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.)

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.)

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!

Talking Sense About Social Media

Today, lovely blog snorkellers mine, I’m going to get all volte face on your asses.

Today, I would like to say that I am prepared to accept that social media can be a force for good – in a commercial communications, sales and marketing context. I am prepared to go as far as to say that interacting with them might even add measurable value to the bottom line of a company, brand or organisation. In short, I am ready to say that such a company, brand or organisation should have a social media strategy in place to capitalise on the opportunities that social media present.

The one thing that I am waiting for, in order to make my conversion complete, is some proof that all of this is – in fact – correct. Suffice it to say that in the course of a recent conversation, I was given hope that at least one organisation is actually measuring and evaluating the ROI of its social media strategy. If this is the case, and the results speak for themselves, then I will be a convert. I look forward to sharing more with you.

In the meantime – if anyone already has concrete examples of tangible ROI delivered by social media activity, then I would be genuinely fascinated to hear them.

In the meantime (2), I would like to draw your attention to this. It is a collection of ‘insights from a lively morning panel discussion’ entitled ‘Social Media For Corporates – essential channel or unecessary distraction’, which was held by CorpComms magazine and was a Precise.exchange.

Please, lazy, lazy blog snorkellers, do clickery on the link, and read the comments of Peter Morgan, Director of Communications, Rolls Royce. A case of genuine insght, cutting through the quagmire with the laser scalpel of clarity, or one of old dogs not being able to get their heads around new tricks? I leave it to you to decide.

(Personally, I agree with him wholeheartedly.)

Embrace Social Media Or Die! (Part Deux)

Oui, oui, my hydrophobic British chums (and dear, dear blog snorkellers of whatever persuasion, religion, creed, nationality or proclivity you may have assumed on rising, this fine matin) here we go again with the increasingly rabid and just-on-the-left-bank-of-sane meanderings of one Erik Qualman, evangelist of this parish and the Dr Evil-alike behind socialnomics.net.

You will know, because of your avidity in the following of this blog, that I have already dealt with the thoughts of Qualman (have a look here) but, to maintain a flimsy gauze of pretence, I will tell you about it again, as though I were addressing the needs of a new visitor.

Mr Qualman puts forward an entire raft of statistics which, on the face of them, appear to tell us that not only is social media here to stay, but that it is becoming fundamental to the core of our very lives. They go on to imply that by ignoring social media from a commercial perspective, then your business will no longer be around in five years, and from a personal perspective, you might as well rub yourself with a fish, don a hessian all-in-one and wander the highways and byways, ringing a bell and wailing ‘unclean, unclean’, for all the future you’ve got as a valid member of society. And I had a thing or two to say about that.

Now Mr Qualman has updated his statistics. Again, on the face of it, can’t argue. Facebook (by population) is the third largest country in the world? Check. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one use of the internet? Check. One out of every eight couples married in the US in 2009 met via social media? Er. OK. If you say so.

I’m sure it’s all true. “Some universities have stopped distributing email accounts…….instead they are distributing ipads” – so, if I’m understanding this correctly, enrol in University, get an ipad. Certainly beats the £5 I got for opening a bank account. And it’s a very attractive offer for those people who a) can’t afford an ipad of their own and b) couldn’t get one anyway because they’re in such short supply. In fact now we know why they’re in short supply – because all the universities had bought the entire stock to give to their students instead of email accounts.

Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres (combined ) (now there’s a nasty thought) – or Allen Detcher – have more Twitter followers that the population of Ireland. No – that IS the population of Ireland, having a laugh. Some of the population of Ireland are finding it so amusing that they’ve been following Elshten Kuneres more than once. Wags that they are.

The point is – and still remains – that I cannot be the only one (or even one of a few only ones) who don’t really want ‘the news finding us’ (rather than us looking for the news, when we want it) or ‘products and services finding us via social media’ (rather than that quaint old-fashioned thang called shopping around when we’re good and ready, thankyou).

I’m sure social media is growing in leaps and bounds – statistically. I just don’t believe there’s any  longevity, loyalty, depth or substance to it. It’s millions of little voices, yapping into a void. It’s certainly not a valid marketing, communications or sales tool.

PR’s Groundhog Day

Here’s a piece from PR Week. (What do you mean you don’t read it, blog snorkellers mine? Go out and buy a copy immediately. This week’s cover price is – for the sake of argument – a highly reasonable £32.57.)

It’s about integration – and lest anyone be unclear – that’s the integration of communications disciplines through the creation of what used to be called ‘one-stop shops’.  PR Week see fit to grace the front page of their organ with this story, so they obviously regard it as ‘news’.

But – hold on, and correct me if I’m wrong, hasn’t this happened before (twice, as far as I can remember) – and then sort of un-happened, sort of dis-integrated, if you like? (And I do.)

Doesn’t it prove that the old adage ‘PR – it’s a young person’s game’ is fundamentally wrong? It’s not a young person’s game because young people can’t remember the hideous fuck-ups of the past and thus cannot learn from them.

Mind, as long as the clients are young as well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. They can all repeat the same errors together. Again and again and again. It’s like Groundhog Day, but it will never sort itself out and it’s somewhat less amusing without Bill Murray in it.

And the final bit of the ‘story’ just underlines what cack it actually is. “It’s not as simple as being in the same office” – no, you’re right, sunshine, it’s not – “there has to be a willingness…..to work together to understand…….” Yes, nail, head.

There has to be a mutual respect, an acceptance that the ‘idea’ can come from anywhere, and an innate ability to recognise what makes a good idea. These three things do not come from making the poor, hapless drones sit together and share the same canteen. Didn’t work in the late eighties, didn’t work in the early noughties, won’t work now.

Oh, and for the record, PR Week has been around for much, much longer than a lot of agencies and most account execs. Why, then, is PR Week slavishly reporting this, rather than working from its years of experience and pointing out that ‘integration’ is not new, not big and definitely not clever.

Serving Mammon In His Communications Department

Yesterday I praised Lucas van Praag, Spinmeister-General at the Vampire Squid, for his audacious strategy of actually instigating an FSA investigation to shift the focus from the bank’s nausea-inducing profits and bonuses.

I was wrong – according to this piece by Jason Karpf (a four-time champion on the game show ‘Jeopardy!’) (which is, I can only presume, where the hapless contestants have to escape from a cage full of hungry jeopards? No?), this truly epoch-making piece of lateral communications thinking comes from Texas-based PR firm, Public Strategies.

So well done to them.

Mind, lest Mr van Praag be diminished in our eyes, here’s a piece from something called New York Magazine which compiled a list of the Praagster’s best rebuttals. I will leave the last word to @manic_impressive, who commented on the article:

“Dude, Goldman is just so much better than all of us.”