Made-Up Jobs In Communications – Chief Content Officer

Once upon a time, there was a chap called Nicholas Graham, who (in 1985) started a company called Joe Boxer, which sold (and still sells) underwear. Nicholas Graham syled himself  ‘Chief Underpants Officer’. I have often wondered whether I should give myself a spurious title (rather than simply ‘Managing Director’ (of The Wordmonger Limited)) but, honestly, I’ve not been clever enough, to date, to come up with something that works.

And, let me tell you, Chief Content Officer is something that doesn’t work. I have difficulty with the concept of content anyway – it smacks of a term coined in desperation to describe a disparate and amorphous group of extraordinarily different concepts and products with the idea of somehow ‘bucketizing’ it (thank you, America), thereby rendering it somehow harmless, easy-to-understand and pigeonhole and – above all – non-threatening. The content conceit has developed in parallel with the proposition that we have never faced such corporate communication complexity and an entire industry has grown up around it, propagating fear and awe in equal measure and taking a large cut of the content investment it recommends.

So I’m not really a believer then.

Anyway, here you are, snorkellers, here’s a piece from Forbes, asking the question ‘Do organizations need a Chief Content Officer?’ and, as far as I can see, failing, abysmally, to answer it.

Apart from the fact that I started to get a headache when I read this – which is a sure sign that it’s more complex than it needs to be – it’s also got a diagram, reproduced below.

Which, frankly, gives me the heebeejeebies.  This is trying to put a forced order onto a naturally chaotic process. Trying to define what things are, identify where they come from and map out where they go. This is trying to create a science around what is essentially an art. This is all about complicating something intuitive with badly-drawn rules. I could go on.

Content? It’s the same old stuff that we communicators have been producing since time began, with a few new bits. Audiences? The same old audiences, with some new points of access. And the audiences vary from topic to topic, product to product, concept to concept – there is no hard and fast set of messages or basket of content that will suit every audience, every time (what you tell your investors will be different to what you tell the community in which you operate and different again to what you might tell your employees). This is not to say that there shouldn’t be a single central theme on which you hang the audience-driven elements – but still, trying to diagrammatize it (thank you again, America) is a pointless exercise in navel-gazing – thought and talk, for thought and talk’s sake.

Chief Content Officer? Librarian, right?

A Letter to Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

Here, dearest Blog Trotters mine, is a letter sent, via the medium of  ‘e’ mail, to the CEO, CMO and (oh but yes) the Chief Performance Officer of Everything Everywhere, the company formed through the alliance of Orange and T-Mobile. I’ll let you know whether I get a response.

(Still have no email on my B’Berry, by the way.) (I knew you’d be concerned.)

