How many small businesses really fail?

April 4, 2008Comments Off on How many small businesses really fail?

Half of all UK small businesses fail within the first three years, 80% fail within the first five years.

That’s a statistic I’ve heard fairly often. Which would be fine, if it were true. Only it isn’t.

8% of businesses fail to survive more than one year, 28% cease trading within three years and about 40% fail to survive more than four years. *

Mark Pinsent recently noted anti-alcohol lobby groups increased statistics about French drinking habits to suit their cause. It became accepted knowledge. So I wonder who was trying to sell small business consultancy/services to double this statistic?

Now if journalists checked their facts, they would have discovered this mistake and this rumour wouldn’t have spread (Cue: Churnalism).

Anyone else curious about drug-related deaths, online piracy levels or the threat of terrorism?

* Statistics i’ve discovered doing my dissertation.

YouTube Stats

April 4, 2008Comments Off on YouTube Stats

I sincerely hope that no marketing agencies out there were using ‘views’ as the measurement of success for a YouTube video.

Now stats for videos are available. Clients can demand to see how many people are watching the video (not just repeated views) and where those people are from.

You weren’t just getting everyone in your agency, and their families/friends to watch it were you?

On the positive side, those that are producing great viral videos, now have plenty more data to analyse.


April 1, 2008Comments Off on Cheating

Brian Clark drops a real humdinger of a question.

Is it to start your marketing campaign yourself? If you want people to join your Facebook group, is it ok to get your friends to join first – you know – make it look popular?

If you want people to participate in a UGC campaign, do you and your friends create the content at the beginning?

If you want your article to rise up the DIGG charts, do you persuade all your friends to DIGG it?

If you want your blog to appear popular, do you write a few anonymous comments to get the conversation going?

How far can this go? If you want to have a bestseller, is it ok to buy enough copies to make the bestseller list in the first place?

I know a lot of people that would advocate all these. They will do anything so long as they succeed for their client. It might work once, it might work twice, it might even work every time you do it.

However, in the long run, surely the time is better spent understanding why your target audience wont participate in the first place?

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


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

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. 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 “” 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


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.

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