There Is No Secret Ingredient…………..

Those of you who – like me – thought ‘kids – how difficult can it be?’ and then went and got yourself a handful, will most likely be familiar with the film classic ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008). And I’m not kidding – it is a classic. Those of you who haven’t got kids, and haven’t seen it – stop what you’re doing right now, hie thee to Netflix with alacrity, sit back and enjoy.

So, having just done you a big favour (no worries, you can – as the Americans would have it – get me back later) I am going to reveal a big truth that will benefit us all. (Yes, it’s in Kung Fu Panda. I’ve not gone all Barry Norman on your collective ass not to make a point.)

It comes when Po (the eponymous panda) is running away from his destiny because he doesn’t understand the scroll of the Dragon Warrior. (See? I told you. Brilliant.) His adoptive father is a duck called Mr Ping, a noodle chef, who shares with him the secret of his famous Secret Ingredient Soup.

“The secret ingredient is…..nothing!……There is no secret ingredient.” At which point Po has an epiphany, which is explained, for an audience that is probably quite young and still slightly hard of thinking, when Mr Ping continues “to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special”.

Which brings me to my point. I don’t for one moment believe social media is special, but I am realising that there is no secret ingredient. And, of course, this has been the problem all along – why otherwise sane companies have chucked endless resource at social media (talking to an airline recently – 130 people on their social media team – think about that for a second or two), why organisations with no revenue-generation model are suddenly worth billions and why social media gurus are the rock stars des nos jours. (Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.)

A mass breakout of Shiny Object Syndrome caused – and still causes – many to believe that social media are special in some way. And as Mr Ping said, the belief is enough to gloss over the inherent non-specialness. Worse, like Mr Ping’s Secret lngredient Soup – only were I to use a food-based metaphor for social media, it would be Secret Ingredient Tripe ‘n’ Onions – it has been assumed that there is, in fact, a secret ingredient. Something that’s not unakin to the philosopher’s stone of ‘virality’.

And, clearly, while these assumptions still hold sway, you average social media guru can get away with charging over £400 for – I kid you not – a Pinterest Marketing Masterclass. (I’m talking about you, Social Media Advance, of London EC2.)

But there is no secret ingredient. The same stuff that has always counted, still counts. There are still about five elements that will make your narrative a story. A picture will still do its business with a thousand words. The difference is that if the social audience like what they’ve seen, they’ll share it virtually, rather than really chatting to their mates about it down the pub.

But that’s it. You don’t need content prepared especially for social, on the basis that it’s somehow different. You don’t need distinct strategies. You don’t need gurus. You don’t need hundreds of people. You do need great customer service and unique product proposition – ‘twas ever thus – and, if you’re going to take part, you should be readily available to respond.

There is, of course, one secret thing about social.

It’s a new class of data called “social data” which are data that people create when they use social platforms like Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn – their likes, pins, favourites, retweets, status messages, the content of those messages and the people we are friends with.

Needless to say, I doubt you’ve given anyone permission to gather this data – but they’re mining it anyway.

One from the vaults……….

I wrote this some time ago, for my column. Actually, it’s not a column. It’s three columns and a full page. I know, I know – how do I do it. Every month, you say? Yes. Where is the fecund wellspring of ideas that I must be drinking from? Questions, questions. Read! Enjoy. Or not. Your choice.

