Blatter Microblogs – Sepp’s Twatter?

OK, OK – I am guilty of writing the headline before I wrote the post – but the combination of Blatter and Twitter was just too good to be passed up. (Although, on reflection, I could, possibly, have done something better with it. Suggestions on a used, non-sequential £20 to the usual address. Winning entry will be featured on this blog.)

So, gentle reader, a further apology for being late to this issue but, as they say, and rightly so, better late than never. Clearly, this is all about the loathsome Sepp Blatter (clearly, just my opinion, never met the man etc etc etc) and his frankly disgraceful meanderings around the issue of rascism in football. (Now, is it just me, or does he remind anyone else – in terms of appearance only, obviously – of Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Egyptian Grocer of London, as was?)

When you read the transcripts of the man’s pronouncements, you really have to wonder what planet he’s on. Or what interesting and expensive substances. But – whoa – there’s me being rascist, as it’s fair to assume that English is not his native tongue and, gor’ bless ‘im, he’s having a go. Clearly, it might be better had he, in fact, NOT had a go, but there we are. Too late now.

So, a couple of lessons to be drawn from this, communicators all – and, as I’m late to this, you’ve probably all drawn these lessons already – but, no matter, they bear repeating.

This is the real power of social media – you mess up and there is nowhere to hide. Once you have messed up, regardless of whether it’s a real mess up or not, whether it’s your fault or not, whether you meant it or not – too late. There is nothing you can do but be contrite and – if you can justify yourself – put your point of view across. But be warned – your point of view had better be squeaky clean and beyond reproach – if not, then shut up and apologise, abjectly, for all you are worth. Blatter’s Twatter didn’t do this. His continuing refusal to do the decent thing and throw himself off the top of FIFA Towers – sorry, did I say that out loud? – the decent thing and resign is not going to make it any better. And while he hangs on, the already tarnished reputation of FIFA will continue to lose the little shine that remains.

And do I really have to say anything about the decision to release a picture of Blatter with his arm round Tokyo Sexwale? Do I? Just proving that no matter how sophisticate we think communications has become, in the heat of battle, we still make really stupid choices. Now, in fairness, I can only surmise that the decision to release a picture of Blatter hugging a black man was made right at the top, and the hapless comms person really didn’t have a choice. But this goes back to something I’ve said before – we all should try and remember what the true role of the communicator is. It is – in cases like this – to have the presence, respect and sheer brass b*lls to stand up and say ‘ no way – over my dead body’. Think on’t.

Finally – and on a completely different topic – may I commend The Sun newspaper for coining the term ‘Sunemployment’ which, I believe, refers to all the ‘good work’ the newspaper is doing highlighting and addressing the issue of rampant unemployment. (Some may say, remembering the closure of the NoW, that this is a little ironic – but I’m not one of them.) I don’t know why, but when I read ‘Sunemployment’ I was taken directly back to the 70s – strikes, three-day weeks, power cuts, austerity and unemployment – the newspaper in my hands went all black and white and somehow things were a little darker, a little colder and a little less broadminded.

I do hope this is not one of those self-fulfilling prophecy thingies.

Public Relations – Image Problem? What Image Problem?

(Heaves sigh of despair.)

Right, dearest blog trotters, and especially those of you who labour, as I do, in this vale of tears we affectionately call ‘spin’, here – I am afraid – we go again.

Just before I get to the point – and those of my most faithful snorkellers will know how partial I am to a nice bit of a ramble – the PRCA (that’s the Public Relations Consultants’ Association, for those who aren’t familiar) is muscling in on territory hitherto trodden solely by the CIPR (that’s the Chartered Insititute of Public Relations for those etc etc etc). Which means that two bodies, supposedly with the same interest in promoting and assisting the growth and welfare of the communications profession, are at each other’s throats in a fight over memberships. A fight which, may I say, is undoubtedly consuming some of their time. Time which I pay upwards of £200 a year for.

