Feel the curves of this solar panel

This post is by Caroline Wilson from GoodGreenPR

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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…

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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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?

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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 post is by Caroline Wilson from GoodGreenPR

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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

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"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.

This post is by WE.com Blog Feed from WE.com Blog Feed

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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.

Vigilante Consumers and CSR

This post is by Caroline Wilson from GoodGreenPR

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Today's You and Yours programme on BBC Radio 4 had an introductory discussion about corporate social responsibility - and how it is faring during a recession.Naturally PR doesn't get the best of write-ups - and there are some examples of rather empty CSR platitudes by the likes of Trafigura and some of the banks whose actions have not proved to be sustainable (about 3 minutes in).David Grayson,

Clean up politics yes, but let’s not make it a club just for those who can afford it

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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We are all talking a lot about the “decline” of traditional media vs the continued influence of press and broadcasters here in the UK, the USA etc. But if you want an example of just how influential an editor, painstaking journalism and some editorial balls can be, look to The Daily Telegraph. Their exposure of the alleged abuses and sheer stupidly the Parliamentary allowances system deserves a UN media award, let alone Newspaper of the Year.

It has truly changed politics and its relationship with wider society. Not always for the better.

I had some sympathy for Austin Mitchell’s wife (knowing Austin of old, truth is I have ALWAYS had sympathy for his missus) when she complained on the BBC recently that being married to ANY MP, not just a porn/duck house/moat/gardening/mortgage tax relief expense “abusing” MP, was like being married to a social pariah.

However, you could say that the insular nature of the political class as a whole, whatever background they come from, that made MPs and Peers think this was all acceptable, brought it all upon themselves.

The latest proposals on second homes, mortgage interest payments etc have been well received by the press, against the background of the continued steady trickle of “abuse” stories and the howls of revolt from backbenchers.

As a long distance commuter (2 x 2 hours a day when I am in the London office) I was interested in the proposal that if their nearest railway station was within 60 minutes of the Commons, MPs will be banned from claiming for a second home. A 60 minute journey during peak travel times is, as any rail commuter knows, a very different kettle of fish from a 60 minute journey late at night, which any MP would have to contemplate if they are doing their job properly.

(I don’t understand why they don’t do what any company would do, which is have a sensible policy of allowing for reasonable overnight hotel accommodation if their work legitimately – a late night sitting or whatever, as opposed to a jolly at the Brits – requires them to be at work after a certain hour. I work a lot of late evenings. I don’t need a second home. I just need the odd opportunity not to have to arrive home at 2am having negotiated engineering works, delays and hoards of fast food gorging drunks and violent yobs on a late night train, just to get up and start it all again three hours later, and to stay in a reasonably priced hotel that my company has done a sensible group discount deal with. This is beyond the wit and organisational abilities of the Parliamentary authorities??)

The concern voiced by some if that this will return politics to being the preserve of those who can afford it. To a point. We need elected representatives who can truly represent the electorate. You don’t get that if they all come from Eton or a career as a trade union official.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for social engineering. I have met many Labour MPs and PPCs with the right working class credentials, but were either as thick as two short planks or just unpleasant careerists. Ditto many MPs with Oxbridge educations but lacking the street smarts to get from one end the road to the other.

But whatever reforms are brought in, they must reflect the need to get people into politics who have a passion for serving society and for change, not just those who can afford it.

(While all the above is going on, one Conservative PPC – Liz Truss – is facing deselection by her local party for having an affair with another married MP in the past. I have never met the woman but am told she is bright and has a lot to contribute both to public service and to improving the quality of people in Parliament. Get fired for raking in questionable expenses, fine, but for this? On that basis half the flamin’ Commons would be out.)

