Month: March 2008

A first class upgrade

March 28, 2008Comments Off on A first class upgrade

I was upgraded to first class once. It was on the way back Texas. A young girl’s tray table had broken and she wanted to stay sitting with the rest of the family on my row. So I was upgrade to the empty first class seat.

I hated it, and two people complained – I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and reading PCGamer Magazine.

I read today that most business-class only airlines struggle. I’m not sure that’s really surprising is it? Most business airlines fail because they don’t really understand their customers. They think their customers want star-studded treatment, and they’re absolutely right.

The problem is they want this star-studded treatment compared to someone else. They want to know that they’re getting something better than someone else, they want to see some getting the standard economy treatment.

If you take away the economy class, they have nothing to contrast their treatment against. Even worse, if you take away the economy class, all they can contrast themselves against is the first class, the really rich folk.

Has first and business class really ever been about comfort? This year my parents paid a lot of money to fly business class to Canada and back. The comfort is less than they have in their living room, and it lasted a less than half a day. I think just once, they wanted to be the people that the economy class want to be.

Google Webmaster Page

March 28, 2008Comments Off on Google Webmaster Page

googlebaa88f7ea6b39808.html

I Want To Work With Seth Godin Dot Com

March 26, 2008Comments Off on I Want To Work With Seth Godin Dot Com

Sethgodin Some opportunities are too good to miss, and I’m throwing my hat in for this one.

This summer Seth Godin is offering five summer internships. I can’t think of anyone I would rather work with. Many pay thousands to attend his seminars, I could be paid to learn. Not bad work if you can get it, which is the problem. These places are competitive, perhaps as competitive as any graduate vacancy. Against marketing students especially, applications could be ferociously good.

I’ve long wanted a student to start a blog with the single-minded objective of working for their favourite employer. No-one I know of has tried it, so I’m setting up a blog with the single objective of working with Seth Godin.

Please visit www.IwantToWorkWithSethGodin.com.

For the best part, the blog won’t be about Seth, it will be about finding dream jobs, competing for highly competitive jobs, and exploring the blog-approach to it.

I would love other students to do the same; my sole voice could be a bit lonely in the void. Any support/endorsements gratefully accepted. Let’s see how this one turns out

A new digital agency model

March 24, 2008Comments Off on A new digital agency model

I’m keen to see a new type of digital agency evolve. A modern model which looks a lot like this:

At the ground level, is the buzz. These are the young social media types that get stuck in to all the conversations and communities surrounding their client. Their role will be to find, learn, participate and produce content on behalf of their client. The client might not have the time or the knowledge to participate, but they can hire people to do it on their behalf, people who know the rules and etiquette of social media.

Above that are the copywriting/SEO/Website gurus. These are the guys responsible for the traffic once it reaches the client’s website. They analyse, optimise and convert. They continually monitor and tweak the copy and web design to increase the conversion ratio of the visitors. They can assess the sources of the traffic and identify to the guys below what isn’t working, what is working, and where they can focus their efforts.

At one step higher are the CRM gods. They are responsible for talking to these customers and involving them more in the activities of the business. They will turn these customers into experts and then evangelists. They help supports these evangelists and assist them  to produce their own content. They can effectively become both liaisons and perhaps even consultants on the future efforts/direction of the client’s business.

In time, these evangelists can replace the buzz and the younger social media gurus can move up a level on the client’s account, or switch to another account. Of course, you also have the management, the people responsible for keeping the entire machine well-oiled.

In this model, the agency can charge by results i.e. the actual improvement to the business as opposed to charging by the number of hours spent working on the account.

Perhaps most importantly, you can also improve upon what you do, you can always get more involved, speak to more customers, test/tweak more ideas on the website.

Beat SEO experts with a stick until they go away

March 20, 2008Comments Off on Beat SEO experts with a stick until they go away

SearchenginesWe’ve let the myths of SEO steal away our business long enough, and it’s high time to put an end to it.

Today, SEO is less about the technical (web-language gobbledygook) and more about the mechanical (exciting content). So it’s staggering that the SEO industry is populated by web-developers, when it should be populated by marketers.

So lets dispel a few myths. There is, comparatively, very little technical stuff involved in SEO. First you do a keyword analysis and then you internally optimise the website. Neither is especially difficult, don’t hire an expert; read around and become an expert. What’s left is external search engine optimisation, or as I like to call it, “marketing”.

