Strumpette forum is full of chit but not much chat

So yesterday I can’t help but admit I was drawn into Strumpette’s most recent open letter. I can’t deny I was personally offended by not being one of the people it (they? she? he?) wanted to offend, but that’s life.So I found a forum there, and signed up. Next thing I know: 213 Posts in 43 Topics by 80 Members. And yet: 0 posts and 0 topics. What could be going on here?

bconnolly sets me straight:

This forum was previously used by Strumpette’s “inner circle.” It was used to formulate initial strategy and responsibilities.

Anyway, that part of the forum is now archived. That’s why you are not seeing it.

Clean slate!

So, there you have it. Strumpette likes to issue open letters but not an open forum.

Still, as bconnolly says, clean  slate.

Given the recent idiocy in the PR blogosphere, I think a clean slate is what’s called for.

Play your company’s radio station – on a radio

Personalised media is great. Pandora, Last.FM, Matchmine, even YouTube, are essentially your own radio stations. But you can go further than that, and actually create radio stations with friends and then beam them to a stereo. Your very own radio station on your very own radio. How cool is that? 

I like Pandora. Why? Because, despite its almost imminent demise, and that Last.FM is probably cleverer in its use of the wisdom of masses, I prefer its simplicity. I find I can explain Pandora quickly to people, and they get it. And I prefer the music it comes up with. Try selecting Nick Drake as your radio station, and spend the rest of the evening listening to sublime solo guitar and breathy vocals. It also has a funky interface which people like.

I also like Pandora because it’s really simple to get everyone involved. OK, so Last.FM is more community-based, but that requires that everyone sets up their own account. With Pandora, everyone can access my account, easily select a station, and we’re done. So, at my company we now have over 20 artists represented, and we effectively have our own station that, when played through the Quickmix, represents the company’s musical DNA.

Furthermore, I’ve hooked my computer to our in-house stereo via the marvellous Logitech wireless music system. This is essentially a USB soundcard replacement with wireless transmitter, in that, after plugging it into your computer, everything that once went through your soundcard now goes through the Logitech USB widget. And this does mean everything – Pandora, Last.FM, iTunes, Media Player, RealAudio, Quicktime, YouTube. Anything that would normally come through the computer speakers is instead transmitted through the USB widget.

It’s about the same size and shape as a USB memory stick, but with a small antenna on it. At the other end is a receiver about the same size and shape as a pack of cards, again with an antenna. Simply plug that into your stereo’s Aux in sockets, switch it to Aux in, and you’re laughing. Ha ha. It even has a remote control. It’s so simple even my father managed to set it up when I bought it for him last Christmas.

So, on a Friday afternoon, instead of news bulletins, if we want to listen to good music that we all like, I simply plug the Logitech widget into my – or anyone else’s – machine, fire up Pandora, and we’re good to go. No more adverts, no more cheesy DJs, and definitely no more Gwen Stefani.

Trends

Quite simply, some charts that may be of interest. For example, note how Apple is about to supplant Microsoft in search volume; that PR may be peeling upwards away from advertising; the relative fortunes of bebo, Facebook and Twitter; social media is on the up and up; and, especially heartwarming for me, Star Wars is, and always has been, much more popular than Star Trek.

All charts all for all regions, over the last rolling 12 months. Click the graphic to go to the Google Trends page for more information.

microsoft apple

 

“gordon brown” “david cameron”

hp dell

 

advertising marketing pr

 

“social media”

facebook bebo twitter

 

“star wars” “star trek”


Fear leads to suffering. So why suffer?

Today, two podcasts: Tech PR War Stories, and FIR. They both offer insights into why companies are slow to take up social media, particularly blogging, and while they differ slightly, they’re broadly the same. It’s all about fear, you see.

Tech PR War Stories is a good, useful, credible podcast and I always learn something from it. The latest edition is entitled ‘All About Corporate Blogging‘ and features a great interview with Debbie Weill, author of The Corporate Blogging Book and an expert on business blogging. In it, Paul Gillin lays out the context: Jupiter predicted last year that 35% of corporations would be blogging by the end of 2006. Why hasn’t this happened? Why are companies reluctant to embrace social media strategies? Her response is: fear. “Fear of losing control, and fear of being criticised.”

Could it really be that corporations are so stymied by fear that they’re unable to act?