Notes from a workshop

This post is by Caroline Wilson from GoodGreenPR

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This week I was at a workshop at the Open University about social marketing (the one where you use marketing tools to encourage people to do stuff that's generally good for them and/or society rather than eat smoke and drink the wrong stuff then crash the car on the way home/burn the house down). I was interested to hear these nuggets of interest and wisdom:- Bristolians (and many other UK cities

Emerging from the recession

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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I was last speaker up at a joint PRCA/Corp Comms Magazine conference late last week entitled ‘Emerging from the recession’. Having spent a week on 2010 budgets, talked to clients and fellow agency heads, and been at the Conservative conference in Manchester (a bit like one of those old concept albums – a ‘dark side’ spelling out economic gloom and tough measures, which then flipped over midweek to the ‘light side’ of Dave spelling out vision and values), I pointed out that there really needed to be a question mark at the end of the title.

Although we are seeing real green shoots, and technical definitions of recession suggesting we are emerging from it, it is not a done deal. Just this morning one economist was talking about a ‘saxophone’ shaped recession with a deep dive followed by a slow and faltering recovery which could be blown (forgive the pun) off course by deep public spending cuts, another international financial crisis etc.

The point I tried to make in my presentation was that even if the recession is, or will be, over, we in PR have to rethink some of our strategies and assumptions if we are going to be able to help our clients (internal as well as external if we are in house) and ourselves take advantage of it.

First off, while we are all familiar with the grim images of recession at home and abroad, the most meaningful one for me right now is the picture of another David, taking to the streets with his sandwich board and advertising himself for work, with an introductory offer of doing the first month free.

That picture should be up in PR offices and PR recruiting materials. First of all it is a great creative idea that got loads of coverage. Secondly, it was about clear communications. Thirdly there was a compelling consumer offer. Fourthly, it was entrepreneurial.

I made the point that clients were starting to see real upsides in their business – though not in all sectors – and top executives are now refocusing on growth and less on bottom line protection.

I also pulled out a quote from the Stanford economist Paul Romer who said ‘A crisis is a terrible thing to waste’. That may seem uncaring given the jobs lost this year in our sector, but in truth when times are tough PR focuses more on the tangibles – ideas that drive sales and not just reputation, proving ROI, improving measurement strategies.

I then quoted one of the USA’s top marketers, GE’s Beth Comstock, who perfectly summed up the pivotal position PR advisers are in now when she said “The marketer is the one who understands that the question isn’t just “How do we make our year” but also, “How will we thrive in 2015”. That ability to juggle the here and now with the long term view is key to our industry’s success.

Changes in the media mix, the rise of consumer scepticism about spin and traditional advertising, the power the Internet has given to advocates and badvocates, have all helped build the power – or potential power – of PR in today’s marketing mix.
And as the recent VSS Communications Industry Forecast has noted, the comms industry is expected to grow faster than GDP for the next five years, and one of the key drivers of this growth is the PR industry.

So, despite the downturn, the fact is that PR’s time has come. But the challenges and opportunities ahead are increasingly complex. They require strategic thinking, a lot of listening as well as talking, and a willingness to challenge the ideas we went into the recession with. Even if the budgets return and the economy picks up, we need to keep the disciplined thinking of the downturn front of mind.

One of the personal examples I gave was my recent appointment of Matty Tong, a very talented strategic planner, from the world of adverting. Traditionally advertising is much more focussed on audience insights, planning and measurement than PR. Learning from that is one of the planks in our success platform going forwards.

A book I have been reading lately is Richard Watson’s ‘Future Files – The 5 trends that will shape the next 50 years’. He summarises those trends as:

1. Ageing

2. The power shift Eastwards

3. Global connectivity

4. GRIN technologies

5. The Environment

All have implications for PR.

The backdrop to the changing opportunities and challenges for PR is clearly digital and social media. But even in this relatively new branch of PR and marketing, there are assumptions which don’t match the facts.

Take ageing. In the USA someone passes their 50th birthday every 8 seconds. In Japan the proportion of the population over 75 is forecast to rise by over 30% in the next 10 to 15 years. The opportunities in healthcare, technology, tourism, financial services and government communications are obvious. Yet our industry, with our relentless desire to hang with the kids and hug our inner teenager, and many companies, prioritise the teen market. Despite rising youth unemployment and graduate debt. And the assumption is that the sole route to teenbucks is digital, and to the “seniors” market is The Mail, The Telegraph and some gardening weekly.