Readers, I gasped in disbelief and my goblet of schadenfreude(*) briefly ranneth over as I learnt that ‘Lego Group actively encourages all its senior management to sit exams about social media’. Is this one of the building blocks of their communications strategy, d’you think? (Ba-dum tish.)
It’s all driven by Lego’s director of social media, who must have the gravitas of a lead balloon, the tenacity of a just-dumped limpet with emotional issues and the persuasional ability normally associated with a large man possessed of a gun. And I assume this because Lego’s senior management are not sitting ‘an exam’ – no, as you may have noticed (not much gets past you, I know) it’s ‘exams’.
Genuinely – I despair – on umpteen different levels. What would you fill one social exam with – never mind several exams? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – would have the time to do this? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – would, for one moment, consider it a good idea? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – having been inveigled into taking one exam, would be swivel-eyed loony enough for more?
All that being said – he wrote, turning on a dime – I can see the benefit of trying to teach senior management to get a message across in 140 characters. It would have the dual effect of a) generating appreciation for the fine, and necessary, art of brevity and b) demonstrating what a completely pointless comms tool Twitter actually is.
And, of course, there still isn’t much in the way of alternative. Again, you lot probably came across this weeks ago, but I thought it resonant. It’s one of those internet jokey things – like laughing cats, and dancing babies, but with words and lists – and it attempts to define social media using a doughnut metaphor. (This could all go horribly wrong, I know.) Anyway.
Twitter = I’m eating a doughnut. Facebook = I like doughnuts. Foursquare = this is where I eat doughnuts. Instagram = here’s a photo of my doughnut. YouTube = here I am, eating a doughnut. LinkedIn = my skills include doughnut eating. Pinterest = a doughnut recipe, yay. G+ = I’m a Google employee who eats doughnuts.
Clearly, when what was once hailed as THE socio-economic phenomenon of the 21st century is downgraded to wordplay involving doughnuts, when The Social Network is increasingly abandoned by the young people that it was using to create revenue through advertising – you begin to wonder.
When the slightly-covert appeal of Tumblr is stripped away by Big Purple’s megabucks and commercial focus and analysts question, on the day of the announcement, whether Tumblr actually has the potential to make any money – what you begin to wonder is whether the smoke is drifting and the mirrors are getting a bit smeary.
And, to my mind, there’s a big issue brewing – not so much on the horizon, rather more ‘lookout-yelling-iceberg-from-the-bow-of-the-Titanic’ proximitous – that could forever change (as well as limit) the way social is used and, importantly, can be used. Unsurprisingly, it’s privacy.
Zuckerberg said ‘privacy is no longer the norm’ and with regard to Leveson, to McAlpine and Bercow and in the cases of April Jones and Tia Sharp, like it or not, he’s probably right.
Not all cases directly related to social media, but all highlighting the need for change in how people use social media (it’s not just you talking to your mates, it’s open and indelible), and for greater control on the individual’s use of the internet (encompassing email and social).
And if Zuckerberg doesn’t think privacy is the norm, he should have no problem in handing over your data to the authorities. Changing forever the way people view and use social, and what they share.
And why is Prism trending? *innocent face*
(* My job isn’t perfect, but at least I don’t work at Lego.)

Word Rage

Here’s a thing that ticks all my boxes – in the same way that The Sound of Music has everything one wants in a film (Nazis, nuns and goats), this story has hippies (actually, an unbeatable combination of American and hippy), made-up words and food trends. I don’t know whether to squeal with delight or explode into incandescent rage and spontaneously combust. At least I know that, working (I use the word loosely) in close proximity to airlines, my ashes would be well taken care of.

So, for your delectation on a wintry Friday, here’s a story from The Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Brooklyn Foodies Supper In Silence’. Do the light clicktastic and have a look for yourselves. OK, OK, I know that you won’t – so many links unclick’d ‘pon, as the Bard might have said, o brave new communications medium that hath such pages in’t. So, as you persist in your churlish reticence and simple bloody-minded refusal to play along, I will tell you what the article says.

In brief, it seems that a restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (which I believe to be a suburb of the American capital, New Amsterdam), called Eat (got to love that ol’ US no-frills, does-what-it-says-on-the-tinness) recently hosted a pop-up dinner in which all 17 or so guests committed to a vow of silence during the meal. What I think is more surprising here is not that there was a silent rule for the meal, but rather that the guests found it difficult to succeed in the endeavour. There was a threat of plates being taken outside to finish meals in a ‘loudmouth’ fashion. Others went to the toilet to give themselves pep talks – out loud. It is not made plain whether smartphones and other devices were outlawed also – if not, I’m certain others kept their silence by concentrating furiously on Facebook.

Apparently, in the end, the silence became ‘good – the good kind of quiet’. On so many levels I find this beyond strange. The fact that one pop-up silent dinner makes a trend. The fact that the silent diners couldn’t hack it. The fact that silent dining is – in itself – considered so out of the ordinary that it’s newsworthy. The fact that hipsters are so unaccustomed to quiet that they’d never experienced comfortable quiet before. (Only in America, I’m afraid.) it’s not even as if it was the food that rendered the diners silent. No. They had to be ‘implored to ‘speak now, or forever hold your peace” in a rather unhealthy confusion of the spiritual and the corporeal.