On to the next podcast, the heavweight and imho yardstick PR podcast, For Immediate Release. OK, so there’s quite a lot of prologue and epilogue but that’s mostly voiced by a lady with a sexy voice so that’s ok. Once you get to the meat of the podcast, you’re onto a winner. In the latest edition Shel Holtz brings our attention to a study conducted by TWI Surveys, Inc. on behalf of the Society for New Communications Research and thought leader, Joseph Jaffe. A key finding in the survey is that:

Respondents noted that the primary obstacles currently preventing them from investing more in conversational marketing include:

  • “Manpower restraints” — 51.1%
  • “Fear of loss of control” — 46.9%
  • “Inadequate metrics” — 45.4%
  • “Culture of their organizations” — 43.5%
  • “Difficulty with internal sell-through” — 35.8%

Can you see what I see? Yes, fear is not top this time. The major primary obstacle is simply having someone in place actually to concentrate on this activity. Everyone else is too busy!

But fear is still there. Allow me to geek a little here: wasn’t it Yoda who said “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” So why suffer? Let’s just get it all out in the open. Because companies that want to avoid suffering now, will only suffer more in the future. I quote again from the SNCR release:

The findings indicate that while social media adoption is still very much in its infancy, communications professionals foresee significant growth in adoption and spending over the next five years, and predict that conversational marketing will outpace traditional marketing by 2012. Of the 260 respondents:

  • 70% are currently spending 2.5% or less of their communications budgets on conversational marketing
  • Two-thirds plan to increase their investment in conversation within the next twelve months
  • 57% project that in five years they will be spending more on conversational marketing than traditional marketing
  • 23.8% believe that spending on conversational marketing will be the same as traditional marketing in five years
  • In total, 81% of all respondents project that by 2012 they will spend at least as much on conversational marketing as traditional marketing

OK, so Jupiter got it wrong, and SNCR may yet do so. Maybe we really are passing around the Kool-aid until we get skunk-drunk. But perhaps this is the tyranny of knowledge: now we know this stuff, we probably should do something about it. It’ll hurt now, but even more so in the future if we don’t. We just need to get a grip and stop collectively burying our heads, sand-like, into an ostrich.

The way to stop people being afraid is, of course, to prove to them the business value – that is, the reward for the risk. So, back to the Tech PR War stories podcast. Debbie Weill presents the case for South West Airlines which announced plans to stop its open seating policy via its blog, to an overwhelmingly negative response. The result was a company which changed its mind and kept its customers happy, entirely because it engaged with them. You can see the upshot here.

Quick n’dirty blog analysis

So, you’ve been asked to provide a list of, say, between ten and 20 blogs for a given topic. You have absolutely no idea what the blogosphere is like for that topic and the client’s calling you in an hour for results.

Do this:

  1. Go to http://www.makemyreport.com/ and type in your topic terms.
  2. Note the top few terms from the Word Relative Associativity Analysis that appears at the end of the report.
  3. Go to Google Blog Search at http://blogsearch.google.com/
  4. Type in your search terms from step 2.
  5. Click ‘Search Blogs’.
  6. Copy the ‘related blogs’ that appear at the top of the search results (should be about four or five-ish).
  7. Paste that list somewhere, eg Excel.
  8. Go to Technorati at http://www.technorati.com/.
  9. For each blog, copy its web address, and paste it into the ‘search for’ field at the top of Technorati, and click ‘Search’.
  10. In the search results, to the right, you’ll see a little panel that shows a small preview of the site, and some accompanying statistics. The one you want from this is Authority. This tells you how many other blogs link to it. It’s an indicator of popularity and, given your timescale, a very rough indicator of influence. Type that authority figure next to the blog in Excel.

When you’ve done all this you can rank the blogs according to their authority and take the most authoritative.

For example, if the word ‘design’ was what you were after, Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=design) gives you these blogs:

- Styleshout.com – Latest free templates from styleshout.com
– Solostream – WordPress Themes. Blog Design. WordPress Blog Design. – http://www.solostream.com/
– Design*Sponge – http://designsponge.blogspot.com/
– N.Design Studio – Blog & Design – Design portfolio and blog of Nick La
– 2803 design | Le blog sur les produits déco et design – 2803 design est un blog sur le design produit et la décoration. L’objectif de ce blog est de présenter des produits ou concepts très design.