“Dear Olaf, Pippa and Ralf
Having been, finally, beaten by your impenetrable ‘customer service’ network (a completely new and totally unexpected definition of the term ‘customer service’ that I’d not encountered before), I am really, really hoping that you will be able to solve my Orange problem for me. (Congratulations on the company name, by the way – genuinely visionary and grandiose. If only it wasn’t the complete opposite of my experience to date.)
A long story short – as I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do (I know I have) – I’ve been a genuinely loyal customer of Orange for over 10 years and, to date, while it’s been (with hindsight) a bit pricey and I don’t like being sold insurance that I don’t need, I’ve been happy with it. Never even considered moving. Over the last four days, however, all of that has changed – rarely have I felt so powerless in the face of complete corporate ineptitude. Seriously, guys, whoever designed your call handling systems, the automated responses and the customer-facing website functionality should be tracked down and punished, in a cruel and unusual way. And so should the person who sold you the idea of outsourcing your call centres (I’m guessing that they are outsourced) – as the systems don’t work and even if they did, the call centre staff don’t have the knowledge to do anything with the account data the system is supposed to provide. I suspect it’s cost-cutting and lack of forward planning – but, whatever the cause, it’s frustrating and it will lose you business.
So – I’ve got an upgrade to a new Blackberry device. There was a slight delivery snafu, but it arrived. I’d been told to ring a number to activate the SIM. Did that on Sunday – the rather irritating call centre chap told me I should have done it online (incidentally, when I DID try to do it on line, the service didn’t work), but then said he’d be able to sort it out. Monday morning – not done, so I called again. Monday afternoon, nothing happening, called again, assured that a supervisor would be activating my SIM. Late Monday afternoon, call again, recorded message tells me that a problem precludes me being connected to an operator, and I should call back. Monday evening, nothing doing, call again, put on hold for 20 minutes, then cut off. (Meanwhile, and while I’m on a roll, why do I have to go through umpteen ‘if you want this, press that’ prompts, every time I ‘phone, when I still end up with the same lacklustre call centre staff, all of whom (without exception) have to contact someone else to address my query? And what, in the name of all that’s holy, is a ‘magic number’?)
Tuesday morning – hallelujah – SIM activated. Attempt to connect to my internet email accounts. Wah-wah and, indeed, oops. Either I’ve got a purely enterprise device, not allowing (as I’m sure you know) connection to internet mail accounts, or I’m being stupid. Let’s take the latter option – it’s been known. I visit your Orange website – again, do you know how difficult and painful it is to find things on that site? Couldn’t find anything helpful. Today I braved your call centres again, looking for a resolution to the problem – who knows (not me) maybe Orange can tweak the B’Berry enterprise software and provide me, remotely, with a consumer-facing device. Suffice it to say, your operative either couldn’t, or didn’t, address the issue. Nor did she call me back when she said she was going to.
So, here I am, with device, without email. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to rely on email to keep me in touch with career and business opportunities, so I’m a little stifled right now. Two questions:
How has Orange come to this? It was brilliant – now it’s rubbish. Is this the Everything Everywhere influence?
Can you sort this out for me – or do I, and with regret, take my business elsewhere? I know I’m just one punter, but on the basis of my recent experience, I won’t be the last.
Perhaps a little less spend on marketing and a little more on nuts and bolts and getting the experience right.
All the best
The Wordmonger
PS And, lest I be accused of not making enough effort (sigh), yes, I have emailed Orange, via the same difficult website, twice, once asking advice and once complaining. No response to date. I know it says ‘a response within 48 hours’ – but, really, 48 hours? In today’s social media-driven world? Time for reflection, I think.
PPS I know I wrote, earlier, ‘long story short’ – but, well, hey……….”

Baileys on Face

Ah, snorkellers mine. D’you know what day it is? It is Sad Day.

You know that ( to my mind) rather charming and evocative painting by the clearly quite stable Mr Munch – The Scream? That, dear trotters all, is a bit like how I feel today, on Sad Day, only the painting doesn’t quite capture the same sense of lonely, existential despair.

(Incidentally, do you think that Edvard had a brother, Monster? Or, as it would be in the original Norwegian, Munster?)

So, I hear you breathlessly cry (or, technically, ‘cry breathlessly’ – let’s try and keep our infinitives unsplit), what is the cause of my misery on this, Sad Day? Well , I’ll tell you, it’s this piece from the FT – as is your wont – point your wands, swish and flick – avada kedavra!

Yes – it is a tale of woe. As you’ll know, blog rollers all, I am not a big fan of social media – the ‘book and the twats, mainly – and one of the reasons that I am not a fan lies in the belief by many (otherwise and seemingly quite sensible and likeable) corporates that social media can somehow deliver revenue to the bottom line. Social media, I have maintained, until now, on Sad Day, are not sales, marketing or communications tools – they are at best reputational tools, with a part to play in scenarios of crisis.

So imagine my dismay and horror and feeling of universal wrong-ness when I read that Diageo – a purveyor of pleasant beverages to functioning alcoholics, youths-on-a-bender and stressed-out citizenry – has been using Facebook for marketing activity and has found (through Nielsen basket-scanning research) that certain campaigns for brands like Smirnoff and Baileys boosted  purchases by as much as 20 per cent in the US.

