Once upon a time…

… I was a copywriter.

Then I became a social media planner. Then I became a digital PR senior account manager. Then I was a social media strategist. Then I decided to jack it all in and become a copywriter again.

Now, I’m finding I’m sort of all of those at the same time. Confusing, isn’t it?

Copywriting

One the one hand, I’m most definitely a content creator. I write stuff. I can’t help it. I’ve always written stuff.

There’s a typewriter next to me in my office which was owned by my grandfather, and I used to type stuff on it when I was young. Anything. Everthing. Mostly ridiculous poems.

It’s got huge, black, bakelite keys that you can really punch down, and when you do the hammers hit the paper and don’t so much type as emboss.

When you get to the end of a line the whole carriage whacks across and nearly carries the typewriter across the room with it.

It’s got a fantastic bell that, if you recorded it and slowed it down, would probably give Big Ben a run for its money.

And, best of all, it has a large stain across the front, probably caused by some correction fluid. Now my grandfather liked things to be ‘just so’. He cleaned records thoroughly before he put them on ‘the gram’. He would spend hours cleaning his pipe. He did 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. So I cannot imagine the brouhaha that ensued when he spilled all that over his typewriter. The air must have been blue. He probably went out to shoot some rabbits just to get it out of his system. Fantastic.

Digital

It started with a ZX81 and went on from there.

People think I’m a geek, or a techy, but I’m not really. I just like dicking around with these things. Mostly I like them for the creativity they facilitate nowadays.

I have a home studio based around an old PC and it’s great fun. I should add that it’s the third PC I’ve used for this, because I trod on my first one and cracked the motherboard, then I blew the second one up about a week ago. I have a tragic combination of curiosity and technical ineptitude.

Social media

I’ll never forget when I first posted on this blog, subscribed to it to see what would happen, and then a few minutes later saw it appear on Google Reader. I was hooked. Have been ever since.

Now, as a freelancer, talking to people who really need to get themselves seen and heard (and read and talked about), I’m really starting to appreciate what social media can do, from the large corporations right through to single-person enterprises.

So I’m back in the trade, so to speak.

Yesterday I described Facebook as a TV studio with Twitter as the satellite dish beaming out the updates. Today I’ve been figuring out how best to get my Yahoo Pipes Social Media Search Engine sorted so that I can package that as a service. Tomorrow I’m working on a blog strategy for a management consultancy.

Brings me back to my grandfather. I once tried to explain to him what the ZX81 was about. “Eeeh, it’s beyond my ken”, he sighed. Then probably went out to shoot more rabbits.

So, imagine a Venn diagram with those three things around it, and me in the intersection. It seems that, whenever I try to move out into one or other of the bubbles, some strange gravitational pull draws me back into the middle.

That’s all. I should really talk about social media issues and news etc, but sometimes I just write… stuff.

Click image for source

Click image for source

Will one tweet ever change the world?

Sometimes, you know you’re seeing history in the making in a few video frames. Recently, there’s been a bit too much of it happening.

I watched in awe as the US Senate refused Bush his bailout money – the split-screen showed the politicians’ verdict and the resultant stock market crash like a horrendous parody of the loved-up Woodstock film. Politics and economics have seldom circumvented society so readily.

Likewise two more US-related events. Am I alone in thinking that footage of the majestic rise of Apollo 11 (on YouTube, specifically from 2:05 onwards) is retold in terrible rewind by the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11? The one signalled the USA’s victory over Russia in the race to space, and pre-empted the end of the cold war. The other was a truly apocalyptic event that began the never-ending War on Terror.

A few frames. They really can change the world. So I wonder – and I’m only being slightly trite here – whether a tweet could ever change the world?

You can say ‘no’, now. But consider what are the greatest tweets out there? Are there any tweets that could have been, but weren’t? Or any that were but shouldn’t? And, finally, have any of them had particular resonance or impact?

Tweets that should have been

Today – and this was the ‘seed’ for this post – I read about Cerys Matthews in Guardian G2 (yes I’m a Guardian reader, can’t you tell by my appalling avatar?). She of the ability to render an audience speechless by a single thrust of the hips has come out with possibly the greatest non-tweet ever.

When asked what her epitaph would be, she responded: “Gravestones are like Twitter – you need something short that will amuse people.”

Brilliant. Maybe tweets are like gravestones? And, while she said she didn’t know what her epitaph would be, she’d inadvertently come up with a perfect epitaph. Imagine in a hundred years or so people reading it and saying “What’s this Twitter she’s on about?”

Tweets that were but are no more

Politicians should tweet more. I know about Downing Street’s twitterfeed but I couldn’t find a definitive list of political tweeters.

Maybe they don’t for this reason: In an off the record interview with CNBC, an ABC reporter, Terry Moran tweeted: “Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a “jackass” for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT’S presidential.”