If you examine the external optimisation strategies of a few top firms, you’ll quickly discover that all the “blog cross pollination strategies”, “semantic search”, and “link-building strategies” are SEO-created technical terms to justify fees, it’s just about creating content (note: be sure to beat down harder on any SEO expert who tries to sell position tracking and any form of website/article submission). Perhaps worst of all, about 70% of the SEO companies that offered this service, don’t do this themselves.

HighPosition.net even offer a “Brand Integrity Plan which identifies and monitors competitors, malicious activity and other risks to your brand to help you devise an anti-competitive action plan” – That’s otherwise known as PR right?

In short, it’s a big fat scam. SEO today is primarily about creating engaging content. It’s about finding that audience, analysing that audience’s problems/needs and then speaking to that audience. And Marketers/PR Professionals are in a far more better position to do that than anyone else. Even better, Marketers/PR professionals are in a far better position to encourage your customers to do this than anyone else.

Search engines were created to rank websites by their usefulness to readers. So just be more useful, create the best content, focus on solving the problem better than your competitors, let Google do what it does best.

Don’t mention that big event in 2012

March 18, 2008Comments Off on Don’t mention that big event in 2012

London2012Did you know you can’t mention the words “London 2012”, “London Olympics” and my personal favourite “London2012.com” in press releases?

To use them for such marketing collateral is to assume a false association with the London Olympics brand which the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG) is protecting so diligently for sponsors. I’m not a big fan of this strategy, especially to the extent that LOCOG seem to be taking it. It reduces the benefits of the London Olympics, paid for by UK/Londoners to any multinational company which can stomp up the official sponsorship cash. God forbid someone lists the website. 

I doubt any journalist expects this ban to work. How many World Cup related press releases did you receive back in 2006? That was also a protected event, and one which just featured England, this one is going to be held in England. PRs are trained to spot these spots of opportunity, it might be more difficult to score hits for releases not related to the Olympics.

This also has to be the dumbest strategy I’ve seen in ages. Would letting every company/happy content contributor benefit as much as they possibly can from the Olympics really be so bad? More people will watch it, higher ratings, more for sponsors. Even better, it might really help small businesses to put up signs saying “Watch the London 2012 Olympic games here” or “Discount prices for London 2012 accommodation”. It might better stimulate the economy as a whole, which might not be a terrible thing.

Regardless, the exception to the rule is in news editorial pieces. Journalists are excluded from this law, which puts PRs in an interesting position. You can’t mention it in any press release but you can in accompanying pitch e-mails or feature ideas? Even opinion editorials are ok.

Another question is what about blogs, podcasts and all forms of citizen journalism? What if your customers happen to be talking about the London 2012 Olympic games within your marketing collateral? I really can’t see how this is going to be enforced.

So what about blogs? Podcasts? What about citizen journalism? What about your customers associating your company with the Olympics through their own channels? Take this blog right now, this blog is a part of how I get work – am I associating myself with the London 2012 Olympics?

It’s going to be interesting to see just how far LOCOG will enforce this.

The top 5 films about PR

March 18, 2008Comments Off on The top 5 films about PR

Jerry

I bet you didn’t know I was a film critic? Well I’m not, and here’s why:

The top five films about/featuring/vaguely related to the wonderful industry and mechanisms of public relations:

1) Wag the Dog

The president becomes embroiled in a sex scandal in the run up to the election, spin doctor Robert De Niro and producer Dustin Hoffman fake a war to divert media attention. A brilliant film, so long as you don’t work in PR. It was released suspiciously close to the Lewinsky affair (and subsequent military action in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia).

Watch: "The American Public have to know at some point" – "Why?"

2) Jerry Maguire

Jerry begins in typical PR film territory (money, press, phones, egos) and then one night has an attack of the conscience and decides that, actually, he has too many clients. He wants to give more attention to fewer clients. He writes a memo saying so, gets fired for it, and ends up with just one client.

Any MDs worry about having too many clients? Feel free to share with the blogosphere, I’m we’re here to help you.

Watch: Show me the money!

3) Absolute Power (TV Series)

Pope Idol, fake diseases, spinning Nazism and working for two clients in direct competition; it’s all great spin-doctor territory in Stephen Fry’s absolute power. It’s hilarious for so many reasons. Yes, we look awful, but we can launch whilst doing it.