(Two views on this. In PR we are increasingly hiring people who don’t consume media despite aspiring to advise clients on media. Or if they do it is purely the online bit, whereas customers and citizens increasingly consume offline and online which = “inline”. Secondly – back to my point on the need for more strategic planning skills in PR.)

On the powershift East, the dramatic growth in the BRIC and CHIME markets may have temporarily slowed but we are still looking consumer spending in China alone to hit over $2 trillion by 2015.

On global connectivity Watson notes that 1 billion of us are communicating and increasingly shopping around online, with that figure expected to double in a decade, and 2.5 billion are chattering to each other on cell phones. Meanwhile 13% of the world’s population is now living somewhere other than the country of their birth.

GRIN stands for Genetics, Robotics, Internet and Nanotechnology, and the big beast for us is the ‘I’, but GMOs, nanotech etc have marketing implications as well.

Finally The Environment and associated issues like CSR remain major drivers of present and future consumer and corporate behaviour.

So to summarise so far:

* Recession over? Too early to say?

* If it is PR is well placed to help drive both clients’ and its own business – but it will have to keep rethinking its MO and business proposition

* All the major trends driving the future have huge implications for PR and marketing

* To be successful, PR has to learn from advertising, anticipate the future rather than just react to the present, and constantly challenge its own stereotypes and assumptions.

As I said earlier, the biggest driver of change in marketing is the Internet, digital and social media. Beneath the froth there are important moves in the media landscape and consumer/citizen thinking and behaviour. But not all is as we expect.

Weber Shandwick is in the process of publishing a wealth of INLINE research over the coming weeks, charting what influences consumer and citizen behaviour. (One ‘INLINE profile’ is in the PowerPoint).

So, while the expected upsurge in third party advocacy is there, almost a quarter of ‘influence’ is still generated by ‘traditional’ media – compared to less than half of that for advertising – and many of those third party advocates will themselves be influenced by other spokes on the wheel including media coverage and advertising.

When asked about interaction with brands through social media, 31% of UK consumers agree they want this. But 43% say they often don’t believe what they read online unless they fact check it in offline media.

Then there are the demographic assumptions. Our research found that 50% of UK consumers aged 18-34 claimed their purchasing decisions were influenced by “traditional” print media. But only 26% of UK consumers aged 55+ claimed their decisions were influenced by traditional media. Offline and online. Both are important.

So the assumption that yoof in general no longer consume print and broadcast media is false, that they only buy what their mates advocate online is false, that oldies are more influenced by traditional media coverage is false. Only research and customer insights, and a balanced approach to recruitment, can challenge the easy assumptions and urban myths that surround modern marketing.

I also made points – using research undertaken by our Chief Reputation Strategist Dr Leslie Gaines Ross – on the challenge of increased online activity by protest groups and badvocates to corporate reputations. As we emerge from recession we need to bear in mind that consumers are increasing exposed to corporate and consumer brand badvocacy as well as advocacy.

Referring back to another of Richard Watson’s trends, the environment, I pointed to brands that had embraced sustainability and associated CSR strategies in their marketing plan as well as corporations whose reputations had been damaged by exposure of bad environmental practice. These days being environmentally responsible is a basic consumer expectation, but clever marketing of real environmental benefit can give a brand a competitive edge in a recovering and increasingly choosy consumer market.

Finally, returning to my ‘insights’ theme, and the preparedness of PR to help clients take advantage of the economic upturn, I pointed out the lack of ethnic – and occasionally social – diversity in the PR industry. This is something I have written about before and in truth I still have a lot to do in my own organisation.

Ethnic groups are a growing segment of consumers and society. Research by Weber Shandwick’s Multi Cultural Communications practice shows that three quarters of Black and Asian consumers and half of Chinese consumers in the UK felt that marketing by mainstream brands had little or no relevance to them. They also thought that most consumer brands simply did not know how to market to increasingly diverse UK consumer groups.

If we are to help our clients, we need to look at our own ranks and work hard to diversify our intake so we start to more accurately reflect those whose purchasing power and attitudes we claim to understand.

In summary, we are emerging from recession, but how quickly and how sustainably is still an open question. But when the economic upturn does come, for us in PR it can’t be ‘business as usual’.

