The PR Friendly Index is no longer about PR. Is PR even about PR any more?

badlogoI’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the PR Friendly Index recently. Given that I’m not working in social media exclusively any more, it’s a pain in the arse to maintain and other indexes do this better (and keep getting better too), I’ve been thinking of scrapping it.

However, before doing so, I thought I’d have a look at the blogs listed and see what they’re up to.

And get this: hardly anyone writes about PR any more.

I know, there are all sorts of definitions of what PR ‘is’. My friend Kerry Gaffney has summed it up well in the past: you don’t talk about ‘newspaper PR’ or ‘radio PR’, so instead of talking about ‘online PR’, you could argue that social media is just part of, well, PR. This is a fair argument, especially when PR backs up into marketing. You could argue that anyone talking about communicating a client’s benefit through word of mouth to appropriate audiences is doing PR.

But strangely, when I started my blog, I did it to find out mostly about PR, and a bit about blogging. Sounds perverse, it’s true, but I’d only comparatively recently started working in a PR agency and I thought it would be a good way to accelerate my learning. This is why I put together a blogroll of PR blogs. And the more I got into the blogging, the more I became aware that we needed ways in which to ‘measure’ blogs, so I put together my first index.

Since then I’ve had all sorts of comments, mostly complimentary, but some of them have told me that a lot of the blogs don’t really talk about PR.

And they were right.

I started at the top and worked my way down. This is how it went:

[Slightly out of breath after run]

Oh, of course this blogger talks about PR, let’s skip it, move to the next one.

[Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Coughs a bit.]

This one mentions PR. It’s in.

[Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

[Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Starts wheezing, goes to look for some pineapple juice.]

Etc

This continued most of the way down the list. The further down I got, the more people still occasionally mentioned PR. I suppose this makes sense: you get loads of social media juice by talking about social media. That reminds me, must get more pineapple juice in.

If you talk about fuddy-duddy old PR – you know, outreach, the media, organising events, talking to journalists and all that boring stuff – you wind up further down. That’s why I’ve been anticipating a drop in my readership since a became a fuddy-duddy old copywriter again.

I was so surprised/alarmed by the near-total obsession with social media and lack of PR that I returned to the top and went through the ones I’d skipped. And I had to take a fair few of them out too, because all I could see was Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and maybe a few pictures of the nice holiday they’d recently had in the Seychelles.

With the result that we now have 367 blogs in the index. That’s about a third of the original set. And no, I don’t include myself in the new list. I’m sure that, about a year or so ago, they were waxing lyrical about PR, not almost exclusively socia media.

Here’s the list, in the order they appear in the last index. They’re blogs that either talk about PR, or just about mention PR enough to make me think they talk about PR. Note I haven’t added links because I don’t believe in link love any more either. If you think it’s interesting enough to share, then please share (POST EDIT – Thanks to Judy Gombita for noticing I hadn’t updated my PR Blogs list – you can see these blogs to the right of this page now):

  • PR Watch
  • The Bad Pitch Blog
  • PR Blogger
  • The Buzz Bin
  • Pop! PR Jots
  • A PR Guy’s Musings
  • Strategic Public Relations
  • Wadds’ tech pr blog
  • Spinwatch
  • sixtysecondview
  • PR Newser
  • Murphy’s Law
  • Heather Yaxley
  • PR Conversations
  • PR Studies
  • Flack Life
  • Piaras Kelly PR
  • ToughSledding
  • Corporate PR
  • Strumpette
  • Post Edit: Getting Ink (happy now Sally?)
  • PR Meets the WWW
  • Sir Robert Bond Papers
  • PR Disasters
  • In Front of Your Nose
  • Simonsays
  • All Things PR
  • PR Voice
  • DummySpit
  • Teaching PR
  • Ron Torossian
  • Paul Stallard
  • Fusion PR Forum
  • First Person PR
  • Flacks Revenge
  • Public Relations Rogue
  • Final Spin

PR people, social media may be part of PR but it’s not all of it. You do other stuff too, right? Or are you all trying to strike the same pose to attract new business? Isn’t PR sexy enough to be talked about any more? Don’t you have any challenges? Have you all sussed it out so much that it’s not worth discussing? Or is PR actually just about social meeja now?

Because if I were on the lookout for a PR agency I’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t obsessed by whether or not I have a social media policy, or how to get along with Twitter, or describing how great blogging is.

I’d sum it up thusly:

talkingabout

I don’t know whether this is good or bad. What do you think? Is this a problem of definition? Do you still talk about PR, just not online?

I’d imagine if you’re not on the list any more, you think bad, right?

Freelance copywriters do everything

Me in my tight leather copywriting pants. Click image for source.

Me in my tight leather copywriting pants. Click image for source.

So I’m one month into freelance copywriting now. I know this still makes me a little lamb in the lion cage of freelance copywriting but I’ve learned a lot in the past 30 days or so, mostly good.

Desk guilt

I said mostly good. I suffer desk guilt. That is, the guilt one feels when one leaves one’s desk for a minute. I get up at the same time as my partner, she leaves to go to work, I go to the study and work till 1pm. Then I have lunch, read the Guardian, do the crossword (the quick one, I’m not clever enough for the hard one), then continue again from 2pm till 5.30pm. So I have a good, disciplined approach to what I’m doing.

