the grass is greener on the internet

There’s relations in public relations
April 15, 2010, 4:08 pm
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I don’t usually play the ‘naming and shaming’ game.

However this time I think the firm involved should know better, and if not they NEED to know better.

A Powell Tate consultant recently wrote a comment on the ‘about’ page of a friend’s corporate social responsibility blog, providing unsolicited information about a large F&B company’s new CSR initiatives on behalf of that company.

I use the word ‘wrote’ loosely, because it was clearly a form email.

Why do I have a problem with this? Let me count the ways:

  1. It was completely unsolicited and irrelevant to that page.
  2. We know you’re going to use a form email, but it’s nice to be able to believe that you paid enough attention to who you were sending it to to try and make it interesting/relevant.
  3. It’s bad form to use an email + attachment as a blog comment, particularly when the page has a contact email.
  4. Ditto for blog comments longer than 2 screen’s worth.
  5. Ditto for comments where one third is a wordy legal disclaimer.

Contrast this with the consultant from Howorth in Australia who contacted me a week or two ago about the Microsoft Student House competition promoting Windows 7 to students.

Okay, his job is made slightly easier by the fact that I’m involved with a student organisation also promoting it, and it made a MUCH better impression on me than some of Microsoft’s other attempts to utilise social media.

But what was also nice:

  1. Being addressed by name.
  2. A demonstration that he actually knew what my blog was about.
  3. Not having to trawl through an entire essay.
  4. Comment love.
  5. A prompt response when I replied with a question.

See, it’s not so hard, is it? We know you’re busy. We’re busy. We know you’re probably sending the same thing to other bloggers. We also have problems coming up with new things to write all the time. We don’t expect you to write us a long personal love letter. But just taking a couple of extra minutes to be nice makes a difference.

So, because someone reassured me that there’s still relations in public relations, here’s the feel-good entry that won the competition to share the love. The girls get free rent and use of a slew of electronics for 7 months, which I hope they share too.

[And just because I like segways, I heard about this UK survey recently which says that amongst businesspeople the brand with the best reputation is Microsoft, beating other likely suspects like Google and Apple.

Microsoft, I’m glad you’re back.]


Tinyurl and Twitter take down Technorati
June 23, 2009, 3:32 pm
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Technorati used to rule the blogging world. And you’ve probably already heard the claims that since they started allowing commercial sites  – such as the Huffington Post – to register there’s been a stalemate for the top rankings. Whatever.

No, the worst problem for Technorati is that its Blog Authority figures just don’t measure what counts anymore.

It’s nice in theory. Just like academics get to compare who gets cited the most in which journal and by who, the Blog Authority figure counts how many other blogs have linked to a blog in the last 180 days. Multiple links from the same source don’t count.

Let’s leave aside the peer review debate of whether popularity equals authority (or controversiality – I had a lecturer who is the second most cited person in Australia because he wrote a paper saying corruption could be good). And let’s acknowledge off the bat that no measurement is ever going to be perfect.

But with the rise of Twitter, and link-shortening services like Tinyurl, a lot of link-sharing and referencing is going un-counted.

Retweet counters have emerged in the way that only open source can provide: haphazardly, with several services vying for attention and none yet to become the leader. However, Technorati (and Google PageRank, I suspect) are yet to take Tweets into account. It’s also harder to track Tinyurl links – is the only major URL shortener that shows up on my WordPress referral links.

The argument for the academically minded is that Twitter links don’t count for the same reason links from your networking profiles don’t count – you could put as many links as you like up. But this is also a forum where a lot of link sharing is going on. There HAS to be a way to catch those links.

And as I realised last week, Facebook is by far the best place for promoting blog posts, and more ‘referencing’ is occurring on there which is not being caught on Technorati or Google either [nicely summed up by Copyblogger]. Could Facebook aggregate the most-linked sites without compromising privacy?

Although, FINALLY… Google can index Flash content. Great news for brands with flashy websites.

The point is, rankings based on on blog-to-blog links are going to slip in relevancy as microblogging increases in popularity. It’s like judging an academic by how many citations they have in journals and ignoring their conference papers.

