Artisan Marketing Communications offers clients PR and marketing communications advice, practical support and implementation.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Toby Harnden: time to look again

I wrote a piece recently about bloggers being the Guardians of Truth (14th January, Artisan Marketing Communications' blog).

I used two examples to illustrate that a recent survey in which the public said overwhelmingly that they trusted traditional journalists (78%) more than bloggers is not always reflected in the reality of the actual story. The truth of the matter is that bloggers can be more accurate: they are often local to the story and have time to research the post as well as possibly knowing the protagonists.

One of the examples I used to show my point was that of Telegraph journalist Toby Harnden (pictured with Bill Clinton) and his commentary on the Saddam Hussein execution. I referenced a piece in the Guardian, which purported that bloggers had “found out” the Toby Harnden account was wrong and misleading: written before the execution because of the time difference and consequently it had many factual inaccuracies. The allegation pointed to a dishonest reporter.

Well, the truth of whether bloggers or traditional journalists are more trustworthy came very much to the fore. Toby Harnden, The Telegraph’s US correspondent, e-mailed simply asking me directly to look again.

It is something when a protagonist in a story in the nationals contacts you to urge you to look again at the accuracy of a story. It shows the power of blogging.

I managed through another contact that followed the story to locate the copy of the controversial entry and the web archives. And I have had to revise my opinions.

It transpires that Toby had written his account as a preview in the conditional future tense and had in no way intended to pass the entry off as a factual account. It was based on a briefing that had been given on the way the execution was supposed to happen. Of course, as we know, it turned out very differently.

After reading the entry, it strikes me that it is clear that it is a preview. It is unfortunate for Toby that the execution was a farce and did not follow the briefing or procedure. The ridiculous and disturbing nature of the execution came back to haunt Toby although it should not be a reflection of his journalism. The problem is that it seems that the post in question was full of “inaccuracies.” The execution was very different to Toby’s account, but it was not a factual description of the event after the event took place.

What is disturbing is the comments he received from a small core of bloggers who aggressively attacked his piece. I suppose Toby does not mind constructive criticism but the feedback was often personal in nature.

The comments are evenly split between “supporters” and “foes.”

An example of one of the bloggers that agreed or supported Toby:

Mannie (a blogger that left comments about the “inaccuracies”),
You really are flogging a dead horse now, aren't you?
It is now absolutely clear that the article was written BEFORE the hanging. It was in the FUTURE tense. It included words like EXPECTED, LIKELY, ACCORDING TO IRAQI OFFICIALS, ACCORDING TO AMERICAN OFFICIALS.
Toby Harnden has said it was not his "finest hour". He is professional enough to feel bad when things don't turn out perfectly. But I don't see he did ANYTHING wrong. It was a perfectly respectable bit of journalism and did not pretend to be anything other than what it was.
I don't expect journalists to be able to predict the future. But it was useful to know what previous Iraqi hanging practice was and what was supposed to have happened. The only mistake Mr Harnden made was airing this topic without posting the initial article right at the outset.

Ken Marsh

And one of the more vitriolic comments is below:

"Harnden - you were a total c*** in the Royal Navy, and you continue to be one even today….how on earth you ever were accepted by the Telegraph as an alleged 'journalist', the Lord only knows."

The Guardian picked up on the “debate” or should I say the frank exchange of views and “inaccuracies” that led to the Telegraph pulling the blog.

The upshot of all this is that Toby’s reputation has been tarnished. He has done nothing dishonest to warrant the attention or the loss of standing as a journalist.

Blogging is about two-way communication, but there are dangers. One PR agency I know does not allow comments; it could be a wise policy. It might be that Toby’s “real crime” was engaging in debate, not moderating comments and being perhaps more clear on his objective with the piece (although that is being a mite sensitive).

As for me it shows the flip side of blogging and its power.

I have not moderated any comments on my blog – a few more would be a fine thing before you point out that I do not have my work cut out looking over comments – but would anyone tolerate such a response?

I will of course get out my copy of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” to get a better grasp of my tenses; do others need to do the same?

There are surely more controversial and dangerous bloggers than Toby Harnden who we should be guarding against. Something to think about with Holocaust Memorial Day being a current subject under discussion and holocaust denial still rife.

Will bloggers put the same effort into countering the David Irvings of this world?