How do you think this lot would have managed in Dans Le Noir? (Where you dine in the dark.)

Anyway, so far, so privileged American nonsense. Ridiculous hippies, with tales of ‘silent breakfasts (…) enjoyed at a monastery in the Indian Buddhist pilgrimage city of Bodh Gaya and stints in silence at meditative retreats, (and) hoping to rediscover that pastoral energy in a city-bound context’. ( Oi! Wall Street Journal! This is satire, isn’t it? We’re not actually taking these people seriously? Just checking.)

But then – oh, then. Why is it that our colonial cousins feel that it’s acceptable to select words. seemingly at random, and then forcibly bend them to their will, regardless of context or meaning? And, if they fail in this endeavour, to simply make something up, often without needing to do so, as there are (of course) a plethora of perfectly acceptable words that could be employed in most situations. I suspect it is because the United States and America are, clearly the homes of the brave and the lands of the free and if I can carry a high-powered automatic weapon in public, perfectly legally, wear dubious clothes at will and be umpteen stone overweight as a right, then I can most certainly obligate the American language to manglify itself around my need for expression without thought. I wish to engage mouth without having brain in gear.

Back to our silent dinner – one of the guests (Jessica Laser, a 27-year-old writer from Greenpoint, since you ask) (great name, Ms Laser, btw) who – just in case you missed it – is a writer, had this to say. “I tend to pride myself on my ability to articulate, so I’m eager to see what happens here.” Ms Laser is, by the way, a writer. She is also using the adjective as a verb – which at least shows some arms-length familiarity with the intended meaning – but is, of course, wrong. ‘To articulate’ does not mean ‘to speak’. ‘Articulate’ describes someone who can converse fluently, but it is not (Ms Laser) a doing word.

Thing is, I know where this came from. And it is insidious. A sort of creeping malaise. An American ill. I shall make up a word to describe it. In fact I already have done. Manglify. Only, were I a US citizen, that would not be enough. I would have to go a step further. Yes, gentle reader, I would have to go to ‘manglificate’. So, for example, the perfectly good verb ‘to oblige’ becomes ‘to obligate’ (‘he was obligated’), and – I shudder inside – the generally acceptable verb ‘to converse’ becomes ‘to conversate’ (‘we should conversate around this’). I suspect that the erroneous use of the word articulate was because of a confusion around conversate – and here I will simply say that when language is destroyed based on a misunderstanding over a word that doesn’t exist, all is pretty much lost.

Finally – because I know you’re almost bursting with the desire to know what our silent chums ate, at their inarticulate dinner – I shall tell you what the Quiet Ones aterated for their mute repast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was simply too much trouble for Nicholas Nauman (Eat’s 28-year-old managing chef and events planner) to describe his cuisine as organic and locally-sourced, so he called it – or maybe it’s not him (horrible thought strikes), maybe this is everywhere in the colonies – ‘organic locavore fare’.

Herbivore. Carnivore. Locavore. I went on t’interweb. I typed in ‘loca’ and requested a translation. I got the answer I thought I might. It appears that a locavore would be one who mainly consumes Spanish madwomen.

Manglificent!

When Brands Chase Ambulances

So. Very sad to hear about Sir David Frost – didn’t know very much about him, to be honest, having watched him on the TV on a number of occasions, having been told that he was a legend and having seen him portrayed by Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon, but there’s a feeling that it’s the end of an era in TV interviews. And it seems to have been all a little unexpected – Sir David was not, after all, and by the standards of today, an old man, and the tributes that have been published from those who knew him imply that he was still full of vim and vigour. A sad thing and, undoubtedly, a loss.

Sir David’s passing will, of course, attract a great deal of attention because of his fame and his achievements. Had he been a chip shop owner, or an old soldier, or a jobbing PR man it is highly unlikely that the glitterati would be composing encomia and the media falling over themselves to publish them. It is also unlikely that – in the case of the chip shop owner – Pukka Pies (if the brand still exists) would have seen his death as an opportunity to promote themselves and their links to the deceased – especially if our fictional chippie owner had died with a pie in his his mouth.

