Snakes and Ladders

Hey, blog snorkellers – whassup?

Just a quick one – yesterday’s rant about a certain global PR concern and its lack of control over its own blog (social media + no control = the chocolate cupcake of cock-up) – well, two things.

First – they’ve not taken the offending post down. They must have seen me linking to it, they probably read my comments – a bit of action here, people, please. Actually – bugger off – don’t take it down, it wasn’t a bad post. Just edit bits of it. And you know which bits I mean. Go on – do it now.

Second – a further post on the same blog. Now this is genuine genius. Brilliant. Honestly.

Tell me – would it be too difficult to hook up Author 1 with Author 2? My feeling is that everyone would benefit.

So Many Pitfalls, So Little Time…

And, as I’m not exactly overburdened with spare time myself right this instant, I’ll get straight to the point, dearest blog snorkellers.

Regular snorkellers of this blog will know where I stand. (What’s that? ‘Just to the right of Genghis Khan’? See me afterwards, Blog Snorkeller Minor.) Social media, while not exactly evil (in themselves), are much overrated and are certainly no great shakes in the big MacDonald’s Happy Meal that is marketing and communications. But they are potentially dangerous – which is why I have always advocated tight controls on, and careful monitoring of, their use in a corporate context. There is, sweet reader, massive potential for you and your brand to be sitting, waiting, at home for Mr Fuckup to call.

My other pet bugbear (I breed domesticated bugbears – small, furry, friendly and – if you keep them well fed – they won’t eat your children) is the lack of real talent in PR. Enthusiasm maybe, talent, not so much. And the appalling lack of basic skills. This has always been the case mind, but, for god’s sake, if you can’t write, what are you doing here?

So imagine my delight when I come across this.

Oh yes, people, a blog on behalf of a big PR agency. And they’ve let some hapless staffer loose ‘as part of the foodie contingent of the H&K blogging bunch’. And she can’t write – “Although the initial instinct is that there can be nothing less festive than a pot noodle, it begs to differ that the mere intrigue of such a flavour will generate sales on its own.”

So – it’s a twofer! I’ve got a PR person who – while undoubtedly enthusiastic – is in need of some training, and I’ve found it through the medium of social! (Well, a blog is social media, isn’t it?)  

Serious questions, mind. Who’s moderating the H&K blog, why didn’t they spot this and why doesn’t the company have a more stringent policy in place? Far, far worse – this is a global communications company. They’re supposed to be good at this shit. Much reputational damage on the wold, I’d say.

(I really do hope I’ve haven’t left any typos in this. Now really would not be the time.)

Defining Content

Content is the new strategy, blog snorkellers mine.  By which I mean, of course, that it is the latest concept to have a achieved a truly global misunderstanding of what it means, what it stands for and what it does.

For my entire working life – and I’ve posted about this before – I have marvelled at the business world’s complete inability to agree on a common definition of strategy and thus, as a consequence, its complete failure to produce anything of any value to anyone. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that I cannot remember the amount of times I have been confronted with the mantra – objectives, strategy, tactics – and the amount of times that the three terms have been interpreted in different ways. As I understand it, the concept of ‘strategy’ is what business is predicated on – how, therefore and for the love of god, has anyone ever managed to get anything done, given that strategy turns out to be a meaningless construct, created, I can only surmise, to give consultants something with which to justify their enormous fees. (Mind, I shouldn’t really complain as I, too, have had my share of enormous fees generated on the back of fuck all.)

Anyhoo, dear followers, I digress. Content, you see, in this age of digitalisticity, has become the new strategy. Everyone’s talking about ‘content’ – by which they mean (broadly speaking) the holy grail of nebulous shite which, once posted on t’interweb will, miraculously provoke the ‘big conversation’ and, equally miraculously, sell some branded nonsense. The problem, however, is that no-one knows what ‘content’ actually is – and, trust me, spending too much time thinking about it will result in a ‘Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ moment, because it doesn’t really exist. Content is really (and very simply) all the stuff you probably had before – video, brochures, boilerplates, messages, Q&A, position statements – all the stuff that you needed to communicate effectively, and which simply needs to be re-packaged (or not) for the medium.

Problem is that somewhere along the line, as the hysteria around social media built, it was decided that ‘content’ was something that was more than the sum, or the essence, of what already existed and was, in fact a completely new thing. (The closest I can get to it is Unobtainium in ‘Avatar’ and we know what a distasteful pile of greying, unwashed y-fronts that was.) It’s a new medium, said the snake-oil salesmen, corporate hippies and purveyors of digital voodoo, and therefore it needs a new type of ‘content’. And so the concept of ‘content’ passed into modern folklore – and became something that everyone had heard about and no-one understood. Special delivery – another set of undergarments for the Emperor!

(Of course, I’m actually behind the curve with this diatribe because, just as the smarter amongst us are finally beginning to realise that social media are not new media, but simply the old media delivered differently, and that the rules by which we played with old media are the same rules by which we must play with new media, and that Twitter is not, in actual fact, a good message delivery system, so those same smarter amongst us are also realising that social media cannot be leveraged as sales and marketing tools. And thus the concept of miracle ‘content’ is redundant before it even got on the job.)