Media coaching: who needs it the most?

I thought this might amuse:

The BBC has printed football (and sporting) quotes from the week. It seems the footballers and media professionals need some help with losing the bizarre metaphors, cliches and poor syntax - some is plain stupidity - and the supporters should be hired by Sky.

First the footballers and media "stars":

"I'm a prince and I'm sort of slaying a dragon, which is something I've never done before, obviously."
David Beckham on his role as a dragon slayer in a new Disney ad.

"Rooney's touch is so good it's like he's got velvet gloves on his feet."
Classic Iain Dowie on Match of the Day.

"If it doesn't go right tonight, Wenger has another leg up his sleeve."
Glenn Hoddle in the build-up to the Carling Cup clash between Tottenham and Arsenal.

"I am not sure exactly why the winter break started but I'm sure it has something to do with the weather."
Owen Hargreaves discussing the Bundesliga winter shutdown.

"Whenever these two teams meet it's always a great game. But it wasn't a great game."
Lee Dixon on the United-Arsenal match.

Lawro: "I'll tell you something, Vidic looks good too."
Green : "Well I didn't fancy him at first but..."
Mark Lawrenson and Alan Green while commentating on Man Utd-Arsenal.

"The league is all about the league, the cups are the cups."
Ray Houghton on TalkSport talking about Liverpool's form - thank goodness he cleared that up!

"Hunt has proved on a few occasions that he's a clever type, and his challenge on Nick Montgomery earlier in the game wasn't clever either."
Neil Warnock's thoughts on intelligence.

"The only problem for Chelsea at the moment is that they are 2-0 down."
Andy Gray on Sky Sports during the Liverpool-Chelsea game.

And the supporters' wit:

Newcastle fans to West Ham fans: "Going down, going down, going down."
West Ham fans to Newcastle fans: "So are we, so are we, so are we!"

"You're not singing anymore!"
Wolves fans to an empty visiting stand when they drew level at Molineux (Cardiff fans had been banned from the game).

"Whinge on the telly, he's going to whinge on the telly!"
Boro fans to Sam Allardyce when El Hadji Diouf was sent off.

"Beaten by a franchise, you're getting beaten by a franchise." Sung by MK Dons fans to Barnet supporters.

And the banner of the week:

"Shaun Wright-Phillips - £21m
Andriy Shevchenko - £30m
2 European Cups - priceless
Money can buy you duff players, for everything else there's Cloughie!"

Forget Shilpa - Jim Symcox is the real Bollywood star

Marketing consultant Jim Symcox is vying to give Shilpa Shetty a bit of a run for her money when he stars in a Bollywood version of Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado.

You can find out why Jim could be the next big thing by attending The Royal Northern College of Music on 14th - 17th February. Tickets can be bought from the RNCM and are reasonaly priced.

Remember you will not be able catch him on a reality show, even if it exclusively selects from the brightest marketers.

More details available on the Manchester University Gilbert and Sullivan Society website MUGGS.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blogging - is it all about Return On Investment?


I saw an interesting article on Drew B's take on tech PR about measuring the return on a business blog. Unfortunately, the premise of analysing a return on investment made me a bit queasy.

Yes, business investment should try to be measured, but the Forrester article that Drew quoted and linked to missed the point for me.

It's all about communication!

It's about establishing relationships and reputation - being recognised as a leader or a least a voice in your industry or field.

What price reputation? What price building strong relationships?

Yes a lead would be great, but it's far from the only consideration.

Forrester kindly let us see a model of how to measure the metrics. I have my Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma and post grad marketing qualifications. These models are only a guide and nothing more.

Sometimes the best in any profession do not practice and work hard because they want to win a championship or be rich. They work hard because they enjoy it and it gives them pleasure; the riches and rewards are a bonus.

Surely the best blogs are driven by that rather than a marketing calculation.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Manchester lifestyle magazines - can they all survive?

Anyone that ventures into a restaurant or bar in Manchester can not fail to notice the abundance of lifestyle magazines that are given away freely. I can think of nearly ten Manchester lifestyle publications with little effort although some are sold over the counter.

Nothing wrong with that, but can they all survive? The question puzzled me a little further when I came across two new magazines on Friday: Your Quarter and PaD. Is there really room for more?

