That Old Content Myth

So. I’ve been reading a book with the rather pointed title of ‘Social Media is Bullshit’, by one BJ Mendelson. Available from Amazon, it is (sound a bit like Yoda, there – ‘when 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not’ – and I’m fairly certain this post will not change the opinon of that great morass of people who think I’m a dinosaur), at a fairly impressive price, even for the Kindle edition, of over eight of your finest sovereigns. As, as someone pointed out to me, you don’t actually get anything papery for that, neither.

That being as it may, as it usually is, I was delighted to find that someone had written a book agreeing with my entire premise on the subject of social, and that, therefore, if there are two of us, there must be more. Not alone. Like the caveman crawling out of the dark and gazing up at the stars – ‘I’m not alone’. (Obviously, that was his second thought, coming shortly after ‘Oh f*ck me, would you ever look at that.’)

Anyway, the premise of the book is that social media are just more media. Nothing special about them, nothing magical and certainly nothing life-changing. With social media, as with so much else, your success will be dictated by luck, how well-known you were beforehand, whether you’re famous already and how much money you’re prepared to spank away on other types of communication (this is important chaps) to bolster your social. But mostly it’s luck.

All this horsedoo about content and community and conversation is exactly that – just horsedoo. Ideas propagated by the only people who will ever ‘monetise’ social media – yep, the snake-oil-selling social media gurus, the ones who make their money out of telling you how to make social work for you. (And the answer still remains – ‘it doesn’t’.)

All of this put me in mind of something I wrote a while back – actually a comment on another blog. It was about just that idea that somehow social media ‘content’ is a mystical, magical substance that doesn’t have to obey the same rules as traditional ‘stuff’ – by which I mean be interesting, compelling, unique or new. All things that news used to be before it – oh, hold on, news still is, isn’t it? It’s the main currency of broadcast and print media – still very much alive, still terribly well, thanks, and communicating effectively with an enormous audience near you right now.

Here you are (nothing like promoting my own thoughts):

“It’s still about news. News is content, content is news. No-one is (in the main) interested in something that’s not new to them. The old adage about the things that make news – sex, celebrity, money, technology, controversy and ‘fluffy bunnies’ – still holds true.

The press release was always treated like spam, even in the days when they were delivered in cleft sticks by men in loincloths. Why? Because news releases were, are and always will be – in the main – badly targeted and of little relevance to the person receiving them.

The CEO of Joe Bloggs, the clothing company, was known as Chef Underpant Officer – probably apocryphal, although I’d love it to be true. No matter, the point is that it’s not importnt what you’re called, if you’re in communications, your job is to create presence for your clients and their messages.

Which is why all this conversation, community, content nonsense is exactly that – nonsense. We’re not in the game of creating communities, or conversation, on the offchance that someone might wish to participate, not more are we in the game of creating lovely free content that someone might wish to view.

We – as communicators – are in the business of selling. Which is why social media don’t really work as commercial marketing or comms tools.”

Boom!

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.

 

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)

PR – Image Problem? What Image Problem? (Part 2)

Came across this blog post. Authored by one Steve Riches, food and drink editor of The People. Which is a bit like being culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Actually, it IS culture editor of New Philistine magazine. Mind, you, this train of thought is probably lost on Steve. Seems a bit of a lacklustre twat, that’s the problem.

Anyway, he’s got some misperceptions about PR and – in fairness to the revolting oaf – these misperceptions are not his fault. They are the fault of many of those who work in this vale of tears that we call ‘spin’.  In many ways, it has to be admitted through clenched buttocks, he’s bang on. He got my name wrong though – it’s ‘Jeremy’, not ‘James’. And I’ve never met a Lola-Lu.

Anyway – same old point, dearest blog snorkellers. What are we doing? How did we let it come to this? Why are we – and our organs (CIPR, PRCA) – not frantically trying to put a reputation management programme in place? Why didn’t we start trying to put such a programme in place years – decades – ago?

But back to Steve – I am minded of Winston Churchill’s response to an outraged female, when I see Steve accusing me of vacuity:

“But you’re in PR!”

“And you, sir, are an ugly, boorish lout – but tomorrow, I shall re-train.”

Apostrophic Errors

Morning all – this is a post for me, so apologies in advance – and it’s with regard to one of my pet hates (and, I am aware, a pet hate of many of yours, dear internet-dwelling word herders) – the misplaced apostrophe.

I am not going into this here, as you’ll know what I’m talking about and if you don’t, then it’s likely that you make apostrophic errors and, if I were you, I’d keep your head down, do da clickety onna linky and NEVER MAKE THESE MISTAKES AGAIN.

(In actual fact, I like this whole blog – Boggleton Drive – and so should you, dearest Blog Trotters. This stuff is important.)

(Even if the apostrophe post has a split infinitive in it. Mind, I was told recently that split infinitives don’t matter any more, so who am I etc etc etc.)

A Response From Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

So, Blog Snorkellers all, I got my mobile network problems sorted and am now up and running with email onna go. Amazing how quickly these things get sorted when you loop in the senior personnel of a company.

In fairness to Everything Everywhere – I sent an email to their CEO, CMO and Chief Performance Officer late on a Wednesday evening and by Thursday midday, everything had been rectified. I got an email from the CMO and a ‘phone call from the office of the CEO. It became the sort of experience that, as a loyal customer of ten years’ standing, I would have expected from the off. (Well, I don’t actually expect a ‘phone call from the CEO’s office, every time I renew my contract, but I do expect easy and quick.)

But I guess you can see where I’m going with this. Why does it take several hundred words of borderline crazy rantiness, delivered directly to the C-Suite, to get a result?

This is the digital age. This is the age where anyone can broadcast their thoughts and opinions far and wide, easily and instantaneously. As my faithful few followers will know, I’m not a fan of social media – but I do recognise that where it comes into its own is during a crisis, either as a response, or as a crisis creator.

Customer service is key. No matter how good your corporate reputation, no matter how loyal your customers, they can be turned against you almost immediately by one person’s bad experience. In days gone by, you could let it slip occasionally, safe in the knowledge that – as long as no-one died, and you didn’t annoy a journalist (or a journalist’s friend) – no-one would find out.

No more. The bigger you are, the more important it becomes that you get it right every time.

A learning, I think.

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……….”