PR Fail – a collection of bad things :(

How did we live before PR Fail?

A Tumblr blog, it takes Twitter postings or del.icio.us bookmarks tagged with “prfail” or “uselesspr” in an attempt it says here, “to help PR people be better and give journalists and bloggers a way of sharing their bad experiences. As well as just collecting examples of bad PR in one handy place for case studies and things.”

That’s nice.

I’m sure that the dedicated PR people I work with day in day out need to have their bars raised. I’m certain that the people I left behind at Fleishman-Hillard tonight, as I clocked off at 6:45pm, will appreciate being told they can ‘be better’. And I’m almost – but not quite – unshaken in my belief that bad experiences are most definitely the best way to learn.*

Still, it’s a laugh, right?

It would be even funnier if I could actually see who set it up. I can’t be certain, but I have a feeling it could be the first person to have posted on it. Perhaps someone should mail and ask.

So, just to add to the mirth, and for total transparency, I now have it displayed in an RSS widget to the right of this page. Oh, how my sides will ache as the floodgates open. Look, it’s already had, ummm, two posts… four days ago (at time of posting)…

* irony

Link love gone kerrrayzee

Ping pong, pong ping

Ping pong, pong ping

I’m due another issue of the PR Friendly index. This is my listing of the top 100 PR blogs I read, ranked according to various publicly available metrics. I’ve been thinking about introducing a bit more latitude to it, such as incorporating metrics from humans – that is, del.icio.us, Twitter etc – alongside those from computers. I’ve also looked into adding the nationality of each blogger because, well, it might be useful sometime.

So it was with interest I noticed several links coming into this blog that relate to similar lists.

Firstly Nick Burcher has drawn out the European marketing and media blogs from the Ad Age Power150. I’m ranked 59 which is a nice suprise.

Not to be outdone, Matthew Watson has produced his own take on the Power150: he’s stripped out the world’s top PR blogs from among the marketing and media mix within the Ad Age index. This blog is at number 21.

In my own PR Friendly Index, which is just PR blogs from hither and thither (as far as you can define ‘PR’ and ‘blog’) I’m at number 44.

Neither of the news indexes appear to be dynamic – indeed, Nick Burcher states that he doesn’t intend to update it, compared to the Ad Age Power150 which is 700+ blogs updated automatically every day – but they are nevertheless useful ports of call when looking for media blogs in Europe and/or PR blogs in the UK.

They’re also an object lesson in how effective they are at link love. Consider that:

… and that’s a whole lotta pinging going on.

I’m not querying whether they’re indicators of quality – as a broad rule of thumb you could say that the more popular blogs are ‘good’ but then again they could have just been around a lot longer – but I would say to anyone at all interested in a super-quick raising of their profile, that an index/ranking/league/list is the way to go.

Also, an oddity: I was recently having difficulty figuring out why Twitterfeed was still pushing my shared items out to Twitter even though I’d deleted the feeds (I discovered an old Twitterfeed account that I’d forgotten about so that’s fixed now). As a test, I tagged this bookmark in which I stated it was nothing more than that – a test.

As you can see, the bookmark has also been tagged by nine other people. How do you figure that one out?

That, combined with my recent discovery that you get more comments when you say you’re going to stop doing something rather than continue it, makes me realise that sometimes, you just cannot predict these things.

It’s all a bit crazy really.

Web words can be scary, but they needn’t be

No one likes being scared

No one likes being scared

In the past I’ve written about how we need ‘friendlier’ words to describe this online world, and I’ve commented on how such bizarre words can make social media seem more surreal than need be.

So, what do you do if you want to get a message out, but you know you’re operating in an area where misinformation abounds, or where there are deep sensitivities that you quite rightly want to avoid triggering? Surely the scary web world is the last place you’d want to venture?

Take two famous episodes in the UK media: Frankenstein foods, and the triple Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) jab.

The former was – and still is – a terribly unfortunate phrase for genetically modified foods. Whether or not you’re for or against, the phrase is so ingrained in our public consciousness that any advantage to be gained from any development in this area already has huge barriers to overcome.