The more established magazines have a presence and readership. Cheshire Life has over 17,00 audited readers and is part of a group of papers that claims a audited circulation of 62,000 and readership of over 400,000. The Magazine ensures it is well read by the marketing efforts of its staff.

And the new boys?

Well, they have the advertising spend. They are all glossies that often mix the editorial and advertising evenly; not too swamped with the "important messages." They can be fun.

PRs with consumer accounts must love them. Mancunians must love them.

Yet, if the economy gets tougher and if the fripperies of a large disposable income are taken away, surely many will not be with us. They must be under tremendous pressure now with even more newcomers joining the fray.

We will see. Until then I will check out my dream 5 bedroom city centre loft conversion as I am sure many other readers do - perhaps that is where the answer lies.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Liverpool Daily Post - free distribution continues

The Liverpool Daily Post will be extending is free distribution within the business community, which proved successful when tried last year.

It is also looking to increase the coverage of niche business sectors online, which must continue to make it one of the most forward looking regional papers in the country; podcasts from journalists are now a regular feature.

The Post is very much targeting its readership, which differs from the Manchester Evening News and its aim to increase readership amongst a broader profile with its city centre giveaway.

The Post has a much smaller focused distribution than the Liverpool Echo and so targeting and marketing are key to its future well being: attracting high value advertisers and readers.

The Post's free distribution and the online reporting will help it to connect and re-connect with its target readership.

I am sure they will do well.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

China to become Internet superpower

China is not only growing at a phenomenal rate economically; it is also going to be a world beater in terms of Internet users according to the China Internet Information Network Center.

China's economy posted growth of 10.7% in 2006, 0.3% higher than 2005 according to the China Daily. The expansion has been so fast that the government discovered half way through the year that the economy was $100 billion bigger than previous estimates.

The Internet is not disappointing. China has 137 million users and bullish predictions estimate in as little as 2 years it could be the Internet superpower - surpassing the number of users in the US. J P Morgan is being more cautious and has stated that it will be closer to 190 million by 2010. Nevertheless growth is tremendous and impressive for the last year at 26%.

This has been helpful to growth and the Chinese government promote its use for education and business. However, China's 600,000 bloggers have more of a task breaking down the Great Firewall of China and promoting free speech as there are 50,000 officials monitoring traffic.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

John Leech MP is alright

John Leech is the MP for Manchester Withington.

He was elected in controversial circumstances: the save the Christies Hospital he championed during the election was criticised as being scare mongering; the hospital being in no danger of moving services according to some sources.

Keith Bradley, the incumbent MP, who suffered the spectacular defeat to John (17% swing to Liberal Democrat) because of the anti-war backlash although he opposed the war; the decision to send his son to fee paying Manchester Grammar did not endear him to Labour supporters although ironically John is an ex-pupil.

Since John became an MP he has made a lot of PR gaffes: accepting tickets to the world cup that he had to return and the football match with journalists where he got hacked by the gleeful hacks also showed him in a less than positive light.

John gives the impression of being a hard working and conscientious MP.

John sat next to me in history A level. He struck me as having a sense of humour, decency and being intelligent. He won a place to Brunel to study law although he switched to politics and history.

When I told a journalist that he is a decent person he was surprised.

I think part of the backlash is the Withington electorate wanted to warn the Labour party of their frustration. They did not want to vote out Bradley. When it happened there was surprise and it was easy to say John tricked them into voting for him. Just my theory.

But he never seems to come across well. He will lose the next election if he does not address his image.

John please give me a call.

By the way my ex-cricket captain is Ivan Lewis MP, he is a junior minsiter so I do not expect he needs my help - I am well connected though.

Reality TV PR meltdown

I was hoping not to comment on reality TV shows again for a while, but the PR battle could still go either way.

Jade Goody has, as predicted, started the interviews of contrition. This Morning being one example. Is was not easy viewing although I did learn a few new words, I think one is “unvunerable.” Being able to watch such things is a privilege of working for yourself!

I thought Jade would be able to limit the damage, she still might. However I had not banked on the reaction of the tabloid press. The Mirror is just one example of the unbending and forthright reaction: A bigot and a fake (ran the headline for Saturday). Sunday: My Jade is racist and a bully by her granny. Et tu Brute?