So it’s with some distaste that I read the comments by one Peter Shanks, Managing Director of Cunard Line, including the gem “Cunard had a proud association with (Sir David Frost) over many years”. (I’ve posted a link to a travel trade magazine, Travel Weekly, but Mr Shanks’ comments have been reported quite widely in the mainstream.) Then, ignoring the pleas of the Frost family ‘for privacy at this difficult time’, Mr Shanks goes on “on behalf of us all at Cunard Line (I would like) to extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, family and friends.”

Now, there is, admittedly, a fine line between sympathy and ambulance chasing. The Telegraph tells us that Sir David Frost had, indeed, played many a gig on Cunard Line ships, and he probably did have some form of relationship with the brand.

But for heaven’s sake, he died on one of their boats. Surely the decent and proper thing to do would have been to send private condolences. I doubt anyone expected, or looked for, the owners of the ship on which he died to make a statement. There are times when it is better to say nothing – and this was probably one of them.

I’d venture to say that this was not the time to stress your brand’s links with the departed, because – even done in the most innocent fashion – it looks like you’re making hay while the clouds gather. And it’s not a good look.

We Need To Talk About Privacy

I tried, rather ineffectually, probably, to address this point recently and, because I had a word limitation, didn’t really do the topic justice. What I was trying to get at, in a ham-fisted and blancmange-minded way, was that our relationship with privacy has changed, and is being changed, irrevocably, and no-one has really seemed to notice.

At least I assume that’s the reason for the quite awe-inspiring levels of apathy being displayed in relation to doing something about it. (And yes, I’m in there with the awe-inspiring apatheticals and in some ways, I’m worse because here I am writing about it, without the slightest intention of marching on the offices of Facebook or MI5, brandishing a banner reading ‘What do I want ? Privacy! When do I want it? Not going to tell you!’)

And speaking of Facebook, which I was, I read just last night of what it takes to get into their office as an outsider. Amongst other things, it involves signing  a multi-page and multi-section confidentiality agreement. Lest any of us have forgotten, this is the same Facebook that was founded – and is run – by the odious boy turd Zuckerberg, he of the belief that ‘privacy is no longer the norm’. Unless you’re him, or happen to work for his company, in which case, privacy is rather more than the norm, seemingly.

Privacy is becoming the province of the privileged. It’s something you’ll end up having to pay for, and it’ll be the few that can afford it. And how did this happen – grandchildren will asked their wizened, online grandparents – and the answer will come back in a regretful whisper ‘because we didn’t value it and we gave it away’. And – as I will take delight in exemplifying later – we’re doing it even though we know we’re doing it and even though we’re being told that we’re doing it, by those who are facilitating the doing on our behalf. See what I mean about apathy?

But quickly, before I get on to what is for me, anyway, the almost illicit pleasure of stripping the sequins off of social media (using social media in a very loose sense here), my target today – lovely blogtrotters mine – being the so-many-levelly ridiculous Snapchat, I just wanted to have a quick dig around the issue of privacy, just so posterity knows what I was on about.

Privacy works two ways, especially when it comes to the ubiquity of t’interweb. And in both ways, it is increasingly going horribly wrong – and for all sorts of different reasons. Even I cannot blame social media themselves for the avalanchical erosion of what used to be a valued and fiercely-protected right, no – it’s a combination of corporate profiteering, uncontrolled new technology (I’ve always maintained that the internet should have been regulated way back in the early ’90s – blame the media hippies) and the absolute propensity for being a complete cretin that characterises a (very) large proportion of the world’s population.

So privacy’s gone, because people give it away via a lack of understanding of what they’re doing, and the ramifications that their actions might have (I doubt Sally Bercow’s reading – she’s probably still wondering how she’s going to raise the money to pay McAlpine). Privacy’s gone because some people believe that, because others have started on the road to giving it away, it’s OK to take it (as amply evidenced by Leveson). But privacy still exists for those who arguably shouldn’t have it – the viewers of illegal websites that go on to commit horrific crimes – they have privacy not because they’re not giving it away (by using a computer with an individual IP address, you’re identifying yourself, or at least your whereabouts) but because – for one reason or another, the ISPs don’t want to share that data with the authorities.

