You’re Outsourced!

April 30, 2008Comments Off

How many Account Executives can raise their hand up and say, honestly, "my job can’t be outsourced"?

I’ve been busy moving house recently, in my quest to get the internet installed i’ve spoken to several Indian call centre staff. They’ve been extremely good, far more pleasant and helpful than the world weary folk at BT. Even the more technically tricky stuff (Mac Codes and installation problems) they’ve proved capable and adept.

So why can’t PR agencies outsource much of the daily account executive work to India?

Looking through my first PR job description I can’t see too many roles there which demanded my physical presence.

What can be outsourced?

  • Clippings
  • Media monitoring
  • Distributing press releases
  • Working with clients on press release amendments
  • Researching key journalists and previous articles
  • Pitching and follow up calls?

What can’t be outsourced?

  • Generating PR ideas/newsworthy story angles
  • Meeting with clients
  • Pitching for new business
  • Arranging press days

What value do you bring to your job that can’t be outsourced?

The Telegraph and the Daily Mail are so alike

April 25, 2008Comments Off

Sure it’s a funny story, but…in case anybody was ever in any doubt just how much of a press release might make it into a news story.

Telegraph Headline: OGC unveils new logo to red faces

The Daily Mail: New £14,000 logo causes blushes in Treasury office

Telegraph: It cost £14,000 to create, but clearly no-one at the smart London
design outfit that came up with the new logo for HM Treasury thought to
turn it on its side. The logo, for the Office of Government Commerce, was intended to
signify a bold commitment to the body’s aim of “improving value for
money by driving up standards and capability in procurement”.

Daily Mail: When the Office of Government Commerce decided to embark on a fresh new
image, signifying their commitment to their aim of "improving value for
money by driving up standards", little did they realise the impact it
would make.

Verdict: Great journalists think alike.

Telegraph: According to insiders, the graphic was already proudly etched on mousemats and pens before it was unveiled for employees, who spotted the clanger within seconds. Staff have apparently now stripped their office of souvenirs bearing the logo, which could appear on eBay within days.

Daily Mail:  Sharp-eyed employees quickly noticed the glaring error, but unfortunately for bosses the graphic had already been reproduced widely on office stationary. There are now fears that items with the embarrassing logo could appear on eBay despite the valiant efforts of staff members to frantically remove all trace of the design from their offices.

Verdict: At least one of the two made the half-arsed effort to restructure the story slightly. Still very similar paragraphs.

Telegraph: A spokesman for OGC said: “It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters OGC – and it is not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend."

Daily Mail:  A spokesman for the OGC said: "It is true that it caused a few laughs when viewed on its side. On final consideration we concluded the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters OGC and is therefore not inappropriate to an organisation that’s looking to have a firm grip on Government spend."

Verdict: The spokesman said the same thing to both newspapers, nothing strange there.

Telegraph: The OGC was created in the early days of the Blair Government when the premier brought in Peter Gershon from GEC Marconi to improve spending efficiency. .

Daily Mail:  The OGC was created when then Prime Minister Tony Blair brought in Peter Gershon from GEC Marconi to improve spending efficiency.

Verdict: You know, I think this might’ve been lifted from a press release too…

Telegraph: Brand expert Michael Hamilton said while the logo’s double-entendre was probably not deliberate, it could prove an added bonus for OGC. “They’re going to get more column inches than they could ever have expected before. If I were them, I would be pretty pleased.”

Daily Mail:  Brand expert Michael Hamilton said that the logo could eventually prove to be a success, despite the mistake. He said: "They’re going to get more column inches than they could ever have expected before. "If I were them, I would be pretty pleased."

Verdict: They both found a brand expert in time to quote for the story too, what luck!


I’m angry because journalists aren’t doing their jobs. Both The Telegraph and the Daily Mail knew the OGC were creating this fake story to generate awareness, and both were happily complicit. That’s lazy and it demeans the work of the PRs. So now we have to resort to masturbation-esque logos to generate a story? What’s next? What about the poor PRs who have dignity?