Even Jade admitted her career was over on This Morning although if she protested that it wasn’t it would have fuelled the tabloids even more.

The issue is whether Jade was warned by Big Brother. She is being coached of course. This has made the tabloids cry that the whole exercise is cynical. Such messages would mean that her PR would have to be magnificent and very lucky to rescue her career. Hard to be seen as natural when everyone knows you have a PR team behind you.

The PR battle will be over time. It will be one of attrition. It is one where she has to break into a tabloid and win them over and try to win over the others one by one. It looks like the bitter residue from this will not go away entirely, whatever PR is carried out, but she can still fight her corner as blanking the media would ensure their continued barrage.

The other protagonist facing the payback for Shilpagate is Channel 4. The Guardian on Saturday conducted a survey, which found that most people asked think that Channel 4 should have intervened and a quarter believed Channel 4 had manipulated the situation. Not only has Channel 4 lost sponsorship – principally Carphone Warehouse – but they have damaged their brand. Where has the intelligent, adventurous and respected programming strategy gone?

It should be noted that some of the outrage and reaction has been the inadvertent fault of Channel 4. Carole Malone, as reported by the Press Gazette, says that the editing of Big Brother is misleading. The bullying incidents were not 24 hours a day but the editing made it look that way.

If that was not enough reality TV show Shipwrecked - Channel 4 again - is in trouble after a contestant commented that slavery should be brought back. Only 60 complaints to Ofcom so far. She has also made comments about black, fat and gay people that she will regret. Click here for more.

I think they need to handle it like Simon Cowell. The US Pop Idol is continuing to draw audiences as Simon’s cutting comments provoke “outrage” from the others judges and the US press. Simon is man who knows the line and plays the game instinctively well.

And lastly, The Father Ted inaugural festival created a feud between two rival islands for the privilege of holding it. Perhaps Father Ted has been the most realistic thing to feature on this site today.

No reading of the Mirror was made in the making of this post.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Languages - essential for PR?

The Guardian ran an interesting piece in the Work section of the Saturday edition.

It focuses on the need to speak languages to get on in a career is becoming increasingly important. No surprise to read that the UK is not producing enough graduates with language skills. And with increasing globalisation and the emergence of China and India as economic powers the need will get more acute. Nothing really new there; I just suppose it's a subject I am interested in.

But how important is it for PRs and marketing staff to speak foreign languages?

I do not believe we are immune to being monoglots. Indeed, in my experience PRs and marketers are mostly confined to English.

But for PRs a new danger or opportunity seems more pressing. Of course many opportunities come with the ability to speak languages and that is a business reason enough to be able to offer a language.

But agencies that offer multi-lingual services will have a huge competitive advantage. They might not take business away from other agencies in their own back yard, but they will be able to give themselves another window of opportunity, perhaps a vital one when times are tougher.

After all, agencies might be able to service the needs of local or national clients; multi-lingual agencies can service the needs of clients from many countries and almost whole continents.

So it is back to the Spanish lessons.

(I did not resort to the Sean Connery line about cunning linguists in the writing of this entry. Please note that piece I promised you is hopefully forthcoming depending on whether a noteworthy journalist gives me the go ahead; more explained later).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The World of Citizen Journalism

Bill Thompson has written an interesting piece on the BBC website about how blogging has changed the very nature of traditional journalism.

Bill asserts that it is not bloggers that are leading to the loss of faith in traditional journalists. It is the decline of traditional journalism that is the problem. Journalists, Bill surmises, need to re-connect with the readers. Instead of the old approach of one way communication, journalists need to interact with readers and not shun blogs.

This leads very nicely to the next entry. As Oscar Wilde quipped "the truth is rarely pure and never simple" and the Bloggers - Guardians of Truth piece I wrote seems to be a case of this.

So please get back for the next entry because it promises to be quite a revelation -
I am quite serious on this point.

Chalky Stein: media star passes away

Chalky Stein (1989-2007) has passed away at 17 years.

Chalky was the companion of Rick Stein the seafood chef who was well known for his television work.

Chalky became a media star in his own right and often upstaged Rick. I must confess that I would not watch Rick if Chalky did not feature.

He was an unlikely star: aggressive, irascible, disobedient and stubborn. But he was loved. And he achieved his profile without a media degree or ambition.