Watch: "Or, marry Kylie Minogue" and "Making Terry Pine English"

4) Jersey Girl

Ben Affleck tears into his client, Will Smith, before a pack of journalists. Inspiring stuff, until the film missteps into the sappy ‘real meaning of life’ territory. This film also features a scene of useful PR as Ben explain eases concerns of New Jersey citizens concerning construction work.

Watch: "Fresh Prince is a 2-bit TV actor, wont be around any longer than it takes for the ink to dry on those worthless rags you write for" and "George Michael is all about the ladies" (Trailer).

5) Phone Booth

I’m reaching here. This film has less to do with PR and more to do with Colin Farrell crying to Jack Bauer over the phone. He’s a publicist – if that helps?

Watch: The Trailer

Sympathy of Flacks

March 17, 2008Comments Off on Sympathy of Flacks

I think this is a really tricky one, and I’m worried I might sound a tad heartless when I write this. What if you knew from Facebook/twitter/word on the grapevine that a journalist on your pitch-list is having a bad time? Sally doesn’t think it helps, Heather does..

Personally, I would continue as normal, for the simple reason that if the journalist is at work – I’d imagine they want to be working. Should you mention their situation? ("Sorry to hear about…"). I suggest not, unless the journalist is a close friend, and no, that doesn’t mean one that frequently writes about your clients.

Surely bringing up their troubles would, at best, be intrusive, and at worse, be downright manipulative. I can only recall one occasion of ever using a journalist’s personal information in a pitch. It was a wedding-related product for a journalist bride-to-be. Even then I felt just a tad sketchy about it.

Are there enough content volunteers?

March 16, 2008Comments Off on Are there enough content volunteers?

I’m not convinced there are enough content creators out there. To be honest, I’m rather dubious of any marketing strategy that relies upon people creating content for free. That takes an awful lot of will power. Why should they?

How many people do you know that have posted footage on YouTube? Or contribute to Wikipedia? Or any of the rapidly fragmenting wikis out there? What about Social networks, do many really contribute much, if anything, to their subscribed groups? Entered many UGC contests?

A couple of people perhaps? Out of how many?

We’re on course for a social-media correction. A correction where the potential of social media, our ambitions and needs of social media and the limited number of hobby-loving content creators/contributors take a shot of reality. At the moment, I suspect we’re asking a little too much of these passionate volunteers.

The small Innocent Drinks PR team achieves great things

March 12, 2008Comments Off on The small Innocent Drinks PR team achieves great things

Innocentdrinks

Sarah left an interesting comment; Innocent Drink’s PR team comprises just two lucky people. For a company with such a popular brand, and generates so much positive publicity, that’s impressive.

So clearly then, there is no link between the size of an in-house PR team and positive publicity? Quite possibly, the reverse is true. The larger the in-house PR team, the worse the reputation of the company? Understandable perhaps if the role of in-house PR is to counter negative publicity.

How about this, if a company embraced PR principles throughout their entire company, then the only need for a PR team is to handle the run-of-the-mill media engagements e.g. Responding to queries, setting up interviews, organising press events etc…Which is exactly what I imagine the two members of Innocent Drink’s PR team are doing.

I might be wrong, and they could be contributing corporate level PR thinking on a daily basis, but I just can’t see how in a company with such entrenched values. What can you suggest?

Err…Let’s continue being perky
Yeah!”

Anyone have some good thoughts on this one? If big companies fully embraced the principles of PR, they could cut most of their in-house PR team right? (perhaps their agencies too?).

Be sure to read Stephen’s great post on Innocent Drinks last year.

Any publicity is not good publicity, but it doesn’t have to be bad

March 8, 2008Comments Off on Any publicity is not good publicity, but it doesn’t have to be bad

NorthernrockI love the quote "There’s no such thing as bad publicity", or even better: "any publicity is good publicity". I wonder if people that utter such stupidity are booking a holiday to Kenya anytime soon? Or buying Mattel toys for their children? Or about to open an account with Northern Rock?

Of course there’s bad publicity, why else would crisis media management exist? However, let’s make some distinctions, there’s ‘good’ bad publicity, ‘bad’ bad publicity and, my personal favourite, corporate stupidity.