Podcasting – Peaking or Dying?

April 25, 2008Comments Off

Two divergent themes emerged about podcasting this week. Neville Hobson noted the cancellation of two podcasting conferences. Neville wondered if businesses had lost interest in podcasting, and whether this was specific to the UK? A few comments suggested that perhaps every business that was interested in podcasting, now knew how to do it.

Meanwhile, eMarketer reported podcasting is thriving with a 68% the recall rate compared with 10% on television. eMarketer predicts podcasting ad spend to hit $240m this year and $435m by 2012 – which is still rather paltry by the $5bn expected to be spent on Social Media in 2012.

So what’s really going on?

No-one seems to know. There is no reliable source of podcasting statistics. eMarketer’s latest report puts the total podcasting audience (people who have ever downloaded a podcast) at 25m, and the number of active podcasting audience (people who download a podcast once a week) at 7.5m. Yet this is based upon samples of the population rather than measured statistics.

How many podcasts are there? This is anyone’s guess. Steve Jobs claimed there were 125,000 podcasts available through iTunes. How many aren’t available through iTunes? No-one seems to know.

Podcasting has higher barriers than other elements of social media. You need a great voice, a healthy dose of charisma, some tech skills, the equipment and the perseverance to reach an audience. Likewise, podcasting isn’t as easy to consume as blogs or videos. You need to know how to download it and subscribe to it.

Perhaps the biggest problem is finding podcasts. It’s easy to stumble upon a blog post through a Google search, or a video in YouTube. It’s a lot more difficult to find podcasts. Podcasts need to be found.

If we can conclude anything, it’s that podcasting is a very niche activity which might never hit the mainstream like blogs or online videos. However, those who can find the niches can reap benefits either from greater awareness in their company, or from premium advertising rates.

The PR t-shirt test

April 24, 2008Comments Off

How good are you at PR? Can you get customers to wear your clients’ t-shirts?

That’s the ultimate brand test isn’t it? Making a brand so universally popular that customers choose to wear their t-shirts in public (niche Firefox conventions don’t count). I can’t think of many brands that manage it.

What’s really fascinating is none of the UK’s top 10 brands would pass the t-shirt test. You wouldn’t wear a Vodafone t-shirt would you?

So, what would make you wear a brand’s t-shirt, and how can we use that for PR? How can we make a brand so damned cool that we would wear their t-shirts in public? I don’t know, but it’s definitely worth finding out.

The t-shirt test is a great PR objective. It’s lofty, somewhat measurable (orders of t-shirts) and clearly reflects the popularity of a brand better than any research ever could.

A Tasty Burger Battle

April 24, 2008Comments Off

McDonalds and Burger King both announced interesting initiatives this week. Burger King launched the £85 burger and McDonalds hired Bruce Oldfield (designer for Princess Diana, among others) to design new, more fashionable, store uniforms.

Both are going for the premium market.

Judging from the last few months, McDonalds are going to win. Redesigning stores for a better look, giving staff better uniforms and even an education – these are sustainable tactics to reaching the premium market.

Introducing a £85 burger is just a little insulting to Burger King’s customers: “here’s a burger you can’t afford, but don’t worry, because you can afford our premium *wink wink* range of burgers which aren’t quite as good".

PR Agencies: What’s new to you?

April 23, 2008Comments Off

Mass-mailing journalists is what scared agencies do. They’re scared the story isn’t good enough for their key publications that matter. So they mass-mail in the hope of getting lucky. Getting lucky? Yes, getting lucky. Catching a reporter at the moment they need a story to fill space. Or catching a magazine the exact time they happen to be covering that topic.

Getting lucky happens. It’s probably best not to rely on it though.

The better agencies put together a list of 5 to 10 key publications for each client and work their approach to score hits in these publications. It might be taking the journalist out for a coffee or creating a video on a topic the journalist regularly covers.

It might be reversing the process entirely and advising the client how to do things that gets the hits in these publications. Maybe it’s even grassroots and targeting the readers of the publication first. Let the journalists hear about the story from their own readers.