Anyway – here is some content. This is the sort of content that makes the internet go round. Or square. Or long and thin and squiggly. Whatever shape the internet is. This is the sort of content that defines content. Some may find it funny. Others stupid. But I think we can all agree that it is ‘content’.

And no, I do not now wish to rush out and buy a cat. No matter what brand of cat.

Throwing a History Fit

Once upon a time, when I was young and stupid (‘as opposed to old and stupid’ – oh yes, how droll), I worked in what I can only describe as a hangar.

It was, in fact, a massive industrial space that, as the manufacturing equipment for this particular industry had become, through advances in technology, much smaller than it once was, had become empty and thus had been allocated to the, conversely, much larger sales, marketing and PR functions that served this particular industry player.

When I say ‘hangar’, I’m not really joking. It was huge, and filled with a warren of partitions, containing around 150 drone workers like me, all trying to keep themselves to themselves, whispering into their ‘phones, and trying to stamp their individuality on their cubes with the addition of amusing signs and magnets and pictures of their dogs.

On the other side of the hangar from me, sat a girl who we shall call Sharon. (Before you accuse me of being a lazy bastard, I’m calling her Sharon not because I can’t think of anything else – Beelzmeralda, for example – but because it’s very close to her actual name.) And Sharon was from Essex. (There you go again. I’m not being lazy – the girl who was not really called Sharon, but close, was not really from Essex, but somewhere quite nearby and equally maligned.) (And indeed, malignant.) And every now and then, on average three times a day, Sharon would go off like an air raid siren.

It would start with a staccato ‘Naow!’ (Which is ‘no’ – but phonetically. That’s how she pronounced it.) It was loud enough to carry to the farthest reaches of the hangar. You could sense everyone stopping what they were doing – pausing in anticipation.

A couple of moments later, you’d begin to sense  a sound building at a level below hearing. It was a feral rumbling, which all too quickly built into a vibrato squeal – ‘Yorr!’ You’ve got to work with me on this. If you’re doing this at home, bear in mind that while the sound was ‘Yorr!’ – it built and built like this – ‘Yyyyyyyyyyyyy-orrrrrrrrrrRRRRRR!’

As soon as it had come, it was gone. Silence, while Sharon drew breath and then, stronger, more tremulous, deeper and louder- ‘Avin’!’ Again, remember, if you’re doing this at home, it was more ‘Aaa-vvinnnnNNNNNN!’ Another minsicule pause and then a bellowed ‘Ay!’ (‘Aaaa-yyyy!)

(By this time, everyone on the floor was willing Sharon on. We knew where she was going with this, and we wished her well. We admired her lung capacity and we understood the sentiment. Sometimes, if she’d not gone off for a while, one of us would volunteer to go and relieve the pressure by walking over to her cube and complimenting her hair or her dress sense.)

The final act – after the briefest of pauses, into which the silence rushed like water into the lungs of a drowning man – Sharon let rip with a barrage of sound of a depth and intensity that those who heard it for the first time were barely able to comprehend – ‘Larf!’ (Only, again, it was more ‘Laaaaaa-rrfffffffFFFFFFFFF!’

I hadn’t thought about Sharon for years, until I came across this mockery.

‘PR-Historiography, A Functional-Integrative Strata Model And Periods of German PR History’.

You’re having a laugh.

Chilean Miner PR Stunt

Hi all, glad you could make it. I guess you’re wondering why I called you all here today – well, it’s just a brief update on my last post in which I questioned the whole Chilean miner deal, and whether, or not (like the moon landing) it was faked for someone or something’s own ends. (And I’m not the only one, before you start hurling digital rotten fruit, I’m not the bloke who coined the phrase ‘Dig Brother’. ) (Although I wish, of course, that I was.)

The papers (inna UK at least), on Saturday, provided the answer to my plaintive question ‘why’? Who did this? Who stood to benefit?

And it was the Chilean government, who, on the back of the ‘miraculous’ ‘rescue’ of 33 miners – why didn’t they eat anyone, answer me that – are not only going to make a fortune off of the movie of the rescue, which should help them bail out a few banks (which is what most governments seem to spend most money on these days), but are also going to get some high level talks with Her Maj’s government on how spiffing Chile is. Cue rehabilitation.

There is some PR guru behind this. Mark my words. (Not necessarily anyone called Mark, mind. Or indeed Matthew.)

Obviously a stunt – but promoting what?

Hey, hey, blog snorkellers mine, I’m back.

But no time to shoot the breeze, busy-busy, things to do, places to be, people to obey – you know how it is. Apologies for having been away, mind – but I’m afraid I got bored with social media, or it became somehow less important, and there really hasn’t been the motivation to put finger to keypad. I guess there actually IS a post right there – is it true that social media has lost its edge? I’m feeling that, somehow, it’s become less of a burning platform (oooh, look at me and the big management-speak vocabulary) and has somehow blended into the landscape. This could be a good thing – in that a few, otherwise perfectly sane, people will stop spinning around, flapping their hands and spewing resource into the void and will pick up their lives where they left off, to the greater good of their, and their functions, productivity – or it’s a bad thing in that the crass, lemming-like stupidity has actually become a social norm.