Likewise MMR. Despite scientists trying their best to overcome public near-hysteria over MMR, it looks like the link between autism and MMR is raising its head again. Worse still, such misunderstanding can have material consequences: in 2005, cases of mumps in England and Wales soared by 12,000 to 16,436. And still today, in the UK, just the letters ‘MMR’ conjure images of anxious parents and vulnerable children.

The reality is that any story can, and will, and does, creep online. So you need to have an online presence at the very least so you can present your side of the story.

So if you’re getting the heeby-jeebies about pushing messages out, then don’t. Let people pull them instead. Use good keywords that help your story appear alongside others and, hopefully, achieve some sort of balance. Provide resources with enough search juice that enable people to find your stuff, and make their own minds up. Be where your audience is – and, as I’ve said before, your audience is going to be at a search engine at some point.

And if you’re giving people the heeby-jeebies when you’re talking about social media, then don’t. Just use good old words such as communication and relationships. Everyone can relate to that, right?

So while I may have switched from copywriting to social media, the same themes appear. It’s still true that we need better words, because they’re so powerful, and they can be used for good or, well, not-so-good. The trick lies in making the right words appear in the right place, at the right time, and in the right manner.

No more deli.cio.us linkblogging from me

I recently noticed, with horror, that most of my posting of late – in fact, the vast majority – has been simply stuff I’ve bookmarked on del.icio.us, pumped across into my blog.

I’ve decided this is not what my blog is for. So, I now just have a nice, unobtrusive feed to the right of this page with items I’ve specifically tagged ‘forblog’. That is, if I find it interesting, and I think other people who read this blog might find it interesting, then it’ll appear. Not otherwise.

I’ve decided the blog’s the place for properly considered, joined-up thinking, not the occasional quick fix.

I know, I know, this is a very weak post but I felt the need to say it. There, I feel better already.

Google’s new search will be the best of both worlds

Which do you trust more, humans or machines?

Which do you trust more, humans or machines?

Google has released a video showing a Digg-like interface to its search. I think it’s going to change everything.

A casual glance at Friendfeed picked up a link from Chris Brogan: entitled ‘Is this the future of search?’ Given that I’m currently scratching my head a lot and figuring out how best to pull together searches across social media, this sounded interesting. It pointed to this Techcrunch post featuring a video of a new feature that enables you to tailor how your Google results come in.

Essentially you can vote on results in a very Digg-like way. You can add comments to results, and link to your Google profile so people know who voted, how and why. To my mind, this is going to be incredibly powerful.

Google is the ultimate machine-based search, pointing you towards pages that are likely to be what you’re after, not necessarily because that page talks about it, but because other pages reference it. The more pages point to a page, the more likely it is to be relevant. At base, it’s crude, but you can’t deny Google works well enough.

This new ‘voting mode’ points the way to human-based search. It pretty much is actually going around and asking people what they think, to get the best result. It replaces the machine algorithm with sentiment – the ‘human algorithm’ if you like. In so doing, the new Google Search mode turns every node into a social object. It enables people to comment and vote on a result that they care enough about to do so.

Comments on Todd’s Friendfeed has been interesting. Most agree it’s highly significant, but some feel that it’s in some way scary – it’s ‘mob rule’, ‘it leaves quality content as the mercy of conventional wisdom’, ‘monumentally stupid idea’, ‘I don’t want marketers telling me the best search result’.

My take on it is that if – as I assume to be the case – you can switch between these two modes, then you can compare and contrast. It just depends on what you value, or how you want to search.  I don’t see why this is so scary – it offers the best of both worlds, both the machine-based election for what you’re searching on, and the human-based.

And would it be so easy to game? Can you really game Google? As in, something that large? And if so, how does that make it lesser than Digg – assuming that is also gameable – or indeed current Google? (note: these comments, including mine, have been copied directly from Chris’s Friendfeed comments).

OK, so sites like Digg, del.icio.us etc already do this. The real difference, as far as I can see, is that, if you ask people in the street about Digg or del.icio.us or Wangwack or Biffo or whatever’s coming along next, you’ll more likely than not get a blank look. But almost everyone knows about Google. Heck, even my parents have heard of Google. Even the cat looks up when I mention it.

So look out for this emerging from Google Labs at some point. It’s going to be intriguing to say the least.