Behold, the Blog Star!
April 6, 2009, 9:47 pm
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Behold the Blog Star, for it cometh to guide the way to the birth of…err, well we’re not sure really.

When Financial Planning Australia first announced their ‘Blog Star’ competition, I wasn’t sure if they were kidding – but they weren’t.

As part of their ‘Make a Difference’ campaign they ran a competition to find a student (aka the Blog Star) to blog about what it’s like to be a financial planner, the latest in industry happenings and generally getting students to engage more with the organisation.

So the latest announcement is that the Blog Star has been selected – the anointed one is a guy called Kane Piper hailing from Wollongong. Thus far he’s done the careers fair circuits, a couple of interviews and…interviewed a mascot? (A pig called ‘Terrence Trotter’, whom if nothing else will clash with their brand colours horribly.)

Downside of using Gen Y: grammar. “Strewth! Has the economic crisis effected [sic] you?” Strewth indeed.

Apparently they also thought they could just chuck the poor guy into a whole list of social networking sites and he’d pick up attention immediately. So far…Facebook group‘s looking a little lonely and January 5th’s ‘Kane is ready to Twitter‘ message was a bit deceiving.

A little confused about the website’s name, which is iplan2 – after publicising under the ‘FPA Blog Star’ name it’s a big shift, and hopefully not an attempt to link with the iPod family (please please no). Do not confuse with – a slightly less slick website for personal organisation software.

I am half glad and half mortified that they also took out the domain

I feel bad about criticising the website so much when Kane’s just getting started, especially when he’s managed to inject some humour into what is usually a dry topic. If the polls are anything to go by he’s at least getting some decent traffic (not yet registered on Google page ranks though). Overall it is a slick production but still just doesn’t sit right for me.

Then again – to use that classic ad industry criticism – I’m not the target market.

A blog job you don’t need to write for
February 11, 2009, 6:04 pm
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I’ve been asked a few times how I got my current job at Brandcurve.

Simple: I kept my eyes open.

I needed a job that I could do from any location, and it made sense to start getting paid for something I was already doing.

So here’s a heads up…

Startup Princess is looking for a blog manager.

You don’t even need to write much. (Although writing skills would definitely be helpful.) But mostly it seems to be about being responsive to the blogs regular writers, handling their multimedia and ads etc. Honestly, for a first-timer the renumeration is pretty good.

For anyone looking at other roles, I strongly recommend Problogger’s boards.

A few tips though:

  • Once something is online, it’s online. Consider your personal brand before taking something up.
  • As part of that – always check out the website before applying.
  • For any blogging job it will help if you have your own blog – it’s free and it shows you can do it.
  • The most common platform is wordpress – get familiar with it.
  • Having multiple blogs linking to each other is good for your page rankings.
  • Having multiple blogs you don’t have time to write for properly is just not worth it.

When is a viral not a viral?
December 19, 2008, 4:42 am
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Receiving PR kits is a new thing for me – so far I’m still reeling from CopyPaste Syndrome (‘Dear Blogger’?? …only to my friends) but probably the most professionally done email was for this:

It’s been billed as a viral video, with a supporting interactive website.

Nice try… But I don’t think it will work for you.

  1. If it’s a ‘viral’ then why am I hearing about it from a PR kit? (Avoiding the question of why I’m hearing about it at all…I don’t reach their target audience)
  2. It just feels like an extended ad…what, if it’s too long for TV you put it up as a ‘viral’?
  3. It centres on a ‘big idea’…for too long.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the play on words. The *big idea* is clever, and I feel a little guilty picking faults with creativity.

But I didn’t get the to end of the clip and want to hire their creatives. If they were a company and I now knew their name that would be fine. But with a product this loosely defined you need to tell me more.


Cities and diamonds
August 4, 2008, 10:23 am
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I was surprised to learn that the most ‘green’ champagne is apparently Veuve Clicquot. Transported by sea and pressurised to weigh less (hmm, are we getting less?) it’s just a little more friendly to the earth than other bubbly. I am told that its box also folds out to form its own ice bucket – I’m not sure if that really reduces waste but it is certainly a cool idea.

