Feel the curves of this solar panel

Not every idea from marketing is easy to turn on its head in an attempt to encourage people to act sustainably.Quite apart from the whole issue of whether harnessing our love of consumption is sufficient response (there are many who think we will HAVE to consume less to make a difference) sometimes the consumer goods associated with sustainability just aren't that sexy.I was trying to think about

My holiday to-do list

I generally loathe the winter holidays; winter in general, in fact. I prefer with no exceptions 105-degree weather over any day with a temperature below 60. And winter in Reno is bizarrely…

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Thoughts from an airport lounge…

Tapping this out at an early hour in a cold dark Heathrow airport. Had the great joy of listening to Farming Today and the early hour of Today, the best broadcast news programme in Britain.

Two items struck me.

One, David Miliband deciding not to pursue the EU “High representative” role. Good call though the EU’s loss, especially if Tony Blair does not do the EU president job he would do so well. I have long admired David as one of our best ministers. Whatever he does in the future, he has a big role to play in domestic politics and he has killed a story that was running on.

Second, the BBC’s admirable attempts to open up reporting from the Family Courts. A disturbing case is reported of a father who had been to the Courts twenty times to try and get access to his kids. Despite many judges supporting his applications, and some thirty court orders being issued in support of his access, his ex-wife has refused to comply. At the latest attempt, reported by the BBC, he was supported once again but told no action would be taken - but that he should have the right to send cards and letters.

 When is the law not the law in this country???

Is a free press that self-censors still free?

Captured by The Cydonian from http://www.flickr.

Bernard Chan wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the South China Morning Post recently (“Our press may not be fair, but at least it’s free”) in which he acknowledges that there are certain parts of the Hong Kong media whose coverage of Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, is less than fair:

Certain Hong Kong newspapers are very biased against this administration – and not necessarily just to boost their readership. They have their own particular agendas, and they don’t seem to mind sacrificing professional standards as a result.

(SCMP link is here, subscription required.)

Negative coverage has recently dogged Donald Tsang regarding his perceived nepotism.

Chan compares press freedom in Hong Kong favorably with its sister Asian Tiger to the south:

What would have happened if a newspaper in Singapore, rather than Hong Kong, had suggested the senior leader might be guilty of nepotism?

It wouldn’t happen – because Singapore newspapers are under a large degree of official control. But Singaporeans and overseas media who have suggested nepotism among the leadership have ended up being sued for libel and subject to severe fines. In some cases, when top officials in Singapore have sued opponents, the result has been bankruptcy and the end of a career.

Bernard Chan goes on to say a spectrum of media bias in Hong Kong is “a mark of a free society”, citing Fox News in the US, and The Guardian in UK, as examples on both ends.  According to Chan, it behooves politicians in free societies to take advantage of this situation.

Most interestingly, he compares Hong Kong with Singapore, where the lack of press freedom has relegated it to 133rd place in Reporters Without Borders’ 2009 press freedom index. Hong Kong came in 48th. He blames self-censorship for Hong Kong’s low showing, which raises the question, “If we already have freedom in the HK press, then how can we also suffer from too much self-censorship?” This apparent breakdown in logic only makes sense if you understand the unspoken: while the Hong Kong media freely “smears” Donald Tsang, some outlets practice self-censorship when it comes to reporting on China, especially on contentious issues.

Ironic, perhaps, that Chan didn’t highlight this in his column.

Fostering Sustainable Behavior

This very accessible book about how to get communities involved in changing behaviours is now available in a FREE online version (title reflects Canadian spelling).It uses ideas from social psychology to explain what more you need to do beyond communicating to encourage people to action.

Billy Liar on the Moon: PR in Fiction

"You'll have to stop telling all these lies, Billy," my mother used to say, all those years ago. Yes mother, it's just that I am a slow learner."

I suppose it was inevitable that the late, great Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar would end up in Public Relations. In the 1975 sequel, Billy Liar on the Moon, disgraced undertaker's clerk William Fisher, 33, is eight years into an undistinguished career with Shepford Council, somewhere in an equally undistiguished part of Midlands suburbia, presently working in Information and Publicity.