Carbon Reduction – bring own carrot

This post is by Caroline Wilson from GoodGreenPR

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The Carbon Reduction Commitment is taking shape, with more details announced on how it will work. (There is a PR and reputation angle to this... stick with it)This is the scheme were all big energy users, private and public sector, have to take part in monitoring and reporting of their energy use.In overly simple terms, organisations who are big energy users are to start reporting their energy

Where is PR’s Mikael Blomkvist?

This post is by Mediations from mediations

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One of the differences highlighted by my PR in Fiction and Scoop! Journalists in Fiction projects is that PRs are seldom at the heart of plot-driven novels. In a way, it is the difference between information and investigation; reporters provide a useful narrative focus because they dig for the hidden, and can be natural seekers of truth.

Mikael Blomqvist, one of the two central characters in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy, typifies this role. In his Observer review of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, Nick Cohen writes:   

"Blomkvist smiled. He had never met Svensson before, but he felt at once that he was the kind of journalist he liked, someone who got right to the heart of the story. For Blomkvist the golden rule in journalism was that there were always people who were responsible. The bad guys."

As a left-wing reporter who had investigated neo-Nazi gangs, and lived in fear of murderous reprisals, Larsson had learned to mistrust non-judgmental pieties about there being "good and bad in all of us". Hard-won experience taught him to avoid the shades of grey, which reduce so much contemporary fiction – and political thought – to a formless blur. Specifically, Larsson believed misogyny to be an unpardonable evil, and wove a feminist argument through the trilogy with enormous skill. All thriller plots are ludicrous when you to stop to think about them, but Larsson uses male hatred of women to make his uncomfortably plausible.

If you haven't read Larsson yet, a review of book three which contains plot references probably isn't the best starting point but, for me, Cohen nails his strengths and weaknesses. He is not good on sense of place, and some of the plotting is almost cartoonish in its need to up the tension, but the clarity and raw emotion that fuels the narrative is compelling. 

Teaching Social Media: Stirling21 & EuroBlog Bucharest

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Here is the presentation of a paper on Teaching Social Media, written by Richard Bailey, Gareth Thompson, and myself. Richard presented it at the Stirling 21 conference and I used it as the basis of my contribution to the panel I chaired at the Euprera Congress in Bucharest.

As part of Euprera's EuroBlog project, Richard and I are now working on a generic module to help academics who are meeting the challenge of teaching social media. This will be developed through a wiki - please contribute!

Berlin blog

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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I always get emotional when I visit Berlin.

This is one of the most significant cities in modern history, as well as emerging as Continental Europe’s cool contemporary cultural capital.

As you fly in you can see from the formations of the flatblocks below which was the East and which was the West. From the air the Eastern zone flatblocks look like the Maze prison (though from the ground they are now refurbsihed and cucumber cool).

The emotion is churned up by different things.

One – this city symbolises the crashing waves of European history from the thirties to present day. Fascism, Communism, Cold War divide, nihilism, cultural rebirth and identity regained.

Two – Bowie on coke, Lou Reed, Iggy, punks on dope, Christaine F, 70′s Eurocool, ‘Heroes’ (the song Bowie should go to heaven for even more than the Ziggy Stardust album).

Three – young Lefties like I was once having their illusions shattered.

Four – we all have our modern Berlin moment. Mine was coming here two years after the Wall came down, buying a rabbit fur army hat off a desperate Russian soldier at the Brandenburg Gate, and then wandering down the scar tissue left by the ripped down wall before the City regenerated.

Tonight I spent the evening with my lovely Berlin team. We went to a great Italian restaurant right by the old Checkpoint Charlie. A colleague told me the genesis of the place. Salle e Tabacchi is in the ground floor of the HQ of the left wing, environmentalist daily newspaper Tageszeitung TAZ and is the haunt of German Guardianistas and political PRs who like authentic Italian nosh, good wine and conversation.

Maybe this is the answer to the media’s business model problem in the UK. Launch a great restaurant and have a decent newspaper attached.