Chalky fans can read Rick's tribute here.

Jade - PR turnaround of the decade possible?

I am not sure if Jade Goody has been reading this blog or taken the hints given to her last night in the Big Brother diary room, but she might come out of this better than anyone could have expected a day ago.

She has apologised and made up with Shilpa. Shilpa accepted her assertion that she is not racist. And I do not know why but she accepted a conciliatory hug.

Jade shocked at her behavior and outbursts when played back to her when she left the house offered a complete apology:

“I do not approve of any of my actions and I do not approve of the words that came out of my mouth....I look like a complete and utter nasty small person - the sort of person I don’t like myself.

I am not a racist and I sincerely, with my hand on my heart, apologise to anyone I have offended out there."

I am sure she will do further interviews with the broadcast media as well as the newspapers. If she reiterates her comments she might get out of this with the damage greatly limited. Indeed in the her first Big Brother she threatened to "deck" another contestant much to the ire of the press. She was voted 4th in Channel 4's 100 worst Britons, "beating" Alex Ferguson, Edwina Curry, Catherine Zeta Jones and Naomi Campbell. This hasn't harmed her career at all.

So she might be back sooner than you think but not perhaps on a Channel 4 "reality" TV show.

I hope this the last entry on Big Brother; time to move on.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shilpagate - PR disaster for the UK?

The situation in the Big Brother household continues to grasp and hold our attention, even those of us that do watch the programme know what is happening. It is more than a reality TV programme now, it has re-opened a very sensitive issue: is racism ingrained in our society? And is bullying endemic and tolerated?

It is hard to spot a national paper that did not have the issue of racism and bullying on the front cover this morning. The Daily Express led with "How a reality TV show has shamed our country in the eyes of the world."

I am sure many of us feel uncomfortable and identify with that sentiment.

Indeed, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has received over 30,000 complaints and Channel 4 10,000. The former is a record for Ofcom and the latter must for Channel 4 unless something drastic happens on Countdown.

Things are happening so fast that the Keep Shilpa In website states that there were 14,500 complaints to Ofcom - dated Wednesday - and has not updated the continuing surge of outrage.

This website has gone from a small site little visited innocuous site supporting Shilpa in her bid to win the contest to one that attracts over 250,000 visitors a day.

So as the situation unravels it is becoming clearer to see the winners and losers and what PR do they need to do to come out of this debacle well:

Jade Goody, Jo O'Meara and Danielle Lloyd have lost their "careers." The only way to redress this would be to apologize unreservedly for their behavior when they come out. It would be partially successful I feel if they agreed to it, which I doubt. We might not have seen the worst of the diatribes yet and how would they excuse their behaviour and build a reason for the public accepting their contrition?. I only think Jo O'Meara, owing to being more peripheral, might have the attention deflected off her sufficiently to not feel the force of the reaction that is pent up and ready to go as they leave the house. They are all in for a shock.

Channel 4 is beginning to feel the backlash, but their broadcast media gut reaction is that it is all publicity and ride the storm. They might reap the whirlwind.

Losing the sponsorship of a brand such as Carphone Warehouse must make them think again. Government looking at broadcast licenses must make them think again. But CEO Andy Duncan's intransigence and what could be taken for arrogance in a recent interview is not helping. Unless they change tack things will get hotter. If they review, act, they can come out of this well and with the viewing figures they crave. I hope they are getting good PR advice: a start would be tackling the bullies in the interview room about their behaviour in a forthright manner. But trading off the sensationalism is too much for them to even reconsider.

Shilpa - her career is made. She has shown dignity and character. It will be rewarded beyond her dreams.

Britain - Gordon Brown had the misfortune to be in India and his showcase tour is ruined. I think it will spark a debate and that is healthy especially as so many politicans and the public have shown their disgust. There will be a short uncomfortable period, but it will disappear. Relations with India will not suffer, especially if the politicans and public contimue to voice their concern and sympathy with Shilpa and the unacceptibility of the actions of the three.

Only the other day I posted a piece on the PR successes and disasters for 2006; it seems as though 2007's will be strongly featured here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Channel 4: PR score or own goal?

Is the treatment of Shilpa Shetty racist or just plain nasty; a bad case of jealousy and nothing else?

