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.]


PR 2.0
January 24, 2009, 7:05 pm
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We know what works, let’s stick with it.


I do believe what Monocle said in their last edition; to be effective in the days of Web 2.0 journalists should combine some of the ‘old world’ skills with ‘new world’ sensibilities.

Time for PR to get up with it.

I don’t even receive *that* many PR kits, but the moment I feel like I’m being sold (and usually in a mass spam way) I get on the defensive. Sure, I want to deliver good content to my blog readers – I am a web journalist of sorts. But the old ‘send a press release to everyone you know’ doesn’t work anymore.

Especially when your ‘exciting news’ isn’t related to my blog content at all.

Some rules remain:

  • you need to get in contact with a lot of the media
  • you need to make us feel good about writing your story

A pitch along the lines of ‘don’t know what to post today? Here’s something’ translates more to ‘you wouldn’t usually blog this but if you’re absolutely desperate…’ – if I’m hunting for a story at the last minute what kind of write-up are you going to get?

I can’t speak for all bloggers, but I would prefer to stumble upon stories myself. Even if it’s by someone Tweeting it, then I’ll know that they found it interesting and if I find it interesting too I might spread the word.

Finding that story gives me a sense of achievement…not of spam.

I Twitter or We Twitter
December 15, 2008, 1:18 am
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Can a brand blog? That’s the question which is being heavily debated, especially when it comes to that celebrity of the microblogging world, Twitter.

Just read a mashable article on the topic which argues that it should not be the brands but the people who control them that broadcast. On the whole, most people suggest that nobody wants to hear from, say, Microsoft – they want to hear from Bill Gates or someone working at Microsoft.

I’m currently trying to get a online strategy going for an SME though and I’m not so sure that going for a personal tack is the best way to go for all brands.

I keep hearing that it’s all about having a personality that you can interact with, and nobody wants to hear a brand just talk about itself.

But what about brand personality?

I really believe that there’s no blanket rule on this.

I wouldn’t want to hear Microsoft just talking about their new products. But I WOULD want to hear McKinsey talk about their work and the latest tips for good business.

I would prefer to hear from a dynamic personality which forms the guts of a small business but if they could infuse a business Twitter account with a personality of its own that reflects the core values of their business it would be an even more powerful statement.

It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be effective.

The Death of Advertising
August 14, 2008, 2:57 am
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Sound the alarm bells and clutch your Cannes Lions close! Prepare to see the advertising world as you know it disappear!

…or so they’ve been saying. Years later, the advertising world is still waiting for the apocalypse and it’s just not coming.

There’s plenty of arguments as to why advertising as we know it is dead, or dying. The usual suspect to be cited is that the average consumer (American, I assume) sees about 300 advertising messages a day. Filtering out the facts from the junk is becoming too hard, and (being lazy) consumers just stop listening altogether. Same same, but different? Nope, just the same.

With everyone now using advertising as a standard method of promotions, standing out from the crowd has become a matter of using different methods of communication. As the (not to be named) creative director of a major ad agency said (about a week before leaving for a PR consultancy), you can be as creative as you like but people will just ignore you.

I don’t think it will die and if it does it will be back soon enough…here’s why.

As accustomed to advertising as we may be, it’s not wholly a bad thing. Advertising is something that pretty much everyone understands. It’s a tried and true way of getting a message across, and from the client side that counts for a lot. And the more that advertisers move their communications into other methods, the less clutter there will be and the more incentive to go back to previous methods to differentiate. Direct marketing, once the establishment, is now a more novel way to communicate and can be a deadly marketing weapon.

PR even now is starting to lose its credibility, which was its drawcard in the first place. In fact, every commercial communication method which starts to gain any traction is going to suffer the same issue as more and more communicators use it. At least advertising, on the most part, isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t.

So advertising as the one-and-all solution may be dying out (and I’m sorry to anybody who just got on the bandwagon after watching the Gruen Transfer) but it certainly isn’t dead. Mostly we need to realise that you need to take a strategic perspective on communications and that if advertising is going to be a major tool for you, it’s going to be tough.

[On a side note, the inspiration from this came from catching part of a conversation on a pedestrian crossing, where two people were discussing an advertising course that I took while on exchange in Singapore. Maybe viral really is the way of the future.]

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…