Youth vs Experience

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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Waiting to get off the train on the way home last night, two geeky teenagers were talking about collecting original versions of albums. One was bragging about his Prodigy CD collection (keep it to yourself bud). The other countered that he had original vinyl Beatles albums. He is currently locked in the trunk of my car. (Kidding.)

Age (as in youth) vs experience is emerging as the theme of the week.

First my friend Peter Mandelson brands George Osborne ‘a boy in a man’s job’, echoing the put downs from the world’s leading fictional spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, in the year’s funniest movie, ‘In the loop’ when he finds teenagers running politics in Washington.

Then Vince Cable jumps on the Osborne bashing band wagon, but only serves to remind his party of his own age-acquired experience in contrast to his more youthful (and some say lighter weight) leader Nick Clegg.

But all this is just a curtain-raiser for the real Youth vs Experience clash of the titans. Yes, it’s the lovely Alesha vs Arlene. The BBC dump dance veteran Arlene Phillips for younger Alesha in a bid to win the ratings war with The X Factor (first blood to ITV in that one). The vehemently anti-BBC Sun promptly sign up Arlene as their Strictly commentator to pour vinegar all over Alesha and the show. The fur flies in tabloid land.

It’s only her first week. Give the girl a chance!

Not an excuse that will get you far in politics though.

Yo Kanye….

This post is by Colin Byrne from Byrne Baby Byrne

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….. I’m gonna let you finish – making a jackass of yourself in the immortal words of the President of the US of A (what next? David Cameron devotes part of his conference speech to the Jordan-Peter Andre crisis??) – but this is one of the best meme’s of all time.

Scoop! William Boyd on why (PR) fiction is true

This post is by Mediations from mediations

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One of the premisses on which my PR in Fiction (Stirling21) and Scoop! projects are based is that authors must depict the disciplines and their practitioners in a way which resonates with the reader's preconceptions.

Perhaps he is thinking more about emotion that accurate description, but here is William Boyd talking to Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4's Open Book (Sept 17, 2009, 14.30 into the podcast).

"What is the truth?

".... Everything is subjective and one person's lie is another person's true story and, funnily enough, the more I have written, the more I think the power of the novel, the power of fiction resides in the fact that even though it is completely made up, we actually guarantee its versacity thereby.

"So if you want to know how people react, or how people feel in certain situations, it maybe in time of war, or in a love affair, funnily enough, the place to go is a novel or a short story because everything in that depiction has been made up, but made up in a way to achieve absolute authenticity, Whereas if you go to a memoir, or a biography, or a work of history, or a work of reportage it is selected and shaped by the author in a way that cannot possibly replicate whatever that truth was.

"So it is one of those strange paradoxes that to find out what life is like in all its complexities, read fiction."

I am not sure I can sustain the argument that Confessions of a Shopaholic is "made up in a way to achieve absolute authenticity" but I was pleased that quite a few people at Stirling 21 seemed to find some value in my approach. None would admit to having read Shopaholic, which I think is rather a shame, but I did pick up a couple of very promising titles for PR in Fiction.  

Scoop! Online media claims first fiction victim

This post is by Mediations from mediations

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Crime correspondent Laurie Lane, the central character in Duncan Campbell's amusing If It Bleeds (2009), is the first fictional journalist I have come across to face career oblivion for not adapting to the demands of the online world. I suspect we will see many, many more in the next few years.

If It Bleeds is destined to feature strongly in Scoop!, not least because Guardian reporter Campbell knows what he is talking about and writes with an entertaining and perceptive cynicism.

News editor Stark, "all white shirt ...and spray-on" smile is discussing the future with Lane, a veteran of 22 years on the crime beat.

"It's just, as you know, with all the challenges we now face in -"

"An integrated, multimedia, internet world.."

"That sort of thing..."

Laurie has a good idea where this chat is going.

"We do really need people who are happy to make full use of all the new tools at our disposal. You know, producing podcasting and blogging, taking the old camera out on a job. Look, to cut to the chase: we just feel that maybe now there's a window of opportunity both for you and for someone more digitally, you know, savvy.."

"Sounds more like a defenestration than a window of opportunity," said Laurie. "Are you sacking me?"

Not quite. Stark wants him to become the motoring correspondent...