And how am I tempted to be cynical and note the terminology ‘certain campaigns’, and question how, exactly Messrs Nielsen conducted their basket-scanning  research, but I will not give in. As much as 20%. That’s revenue enhancing, whatever way you look at it.

It also adds some extra detail to my own version of The Scream. It’s called The Face (just a working title, most revered rollers) and it is a mental picture (no, not as in ‘mental, mental, chicken oriental’, mental as in ‘all in the mind’) of the tipische Facebooketeer. Hunched over a computer in the darkened third bedroom of his parents’ semi, oblivious to sunlight and the outside world and surrounded by empty pizza boxes and tins of energy drink.

And now with a bottle of Baileys and a liqueur glass by his side.

I think the Munchster would be proud of me.

The Unbearable Lightness of Twitter

By which, blog snorkellers mine (hello everyone, by the way, been a while) I mean that Twitter remains, as I’ve said before, a not terribly effective communications tool. Much of the content, as we know, is at best banal, and at worst ego-driven and self-important.  Unfortunately, it is the lightweight nature of much of the content that denies it the gravitas and – perhaps – respectability that might render it effective as anything more than a rapid response, or a means to provide service updates. That and, of course, the fact that it’s difficult to say anything of meaning in 140 characters or less. I know that there are serious Tweeters – politicians and thinkers etc – but I cannot but believe that they’re there because they feel, somehow, that they should be, not because they genuinely feel there’s value. What you might call ‘down with the kids’ syndrome. (Absolutely no pun intended, for the easily offended.)

(And yes, Alanis, it is ironic that I shall be attempting to augment awareness of this post via Twitter and also – if you, dear reader, stick with me for a little longer – that I shall, from one point of view, be seen to debunk one of my most fondly held beliefs. Ooooooh, but yes.)

Proof, if any were needed, is supplied by a piece on mediabistro.com, a site which, I freely admit, I know nothing about but (I am afraid) sounds like the sort of place that I would sprint over red-hot, barbed-wire-coated scorpions to avoid.  That being said, the article is called Twitter’s 13 All-Time Most Epic Tweets, it does what it says on the tin and you can view it via the usual swish and flick – engorgio!

(No, of course you won’t. Sigh.)

Anyway, read it for yourself, but I think a couple of comments are in order – not least of which is, if these are the ’13 All-Time Most Epic’ (quite a build-up, do you not think) – why are they mostly rubbish? Why would Jack Dorsey’s first tweet (or twt, at the time) count as ‘most epic’? There was no-one there to read it.

Why would the first tweet from space be the ‘most epic’? Is a radio conversation with the space station considered ‘epic’? Not really – but it’s a sackload more informative that 140 characters of badly-spelled randomness.

Twitter helped a bloke get out of jail in Egypt. Great. I’m delighted. But it’s not ‘epic’. It’s a communication device. If bloke had time to tweet and he could use his ‘phone, why didn’t he call someone? More effective, I’d have said.

None of this stuff is ‘epic’. None of this stuff could not have been done (arguably better) through other forms of communication. It is only seen as ‘epic’ by those who have a vested interest in keeping the service fresh, relevant and – yes – well-used. Normally these people are the ‘social media gurus’ and those who write about social media. I am afraid – dearest blog trotters – the Emperor is still wearing little in the way of clothing.

And finally – and here’s where the lie may be seen to be given to one of my most deeply-held and widely advocated beliefs – to whit – that social media is of no use in selling stuff. Well, on the ‘epic’ list is a tweet from some chap on the top of Everest and – obviously – the first thing he does is get his twat on and namecheck both the service and the brand of mobile device he’s using. Good try, Samsung!