Time which could be spent doing something more useful.

Like working on changing the general perception of the Public Relations industry, as defined by what our friends in the media have to say about it. To whit, and to be admitted as evidence, m’lud, this little piece from last night’s Evening Standard. (Is it too much to ask of you? Just one small click? Just this once?)

OK, so it’s a fairly jocular piece about immigration and the current hoo-hah about supposedly lax UK border controls. It says that most immigrants making their way to this country are determined and hard-working – which, when compared to the workshy, thieving, poorly-educated and boorish UK natives that I see down my street every day, they quite clearly are – and it says that they are keen to work and that they find jobs in flexible sectors of the economy such as labouring, fruit-picking, public relations, terrorism and the sex-trade.

Whoops! Did you spot that? Public Relations compared to terrorism and the sex-trade?

OK, OK – keep your hair on. I know it’s a joke and – in all honesty – it was the only thing I read yesterday that made me laugh.

But is does highlight, underline, reinforce and generally illuminate the same old problem that our profession has faced at least since I started to work in it. We have an image problem people – which is like saying that the Pope has a balcony and Pippa Middleton, a derriere. We have always had an image problem, and we all know it, and we’ve all – at one time or another – been involved in a debate about it.

Personally – to my mind – it’s what the PRCA and the CIPR are there for. And they’re not being terribly effective. Mind – we none of us are, truth be told.

The End Of The World As We Know It

Occasionally, as you will know, faithful blog trotters mine, I get a little bit taken with a prime example of the admaker’s art, and all overcome with how brilliant they are at selling stuff. I know how sad this is, but, still, credit where credit is due – when I have been presumptuous enough to try and identify key trends in communication (any communication, nota bene), I have always put humour right up there at the top of the list. Make people laugh in an unexpected, wry, self-deprecating or genuinely funny way (and you’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t, at how much humour isn’t, actually, genuinely funny – and is none the worse for it) and you’ve got ’em.

Everyone likes a laugh – better still, everyone likes a clever laugh – and never more so than when everyone’s hurting financially, as we all are currently. (As those who were elected to take care of the world instead f*ck it all up on our collective behalf. Thanks.)

Now, obviously, not all brands or companies can use the humour route. Oil exploration, energy generation, financial services (and related industries) and funeral directors – amongst others – face something of a challenge if they want to make funny, and my advice would be not to try. Thus and therefore it actually behoves those brands who can do it – mostly fast-moving consumer goods with personality (think beer and crisps and smoothies) – to get to it on the hurry up. Take, for example, the truly magical ‘Good Call’ Fosters adverts – if you’re not familiar, can I suggest you do a YouTubey on their ass – which never fail to make me feel better about life in general.

(However, and extraordinarily germane to this post, have a look at this link and breathe a collective ‘wtf’. )

So, the latest commercial execution to make me feel so much better about things in general, to restore my faith in humanity, is the latest Lynx ad, for its 2012 Final Edition deodorant. Yes, snorkellers, I am going to post a link to it, but before I do that, I need to make the odd incisive observation – as is my wont.

For those who don’t know, Lynx is a (sorry, Lynx guys) fairly downmarket range of male grooming products – shower gels and deodorants. But the brand has become iconic through its marketing communications – it’s clever, it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s not too serious – hell, it’s sexist, but even the laydeez have a laugh (*). Personally, I’m a customer. Those who are familiar with the products and what they appear to promise will share my frustration at the fact that, to date, no angels, or bikini-clad women have actually invaded my personal shower space while I have been using said products, but I look at it like the lottery – gotta be in it to win it.

(*) How do I draw this conclusion? Read on, blog rollers, read on.