And is this the biggest PR coup Channel 4 have ever produced?

Channel 4 viewing figures are up: 4.5 million viewers for the main highlights programme, up from 3.5 million on Monday and 3.9 million on Tuesday last week. And the number of column inches in the nationals must be making this the story of the week.

But is this the biggest PR own goal that Channel 4 have scored?

The issue of the Big Brother and accusations of racism has been raised in Parliament by Keith Vaz MP and the Indian government is awaiting a report and will bring up the matter with the British government. Gordon Brown also had to defend Britain's reputation for "fairness and tolerance."

It has also made the lead story in the Indian papers although the programme is not shown in India and the reaction is understandably angry in some quarters, resigned to the fact that the world has bigots in other quarters and occasionally nonchalant in a few places.

Does Channel 4 care about this? Probably not. What coverage! better than they could have hoped for.

But Ofcom has registered a phenomenal 19,300 complaints. Hertfordshire Police has forwarded 40 complaints to the Channel 4. There must be many more people that have not complained that feel strongly about the issue. And what about the Indian community?

Has this damaged Channel 4? They have been accused of not acting on racist behaviour on the programme. After watching Big Brother there is a bad taste that remains. And it might stay for quite some time if the issue is not resolved.

And as the campaign for action gathers pace the attention and anger might turn form the bullies who cannot be contacted to Channel 4 for not tackling the issue to the satisfaction of the public.

Any PR crisis should not be tackled by ignoring it and hoping it goes away a la Ken Livingstone.

Time will tell if it is a PR goal or own goal. I think Channel 4 are playing a dangerous game and unless they do not tackle the issue and interact with the audience and public it could be out of their control very quickly; this might only be the start of their problems.

Please can we have the Manchester Evening News technology pages back

It is great to see Seb Ramsay write the lead for the Manchester Evening News today.

Seb wrote extensively for the Manchester Evening News technology business pages. As I recall at least a page was devoted to technology companies in Manchester; it was double page spreads at times if my memory serves me well.

Unfortunately, the weekly feature was cut around two years ago.

It was for me a real highlight of the business pages.

Yes Ernest Rutherford conducted ground breaking work on the atom here and yes much early pioneering computer work was performed here by Alan Turing at the university. Many would say that is enough to justify reinstating the feature, but the reason should be that Manchester still holds its own in pioneering technological work and it is a hotbed of technology companies.

How do I know this?: the technology pages showed the entrepreneurship and innovation in the city. The technology pages had some of the most impressive stories in the whole paper. I cannot believe that the technology sector has not declined in two years.

Manchester still has something to say and we need reminding of the technological expertise in the city.

Yes, the Manchester Evening News is under pressure as are all papers in terms of journalistic resources. And yes it must understandably have more important priorities that I do not appreciate. But the technology pages were always interesting and reflected an important part of the city and its identity.

I only hope that one day they return.

The Internet and its carbon footprint

Today's quote highlights George Bush bringing up green issues a little ahead of his time. Forget Kyoto, has anyone thought of the environmental impact of the Internet?

If that's what he meant.

Answers on an e-mail about what he meant.

"Will the highways on the Internet become more few?"
George Bush

Concord New Hampshire January 29 2000

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Buzzwords to take into 2007?

The New York Times published a feature on new phrases that appeared over the year.

It is very American but that is to be expected (no value judgement intended); reminiscent of the glossary found in Douglas Coupland's Generation X. Still, here are a few that you might find amusing or indeed useful over 2007 or perhaps not:

Hubby sitter: a man hired to keep a woman's husband out of trouble.

Internet courage: boldness of character that comes from anonymity and distance inherent in Internet communication.

Katrina Brain: forgetfulness, lack of concentration and failure to follow through on activities, characteristic of the post-traumatic stress of Hurricane Katrina.

Sneeze: a television advertisement shorter than 15 seconds.

Spaghetti bowl: the interconnected and tangled economic relationships of a group of nations.

Vice Mail: voice-mail messages disguised as confidential stock tips left on the wrong answering machine.

Zeteophobia: a fear of career-planning. Coined by John Krumboltz, a Standford University professor.

Monday, January 15, 2007

PR across borders

I had a couple of visitors to the blog from India yesterday and it has reminded me of some thoughts I have had about PR between borders.