Then, from Technorati, for the first of these (http://www.technorati.com/blogs/www.styleshout.com/?reactions), the authority figure is 1,920 right now. In other words, 1,920 blogs link to it.

Let’s take a complementary phrase, for example ‘design’. Google Blog Search gives you these blogs:

- ModernArtNotes – http://modernartnotes.blogspot.com/
– MODERN ART – Days of Brandy and Jazz… The life that is unhealthy even if I take it^^;
– Modern Plein Air – http://pleinairlandscapes.blogspot.com/
– Black Cat Bone – Burning The Flesh Off Modern Art – http://blackcatbone.blogspot.com/
– new modern art painting on canvas – http://modern-art-painting.blogspot.com/

This time, take the Black Cat Bone blog. Copy its URL, go to Technorati, paste it into the search for field, and the results (http://www.technorati.com/blogs/blackcatbone.blogspot.com?reactions) tell us that it has an authority of 19, that is, a lot less than the design blog we just found.

So in this example, styleshout would offer more bangs for the buck than the Black Cat Bone blog.

There are many more searches you can do, and many more metrics, and ideally you would spend at least a week monitoring these blogs and others through an aggregator such as Google Reader to really get to grips with whether or not they’re useful. But if you’ve got to pull the (black) cat out of the bag, and you really don’t know where to begin, this is the quick n’dirty way to pull a list together.

More tips:

  • Try looking through Google as well as Google Blog Search. It’s quite good at picking up results from blog.co.uk if you’re after UK-based blogs especially.
  • If you don’t get the ‘authority’ figure when you search in Technorati, try searching for the blog URL *without* the final slash. For example, instead of searching for http://blackcatbone.blogspot.com/, search for http://blackcatbone.blogspot.com.
  • Iterate on step 1 using different search terms – that’ll give you different blogs.
  • Actually visit each blog you find from step 1 and look for what’s called the ‘blogroll’. This is a section on the blog that lists other blogs they link to. It might also be called ‘Links’. This will give you more blogs to add to your list which you can be fairly sure are relevant, because the blog you’re looking at has chosen to link to them.

Good luck! :)

One and one makes three

What is an idea? It’s an interesting point of discussion. Sometimes you have to work at them, usually when you’ve got a problem and need to find a way around it. Other times they just pop into your head and they seem so innovative and yet somehow so obvious you’ve got to tell people about them. To my mind, the best are when one seemingly unrelated situation is applied to another, to produce a unique and elegant idea.

Here’s three:

  • My friend Seamus McCauley recently came up with a brilliantly innovative solution to a problem: managing the England team. No one wants to do it, presumably due to the heavy responsibility of carrying the nation’s hopes on one pair of shoulders. Moreover it appears the people who should be able to do it, cannot. So why not divvy it up? Given that MyFootballClub recently purchased Ebsfleet United with the intention of running like a real fantasy football club – that is, harnessing the wisdom of the masses to choose the ultimate team – why not apply the same reasoning to the England team? It would certainly make press briefings more interesting.
  • I recently submitted my idea for the Democrabus to the Radio 4 Genius programme. The Democrabus is my solution to public transport. Given that the challenge is to get the greatest number of people closest to where they live, why not combine the least bad method of government – democracy – with the omnibus, and give each passenger left/right voting buttons? As the Democrabus approaches a junction, they vote for the direction they want to take. In the event of a ‘hung bus’, the driver gets the casting vote. I can reveal that I was invited to appear but it was a TV pilot and whereas I’m prepared to make a fool of myself on radio, I’d rather not make an utter fool of myself on national television.
  • Finally, an idea in search of a problem. I was playing around with my Sony Ericsson mobile phone the other day, and demonstrated to someone how you can get feedback on them by dialling their number, putting both phones onto speaker mode and pointing them at each other. The results can be quite freaky. Furthermore, Sony Ericssons have lights on them which can be set to the ‘SOS’ dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot pattern. So, get a dark room, fill it with hundreds of mobile phones, pair them up, dial the numbers, get the feedback, set the flashes. Hey presto – installation art. It would almost be like an evening in a ‘tech jungle’ with feedback treefrogs and SOS insects. And it would slowly end too as each phone’s battery gave out. You could even have people contributing their phones and turn it into a social art experiment. All I need is to find a mobile phone brand that supports the arts: looks like Sony Ericsson used to but I don’t think they do any more. If anyone is looking for a great mobile-phone based arts sponsorship opportunity, feel free to use this idea…

Oh no, not again

 

There will no doubt be many views expressed over the next few days, weeks and even months about the Revenue and Customs’ loss of 25 million people’s financial details on two disks. It is, of course, appalling. I’m appalled. You can see the whole sorry tale unfold on the BBC website, particularly on Nick Robinson’s excellent Newslog.