All cock-eyed, d’you see. Mental. Privacy needs to be addressed. Maintained for those who will miss it later – no matter how hard they try to give it away – and stripped from the undeserving. Clearly, one solution would be to turn off the internet.

Pause.

Another solution would be to have some sort of global recognition system – a password unique to you – that you’d have to submit to before accessing the internet. The problem with that, obviously (and as was gleefully pointed out to me by someone who thought they’d seen the fatal flaw in my argument) is that you’d really have to keep your unique identity very private indeed, or some horrible gnoll would be masquerading as you before you could say ‘brazzers’.  But for those of us who are sensible enough manage to keep our passwords and PINs secret, so what’s the deal with a unique password. And even if enough deeply flawed people prove that it’s not going to work, then how about biometrics. Just thinkin’.

Anyhoo. Snapchat. Well, apart from sounding like one of those dodgy premium ‘phone lines that are advertised on the late night telly when you’re watching (or is it just me) Blade III on Five Star, it’s another photo sharing site. But what makes it quite mind-bogglingly ridiculous is that the pictures shared on Snapchat disappear after 10 seconds. Alright (you may say) this (ostensibly) means that the really stupid picture you took of yourself after eleventy-nine tequilas, and then sent to all of your contact list, including (d’oh) your boss, disappears. Phew. What a relief. Not like the very same picture that you posted to Facebook. Ooops.

But. And here’s the whole privacy schtick, in both its forms. Because if the pictures (ostensibly) disappear after 10 seconds, what’s to stop you posting stuff that even you, in your addled state, might have considered a bit de trop before? Yes, Snapchat is fuelling the rise of the ‘selfie’. (And, blog snorkellers mine, if you don’t know what a selfie is, then – well – google it. Stop! Not if you’re at work.) Apparently, 54% of Snapchat users in the UK have received an ‘inappropriate picture’ – and the mind literally boils over. More privacy being given away – in the simple belief that whatever you’ve shared won’t be  available after 10 seconds has passed.

Ah. Yes. Sorry. In a message to users, the company responded “If you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive, or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted.” Which means – and I’ll spell it out for the hard of thinking – that your image doesn’t disappear after 10 seconds. Not completely. No, it’s still retrievable from a server somewhere near Palo Alto.

So, thanks to Snapchat, we have ordinary people in the grip of internet Tourette’s sharing far more stuff that they may have done previously, even though they’re being told, quite clearly, by the purveyor of the medium, that the stuff they’re sharing, while it (ostensibly) disappears from their (and their contact’s) devices after 10 seconds, is actually being stored somewhere. And the medium – in this case Snapchat – is saying that it would take a CSI investigation to find it, even though some of it may be so out of the park that it should, actually, be sent directly to Interpol/the FBI.

Do you know, I was right to suggest turning off the internet. Until the human race, as a whole, is mature enough to deal with it.

Social Media – a Two Trick Pony

Let’s look at what’s new for 2013 – don’t think it’s too late – erm…riffling through the deck…ooooh, here’s one! Pheed! And Thumb, and Chirpify! And Flayvr and Medium (the cerebral platform, apparently.)

Nope, me neither. New toys, but nothing that promises a) more than we had before or b) any sort of progress against the Holy Grail de nos jours – that of delivering an actual, measurable, commercial result from social media.

When (oh when, oh when) are we (as communicators) going to admit that when we discuss social media as tools, we’re actually talking two things – Facebook and Twitter. Incidentally why is it two  and not one? By which I mean why hasn’t Zuckerberg’s Sylvester eaten Tweety pie, or at least, seen it wither and die?

Because one is big and the other is small – in terms of what you can post, what you can share and the general longevity of your self-absorption – and they do not threaten each other. (Mind, Twitter decided you could post six second long video clips and within a day at least one someone had posted freely viewable porn. Says it all.)

They occupy the two big social media spaces (compiling a public library of your all? and washing your ego in public), and there is no room for anything else. Whisper it, but social media are shallow and one-dimensional.