Manufacturers in the UK and the occidental countries often source products or switch manufacturing to China, India and other developing nations. But as these countries become stronger, or indeed today, they will take the initiative and seek out new markets in the West.

China, India and associates can beat us hands down at production when it comes to cost but they will always struggle to perform the marketing and sales in markets that are foreign to them.

With greater communcations offered by the Internet (including blogs) will PR and marketing agencies be receiving requests to have the marketing from the east outsourced?

A Mandarin version of this blog is under consideration.

Perhaps it goes through established routes. I just thought one day I could be receiving an e-mail from an Indian or Chinese manufacturer asking me to promote them - outsourced PR

Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday

Today is Martin Luther King Jr's birthday and is a holiday in the USA.

Only Christopher Columbus Abraham Lincoln and Jesus have their birthdays celebrated as national holidays in the States in addition to Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

For a chance to see to see one of the greatest and most moving pieces of oratory click here

With a voice it is possible to change the world.

Who would be a journalist?

Journalism is one of the most glamourous professions that graduates consider. But is it one that can lead to an uncertain and precarious career; very few journalists are being paid brilliant salaries in the broadcast media.

Wolverhampton 's Express and Star has recently announced, reported by Press Gazette Online, as many as 40 redundancies after making a similar number redundant several months ago. The Manchester Evening News has already made its cuts in a couple rounds of redundancies in 2006. There are many other examples.

Of course not all redundancies are journalists, other departments are affected as well. But the fact is that many publications are now being reduced to smaller editorial teams, yet the workload remains the same.

The effect is more competition for jobs and smaller teams coping to produce the same quality and quantity of output.

It is a shame for those involved including publishers that are being forced to take such action. Very few professions, over subsribed and under pressure as they are, can be said to be glamourous.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Apprenticeships for marketing and PR

Jamie Oliver, you might find him irritating or inspirational, but he often talks sense.

He has taken a side swipe at the government for pushing university at school leavers and not investing in apprenticeships.

What is the point of of 50% of school leavers going to college when there are not enough jobs for them? And The Guardian commented on Saturday that even Oxbridge graduates are guaranteed nothing.

Why not have apprenticeships for marketing and PR?

Some years ago I was talking to an academic who was setting up a post graduate course for PR. I asked him excitedly where he had worked. The answer, in a blase fashion was, "I haven't worked in PR."

I have wondered ever since how you can teach something you have never even tried.

I have also noted that many professions can be learnt in the world of work with perhaps some college release.

Do not misunderstand me, university and learning do have merit. And you should learn for the enjoyment and interest of a subject, even if there is no job waiting for you. We sometimes forget that.

Yes, marketers and PRs should invest in professionals qualifications - it shows interest in their profession and a desire to add to their skills. But the key skills / attributes are surely enthusiasm, openness to improving skills, writing, analytical skills, ability to interact with colleagues and clients and common sense.

If those interested in marketing and PR wish to do an English degree - fine. All I am saying is there should be an alternative and the government should not encourage such large numbers to go into university because they do not have a clue what to do with them or the misapprehension that having such large numbers in education will make us an economic superpower.

Would marketing and PR wither away if universities cut 75% of graduates in marketing, PR and business. The answer is surely "no!"

Bloggers - guardians of truth

The MSN Spaces Blogging Britain Report survey found that 78% of respondents trust "more traditional media and journalists more than bloggers to provide them with accurate information."

Well, a couple of recent stories show that confidence needs to be invested on a more case by case basis although admittedly bloggers do not have the editorial control and legal advice of more traditional media outlets.

In Saturday's Guardian it was reported that the Daily Telegraph's Toby Harnden published an account of Saddam's execution before it actually happened and consequently it had factual errors. Harnden wrote the piece early because of the time difference, before the actual execution. Harden's blog was pulled by the Telegraph after "non-traditional" bloggers pointed out the inaccuracies.

The BBC published an interesting video piece on the role of bloggers fighting for more objective, non state controlled news. Democracy is based on the free flow of information. See how Chinese bloggers are battling with the "traditional" media outlets and Great Firewall fo China that tries to block all sites that are not favourable to the Communist government. The article is half way down the page in the audio and video section.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Google Earth being used to direct insurgent attacks in Iraq

British army bases in Iraq are possibly facing more precise attacks against their weak spots after army raids on insurgents have shown them using Google Earth images.