Quite apart from the several failings of procedure that let this happen – why was the data downloadable, why was it even downloaded to disk anyway, why wasn’t it sent by registered courier, etc etc – on a technical point I’d also question why the data wasn’t encrypted. No one has mentioned whether it was or wasn’t, therefore I assume it wasn’t. So what format is this data in? Word? Excel?

Unformatted text?

The mind boggles.

Furthermore I’d assume it’s a plain old CD, or perhaps DVD. In which case, it’s probably easily copied. So, if this data were to fall into the wrong hands, all that needs to happen is for copies to be distributed and the entire UK banking system is compromised.

It really is like something out of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“Golgafrinchan Telephone Sanitisers, Management Consultants and Marketing executives were persuaded that the planet was under threat from an enormous mutant star goat. The useless third of their population was then packed in Ark spaceships and sent to an insignificant planet. The other two thirds of the population, of course, did not follow and led full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.”

Is the UK ‘the other two thirds’? Are we really going to be wiped out by a misplaced compact disc?

This idea of failings at several stages and levels of process is not new. We had it recently – or rather, the US nearly had it – when a plane flew across the central United States carrying six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads that were mistakenly attached to the plane’s wing. The CNN report’s URL beguilingly files the story under ‘loose nukes’.

It’s no wonder people are losing faith in our institutions. From criminal corporations to compromised content to governmental and financial ineptitude, it seems our political, corporate, economic and media worlds are crumbling. Perhaps now’s the time for people to turn to bloggers for the truth. At least we can generally remember where we put our keys, we don’t nearly kill people, and we usually at least try to tell the truth.

If social networking influences PR, the revenues will show it

And, according to Sir Martin Sorrell,  head of advertising group WPP, they already do.

He says that revenues from PR are growing strongly and…

“… the reasoning behind it is to do with social networking and the web… Social networking is really recommendation between people about the things that they are interested in and they like… this has stimulated people’s attention in terms of the importance of PR.”

Put bluntly, social media isn’t just an adjunct of PR: it is PR, or will be before long. (For an illuminating and amusing look to the future of digital media, check out Seamus McCauley’s post from 2020…)

If, in turn, buzz can be converted into revenue, then a fleet-footed agency will be able to capitalise on a chart that looks like this:

(key: facebook, myspace, bebo)

The Social Media Resource gives you – and everyone else – an advantage.

I’ve been thinking about my Social Media Resource recently. I’ve been updating it with case studies provided by the Great Kami Huyse, but I’m aware – quite painfully so – that it’s brief. It just lists PR activity compared to resource, with little else.

So, we could go deeper and broader, with full-on case studies, measurements, and discussion. But at what point does the Social Media Resource stop being a self-contained, immediate, prescriptive source of inspiration, and start being, what, a wiki? A blog? A forum? The entire PR blogosphere?

When I put it together, I kept getting a reflex action. I kept thinking: no, people will not share their information because they will have won their experience through failure as well as success. Of course they will want to protect this information. Of course they won’t want to hand their hard-won knowledge, on a plate, to anyone who bothers to look. I know that at least one respondent said they didn’t want to contribute because I was anonymous. I’m not anonymous anymore but still, people don’t know who I work for. That’s only because my company’s flat-headed blogging policy won’t allow me to.

But then a secondary impulse would kick in. The thought was: well, if everyone shared, then we’d all be able to up our game. We’d all get better at using social media. We wouldn’t have to say who we were or even give proof of success. And I’d like to think that the secondary impulse was one of: ok, so we’re all trying to pitch and win against each other, but if we can level the playing ground regarding social media then really, it’s up to how clever we are and how well we execute.

So the Social Media Resource is a way of removing the noise. It’s a way of providing immediate problem/solution, or at least a pointer in a direction. It’s still up to the practitioners to decide which direction to take, or define the problem, or adopt whichever solution.

The Social Resource isn’t a plan or a methodology. It’s a ready-reckoner. It’s a rule of thumb. Goddammit, it’s a damn fine idea and I wish more people would use it!