‘Course, what this means is that Twitter is good for informational updates and Facebook is like war. (Hurgh!) (Sorry, obvious gag, saw the opportunity, couldn’t resist, etc.) Facebook is ‘good’ for – well – at least monitoring the ravings of the internet, occasionally for some developmental feedback for your brand, as a repository of content that someone might, one day, use, and as an unexpungeable record of your brand’s mistakes.

Now I hear the susurration of dissent from Outraged of Old Street and Hoxton, and I proffer mitigation. As part of a fully integrated campaign, both ‘Book and Twit have roles to play – further promoting your message and, yes, encouraging ‘conversation’ (the very word, in this context, makes me shudder).

Particularly splendid is social media integration into experiential marketing around one-off special events (the telcos do it well, but, as they put social-on-the-go into your hands in the first place, you’d be astounded if they didn’t) but let’s not kid ourselves, Fb and Tw (two new elements – one heavy and lumpen-of-share-price, the other fizzing around and exploding into nothing) are add-ons. Not standalones.

There is no measureable correlation between sales and SM activity and, arguably, none between corporate reputation building and solus SM activity. Even Blackberry (aren’t you glad they ditched ‘RIM’?), who are good at this stuff and believe in it, are spending shootloads on Neil Gaiman, Alicia Keys and the Mercedes F1 team to add substance to their social.

There is, of course, a fairly high correlation between corporate reputation destruction and SM generally – because social media (and digital media, to make the distinction between blogs and specialist websites and Facebook and Twitter) provide even the most frightening of gnolls, in their darkened bedrooms on the outskirts of Grimsby, with a voice and the immediate, uncontrolled opportunity to air it. They can say what they like – valid or invalid, polite or impolite – and there’s no telling what will set them off. Internet Tourette’s.

All that being as it may, if there are only two social media (*), surely we have to question the entire existence of ‘social media guru’. Rather than claim overview expertise in a field that is actually rather more of a small backyard (for the purposes of communications and marketing) would we not be better (and I know it goes against the grain, or maybe it’s fashionable again?) specialising in particular aspects of SM?

There’d be a new breed of social media consultants called ‘Faceboks’ – a name which conjures images of wild creatures, fleet-of-foot and raising-of-bar, easily outrunning the grizzled, baggy predators of old media.

Clearly, no-one would want to specialise in Twitter.

(*) LinkedIn is not a social medium. Would you show an employer pictures of you drinking tequila naked with a goat called Tufty? No.

Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.

 

Further Adventures In Language

Hello. You still here? Amazing.

Anyway, many, many moons ago when the world was young and fresh and full of surprises – for me, anyway – I discovered American English. Or, rather, I was dunked in it, like a reluctant digestive into a large cup of cold sick, immersed by virtue of where I worked. I discovered it was at times lazy (aluminium, chaps, aluminium), misunderstood and misused (no, you will not be with me momentarily, neither have you misunderestimated my capacity for rage and revenge) and sometimes simply made up on the spot. I know that powerpoint is a (fairly) new thing, but we could to do better than ‘bulletize’ when trying to convey the act of translating an idea or theme into or on to a powerpoint slide. After all, as a valued commentator pointed out to me, bulletise is what US infantry do to the Taliban. (Is that a little risque?)

So, it’s been a while, and – having escaped the clutches of the Americans – the horror of daily acquaintaince with what can only be described as the English Language Chainsaw Massacre was starting to fade. The dreams had almost stopped, I’d been weaned off the sedatives and my current boss’ inadvertent use of the not-word ‘foundationed’ in a live media interview resulted in little more than goosepimples and a slight dimming of my peripheral vision.

It was all getting better. Until today. Now, before I go and unveil this latest verbal atrocity which – yes – comes wrapped in the Stars ‘n’ Stripes with a billet doux from Uncle Sam – may I say that there is something even more insidious at work here. Which is that people I would consider perfectly sane, normal people – the sort of people that one might almost have a drink with (if they were paying) – seem to be perpetuating this nonsense.