I should ponder the issue for a while.

Anyhoo – that ain’t what this is about. Some of my regular snorkellers (mwah-ha-ha-ha) will know that I’m not just a social media debunker, but also a sage and profound commentator on issues relating to the profession that we fondly call spin, some call a black art and others simply refer to as – PR.

And today’s reflection is on something that has been bothering me for – ooooh – all of 12 hours. What is it – I hear you pant breathlessly – and it is this. Chilean miners is what it is. What follows here may, I am afeard, be perceived to be of a rather dubious taste, so I’d advise those of a sensitive disposition to look away now.

Is it just me, right, or are there some questions to be answered around the – on the face of it – miraculous survival and rescue of the 33 hapless miners, stuck for 69 days, half a mile underground and brought back to the surface yesterday and the day before? Questions like:

  • They’ve been in a hole for over two months. Why have they all got decent haircuts?
  • Why didn’t they eat each other? (This isn’t – terribly – serious. Obviously.)
  • How did they get all that stuff down to them – when the only communication/access, apparently, was through a sausage-sized hole?
  • All the world’s bits were contained in this, weren’t they? One of the miners becomes a father, one is greeted by his mistress, another’s mistress and wife have a fight – this isn’t a real-life drama, this is a cross between Big Brother and Hollyoaks
  • How come a video camera was STILL RUNNING as the last rescue worker left?

See where I’m going with this? There was no mining disaster. There were no miners trapped in a hole. There was no dramatic rescue attempt. It was a PR stunt – a fake for TV.

The only thing I’ve yet to work out is this – who, or what, stood to benefit? One of the politicians who was centre stage at the ‘rescue’? The Chilean Tourist Board?

Or was this the result of collusion between governments around the world to take our minds over the global economic hell that is about to engulf most of us?

Could be worse you know – you could be a Chilean miner stuck half a mile underground.

Oi! Facebook! No!

It is hard to type, blog snorkellers mine, with your head in your hands and your eyes clouded by roiling waves of despair.

What gives, the more solicitous of you (I am sure) will want to know. Well, since you asked, it’s this. ‘This’, for those of you who have an issue wid da clickety-boo and don’t want their screen cluttered up with too many windows (oooo – we might lose track of what’s open and be surprised later and that would NEVER do), is a link to Metro, a UK-based free morning paper. A bit gossipy, a bit sensational, maybe even a little lightweight – but influential, no doubt. I don’t know what the circulation is (and if you’re that interested, you can go find out for yourselves) but it’s a lot. No-one turns down a free paper.

(Apart from fusty old codgers who insist on paying for The Thunderer. Oh, and social workers who couldn’t live without their morning lean-to-the-left from The Guardian. And, of course, Middle England, which wouldn’t be Middle England without being constantly whipped into a frenzy of mindless bigotry, casual racism and general outrage by the super, soaraway Daily Mail. Apart from them.)

Anyway – and the link to Metro’s website doesn’t do any sort of justice to the full horror of this – this morning’s front page feature was all about Facebook reaching 500m users. And lots of little ‘factoids’ (26m users in Britain – that’s a third of the population!) and some mealy-mouthed motherhood statements from the boy-demon, Mark Zuckerberg.

C’mon, bloggy people – what’s wrong with this picture?

  • It’s not news – it merely provides a seal of approval for people’s grubby obsession wid da ‘book
  • OK, it could be argued that it IS news – populist, describing a global phenomenon, huge numbers, societal step-change etc etc – but I always thought there had to be two sides to news. Where’s the counter-argument? The nearest we get to it is a nod to the fact that Facebook doesn’t make a profit, and that Azrael Zuckerberg may have to give a slice of his horrible action to some guy he had a contract with some time ago. (And you wouldnae want to read the small print on THAT contract, mark my words)
  • Where does the data come from? Oooooh, ooooh, oooooh! Let me guess! Facebook?
  • Not even a nod to the fact that only a proportion of those registered Facebookians are actually active
  • No nod to the trend for people to create Facebook accounts for their pets
  • No nod to the exceptionally poor nature of the bulk of the content
  • And certainly no recognition of the possibility that serious Facebookists (most likely, I wouldn’t want to be quoted on this) have serious issues of a rather disturbing nature

If you don’t believe me – or if you simply want to marvel at the random fuckwittery that is the bulk of Facebook, have a quick shufti at this. This is Failbook. Mostly shit, occasionally jaw-droppingly, buttock-clenchingly awful.

Anyway, the good news is that this undoubtedly heralds the start of the silly season. Yes, dear communications specialists everywhere, it is time to kick back, dust off the really stupid ideas that wouldn’t stand a chance at any other time of the year, and get filling those empty column inches!

Good luck to you all!