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.)

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.)

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!

Googly I

 Been a while, blog snorkellers mine, been a while.

Frankly, this blog has turned into my foamy-mouthed rantings about the eville that is social media and, d’you know what, it’s becoming difficult to find anything new to write.

Why? Because I’m not a geeky techy, I’m a communicator. I do not hang around in the kitchen of the internet’s big social media party, discussing the tiny changes that social media keep making to themselves, nor the wholly spurious increases in fans and clicks, nor the fact that 52.673% of businesses run by hippies believe that social media will, eventually, replace God.

And unless you choose to rummage through this morass of soiled underwear, you have to accept the truth that nothing has actually changed in the year or so that I’ve been gracing the web with my musings. The evangelists are still evangelising, the fools are still fooling around, the inappropriateness is still inappropriate, the naysayers are still naysaying – but nothing has actually changed.

Social media are still what they are – and the communications and marketing community are still trying to work out how to leverage them. Anyway, today I come across this – which is a post from the Digital Brand Expressions Blog (thank you) musing on the possibility that Google may be planning to have another foray into the social media space with something that may, or may not, be called ‘Google Me’. Obviously, I think they’ve missed a trick here – ‘Googly I’ would be so much better, or Google U, which could then become Googlez Vous in French and Et Tu Google for the small Swiss community that still insists on speaking Latin.

Anyway (again), just a couple of thoughts on the back of this article:

1) It’s probably too late for choice. You’re either on Facebook, or you’re not. And if you are – well, you are (obviously) and if you’re not, I think it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly throw your privacy away and embrace the sharing of drunken photographs simply because that nice Mr Google has provided a new medium for you to use.

2) If Facebook was going to launch a search engine, it would have done it by now. Let’s face it, a share of Google’s $23bn annual profit (revenue? not sure) is not to be sneered at. I can only think that either they can’t, or that they’ve decided it’s not worth the effort. And, simply because Facebook doesn’t make any money currently, I’m forced to believe that they haven’t the capability to create an algorithm that would approximate Google’s. (If indeed algorithm is the right expression for the magic mushroom of code that allows Google to hallucinate all the stuff that people want to view.)

So. I’d hazard that Google won’t be able to invade Facebook’s space and vice-versa. So, once again, nothing has changed.

See you in another couple of months – supposing anything actually moves on.

Kirk out.

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 The Third)

Oooh! Oooooh! Oooooh! (Imagine small child at back of classroom waving hand in air.)

And another thing. Yesterday, I passed comment on the flimsy gibberings of Erik Qualman, social media snake-oil salesman to the shiny-object obsessed masses, the man behind socialnomics.net, and the author of this piece – statistics about social media that supposedly build a case for its here-to-stayness and its centrality to all that is good and clean.

Anyways, cutting a story short, something was niggling at me. I re-read my post. I remembered why it is that I’m not a social media fan. It’s not because I deny its existence (as I was once accused of doing), nor that I have anything against it per se. No – it’s simply because I’m a career communicator, and I believe that all marketing, communications and sales activity should have a measurable ROI and a demonstrable impact on the bottom line – which social media (in the context of sales, marketing and communication) does not.

So I re-examined Mr Qualman’s list with this in mind. His list of 42 points (go and check it out for yourself, you lazy blog snorkeller). I wanted to see how many of his 42 statistics, claims and exhortations actually had a bearing on the use of social media for commercial ends.

And the answer is 12. Yes, 12 out of 42 – and even those do not have a direct impact on the formulation of a commercially-focused, measurable social media strategy, aimed at delivering bottom-line impact. The other thirty are, variously, meaningless statistics, empty statements and trite irrelevancies.

How did I come across this horsesh*t in the first place? Because a contact of mine, who is slightly more forgiving of the whole social media mojambo, circulated it. Implying that quite a few people are circulating it and more than a few are using it to justify the time, resource and budget that they have convinced their employers/clients to put behind this whole box of smoke and mirrors.

I don’t have to tell you – right-thinking snorkeller that you are – how toxic this is.