are woefully under-educated when it comes to social media. Why are we still having conversations about what these tools are rather than what they can do for you?

I’d like to throw a few thoughts into the hat and see what people like Neville, Stephen, Steve, Becky, Will, Dave, Robin, Hugh, Jas, Stuart and maybe even Chris, Brian, Geoff and Pete have to say:

Concept
Is online social interaction (the principle of people/customers meeting online to share things and meet each other) SO far beyond people’s grasp they just do not get what happens and what people do?

Prejudice
The idea that without your work hat on, “I don’t use the internet like that , so why would my customers?”

Growth/Choice
Does the rate of change/growth of new social media tools scare IT departments or marketing/pr teams that anything they may decide to adopt may be obsolete in a few months? What about the sheer number of tools they could use? Is it realistic to expect a marketeer to keep track of everything that goes on?

Technology

Are we  our own worst enemies? Do we like to talk XML, php, css and other jargon too much that we actually alienate the very people we are hoping to adopt the tools we talk about?

Control

This relates nicely in fact, to point number three. People who have traditionally been in total control of their customers (when their customers didn’t know any better) are now petrified that they can’t control what their customers are saying. Burying their heads in the sand won’t work.

Previous tools such as websites, direct mail, press ads and email were great at telling customers what the brand wanted them to hear but now marketeers have to get their heads around the fact that those same recipients are talking back – just that they are telling other customers not them!

Tone of Voice

After decades of talking AT customers, brands are now having to talk TO WITH (thanks Gregory) customers. How do you talk to people you have spent years ignoring what they say? How should you speak to them? Learning THAT takes either a lot of listening, training or plenty of both.

Social Media Tools are “a phase” of internet growth

Several years ago (early 90’s), when working for a large mail order company, the whole business began gearing up for this "internet" thing that was coming.

HR were booking training sessions for people like there was no tomorrow , business-wide email was starting to roll-out and you could sense that people knew something big and important was going to happen. 15 years and 1 billion online users later – they were right.

The impression I get of what many of us might call the proverbial “sea-change” in the internet is that social media and its associated tools are nothing more than evolution rather than revolution.

I’ll end with some links to a couple of great posts, (from Suw who is organising the blogger outreach for the Berlin Web2 Expo and the legendary BL Ochman)all around exactly what I am talking about above as well as the Chris’s 12 reasons why he thinks the UK isn’t blogging or adopting social media tools:

1 – You don’t understand why you’d want a business blog. Neither does your CEO.

2 – You are the CEO. And you’re not going to allow your minions to blog.

3 – You think it is too risky to allow your colleagues to write blog posts.

4 – Your PR agency thinks blogging is a bad move.

5 – You mentioned something to the techies. It is in their development schedule.

6 – You haven’t figured out who will contribute to the blog, or what you will write about.

7 – You can’t see any benefits whatsoever. It would be a waste of time.

8 – You don’t see any return on investment. It would be a loss leader. We don’t do loss leaders.

9 – You have no clue about how to set up a blog.

10 – You think blogging is all hype / a passing fad / for kids.

11 – You are happy to ignore blog activity in the US. The US is a totally different environment for this sort of thing.

12 – You think blogging isn’t right for your business.

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I’ve been into the whole “PR people just don’t get it” thing ever since we launched PressRoom a few weeks ago.

We spoke to a room full of PR people who looked (on the whole) utterly confused about things like Twitter, blogging and social media.

“My colleague send press releases out as part of his job, will this social media release tool put him out of a job” was one such comment and typical of the lack of understanding of social media.

On this evidence, the suggestion is that indeed, as per Vero’s post, the PR Industry doesn’t get IT (IT being “it” the object, emphasised for dramatic effect rather than I.T. – that dodgy-looking tech department with long-haired geeks in).

But is it fair to say (frequently) that the PR industry as a whole just doesn’t get it? Look at esteemed luminaries such as Becky, Stephen and Stuart, not forgetting Brian and Geoff – there’s no doubt THEY get it! Why can’t others?

On the flip side, is it fair to suggest that the tech industry (ok, the early adopters) are trying to frighten the PR industry into needing their tech/building services by suggesting that social media requires NASA-affiliated qualifications? Then again we all have a responsibility to ensure that we keep up to date with thing going on in our industry – why should PR be any different?

Take the BIMA and Paul Walsh – no, please do 😉 when looking for a new PR agency, Paul advertised it on Twitter only. If you had to ask why, you were clearly not the people for him.

Is there an element of arrogance from the tech industry that they understand something that they know people need? Let’s not forget, many of these early adopters were the nerdy types at school who got bullied for being nerds, whilst the pretty, popular flirty girlies were the ones who went into PR and Marketing (yes, I know – stereotypes are bad, but sometimes funny!).

Ourman wades in with one of the few negative comments about the piece and makes a good point. Do bloggers have the right to demand more careful treatment just because they have a free-will-powered publishing tool (blog) at their disposal? The suggestion is that bloggers deserve more respect and care taken over their approach than a journalist in getting pitched to. But do they? Yes and No.

No, because they are no different to anybody else writing for an audience. Many bloggers want the exclusive, they need the latest breaking news ahead of anyone else just, like journalists. Why should bloggers take any different exception to a crap pitch than a journo?

Yes, because most blogs (and bloggers) are free from the constraints of corporate policy and can respond vociferously to the lazy pr pitches and can quickly slate the poor approaches for being exactly that – poor. Many hacks would no doubt LOVE the chance to respond in the way bloggers can so PR peeps take note.

And let’s not forget what Chris Anderson did (and he is/was on both sides of the fence!)

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Wowsers, I have just been notified that a presentation I made for my part of the Marketing and PR 2.0 seminar last week has been featured on Slideshare’s homepage.

Ok, so we are only at 99 views (so far) and the exporting from Keynote to Powerpoint has buggered some of the slides up, it’s nice to be able to get the message out to lots of you peeps! Hopefully this will give the PR world some insight into the tools they COULD be using and realise that they, more than anyone, have the communications skills that mean they can begin making a difference to their clients’ messages.

Here it is:

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