But even though I know I deserve – and need – that hour, I feel bad about it. I take occasional breaks between times, sometimes just to wander off and make a cup of tea while thinking about the best way to sell a client’s web services or word an award entry, sometimes just to stroke the cat absent-mindedly, but every second I’m away I’m thinking I should be at the desk. Because time is money. I’m sure I’ll get over it. The guilt that is, not the bit about time being money because…

Time is money

I’ve worked in agencies long enough to know this. I must have documented my every working moment on timesheets for the past four years. But it’s not until you sit down with the client and talk about how you can make them money, then go home and work out a quote for that money, then do some work – for money – that you realise, very tangibly indeed, that it’s all about the money. I think sometimes the chain of command in agencies distances you from this. And when I’ve seen agency screens a-buzz with Instant Messenger, Twitter and Google Chat, I know it.

Discipline

I thought I would find this difficult. I know I’ve said I wander off and stroke the cat, but really these are necessary distractions for a copywriter. I’ve written before about the copywriting process: you cannot just sit down and reel it off. You need some time out to let the ideas come back. But I’m finding I can sit down and just work, without the office distractions. OK, so office chat can be productive – not in the ‘hey, let’s talk communications’ kind of productive, more the cross-seeding, synergistic, getting-along-with-people-and-having-new-insights-into-your-work productive – but I prefer being in the zone.

Productivity

I’m being really productive. I can work several hours at a stretch and it feels like several minutes. I’m getting far more done than I did working in an office environment. And the best thing about this is that, when I need to work longer hours, I know I’m being paid for it. The 10, 11, 12+ hour days I’ve worked at companies past have been largely down to personal commitment but it’s nicer to be paid for that commitment. People who work outside these hours are actually working for free. Worse than that, in agencies, they’re over-servicing. Time is money – unless you’re not being paid.

Sell-in

One unexpected thing I’m discovering is that I’m good at selling. Perhaps I should have been a salesman. It’s half down to just being able to sit down and have a chat, but also learning the art of figuring out, quickly, what the client wants and needs, and tailoring your pitch to that on the fly. Maybe this is part of what makes a copywriter: putting yourself in your audience’s shoes. Saying to yourself “What would I do if I were you?” Sometimes you find yourself asking “What would I do if I were me?” which is usually the right time to go and stroke the cat. Thing is, because you’re going in to do the sell-in you tend to get nice people smiling at you, offering you coffee and biscuits. This is a change for someone used to working in the engine room, eating dead mice and beetles that have fallen behind the radiators and drinking antifreeze.

Doing everything

A freelance copywriter does everything. I look after my own sales, with a set of Google docs listing potential sales value, actual sales, to invoice, to pursue, hot leads, cold leads, big ones, small ones, some the size of your head. My marketing, I’ve decided, is my blog. Twitter’s my advertising. I’m considering setting up a Facebook group for people who want to be copywriters. That’s my community (if I find time to do it). All my social media presences are my networking. And there’s good old fashioned email to ex-colleagues and acquaintances too. I’m doing my own accounting. I’m doing my own pitches (see above). I’m multi-tasking, and I think I need to be especially proud of this, being a man and consequently owning a brain whose hemispheres barely connect.

Is Friendfeed starting to warm up?

For some strange reason I’ve recently noticed more people subscribing to my Friendfeed, um, feed.

I can’t figure out why this should be. Let’s look at Google Insights, which shows us how many searches are done for a search term and therefore gives an idea of interest around a particular subject:

friendfeed

Hmmm, looks like it’s on an upward curve but then again most things social media are nowadays.

Let’s do some qual – what are people saying about Friendfeed? Fortunately Techcrunch has very recently written about Friendfeed. Under the heading ‘FriendFeed Is In Danger Of Becoming The Coolest App No One Uses’, Michael Arrington says:

FriendFeed has less* users today than it did last October, according to Comscore. Cofounder Paul Buchheit says that isn’t accurate (and I believe him), but it’s clear that the service hasn’t grown much in the last few months. Twitter is adding more users every week than FriendFeed has in total.

* He means fewer, obviously.

Duncan Riley at The Inquisitr says something similar:

The problem I have is that FriendFeed now appears to be the master of none. What was clearly a social aggregator and base level social network is now trying hard to be like Facebook and Twitter combined (and as someone suggested on FriendFeed, IRC as well.) To note this though is to not dislike it, but instead appreciate the why… FriendFeed is taking the last throw of the dice to greatness.

He mentions a recent revamp. Could this be why there’s a temporary increase in activity?

At the beginning of the year Brian Solis offered a nice analysis of Friendfeed, pointing out how its trajectory could be Twitter-like. I must admit, over the past few months I’ve been telling people the same thing. Who could have predicted how Twitter would take off? Only last year its Interest chart looked like this:

twitter2

I wouldn’t have predicted the explosive growth we’ve just seen from that chart. So perhaps there’s hope for Friendfeed yet?

I’m undecided. Friendfeed’s real problem seems to be that everything Friendfeed does, Twitter and Facebook can do too. I’ve seen companies that are full of great ideas that just don’t quite make it. When I really think about Friendfeed, I hardly ever use it myself now. I do hope they think of something to get them across the chasm.