Great! Hang about. Not great. The post was immediately deleted. But, as GadgetSteria points out, all tweets are cached. Never forget, the web holds everything you ever post, in perpetuity. This is both a blessing – as we shall see – and a curse.

Tweets that were and still are

The greatest tweet I ever saw, I swear is the one that set off the whole Twitter obsession.

Until Mike Wilson tweeted “Holy fucking shit I wasbjust [sic] in a plane crash!”, no one had really paid much attention to Twitter. Then The Guardian (sorry, I really do read it every day) wrote about how he’d tweeted in the immediate aftermath of a plane crash. Most people would have thought of exiting directly. Not Mike. He tweeted. Something was very wrong here. Or maybe right?

You can still see his tweet here. That’s what I meant about it sometimes being a blessing. From that one tweet, an entire scene of chaos emerges.

Then, the next thing I knew, Twitter was everywhere.

Tweets that should be famous

Consider this tweet:

“Mrs. Liebowitz’s cat has gone missing again. He answers to ‘Martin’ and walks with an unfortunate limp. This was only partially my fault.”

No? Doesn’t do it for you?

Then consider this: it was tweeted by Christopher Walken. Suddenly a seemingly innocuous tweet assumes an aura of menace. Why the limp? Whither the cat?

Why only ‘partially’ his fault?

Tweets that are famous

In my albeit brief research for this post I found that other blogs had got there first.

So, check these out:

But none have changed the world

Did Michael Jackson’s death change the world? No. But Michael Jackon’s death did slow the web down. And there is still debate about who tweeted his death first.

Yet

Twitter is becoming our first resource when we want to know what’s happening now. That’s not just their strapline, it really is true. When Google Calendar went down recently, my first reaction was to see if other people were tweeting about it. They were. Then again, when it went down again. Then again when GMail went down.

Bad news for Google, but great for Twitter, especially as it was able to stay up while the world was tweeting about Google being down.

So I wonder: one day, will something truly earth-shaking ever be tweeted first? Will a new epoch come about because someone tweeted it? Will Twitter ever change the world?

Maybe it already has, in the aggregation of what we say – everything, all the time. But one day, whether through a mobile phone somewhere in the Tora Bora mountains, or a tweet from the first human being to set foot on Mars, maybe everything will change at one time.

What do you think?

Accountants are part of the brand too

Mistakes have repercussions. Don't get a fly in your brand.

Mistakes have repercussions. Don't get a fly in your brand.

So today, for the third time, I find myself chasing major companies for money after the 30-day period on my invoice has expired.

I do wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t kept my records in order. Would I ever have been paid? Or would the invoice be expedited/dormanted/deleted, or lost behind a filing cabinet, as per Brazil?

This is about more than money. It’s about brand.

People sometimes talk about brands as if they’re something mysterious or difficult to grasp. They talk about brand equity and brand values. They mention brand advocates and – yuk – leveraging brands. Or brand synergies. Arghh.

For me, it’s simple. A brand is the person as company – quite literally, the corporate. Some companies are nice, others are nasty. Remember how PR is essentially about what people say about you when you leave the room? Well brands are the same. You’ll do business with them and if you continue to love them you’ll tell people how great they are. If they don’t pay you in time – after 30 days, for chrissakes – you’ll smile and be nice to them in future, but slag them off to your friends. Like I’m doing now.

Of course, culprits shall not be named – even the ones that were 40 days late, or the ones who failed to pay me on time twice – but suffice to say, they should be big enough, and grown up enough, to know better.

Because when I first met them I thought they were great. But poxy accountants, working in the engine room, thinking that their efforts have no impact on the brand, have now made me very wary of working with them again. Their brand is damaged.

So, it’s an object lesson. Brands work outside the company, and inside. They permeate the company. If the company wants to be associated with great client service, then each and every member of the company needs to know this and work with it in mind. Even the accountants. Good Lord, even the copywriters come to that.

links for 2009-09-23

Communication Director: Was I too harsh?

Brendan Cooper in Communication Director. Click to see the PDF.

Brendan Cooper in Communication Director. Click to see the PDF.

The nice people at Communication Director recently asked me to comment on a European government initiative called TH!NK.

The TH!NK idea was worthy: that social media can be used to engage people more in the democratic process. However, the more I looked into it, the less successful it seemed. So, I said so.

I just received a PDF of the piece and the other commentator was much more complimentary, essentially saying that the campaign raised awareness but got a bit confused with the messaging.

So now I’m a bit worried that I might have jumped in too deep.

My point was that it failed because voting hit an all-time low after the programme. I mean, that’s hardly a desired obejctive, now is it? But when I read this again, I do wonder if I was a bit harsh. Then again, it’s good to put forward an opinion. I did notice that previous commentators tended to be very positive, so I thought a bit of invective might help.

What do you think? Click the image to read a PDF of the feature and commentaries.