There are a gazillion approaches an agency can use to gain publicity for their clients. Mass-mailing journalists is one of the worst. Try something new and fun, because PR should be fun.

Social Profile snoops on everyone within 10 miles

April 21, 2008Comments Off

Social Profile, an apps package for Facebook, has just e-mailed me a list of people who live within 10 miles. Along with what people think about them.

Highlights include :

"Trusted by 1.4 people in 5" and "loaded with cash" – (what’s his address again?)

‘People you might know’ is popular on Facebook and LinkedIn right now, but there is a major difference between people I might know through common acquaintances and people who live locally. More importantly, giving me the opinions of others on my neighbours (figuratively) is a major invasion of their privacy (and likely mine too).

The bottom of the e-mail notes there are 7796 more profiles I can choose to explore. I’m guessing that’s everyone on Facebook within 10 miles.

Twitter in Transport

April 20, 2008Comments Off

I hate Tweets from people who are travelling. Really, why does that interest me? Your plane is delayed? Train is late? Lady is snoring next to you? I really don’t care…but the transport companies should.

Perhaps more than any other medium right now, people are criticising transport companies on Twitter. Almost none stop. I wonder how hard it would be to get two people from customer complaints to monitor Twitter mentions and begin responding to these complaints? Make the situation right. Someone’s train is late? Comp their journey. They will mention it to hundreds maybe thousands of followers.

Even better, monitor your competitors. Do you see a disgruntled customer? Invite them to trial your service for free just one time. I’d bet my house that it would get mentioned on their Twitter stream

Simple, maybe. Effective, Probably.

Who has missed the great search shift?

April 19, 2008Comments Off

The SEO battlefield has shifted a little bit.

Now a single great picture or video can get you onto the first page of search results. This isn’t new information; it’s been around for almost a year.

What’s amazing is very few agencies seem to be doing anything about it.

The same agencies that would be horrified not to appear on the first page of search results for their key terms, aren’t trying to produce any videos or pictures. The same agencies which gingerly push out written content to rank highly aren’t even trying to explore the real power of Universal Search.

We’re in the content business, and this alternative content is now more important than ever.

The law against bad buzz

April 18, 2008Comments Off

I prematurely dismissed this bill on Wadd’s PR blog.

I recommend every PR/Social Media agency in existence read Andy Senovitz’s post: Can Word of Mouth Marketing get me in trouble?

2. WOM marketing without disclosure is illegal.

Any form of deceptive word of mouth campaigns are illegal. This include any program where you are:

  1. Asking buzzers to recommend your product without disclosing that they are part of a campaign or received and incentive.
  2. Falsely representing your employees/agents as consumers.
  3. Asking buzzers to claim they like your product when they don’t, or never tried it.

Will it be strictly enforced? Combined with a few more ‘whistleblower’ hotlines I wouldn’t bet against it. How many rival companies wouldn’t take the opportunity to point out a patently false viral campaign?

Your competitors are buying your brand!

April 17, 2008Comments Off

Very soon your competitors can bid for your company’s name on Google (and you can bid for theirs).

Your efforts to ensure that when a customer wants a product, they type your name into the search engine, might be usurped by a paid ad.

Really aggressive companies can have the advert link through to a page on their website delivering message solely about why they should be picked rather than you.

Are you going to play defense or offense?

Dove TV

April 16, 2008Comments Off

Marketing Week reports Dove are creating a digital channel.

Well isn’t this the ultimate content challenge? It’s effectively non-stop adverts (like Steve Jobs’ keynote speech) and it’s going to take some very, very, good content to attract people.

Will it work?

Not many companies can get away with it, Apple can, Microsoft can’t. Harley Davidson can, Volkswagen can’t. Dove? Maybe. Their real beauty campaign was a phenomenon, but attracting and keeping an audience concerned with real beauty is to begin treading on the turf of some very experienced media.

Fortunately, it really shouldn’t cost much, and it’s certainly worth an experiment. Football teams have had branded TV channels for years, whether more corporate companies can manage it will depend upon the quality of their content.