Samsung obviously invested some considerable time and effort and possibly money in this – but my gut tells me that next to no extra devices were shifted on the back of it. I can’t imagine the market for Samsung Galaxys amongst committed mountaineers is that huge.

I am, however, prepared to be wrong. Hell, I would like to be wrong.

I’m not though, am I?

Journalists Prefer Traditional Comms – Pope Has Balcony Etc Etc

From the hallowed pages of PR Week (issue dated July 22, cover price £57.32) comes this story – and story it is, for no – disbelievers all – the Week has not made it up, oh no, they let Broadgate Mainland(*) make it up for them – t’Week has simply reported it. They’ll make journalists yet.

(* Meisters of Financial Spin of the parish of Old London Town.)

Anyway, before I got so wildly carried away, I meant, bloggy snorkellers mine, to post the link. No, of course you won’t. You’ll simply see if you can make head or tail of the post without going anywhere near the colourful linkey of doom. Wet, is what you are. That being said, maybe there is an Arthurian trotter amongst you and for that brave Templar I provide this – the Holy Link of Har Megiddo. Carefully now – swish and click – obliviate!

(Warning. I am sorry, faithful followers, but in an almost Murdockian stylee, PR Week will wish you to subscribe before you read the article. You may not wish for PR Week to be your horcrux, however, at least, not while there are still pesky kids around.)

So, the article. In brief, it says that while UK corporates are doing more social, a survey of financial journalists (and I think we can take that to mean journalists, period) reveals traditional comms channels remain the more important media relations tools. That’s what it says – ‘more important tools’. With 81% of the 100 surveyed saying that they prefer to receive stories via email, I’d say ‘most important tools’, wouldn’t you?

In other bears-defecating-in-the-woods- type revelations, only 11% thought Facebook was an appropriate corporate comms channel and 97% researched companies via their corporate websites. (Incidentally, a truly spiffing photocaption for the article’s illustration of Zuckerberg’s monster – “‘Inappropriate’ Facebook”.)

So, it’s official. Journalists prefer to get their stories off real people, in real time, via targetted communication. Unsurprisingly.

Other stats in the article included the 38% of FTSE100 companies signing up to Facebook (up from 25% six months ago) and the 56% running a corporate Twitter account (up from 40% in December). And we know why they’re doing this. Mostly peer pressure and a misguided desire to be ‘down with the kids’ and to have their very own shiny object. And, as I’ve said before – if you’re an airline, then Twitter is useful for updating your customers. If you’re a firm of management consultants it is wholly inappropriate (like Facebook). In the case of most of the FTSE100, it is wholly inappropriate.

Just sayin’.

Social Media Measurement – And The Point Is?

As I was dancing on the outer edges of the internet (to the sounds of popular American beat combo, My Chemical Romance, since you ask) I nearly did myself a mischief as this loomed out of the webspace and into my face. It’s a piece from a splendid site called O’Leary Analytics, which is run by one Stephen O’Leary, out in Ireland, and it is an analysis of social media activity around Oxegene, a yearly festival of young people’s music (probably all bippidy and boppidy and incomprehensible – no tunes these days, d’you see) that took place at Punchestown Racecourse in Co Kildare earlier this month.

Now you are lazy and reticent blog snorkellers so and ye are, but ye will not be understanding the thrust of my post, if you do not and read the analysis on the original internet. So, wands out – swish and click – engorgio!

So, anyway, I’m not going through this with a fine-tooth comb – you can do that for yourselves – but there are a few things that I’d say. Firstly, as a piece of work, it’s efficient and workmanlike and goes to show that it’s not all about the quality of the conversation, it’s also about hard numbers, mentions, tweets and re-tweets.

Unfortunately – while this is all well and good – it is brought up badly short on three fronts. Firstly – erm, so what? 391 comments on a Facebook post! Great! But what did people actually DO with the information they got? Anything? Or were they just prime examples of what I believe is called the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory?

I’m guessing we’ll never know.