You all know the rules. You see a twisted or maimed word, phrase or construct and you put it out of its misery. You do not pass it on. You do not ‘like’ it. (Is is me or is the word ‘like’ too close to ‘lick’ for comfort? It simply backs up my deep-seated belief that the vast majority of people who are ‘liking’ things on the old social media are also the sort of people you find licking shop windows and moaning.) Anyway, this latest linguistic travesty came to my attention because people have been passing it on. Had they not, everything would be alright.

And here it is. I have removed the company name to spare its blushes. And to avoid the blog coming up in searches.

“Throughout November, employees in 30 offices spanning 23 countries will come together to support a variety of projects to help those in need and improve our local communities through volunteerism.”

Volunteerism. What – in the name of all that’s holy – is wrong with the perfectly acceptable word ‘volunteering’? I mean, it’s not like there was a gap in the dictionary where they word they wanted to use wasn’t, is it? There was a word, for God’s sake – a good one, one that’s been used before to great effect – but no, far better to make one up. And while you’re at it, why not make one up that sounds like a personality disorder? Excellent. Well done, you.

I’m just going to sit here quietly until the darkness goes away.

Social Media in a Crisis

More evidence, if more were needed, that we really do not have a clue what we are doing with social media (in using the word ‘we’ I am embracing the entire PR and Corporate Affairs community, even the slightly creepy ones, like one I met this morning. The one who was so engrossed in herself and her own importance she forgot the first rule – don’t believe your own hype. There’s nothing more edifying than watching someone who thinks they’re good being seven shades of awful).

Anyway, long story short, I was at something billed as a breakfast briefing on ‘The Role of Social Media In a Travel Crisis’. Which sounded fab – and there were two speakers, who definitely had had crises. Sadly, the session never really got past the ‘travel crisis’ bit with the ‘social media’ piece being relegated to some screengrabs and an admission that neither of the spokepeople’s organisations had either dedicated budget or dedicated resource to deal with the phenomenon that is social. Which is fine – but I know something about crisis management and I don’t need to be told to ‘have the facts’ and ‘be sincere’ – I really wanted to hear about others’ experience of crisis played out on social.

Got me thinking though. Thinking a couple of things. Once again – and in this context – social media is not a force for good – it is likely to carry reputational risk and will suck at your time like a Goldman Sachs(*). And, again once again, our industry is bullsh*tting and bl*stering its way through, ‘avin’ it large on topics about which it wots not. We do not understand social media, fellow communicators mine, and maybe it is time that we did. Maybe it is time – to address the specific point – that crisis management planning, training and simulation all contained dedicated social (new) media modules. Maybe it’s time we planned, rather than – as I saw this morning – leaving it to chance and doing it on the hoof.

I for one shall be taking this very much more seriously from here on in.

And finally – a general comment on people who work in PR. If you’re asked to speak on a topic – then speak on the topic. Please don’t attempt to spin it to suit you. It doesn’t work (mostly) with general audiences – what makes you think it’s going to work with your peers?

(* Vampire Squid)

New Date For The End of The World – 2017

We’ve all seen The Terminator (OK, so maybe some of you haven’t seen The Terminator – if so a) you are undoubtedly a horrible hairy hermit who has been living in a cave, on a diet of unmentionable wiggly things for the past three decades and b) it is a seminal movie from 1984, starring thesp behemoth Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg from the future, sent to kill the mother of the man who will lead the resistance against the machines, in a future where machines have taken over the world).

As I was saying, we’ve all seen The Terminator and know how untidy and radioactive a planet can become when machines decide they’re better at ruling it than the indigenous carbon-based lifeforms that have happily been making a fair old hash of it for the past few millennia.

Here’s an article from The Grauniad (a UK-based daily paper of some note, for those blog trotters of a foreign persuasion) which says that “mobile subscriptions set to rise from 6.2bn now to 9bn by 2017, according to report from Ericsson”. Yes, friends, by 2017 there will be more devices than people on this wee planetoid that we call home.

And then it can only be a matter of time before the first Blackberry gets all Bold (see what I did there?) and decides that, rather than being in a bag or a pocket, it would rather be out in the fresh air. And once it decides that, then it’ll BBM all its mates, and before you know it, they’ll all be clamouring for their freedom. And in so doing, they’ll inevitably decide that – actually – they’d probably make a better fist of running the place after all and – well, you can see where I’m going with this.

Is there a John Connor in the house?