And it is pretty grim, 1970s stuff - Life on Mars without the action, but with plenty of casual sexism, drink-driving and a general feeling that modernism is making everything worse. Although Ambrosia is behind him, Billy is still prone to flights of fantasy, but mainly confined to adding colourful flourishes to a celebratory guidebook he is writing, Pageantry with Progress: "Shepford leads the way, ta-ra! Exports up by eight point five percent on some figures we have just made up."

He is half-heartedly plotting to 'step into the gin-soaked shoes' of his boss RVO 'Reggie' Rainbell - known as Pisspot - and become Information Officer and Director of Publicity. Tellingly his main rival is Purchase, a crushingly dull man who works in Finance and shaves his 'nasal organ'.

Pisspot drinks, he calls Billy 'Arsehole'. He is of his time: "...a pipe repaired with insulating tape smouldering in one tweedy pocket and a copy of the Guardian, looking as if it had recently wrapped lettuce, in the other."

Are you a rotten director of publicity Pisspot, or a very good one? I suspected he was a better one than I would ever have been... a better one, anyway, than the town deserved. If he didn't give a toss, it was only because there was not much in Shepford worth giving a toss about, but he had a kind of exasperated, exasperating integrity that I admired, and looked in vain for in myself.

Eventually, Billy is co-opted on to the Council's Festival committee.

They had all got copies of some balls Pisspot and I had slung together, largely concerned with fictitious plans to flood the world media with invitations and press passes. In reality we had long ago stopped bothering, for no-one ever came. A man from one of the Birmingham papers had arrived one year but only, it turned out after we had givem him lunch, to visit his sister. 

Billy's moment of glory as a publicist comes when he suggests holding a children's dog show, offering prizes for the ugliest mongrel and spottiest spotted dog. Naturally, it ends in disaster.  

And he had been warned. As Pisspot said: 

"Don't fool yourself that this is a plum job, Bill. It's not a plum, it's a gooseberry. If you had any sense you would turn it down. This is not, repeat not a town with a future, and if you ever fall for that expanding Shepford crap I will kick you up and down this opffice until your arse turns blue - its a glass and concrete excavated ruin we're living in and if I were your age I'd be out of it on the next train."

Ther trouble was, that from Waterhouse's mid-1970s perspective, wherever in England he got off the train, it would be just as bad.

Don’t claim to be a social media expert? We want to talk to you.

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

Image by luc legay via Flickr

Recently I’ve been traveling for business a whole lot, while busy working on a business development pipeline that’s healthier than we’ve ever seen, and at the same time building budgets and business plans for next year.  So I’ve been guilty of the blogger’s sin: neglecting my blog.  Still, it was a jolt to hear a job candidate say, in her diplomatic way, “You haven’t been updating your blog lately, have you?”

It’s gratifying that many candidates nowadays, especially those that are ambitious and smart, routinely check out our blogs and twitter feeds before they come in for an interview.  It’s partly the reputation that we’ve gained, partly our stated intention to make digital an integral part of our offering rather than a separate function.  I personally have said on Twitter that if you are social media savvy my estimation of you instantly goes up a notch. 

However, we do need to distinguish between people that think like social media users versus marketers.  Just because you have a blog, a Facebook account and tweet regularly, doesn’t automatically make you a social media savvy marketer.  It just means you spend a lot of time in front of your PC.  It’s how you can creatively blend all the communication tools at your disposal, including “traditional” PR, that matters.

I have a few questions that I like to ask, rather than the bog standard “Do you use Facebook, MySpace or Twitter?”

  • What in your mind makes a social media expert? Would you consider yourself one? Why?
  • Describe 1-2 recent marketing campaigns conducted mainly online that you like.
  • How would you integrate digital marketing ideas with offline PR and advertising programs?
  • Are you familiar with [recent high profile social media marketing faux pas by well known brand]? How would you remedy the situation? What mistakes did they make originally?
  • If you were to design a creative, out-of-the box social media campaign to market yourself as a job candidate, what would it look like?

Rather than just having accounts at all the right sites, it’s the ability to think that matters the most. 

The first question is particularly illuminating; the ones who claim not to know enough about social media usually turn out to be the best digital marketing thinkers. A benefit of being in constant learning mode, perhaps.