Anyway, long story etc etc. As you’ll all know, the world is going to end on December 21 2012. Or perhaps not – perhaps it’ll be more a sort of cataclysmic event, and not an end. Or possibly, it’ll be a sort of spiritual transformation and things will not only not end, they will positively continue, but perhaps in a different fashion.  (NB again – I have to say, all this strange stuff going on in the world currently – continent-sized icebergs in Antarctica, earthquakes in Japan and SF, flooding in Thailand, 29 degrees in the UK in October, social unrest globally, the Arab Spring and Greece about to cause the biggest period of economic instability since economics was invented by that nice Mr Milton Keynes – does make you wonder whether we’re not, in fact, lining up for a cataclysm. Just me?)

So the nice Lynx people make a fabulous leap of creativity, announce their Final Edition body spray and make an ad – well – watch it for yourself here. I like this a lot. It is clever. It looks good. It has a nice soundtrack and, best of all it completely embodies what I perceive the brand to be about. Tongue-in-cheek – we all know that no amount of body spray is going to render a bearded carpenter (hey – new connection! One I’d missed! It’s sacrilegious as well!) magnetically attractive to women – but, well, I’ll keep using the stuff. You know, just on the off-chance. Anyway. Enjoy.

Finally, and tying up all the loose ends. I’ve posted a link to a Lynx Facebook page deliberately. I’m drawing the conclusion that the laydeez are having a laugh as well, despite it being a tad sexist, because they don’t appear to be complaining.

I posted a link to the Pink News and its questioning around the homophobic nature of the Fosters Good Call ad as an illustration that no matter how clear you are about your intentions, no matter how obvious the comedy, not matter how clearly it is a case of ‘laughing with you, not at you’ – there’s always space to be filled, comments to be made and, yes, people who will take offence at anything.

And with social media, these joyless, humourless, literal and narrow-minded curmudgeons get their say. Check out the comments on the Lynx Facebook page. Here’s an example:

“This is a really sick fuckin ad, playin on peoples fear and vulnerability. take it off tv ads idiots…..”

There are those who champion the use of social media in a marketing context because it’s all about the conversation, the learnings from the consumer – well, you try having a conversation with, or learning from, that particular fucknut.

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 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……….”

So Terribly Wrong

Not, not me. Although it appears that I HAVE actually been wrong – there was I, giving it large with the old ‘that Facebook, right, doesn’t make any money, right’ while all the time the odious Zuckerberg is busy turning in halftime revenues of $1.6bn and incomes of 500m of the same splendid currency over the same period. Numbers such as these, ladies and gents, while not actually being handed in by someone from the ‘Book itself, are not really to be sniffed at. Read about it here at The Huffington Post. Thank you, Huffers.

No, no. What’s wrong (on a veritable Dante of levels) is how Horrible Mark and his evil creation have managed to achieve these numbers – it’s through getting so many users that they cannot fail to get at least some of the large global advertisers (Diageo – are you listening?) to spend at least some of their enormous advertising budgets with the Facemeister. Proving, once and for all, that you can fool some of the people, some of the time and they’re the ones you should concentrate on.

But then. Look at the numbers, would you – here they are! (Thanks MediaBistro!)

Yes, that’s right – 800m users. Just think about it. What’s the population of the world – what, around 7bn? Thus – and I know you can do maths – more than 10% of the population of the Earth are registered users of Facebook. Given the great swathes of the world that haven’t got internet access, that means that practically everyone you know (except me) is a slave to the ‘Book. How long before someone coins the phrase ‘the Good ‘Book’?

So, you’ve a heady mixture of 800m users and quite possibly 1bn greenbacks of income for this financial year. You’ve also got, therefore, a valuation of as much as $80bn for the ‘Book when it floats – supposedly in 2012.

Those of you with memories will remember Goldman Sachs, busy doing God’s Work (thanks Mr Blankfein), and the bank that took a position in Facebook and started up a Facebook investment vehicle (that their very own private equity arm would not invest in  and that they were only allowed to sell outside the States – where’s Britney Spears when you need a burst of Toxic pop?).

The same Goldman Sachs you’d hope would be handling the flotation of Facebook. The same Goldman Sachs whose shares have fallen 43% this year. Have they been Zucked?