This article by Paul Graham really confirms for me why I want to move.

Back on the topic of blogs as an advertising tool, National Australia Bank’s advertisements for a new SMS banking service in the commenting space of several Australian blogs caused a huge fuss in the blogging community.

Banks never have a good time of it; nobody really LIKES you, but they do need you. Still, it seems like every bank wants to be your friend, and sometimes just try too hard. ANZ’s latest tvc which tried to show that they consider everyone’s feedback as well as depicting what a bank would look like if they offered the services of a beautician was entertaining, but didn’t give them much credibility. The Commonwealth Bank also went for entertainment, with a ‘behind the scenes’ look at them turning down an overdone, showy ad proposed by an agency because they want to keep it simple. While – perhaps in the name of tact – the agency was pinned as being American, it brings up the question as to why an Australian bank would employ an American agency in the first place. Apart from the fact that after all of the showbiz, the actual message of the ad is surprisingly hard to catch.

But NAB’s mistake is a bit different, and runs in line with a lot of other companies. Advertisers are learning the hard way that social networking, blogging included, has its own laws. Facebook has unwritten laws unto itself (but more on that another time). The focus of a blog is the writer and what they want to show the world; a violation of that is the online version of going to a birthday party and not speaking to the host. To have a generic, unrelated comment on a serious post is like an invasion of a private conversation, and is usually left to the likes of Viagra-hawking spammers. It reflects poorly on the brand and ruffles feathers. besides, blogs are not the most intuitive place to be promoting a mobile service…

No doubt they’ve learnt that lesson now.

Working on a few interesting projects at the moment. One is a research project looking at solving the confusion surrounding nutrition, the output of which is scaring me a little. Definitely going to look into Michael Pollon’s new book, In Defense of Food. (‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’)

Also just finished a competition submission proposed by a jewellery retailer, asking how, as a generic product, diamonds should be branded. It’s an interesting one because as a promotional exercise for their company it is surely not a good idea to intrinsically link the idea that your products are generic with your brand, particularly in a context where the participants are considering the scenario at length. I’m no diamond expert, but I would still debate that diamonds are generic – apart from the four c’s there’s still design aspects and origin to consider.

And more for my own reference: a video of David Ogilvy here just because he’s cool.

Gruen Transfer is over for the year! Can’t wait to have the next season. Also will be hanging out for a DVD of The Hollowmen. Definitely the best Australian tv I’ve seen in a while.

Ping! The new communications idea
August 1, 2008, 1:18 am
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Well here’s a random thought::

The two things claimed to be the future of B2C communications are online advertising and PR. Now, combining the two is not a new phenomenon by any means. Advertorials in blogs and display ads tailored to your browsing habits are almost standard for the savvy webmonkey. But I’m waiting for something more.

As a seasoned blogger (hey, I was there when xanga was big the FIRST time) I’ve noticed that – depending on your blogging host and in the absence of promotion – the actual time of posting can play a huge part in traffic.

Let’s say you have a social blog which is of moderate interest to secondary school students in South East Asia. What can make your page come up on a search in priority to other social blogs of moderate interest to students in South East Asia?


We want new, new, new, newer. The biggest moment for the Next Big Thing is actually often the moment they’re lauded as, well, the Next Big Thing. So blog searches will usually sort results first by relevance but then by date, most recent first. Oh, and good luck if your readers use RSS feeds – as a habit of the time-poor, are they really going to sort through every headline until they see yours?

What I’d be interested to see – any maybe it’s already been done – is research on who surfs what, when. Say you want to create the premier blog providing financial analysis to prominent businesspeople around the world. What time zone are they in? When do they have the opportunity to access the internet for a reasonable amount of time? And when are they utilising that time to look at your content as opposed to work, email or porn?

Based on that, when should you post to receive maximum coverage for minimum effort?

Definitely could do some interesting segmentation on this… if privacy laws allowed it…