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.)

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.)

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.

You’re Zucked!

Proof, were it needed, that Facebook is eeeee-ville.

Well, OK, it’s not actually proof, per se, and it’s not actually Facebook, per se, it’s more a bunch of opinions about the loathsome whelp who started it all, Mark Zuckerberg. Who, incidentally,  sounds like a genuinely unpleasant nerd with few ethics and a touch of the pulling-the-legs-off-flies Asperger’s about him. 

(But that’s just my tuppence worth and I am happy to state – for the record – that it is in no way based on fact or personal experience and is merely a conclusion drawn from available material and thus only probably bang on the money.)

Anyway, if, lazy, slothful, comatose blog snorkellers mine, you were (for once) to follow the link that I’ve posted, you’d find yourself inside the head of one Jason Calacanis, who definitely has a downer on the Zuckerbergster. And, if half the things he’s saying are half true, then perhaps he’s right. (Although he does go on at quite some length, implying that he may have an axe of a personal nature to grind.) 

I was taken with the term ‘You’re Zucked’ which appears to describe the state of having had your ideas stolen by someone, or having been screwed over by a business partner. Apparently, his behaviour has been so bad that those in the know are now calling for a boycott of ‘book, and have decreed that ‘book is seriously uncool.

(Mind, if ‘book really has 400 million users and is the third largest country in the world by population, I think it may take a little time for this uncoolness to filter down. I also cannot help but thinking – what did you expect? His Zuckness is an entrepreneur and a businessman and you don’t get anywhere by being nice and holding the door open for people. But maybe that’s me.)

My worry is that if ‘book goes down – what hideous creature will rise in its place? See – I don’t believe the social media hippies and I don’t believe in the inherent goodness and niceness of all and sundry. There’s always someone who wants to make money and screw everyone else – and if it’s not the Zuckerburger, then who (or what) is waiting in the wings?

Maybe we should be careful what we wish for. (Or, as I’m speaking for myself, what I wish for.)

Quiet in here, isn’t it?

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.”

Doing God’s Work – And Serving Mammon

Goldman Sachs, after a bit of a PR disaster last year (‘doing God’s work’, they were, apparently, according to that nice, humble and eminently charming Mr Blankfein) has taken what I consider to be the correct course of communications action – kept its head down, kept schtum and got on with its raison d’etre, which is the making of frankly obscene amounts of wonga. I’m not going to talk about its first quarter results – do the light clickdango here – but suffice it to say that amongst other little frissons was the figure of $5.5bn that they’ve given to their staff. Equivalenting to some $100k per employee, including the blokes who clean the loos. (No of course they didn’t – you figure it out.)

One of the recipients of some of the Goldman’s cash fallout – quite a lot, I am told by unreliable sources – is one Lucas van Praag (apologies to Mr vaan Prag if I got his name wrong), Director of Corporate Communications of the Sachs Parish. It should be said that, following last year’s PR shambles, some did wonder whether he’d actually earned his money.

So did I – until I read this. It takes a genuinely skilled exponent of the spinmeister’s art to come up with the idea of leaking the suspicion of fraud in order not only to initiate an investigation by the FSA, but also get none other than Gordon ‘Wingnut’ Brown lobbying for it.

It’s a stroke of genius. So Goldman Sachs gets investigated – worse, it’s found guilty of misleading investors in the area of toxic stocks. It gets fined. It has to lose the middle-ranking member of staff that (apparently) landed it in the mess in the first place.

But – but. The fine will be but a fraction of its profits. One gets the feeling that the middle-ranking member of staff is persona non grata anyway and is already washed and in the laundry basket waiting to be hung out to dry. The loser in the whole toxic stocks issue was RBS – hardly the most popular or stainless of financial institutions.

No. On balance, all this investigation will succeed in doing is making people see that nice Goldman Sachs as the underdog, unfairly pursued – nay, scapegoated – for something that could have happenend to anyone. And while people are thinking this, they won’t be thinking about the telephone number profits and fat bonuses that have never stopped being a part of the Goldman’s culture.

Mr van Praag – there’s another big sack of money waiting in your office for you. Enjoy.

Volcanic Communication

Well. I know that this has been rumbling on for a while now, and, frankly, from a communications point of view, there’s not been much to say. Volcano, ash cloud, danger to human life, ‘planes grounded. As Aleksandr the Meerkat would have it, simples. But we’re now entering a smoke and fire scenario, or possibly, a smoke scenario involving mirrors, depending on who you are and your point of view and it merits a few moments thought.

Firstly, and obviously, there’s no smoke without fire. (Or in this case, no ash without superheated gases.) By which I mean if the aviation experts say that ash in the atmosphere can cause aircraft engines to fail – and provide examples of same – then it’s fair to say that flying when there is ash in the atmosphere is most definitely Not A Good Thing. There was a bloke on the TV last night who spelt it out quite well – so well that I almost choked on my glass of wine – when he said “if the engines fail, everyone will die”. (I’m paraphrasing slightly.)

Then there are mirrors within the smoke, which is there, obviously, because of the fire. The airlines are losing hundreds of millions of pounds through not being able to fly. And as the situation continues, there’s been an increase in the number of airlines voicing the opinion that it’s perfectly safe to fly – if you’re careful – and that they’ve sent ‘planes up (one with a CEO on it – see how safe it is, if we’re prepared to risk our CEO!) and the ‘planes have come down again completely unscathed. Now I’m but one cynical step away from suggesting that, despite the fact that there is a risk (and I’ll misquote bloke again “if the engines fail, everyone will die”), it isn’t a big risk and – well, set the risk against the money being lost and – hell – get the ‘planes in the air!

Despite the fact that two F-16s flew into the ash yesterday and sustained damage to their engines.

Meanwhile, here on the ground, I can’t see the ash, and I’m relying on the media to assure me that it’s there. Cue the conspiracy theorists who would have me believe that there IS NO ASH and, in fact, the closing of airspace is in reaction to a real and present threat of international terrorism identified by the European governments. Which, if true, wouldn’t make the airlines’ decision to start flying again any less reprehensible.

And as this is, in some small way, a communications blog, spare a thought for the communications people within the airlines with responsibility for crisis management – in fact those crisis communicators working for all the interested parties – aviation authorities, airports, government, weather agencies etc etc.

One ‘plane. That’s all it’ll take and this will be the biggest communications bunfight that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Oh – and if you’re due to fly somewhere in the next week or so – are you sure? I can’t say I am.