Feed housekeeping yields interesting insights

So, as one of my ‘things to do’ before I start at Fleishman Hillard*, I’ve been going through my RSS feeds in Google Reader. A very timely post about organising RSS feeds came along on the PNeo blog reminding that I needed to do this, and how I’d in fact planned to do it some time ago.

So, I’ve done it. I now have four main feeds, for daily news, must read, should read and could read. They’re fairly loose definitions but ‘must read’ is by people/organisations that I consider dead-centre of what I need to know and consistently come up with good stuff. Should and could read are just lesser gradations thereof.**

During this, I noticed the following trends. Unfortunately I didn’t make note while going through all this of exactly who was saying what, so you’ll just have to accept them as anecdotally true:

  • Several bloggers had just stopped. End of.
  • Many had apologised, over the past few months, for not posting for a while. I’ve done the same myself.
  • Several had moved, but not offered any RSS forwarding. As a result I hadn’t been getting stuff in from them for a while. This is quite an oversight on their part, and as good an advert for Feedburner that I can think of.
  • Some, particularly those that had relocated, now seem to talk more about social media more than they used to, in particular Twitter and Friendfeed.

Taken together, these do all seem to point to a shift away from blogging and towards other more interactive forms of social media.

Actually, I can qualify this a little now – strangely enough, since setting up my contextual feeds, which is proof of a kind.

For example, Jennifer Gniadecki writes on Problogger about how blogging is more like an after-dinner speech than a true conversation. It’s akin to a quote I recently heard that, if someone spoke to you like they do in advertising, you’d punch them. Similarly, if someone pontificated at you like they do in blogging, without letting you get a word in edgeways, you’d probably wander off or fall asleep.

Neville Hobson also comes to the rescue by bringing up the ‘is blogging dead’ issue, via Jason Calcanis’s recent announcement that he’s – shock horror – going to be emailing instead because he thinks it’s a more intimate way to do business.  He also links to the CheapEasyGlobal post I commented on earlier this week which brings to the fore the idea that it’s a publishing revolution, not just blogging.

What do I think? Well, I do know that I really really really loved blogging but nowadays it’s become more of a chore than I’d like. I also think that other forms of interaction/publishing such as Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed are more ubiquitous and encourage relationship forming much more quickly, and at the end of the day maybe this is what clients are more likely to pay for.

It really is a bit like this, honest

It really is a bit like this, honest

So where does blogging fit? In a way I like the after-dinner speech analogy. To use another analogy, it’s the dreadnought of your social media arsenal where you put across good, solid ideas and opinions rather than the small arms of microblogging or the repeated stabbing of social networks. Or, to return to my food-related analogy when describing Twitter, your blog is the full Wonka bar. And suddenly I’m strangely tired but also hungry…

* I’m sure everybody is insanely jealous of my having a short breather between jobs, but unfortunately I have some sort of throat ‘thing’ that made the doctor whince, and which makes me fall asleep instantly and without warning.

** I’ve plonked them into a Netvibes public tab if you’re interested. I’ve also used iGoogle for my own personal amusement, mainly because I’d like to integrate the presentation-friendly approach of tabs with the search/archive/analyse-friendly approach of Google Reader. But iGoogle does suck.

Forward to Fleishman Hillard

Fleishman Hillard logo

As from 21st July, I will be working as senior account manager in the digital team at Fleishman Hillard UK.

Of course it’s sad to say goodbye to my Porter Novelli colleagues – and judging from this comment I think the feeling’s mutual. However, it’s a great opportunity to work in an expanding team, with support from the already established US team and opportunities to find out what truly works when helping people communicate better using digital channels.

Strangely, I’m already fairly clued up on life at Fleishman Hillard. I went to their Digital Influence Index presentation, and have met Ed Lee, account director at Fleishman Hillard Canada’s sister company iStudio. I also met up with two of my future colleagues, Paul Borge and Joshua Davidson, at the Tuttle Social Media Club last week, and we had a great chat with James Whatley, Nancy Williams and Thibault Baradat-Bujoli.

All that remains is for me to give my swan song at Porter Novelli’s summer party next week (I’m the bass player for their kick-ass band Moscow Road so if there are any PN employees reading this, the band needs a replacement bassist pretty soon).

Any suggestions for how to go out with a bang? Flaming death perhaps? Mosh pit dive? Or maybe just a nice cup of tea and a biscuit? Answers please…