The images, less than two years old, show in detail areas of the camps such as tents that are vunerable to attack.

British security services are worried that reconnaisance could be carried out on home based targets.

It shows how the war on terror utilises online technology. Al Qaida and its partners are astute at online PR / propaganda as well as fully taking advantage of the Internet to communicate.

It is a war that is being fought online as well as in the field.

Further comment is in The Telegraph

PR disasters and successes of 2006

Rainier PR has resorted, very successfully, to the old, tired, tried and tested method: a survey.

But it is quite an engaging one: the PR disasters and successes of 2006.

On the success side is the Think Pink breast cancer awareness campaign and You Tube, which scored heavily.

On the disaster side the Mills - McCartney saga and Madonna's adoption of a Malawi child did no favours for the near 3,000 respondents with over 50% plumping for the Heather - Paul debacle as The 2006 PR disaster.

Some PR successes and disasters that apparently did not make it:

PR successes:
The Beckhams - how can a vacuous and talentless pop "singer" who cannot sing and her aging (in football career terms) husband - who wasn't anywhere near the best player at either Man Utd or Real Madrid - still hog the headlines? That must be good marketing and PR, surely?

PR disasters:
It's a draw:
The UN's inability to do anything about Dafur, which has claimed 2 million lives
The US failing to win over the middle east to their war on terror or making democracy look more appetising than home grown dictatorships

Crisis PR award:
Hizbollah inadvertently starting a war, winning hearts and minds as they rebuild and pay for the damaged homes - in the villages they hid out in and which drew in fire- with Iranian money; they are in a stronger position to push out the democratic government of the Lebanon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Internet is life threatening - George Bush

As mentioned in a previous entry it was a choice between the Dalai Lama's and George Bush's sayings to guide me through the year and George won. And I cannot but share one or two quotes with you over the year.

The quote for the 13th warns of the nasty Internet:

"It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."

Arlington Heights, Illinois October 24 2000

Social media and Brett Lee

Social media will increasingly be important as a marketing tool for the most forward thinking companies, but the following example is not perhaps what came to mind as a salient example of how it is transforming the marketing world.

Brett Lee, Australian fast bowler, is advancing his career through You Tube.

Brett a keen musician - well he hardly has to apply all his energies to beating England - is having a minor Bollywood musical hit. The cricketer has teamed up with Indian music legend Ashe Bhosle for a love ballad. You're the One for me, written by Lee, could be the start of something.

It is proving quite a succes on You Tube. It really grows on you (and is less painful than watching England) click through for the video.

And take note technology can be used for good and evil although I am not sure where this stands.

Sean Langan - a master journalist

I have to give a mention to Sean Langan - a true gem of a journalist.

We might hear, from time to time, the hyped up cliche of a fearless, investigative journalist bravely finding out uncomfortable truths and alerting the public and politicians to the danger our society faces. Well, with Sean Langan such plaudits are not over the top. (Donal McIntyre you will have to do better).

In last nights documentary Sean was in Afghanistan talking to the Taliban and al Qaida at considerable risk to himself. The reprise documentary shown on Tuesday shows him investigating the situation with the British and Afghan armies in Helmand province.

The films have real tension, insight and initiative: Sean was banned by the MoD from travelling with the army (even though the military wanted him to accompany them) but he still managed to come along with a unit of the Afghan army assigned to the British army instead.

There are some in their professionals that really stand out, almost rising above their field; Sean Langan is one such individual and should receive all the praise he deserves.

Truly riveting journalism.

For more comment go to Channel 4 and Times Online blog

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New year, new networking

It feels a little bit like coming back to school after the holidays, so here are the networking notices:


The first meeting of the year is a the Digital World Centre on Thursday 11th of December at 3pm.

Business for Breakfast:

City Centre Renaissance is on Tuesday 16th at 7am. We are particularly looking for new members particularly from recruitment, travel and banking as new members.

Didsbury group is meeting on Thursday 18th at 7am. We are particularly looking for printers, travel and recruitment as new members.

Hale Barns is meeting on Friday 19th at 7am. We are looking for marketing, lawyers and banking.

Please inquire if interested, interested to talk to a attracta wide range of business in the city.