Second – well, putting it bluntly, as a serious sponsor, do we think that Vodafone will be happy with 338 (total) mentions? No. But they actually won’t give a flying leprechaun’s shillelagh, because they won’t have been focused on social – they’ll have been focused on making their sponsorship work for them in real time. Social will have been nothing more than something to monitor for potential issues (see Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory, above). 

Third and here’s the thing. Oxegene Facebook page – 200,000 fans. 114 posts by page administrators. Each one with an average 31 comments and 117 likes. Roughly 3,500 comments, roughly 11,000 ‘likes’ (how lazy, can’t be bothered to write anything so press the ‘like’ button in a half-arsed apathetic sort of a way). So where were the other 185,000 fans while all this was going on? Eh?

What I’d really like to know is, of the people who bought tickets for Oxegene, how many of them were prompted to do so by social media. Or, as I suspect, were the ticket buyers drawn to it by the fact that it was live and outside and face-to-face, while the Facebook fanboys and girls were kept away by the fact that it was – erm – live and outside and face-to-face.

Social – it doesn’t deliver anything, really. Does it?

Social Media – Just Say ‘No’

OK, OK – keep your hair on. It’s only a headline, dear. For effect, dear. Yes, dear.

Obviously, I don’t mean ‘no’ – what I mean is ‘oh alright, but only if you really, really have to.’ (Engage in a bit of social, that is.) Reading my newspaper (my copy of the newspaper, obviously – I’m not some Murdoch-alike here) yesterday and drifted over a wee piece about some company’s social media policy (what do you mean ‘policy?’ Yes, you do need one, yes, it should be draconian and yes, it does apply to everyone) and the vaguely humorous conclusion the journalist had drawn was that the overall message was, simply, ‘don’t’.

(This drawn from what was, in effect, a long list of rules – don’t criticise the company or its competitors, don’t insult management or colleagues, don’t post on behalf of the company, don’t hide your identity if you ARE posting about your work – the list went on and on and on.)

Thing is, of course, while it was supposed to be humorous, it is, of course, true. If you are a company with a hard-won reputation, you do not want it pissed up the wall by some employee who’s very good at attaching spangle brackets to flange clips but who, when it comes to understanding boundaries and the nuances of self-expression, well……..not so much. (This is a sort of meta-metaphor as I fully understand that hardly any of you, blog trotters mine, are involved in the spangle-bracket-and-flange-clip industry. Despite it being, I am sure, a dynamic growth sector.)

Thus, arguably, spending days and weeks formulating a corporate social media policy, with all the guidelines, rules and strictures that it necessarily must have, then going through the approval and enrolment process and then attempting to instil it in your staff from president to postboy – well, it’s probably a waste of time, isn’t it. Like it or not, you’re not going to catch everyone and, of those you do, not all are going to understand what you’re telling them.

I meant – do you actually know what you’re dealing with? You want to have a rummage around the back of Facebook and see the sort of thing you dig up. This is why Vodafone had to clean up its Twitter feed after it fell victim to a twat, and why Dixons/PC World had to take down a Facebook group entitled (something along the lines of) ‘Our Customers – What A Bunch of Culture Secretaries’.

You see on recent evidence, even the professional communicators cannot get it right. Cue PR advisor to some manufacturer of electronic games (if, indeed, Duke Nukem can be included in the sunlit and carefree category that is ‘game’) who used his 140 to threaten bloggers who gave his client’s product a bad review. I take it that this guy wasn’t a numpty and had had some success on the field of PR – but he got it wrong. Going back to our metaphorical spangle-bracket attacher, what chance does he (or she – but I tend to associate spangle brackets with he) actually have.

Nope, my convictions are firm and remain unchanged – by all means noodle with social if you feel you must, but do it sensibly. And in a corporate context, for the bulk of your employees, the answer has to be no. No way, no how, no never. And the punishment for breaking the rules needs to be frightening. More frightening than, say, Rebekah Brooks.