First let’s tackle corporate stupidity. Corporate stupidity is brilliant, I love corporate stupidity. It makes me feel clever not to work for a cumbersome organisation that sacrifices commons sense for efficiency. It’s certainly the most fun to research. Good examples of corporate stupidity include strictly obeying procedures in the face of common sense, putting a corpse next to a gold-level customer or sending a dossier on a journalist, to the journalist.

Generally, isolated incidents of corporate stupidity wont change your buying habits too much. Instead, it’s when these fissures of corporate stupidity become incremental, that the damage begins. Dissatisfaction with service is a typical one. It begins with one or two customers then snowballs.

Next there is this very slippery slope of ‘good’ bad publicity, the sort of publicity which prompts this post’s opening sentence. Celebrities fall into this category. Jade Goody, Paris Hilton and even Britney Spears would be long forgotten by now if they didn’t cause so many controversies. For these celebrities bad publicity is the raison d’etre , they need it, and cultivate it – or rather, their agents probably do.

In the murkier world of business, ‘good’ bad publicity is remarkable luck. Sales in Turkey Twizzlers rose during the public backlash against the brand. Even more inexplicable is that Turkey Twizzlers are a food, an industry harmed more often by bad publicity than any other. 

Finally, we get to ‘bad’ bad publicity. This is the dark stuff. The stuff that cause businesses to crumble in minutes (god bless 24hour news). This is why crisis media management (CMM) exists. When conflicts threaten tourism, in steps CMM. When customers run to withdraw savings, in steps CMM. When a national epidemic is suspected to have originated from your plant, in steps CMM. God bless it.

I guess it’s just a little too easy to berate someone for claiming any publicity is good publicity. Likewise it’s foolish to assume that every type of bad publicity needs strict CMM principles.

Student PR Blogs, at least give it a try

March 4, 2008Comments Off on Student PR Blogs, at least give it a try

Most of the PR bloggersthat launched blogsas part of theirdegree courseslast year, didn’t keepthem updatedafter themodule ended. I don’t think you can force people to blog. People should want to blog, blogging should be something you get to do. Once you understand the benefits of blogging (Learning, Networking, Fun), it’s more difficult not to blog.

This blog gets me work. A mighty part of my freelance ambitions are dependent upon the drivel I extol here, and you deep-pocketed folk who read it. Every now and then someone will drop me an e-mail, often about something quite innocuous, sometimes those e-mail discussions become person to person meeting, sometimes those meetings turn into work opportunities. It’s an informal discussion based sales funnel.

Really though, blogging is like networking for people hate networking. It can be selling for people that are sick of playing the numbers and believe enough to forget the phone and find the keyboard – maybe even in their spare time. It’s a way of opening impregnable doors (and having some slammed permanently shut). It can be where an Account Executive can discuss a marketing campaign with a CEO or discuss PR angles with journalists.

I’ve always wanted a student out there to launch a blog with the target of getting a job at one company, say, Edelman. Imagine, a student launched a blog about trying to get a job at Edelman. Imagine regular posts the student could suggest PR/Marketing ideas for their clients, demonstrate their knowledge of the Tech/PR business and how he’s getting to know some of the staff who already work at the agency. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Would it work? I’ve no doubt it might get their attention at the very least.

Finding the time, and often ideas for content, can be a struggle. Yet between writing another blog post, and another job-application essay, I’ll pick the blog post every time. It pains me to hear of students who between University assignments, writing job applications and “living the lifestyle” can’t find the time to blog. Why not combine them? Why not blog about something you’ve just been taught at a lecture and get some broader opinions? Why not blog about careers and begin networking with people that might be able to help? Why not blog about the observations from the lifestyle? (Why do so few companies use MSN to speak to student customers?)

This medium isn’t perfect, every young PR blogger still going from a year ago has taken a backlash at some point. Stephen was criticised for creating a top 100 uk blogs list, Alex was attacked by fellow students, Chris Clarke was slated for commenting on Crayon, and I was doused in flames for this gem. It happens, it’s one of the best character-building moments you can experience (I met with TWL in London yesterday). You take the criticism, learn to handle it, and use the experience in the future.

The student blogging situation is pretty dire. It’s a pity that University’s haven’t tried giving blogging advice alongside their standard career advice. But I think it will improve. I suspect student PR bloggers are like snowflakes, the first few flakes might fade away, but in time they will stick.

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